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TCFF23: Ranked and Recapped

November 5, 2023
Hunter Friesen
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With nearly 100 films screening across several different series, the Twin Cities Film Fest had more than enough to offer to cinephiles in its fourteenth year of existence. The festival prides itself on its mixture of established studio contenders and up-and-coming independent projects, and this year was no exception.

Unfortunately, my schedule wasn't as forgiving as I would have liked, preventing me from seeing a few anticipated titles such as The Teacher's Lounge (Germany's submission for the Best International Feature Oscar) and Downtown Owl (partly filmed in Minnesota). There were other titles such as The Holdovers and Fingernails that I was able to see at TIFF.

Even with that obstacle, I was still able to see five films, which ran the gamut of being some of the best and worst I've seen all year. Take a look at how I ranked them below, with almost all of them having a full review attached for your pleasure.

5. Foe

Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal do everything they can to keep things interesting, a job they can do with ease. They run the entire emotional gamut with their performances, but none of it registers due to director Garth Davis’ detachment from the material. Each of them is forced to overact once the third-act twists come into play. Everything feels so forced by then that it’s almost comical. But it’s not a total trainwreck, so it’s just rather tediously bad.

Son of Saul cinematographer Mátyás Erdély captures the landscape beautifully, showcasing the mystifying wonder that keeps people like Hen and Junior tethered to this patch of dirt. If only Davis could have done the same with his direction and script, as most of his decisions steer away from that intrigue and end up being as interesting as dirt itself. Full Review

4. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

Writer/director Raven Jackson makes sure her voice is heard with her debut feature, one that is more Malickian than Malick himself. It loops around in nonlinear circles, telling the story of a life with poetic beauty. Its vagueness is both its biggest asset and liability, challenging your patience with its methodical pacing. It's one of the main reasons this demands to be seen in a theater, as a home viewing would rob you of the focus and attention to detail needed to fully appreciate it.

3. American Fiction

American Fiction may be a victim of expectations as winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF certainly raised the bar. Whether that’s fair or not is a different story. All I know is that I can only write about what I felt, which was slight disappointment mixed with great optimism about what Jefferson will do next.

2. All of Us Strangers

All of Us Strangers is a ghost story that invites the viewer to project themselves onto the story just as much as it tells its own. There’s nothing easy about letting go of the past, and there’s nothing easy about what comes after. It’s not an uplifting message, but it’s an endearing one that we’ve all come to find truth in. Full Review

1. The Taste of Things

There continues to be a need for stories that reflect the increasing bleakness of this world. But that means there’s more room for projects that remind us of the beauty in the timeless things we all experience and often take for granted. The Taste of Things is one of those films as it illustrates both the simplicity and complexity of sustaining ourselves through food. Just make sure to plan your meals carefully before and after seeing it. You owe your stomach (and other senses) that much. Full Review

'Back to Black' Review

Everything has been scrubbed with disinfectant several times over, leaving behind a product so basic that you’d barely get the impression that this person was special at all.

'I Saw the TV Glow' Review

I can’t get it out of my head, and that’s what’s most important.

'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' Review

It rises above the notion that it’s an unnecessary addition, as it reaches for newer relevant themes in a world turned upside down.

'We Grown Now' Review

Faults aside, "We Grown Now" still has some powerfulness as it brings eyes to a part of an iconic city that’s unknown to outsiders.

'Unfrosted' Review

It’s all a farce that makes for an inoffensive 90 minutes on Netflix.
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