Vic Thiessen Archive

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. […]

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 […]