Thursday, September 30, 2010

TIFF10 Review: A Useful Life

A Useful Life

When seeing four films back to back, in a film festival setting, sometimes it is the shortest film that often seems like the longest, as was the case with A Useful Life. The film clocks in at a scant 67 minute running time yet it felt like the longest film I saw during my four film packed day. While I am willing to acknowledge that my late nights, early morning film schedule may have played a minor role in this A Useful Life should have been the film to curb my weary state. Especially since the film is about one of my favourite subjects of all, the importance of film and cinema.

Jorge (Jorge Jellinek) lives for the cinema, he spends his days working as a programmer for a local cinematheque in Montevideo. For Jorge there is nothing more pleasurable than sharing his love of film with others. After working at the cinematheque for over 20 years Jorge has become the heart that keeps the whole production running smoothly. Whether it is fixing the seats, recording radio promos, pulling the films out of the archives, or providing insightful introduction before screenings, Jorge has done it all. Jorge’s world begins to unravel when the board members of the foundation which funds the cimemathaque decide that they are no longer supporting ventures at the cinema because they do not turn a profit. With the inevitable closing of the cinematheque, Jorge struggles to figure out how he is to live without the one thing he loves the most.

Directed by Federico Veiroj, A Useful Life follows a long line of films that pay homage to the days when going to the theatre was about the films themselves. The importance was placed on the stories and the filmmakers instead of how much money a film made on a particular weekend, or what franchise can the film be spun into. A Useful Life also offers commentary on many modern day film buffs, and dare I say bloggers, by stating that being a cinephile is not about how many movies you have seen, or which director/actor’s filmography you can list off at a whim. A true film lover is one who is able to hear the rhythm of the film itself and understand what the director is trying to say.

Unfortunately Veiroj’s own film begins to lose its own rhythm in the second half. What starts off as a passionate homage to cinema gets rather muddled in its own ideas. Similar to its lead character, who wanders the streets of Montevideo in a despondent state, A Useful Life’s story does not seem to know where it wants to go in the latter half of the film. The idea of Jorge deciding to turn is life into a movie in which he is the star and gets the girl never is fully realized in the film. There are too many moments that, while sometimes entertaining, never gel well with the rest of the film. Most notably the hilarious but utterly pointless scene where Jorge pretends to be a substitute teacher at a law school and give the students a lecture on the importance of being able to lie. Also, similar to Quentin Tarantino at times, Veiroj overindulges when it comes to displaying his vast knowledge of cinema. There are points where even his use of sound and music gets overwhelming and annoying.

If A Useful Life was to be judged solely on its first half then it would be worth recommended as a love letter to cinema. Unfortunately, it is the plodding and messy second half that ultimately hurts this film. A Useful Life will most likely appeal to the hardcore cinephiles yet, with films like Cinema Paradiso and Goodbye, Dragon Inn available on DVD, ther are far better options than A Useful Life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Cirkus Columbia

Cirkus Columbia

One of my fondest memories of TIFF in 2001 was seeing a small film entitled No Man’s Land. It was the debut feature from Danis Tanovic and it ended up being not only one of my top five films of the festival but it also made my top ten of the year list. Fast forward a few months, and I am sitting at home on Oscar night extremely giddy that No Man’s Land has just walked away with the award for Best Foreign film. Needless to say it was not only enjoyable to see another Tanovic film but to also, once again, hear him speak about film and politics after the screening of his latest film, Cirkus Columbia.

After spending years in Germany, Divko (Miki Manojlovic) is eager to return to his small town in Herzegovina. Now that a new democratic government is in power, Divko decides to reclaim his former life after fleeing communist rule. Driving a fancy German car, with a younger girlfriend, Azra (Jelena Stupljanin), in tow, Divko strolls into town like a king. Instead of going through the hassle of finding a new place to stay, Divko immediately decides to kick his wife Lucija (Mira Furlan) and son Martin (Boris Ler) out of their home. Homeless, Lucija and Martin are forced to live in government housing where the living conditions makes the streets look like paradise. While Divko tries to create new memories with Azra, he cannot ignore the fact that Martin is his son. Soon Divko and Lucija find themselves in an ugly tug of war with Martin caught in the middle.

