Calvin’s Capsules: SIFF 2023 – Part 2

The second of several SIFF dispatches with our round-up of capsule reviews for the features that stood out to us.

I Like Movies

I Like Movies. Dir. Chandler Levack.

Sure. You like movies. Everyone does. Some of us really like movies. Make them our personalities. Live through their merits and best qualities of empathetic cultural connection. It can be a beautiful thing, just like it can be an isolating hobby used to feel anything about ourselves when we have really gone numb. I Like Movies is a case of sympathetic cinephilia. It’s a coming-of-age story that happens in the confines of a movie rental store in the suburbs of Toronto. It’s a joyous and searching story about how movies interface with our lives, overlap with our personal traumas, and connect us to our fellow celluloid passengers. Chandler Levack’s debut feature is a comedic story about a young man overcoming the walls he puts up socially, utilizing his great love for movies to take risks and put himself out there in a world he does not otherwise relate to. It’s sweet stuff, never straying away from the central empathy for its character, even as it flags so many moments where a lesser movie would judge our characters harshly. Feel-good movies with good intentions can also just be good indie movies. This one is a must for the cinephile who celebrates low-budget movies that say something about the process of watching and sharing what we love. I like movies, and I think you’ll like this movie, too.

Stephen Curry: Underrated

Stephen Curry: Underrated. Dir. Peter Nicks.

I like to look at documentaries as editing projects. The best documentarian is also the best kind of editor. When it goes right, ideally, you’re not thinking too much about how it has gone right. Thoughtful editing is the primary victory of Stephen Curry: Underrated, Peter Nicks’ laser-focused new documentary for Apple, which blends the narrative of Stephen Curry’s college basketball career with the series of deep runs he has led for the Golden State Warriors. It’s a compelling story that makes the right choices. You see the title Stephen Curry: Underrated and two thoughts might immediately occur: it’s too early for the Stephen Curry biography and no he isn’t, everyone rates him now. The point of the documentary, in its expert editing, though, is not about the now but is about the college kid, the guy Stephen Curry still is deep down inside, and the wide difference between what was expected of him and what he has consistently delivered. The documentary works wonders because it stays inside the narrative of its story and is consistently inventive in its blending of past and present, eventually seamlessly interchanging shots of college and pro basketball. And when it gets to the modern stuff we know, it stays fast and light on its feet. Like Stephen Curry has done his whole playing career, his documentary punches far above its weight. Most of all, it’s a great time, and wastes no moment on superfluous detail or footage.

Food and Country

Food and Country. Dir. Laura Gabbert.

The COVID documentary is a difficult thing. You know why they’re making it. The call to action is pretty clear. Industries are suffering greatly under the weight of what has happened. Especially, it turns out, the agricultural industry. We’ve also gotten an earful of this kind of narrative. Just endless stories and programming about COVID. It’s hard to find any new revelations about how dramatically it has changed our lives. We all know because our lives were dramatically changed by it to the point where any information about it is either so obvious or just an exhausting extension of this thing that’s still very much here. And then, this documentary is shot over so many Zoom calls. They get on a Zoom call and say, hey, what did COVID do to your business? A long series of Zoom calls also does not make a compelling documentary. That’s a podcast. This occasionally gets to some really pertinent stuff about who gets to own and hold space in the agricultural industry and how we must become more aware of our food sources post-COVID, but it’s going to be hard for any audience who isn’t already in that industry and aware of all this to sit through.

Douglas Sirk: Hope As in Despair

Douglas Sirk: Hope as in Despair. Dir. Roman Hüben.

Straightforward and academic, Roman Hüben’s profile of Douglas Sirk is given by those who knew him best. A series of talking head testimonials of the man who made great soapy films, Sirk’s contemporaries speak so fondly of the director’s humanity and his unshakable belief that humans are better than they believe. From Sirk’s long marriage comes the portrait of many of his characters. It’s dry and textbook documentarian work but that is the job here.

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun. Dir. Banchi Hanuse (Nuxalk Nation).

A generous warm story about a young Siksika horse racer, Logan Red Crow, and the iron-clad determination of her family. The racer wants to compete in the Indian Relay, one of the most dangerous horse races. This is also the story of family and keeping a farm in the Blackfoot Territory outside Calgary. It’s touching, homegrown Indigenous storytelling about a brave young Canadian and her unstoppable interest in horse racing. This is a specific interest profile but for those it’s for, it’s just the ticket to a cozy and kind watch, just how good sports documentaries can be.

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