Vic Thiessen Archive

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. […]

Wind River

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September 15, 2017 Vic Thiessen

“Why is it that whenever you people try to help us, you always insult us first, huh?” This line from Wind River, spoken by Martin (Gil Birmingham), a resident of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, is an example of that rarest of features in the history of North American cinema: treating Native Americans with understanding, honesty, and respect. Indeed, it’s a travesty that so few films about Native Americans and Aboriginal people have been made since the countless Westerns about “cowboys and Indians.” Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) was a huge step in the right direction, but […]

War for the Planet of the Apes

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August 11, 2017 Vic Thiessen

It began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, followed three years later by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: the first two films of a trilogy based on the successful Planet of the Apes film series of the ’60s and ’70s. The original classic, from 1968, starred Charlton Heston as an astronaut who ends up on a planet where apes are the dominant species and where humans, who can’t talk, are treated like animals. We eventually learn that the astronaut has returned to a future Earth. The new trilogy provides its own explanations for how […]

Rectify

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July 14, 2017 Vic Thiessen

With the advent of made-for-cable TV in the late 1990s, the quality of television took a huge leap forward, sometimes even reaching the level of top-quality filmmaking (very rare for network TV). This has made it not only possible but necessary for critics to take television seriously as an art form potentially equal to the best films. I have begun reviewing TV shows as a result. Indeed, Rectify is so unusual in its pacing and in the sublime quality of its writing (especially the dialogue) and acting that it sometimes feels like a new art form. This review is aimed […]

Wonder Woman

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June 16, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Hailed by critics and educators as a groundbreaking feminist superhero film, Wonder Woman has also captured the attention of millions of viewers around the globe, becoming by far the biggest blockbuster of the year. But behind the acclaim lie questions that few people are asking, questions that may come to haunt us as a society as the superhero genre continues to capture the imaginations of today’s younger generations. For much of the film there is little evidence of Diana’s awareness of the fact that she is trying to achieve her noble antiwar ends through horrifically violent means. This is not […]

Their Finest

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May 12, 2017 Vic Thiessen

As filmgoers await Christopher Nolan’s probable blockbuster Dunkirk, coming in July, here is a quiet, humorous British drama that approaches the massive 1940 military evacuation from a very different angle, one focusing on the role of women in Great Britain during World War II. Most impressive was the subtle way Their Finest offers a look at how the role of women in the workforce changed during World War II. Their Finest also draws attention to the role of women in filmmaking. Despite all the advances in gender equality (and far too much remains to be done), women have had a […]

Beauty and the Beast

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April 14, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney animated film. Featuring the delightful songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the highest quality old-fashioned animation, and a well-told (if heavily altered) fairy tale, the film has several flaws—the biggest being the redemptive violence at the film’s conclusion. Disney’s typical need to kill off the baddie has nothing to do with the fairy tale on which the film is based. The film’s biggest flaw was entirely predictable and is difficult to challenge in a remake. I am referring to the killing off of the baddie at the end of […]

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

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March 10, 2017 Vic Thiessen

The first season of American Crime Story is really a 10-part miniseries on the so-called Trial of the Century: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Unlike many people around the world, including tens of millions in the United States, I didn’t pay much attention to the 1995 trial of O. J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman. Perhaps that’s one reason the show didn’t blow me away the way it blew away many television critics. The People v. O. J. Simpson has received countless awards and overwhelming critical acclaim. For a television miniseries, The People v. […]

20th Century Women

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February 16, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Filmmaker Mike Mills’s last film, Beginners (2010), was about his father, who came out as gay at the age of 75. The film 20th Century Women, which is set in Santa Barbara, California, in 1979, is about Mills’s mother (his father is completely absent and apparently long out of the picture). Mills is represented by 15-year-old Jamie (played by Lucas Jade Zumann), who lives in a large house with his mother, Dorothea (played by Annette Bening), and her two boarders: William (Billy Crudup), the handyman and a former hippie, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who is recovering from cancer treatments. Jamie’s […]