Similar to Danis Tanovic’s other films, Cirkus Columbia uses humour to tackle many of the heavy politic issues. The escalating conflict between Divko and Lucija mirrors the increasing political unrest in the region. Divko is aware of, and fully takes advantage of, the fact that money is power. You can buy your way through any situation, but never truly obtain the one thing your heart really desires. The one thing Divko desires more than anything is his old way of life before communist rule.

At its core, Cirkus Columbia is a love story. There are multiple love triangles that surface as the film progresses. It would be easy to say that the main triangle is between Divko, Azra, and Martin but I actually feel it is between Divko, Azra and Lucija. There is a lot of unresolved baggage between Divko and both women respectively; which leads to many of the film’s best moments. I will say that I was a little shocked by how things played out between Martin and his best friend. I definitely sensed a homoerotic vibe there but I could be reading too much into the film.

The performances in the film are outstanding. Miki Manojlovic and Mira Furlan are terrific as the battling couple. They always manage to keep their characters humanity in the forefront. Despite all the malicious things that Divko does throughout the film, you never truly hate him. You can understand his motives, regardless of how misguided they are, and how his desire to obtain them blinded him to what was right. Luija is the loyal wife who after years of service has been replaced by a younger more attractive model. Although she is consistently humiliated, she still tries to maintain a certain level of dignity in the face of Divko’s bullying ways.

Cirkus Columbia is one of those pleasant film festival surprises. It may not get the press that some of the flashier films receive, but Cirkus Columbia was one of the better films to be screened at TIFF this year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Autumn (Harud)

Autumn (Harud)

The beauty of TIFF, and cinema in general, is that it exposes the audience to parts of the world that few have access to. It provides another avenue to learn about issues and conflicts that are rarely covered in the local media. Aamir Bashir’s directorial debut, Autumn, is a perfect example of this. Bashir uses his film as a means of providing a rare glimpse into what life is really like in his war-torn homeland of Kashmir.

Haunted by the disappearance of his brother, Rafiq (Shanawaz Bhat) can no longer stand being in Kashmir. After a failed attempt to cross the border into Pakistan, Rafiq is sent back home to live with his parents. Rafiq’s mother Fatima (Shamim Basharat) is optimistic that her missing son will return home one day. His father, Yusuf (Reza Naji), tries to remain strong but the constant violence is starting to take its toll on him and slowly he succumbs to war related post-traumatic stress disorder. As the potential for death is around every corner Rafiq’s friends try to make the best of the situation, but Rafiq walks around in a sleep-walking state consumed with sadness until he comes across his brother’s camera and is presented with an outlet for expressing his feelings. In order for Rafiq to document his world on film, he will have to find a way to overcome the grief that is weighing him down.

Aamir Bashir’s directorial debut is a bleak but powerful film. Autumn’s strength is in the way the film details how the military impacts every aspect of life in Kashmir. Civilians can barely go two feet without encountering soldiers, barbwire, or ominous gun barrels sticking out of bunkers. In regards to the gun barrels, Bashir films it in such a way that they are a practically characters in the film. The audience is never quite sure whether or not a soldier is actually manning the barrel in the darkness of the bunker. The silent and ever present gun barrel invokes a sense of dread amongst both the characters and the audience.

Although Autumn is a good film, it must be noted that the pacing is extremely slow. Bashir wants the audience to feel everything that his characters do. At times it even boarders on being repetitive, as the audience watches Rafiq go through the motions of his paper route more times than we really need to. Yet Bashir is determined to provide a full account of what day-to-day life is like for Rafiq. Life in Kashmir is long and dreary with no end in sight. The citizens must cling to the small joys in life, such as a pick up game of soccer or finally being able to get a cell phone provider in the region. Despite unfolding very slowly, Autumn is a thought provoking meditation on who are really the victims of war.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Thoughts From A Small Mind Now On Facebook

Just a quick post to let you know that Big Thoughts From A Small Mind is now on Facebook.  Be sure to stop by and say hello.  Both the Facebook and the Twitter pages will be updated regularly.

