Vic Thiessen Archive

First Reformed

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July 13, 2018 Vic Thiessen

When I was growing up, many of the films I watched made some reference to faith or the church because both played a central, or at least regular, role in the lives of most Americans. But for decades now, films about faith, the church, or both have been few and far between, and when faith is portrayed, it is often viewed negatively, or at best is portrayed as naive. So when a critically acclaimed film comes along that not only takes faith seriously but portrays both its positive and negative aspects, I take special notice. It’s not surprising that such […]

Disobedience

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June 15, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio recently won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman, the story of a transgender woman in Chile. It was one of my favorite films of 2017. Disobedience, which Lelio directed and cowrote, is Lelio’s first English-language film. It feels very different from A Fantastic Woman, though it also showcases Lelio’s ability to elicit masterful performances from his actors, allowing the characters to speak as loudly with their expressions as with their words. Disobedience tells the story of Ronit (Rachel Weisz), Esti (Rachel McAdams), and Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), the closest of friends […]

Tully

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May 10, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Review by Vic Thiessen Among the countless forgotten films lost in the hype surrounding Avengers: Infinity War (which I don’t plan to see) is this wonderful indie comedy-drama from director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who collaborated on Juno (2007) and Young Adult (2011). Like those two films, Tully has profound things to say about life today and does so with a subtle humor, an unusually intelligent plot, and great acting. Tully stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, who gives birth to her third child, Mia, early in the film. The other two children were already a handful, especially with […]

Paul, Apostle of Christ

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April 13, 2018 Vic Thiessen

Recent years have witnessed a major upsurge in films aimed at a Christian audience. Fueled by outstanding box office numbers, this is a trend that will continue for some time. Among the positive outcomes of this trend is a general improvement in the quality of these Christian films. The acting is getting better, the production values are almost state-of-the-art, and a higher caliber of writers and directors is being employed to make these films. Almost none of the cover story of Paul, Apostle of Christ is found in the Bible, yet I would describe the film as very faithful to […]

Annihilation

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March 16, 2018 Vic Thiessen

The trailers for Annihilation featured vicious mutated animals attacking people in an otherworldly setting in an obvious attempt to entice the large audiences who seem to revel in violent action. For me, the trailers did not make the film look original or exciting, with the action scenes suggesting Annihilation would not be my kind of science fiction film. I had been transported so completely to a different world that it took me hours to find my way back to earth. But Annihilation was written and directed by Alex Garland, whose last film, Ex Machina, is one of the best and […]

Hostiles

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February 16, 2018 Vic Thiessen

The new revisionist western by Scott Cooper hasn’t been wowing either critics or audiences. A glacially paced old-fashioned epic full of predictable violence, Hostiles has been criticized for its failed attempts at political correctness, its poor character development, its melodrama, its inept directing, and its sluggish, funereal pace. Personally, I think it’s one of the best westerns ever made and that the disconnect comes from the film’s unique ability to stir different feelings in each viewer. It’s a hard time and place to build a life, with the potential for violence and death (in various forms) seeming to hide behind […]

Downsizing

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January 12, 2018 Vic Thiessen

One of the key challenges facing a planet on which human life is becoming increasingly unsustainable is overpopulation. But what if you could find a way to downsize not just our companies or personal living spaces but people themselves—to 0.0346 percent of their current size? Not only would such a miniature population require only a tiny fraction of the Earth’s resources (compared to our normal-sized population), but a thousand people would produce only one small bag of waste in a year. It’s an absurd idea, of course, but that’s the premise of Downsizing, the latest film from writer/director Alexander Payne. I […]

The Man Who Invented Christmas

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December 15, 2017 Vic Thiessen

In December 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a novella that forever changed the way people think about and celebrate Christmas (introducing, for example, the concepts of linking family gatherings and special meals to the Christmas season). Most importantly to me, A Christmas Carol made Christmas a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s a call to fight against the poverty created by our collective greed and to give generously of our time and money to assure that everyone can have a “Merry Christmas” (the popularization of this term is another contribution of the novella). The depressing […]

Suburbicon

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November 10, 2017 Vic Thiessen

George Clooney’s new film, a dark-comedy noir starring Matt Damon and based on an old screenplay by the Coen brothers, seems like it should have been a guaranteed success. Instead, Suburbicon flopped at the box office and was panned by the critics. What happened, and is the film really as bad as the critics say? Suburbicon’s satire works quite well and does give viewers something to think about as we consider life in North America today. The opening scene would suggest otherwise. By way of a TV ad that perfectly captures the time (1950s) and place (small-town USA) in an […]

Three Film Gems to Watch For: The Florida Project, Loveless, A Fantastic Woman

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October 6, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to attend the annual Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF), now among the 50 most prestigious film festivals in North America and generally featuring the best independent and foreign films of the year. I have watched 14 excellent films over the past six days (seven more films to go), three of which stand out as almost flawless gems that are not to be missed (if you enjoy independent and foreign films). They are reviewed below, in the order in which I liked them. This is profound independent filmmaking at its very best. […]