PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

TIFF 2016: 'LBJ', 'Message from the King' and 'Blue Jay'

Woody Harrelson in LBJ (2016)

Of Presidents and high-school lovers: TIFF 2016 ends with misunderstood leaders, missing family, and missing the past.

All good things must come to an end. After 26 films over the past week, my time in Toronto is over. Generally, thunderstorm apart, the weather has been lovely, the films good, and the TIFF volunteers spectacularly helpful and efficient. On the plus side, it will be nice to get back to a diet that doesn’t consist of grabbing junk food in-between screenings, and I should probably see a bit more of the outdoors again.

Before we close, there are three final films to discuss. First up, in a quiet screen, we have LBJ. Rob Reiner’s biopic puts an initially unrecognizable Woody Harrelson into the shoes of Lyndon Baines Johnson, America’s 36th President, the man sandwiched between JFK and Nixon. Using a certain day in Dallas in 1963 ,and a certain motorcade as a base, LBJ ranges back and forth in time to show Johnson the Senator, Johnson the Vice President, and eventually Johnson the Commander-in-Chief.

Clocking in at just over a brisk hour and a half, there’s no time to delve into every detail, which actually works in the film’s favor. Screen time is limited to creating a sense of Johnson as a proud, ambitious man plagued by self-doubt while showing his gradual conversion to the Civil Rights cause. Harrelson does an excellent job, reveling in earthy dialogue and crude humor. LBJ is frequently funny, and although it fades fast at the end and proves almost stiflingly conventional, particularly when set against the likes of Jackie, it’s still a solid watch.

Chadwick Boseman in Message From the King (2016)

We start my second film of the day by arriving in LA. It’s Chadwick Boseman rocking up in town, in a story that begins in South Africa. Message From the King has Boseman’s Jacob receiving a call from his sister who promptly goes missing. He then travels across the world to look for her. Jacob claims to be a cab driver, but when he starts following clues and cracking heads together, it becomes clear he must be something more.

Nothing really develops from the clues and head cracking dynamic, however. Other actors are introduced, most notably Luke Evans as an irritating dentist who treats teeth like a crystal ball, and Alfred Molina hyperventilating as a movie producer, but it doesn’t improve a grey blur of a film. Visually undistinguished and narratively under-written, it’s largely a waste of time.

Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in Blue Jay (2016)

My last film of TIFF 2016 is not a million miles away from the first. Manchester by the Sea gave me a quiet, intimate and powerful drama. Blue Jay isn’t in the same league, but it is rather good. Written by and starring the prolific Mark Duplass, Alex Lehmann’s debut feature, shot beautifully in black and white, finds Duplass bumping into his old sweetheart in the hometown supermarket when both are back in town, visiting.

Sarah Paulson plays the other half of this teenage love story, putting in a brilliant performance full of tender reconnection, false bonhomie and ultimately raw emotion. The two end up hanging out all day, reliving past memories. As they sink deeper into nostalgia they reveal a general unhappiness at the way life turned out. The ending is also nicely ambiguous, as befits a film that is drama rather than romance. It’s a powerful little punch to go out on.

Just in case you’re wondering, Manchester by the Sea is my favorite film from TIFF 2016, followed in an order yet to be decided by Moonlight, La La Land, Sami Blood and Nocturnal Animals. Make sure you watch all five. Don’t bother with (re)Assignment. Watching it will only encourage Denis Hamill to write more such rubbish. All that’s left to say is goodbye. Until next time.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.