Friday, September 24, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Viva Riva!

Viva Riva!

There are some films that will always be remembered for reasons beside the film itself. This could be the place you saw the film, the person or people you saw it with, etc. Viva Riva! is a film that will forever be remembered in my household. It holds the honour of being the first film that my wife has ever walked out on. I mean ever! Although I stayed to the very end, I could see how Viva Riva! might evoke such a strong reaction.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) gas is in extremely short supply and the country is looking for any sign of relief. While the gas shortage is bad for DRC, it is great news for Riva. Having just arrived from Angola with the biggest, and only, shipment of gas for miles Riva stands to make a huge profit from the crisis. As he waits to sell the gas to the highest bidder, Riva and his best friend party like kings. Although he can have any woman he wants, Riva falls for a mysterious red head, Nora, who is linked to a local gangster. While Riva focuses all his attention on pursuing this mysterious beauty; his rival Cesar, a sharply dressed criminal from Angola, has landed in DRC with only revenge on his mind.

Billed as the first major film to come out of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Viva Riva! tries hard to prove it can rival the gangster films in America and Asia. Yet the urgency of wanting to make its mark is what ultimately the films downfall. What starts out as an intriguing and entertaining crime story becomes rather muddled by the midway point. Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga is so fascinated with the violence and frank sex that the film becomes rather gratuitious by the end. For example, one minute a character is lamenting that he needs to go home and tend to his sick child...only to turn around and have rough sex with a less than attractive prostitute. Later on we see the same character beat his wife to within inch of her life, just to emphasize that he is leaving her for more prosperous opportunities. This is not even a fraction of the craziness that the latter half of the film provides.

Up until the halfway mark Viva Riva! showed a lot of promise. I loved the actors who played both Riva and Cesar; as both men had wonderful chemistry and overall charisma. It should also be noted that Viva Riva! is a great looking film. The production value is crisp and Munga shows in several scenes that he has a great visual eye. If Munga had paid closer attention to keeping the plot on track throughout, Viva Riva! could have been the surprise film of the festival. Sadly, it falls short of being anything more than the film that tested my wife’s patience.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Trust


I feel I need to get this out of the way first, if you are going into Trust based on the trailer below then you will be sadly disappointed. Regardless of what the marketing team will have you believe, Trust is not the edge of your seat revenge thriller they are trying to make it out to be. It is a simple, but oddly effective, drama about a family whose life is turned upside down by an internet predator. This is not to say that you should not see Trust, in fact I think it is a must for certain demographics, but just be sure to go in with the proper expectations.

Annie (Liana Liberato) is like many teenagers her age. She is struggling to find her place in life. She is not the popular girl in school but she is far from an outcast. Despite having loving parents, Will and Lynn (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), the only person Annie feels that truly gets her is her online friend Charlie. After weeks of chatting online and over the phone, Annie and Charlie decided to meet one weekend when Annie’s folks are out of town. Little does Annie know that Charlie is not quite who he claims to be; and this weekend will change her, and her family’s, life forever.

Judging by the popularity of social networks, smart phones (e.g. IPhones, Blackberrys, etc.), and of course blogs. It seems that the internet has surpassed television as the one thing most people cannot live without. Despite all the warnings against doing so; the internet is still the place where people, especially the younger generation, share their most personal information. In some ways this why Trust is a crucial film that parents should see with their teens and pre-teens. It is a film that is made to appeal to the general cinema goer rather than the hardcore cinephiles. There were several times where Trust felt like it may veer into an “ABC After School Special of the week” or “Dateline: To Catch a Predator” territory. Yet Schwimmer managed to reign the film in just enough to avoid this.

Unlike his previous film, Run Fat Boy Run, Trust cements David Schwimmer as a director to watch in the future. Sure the film has several flaws, but I still think Schwimmer shows a lot of potential. He takes the time to show just how much work a lot of these predators put in. Some of them spend months building up the victims trust before striking. Even after the rape has taken place, many of the victims are convinced it was done out of love. It is moments like these where Trust finds it stride. Schwimmer could have easily made this a revenge flick like the ads suggest, but he is far more concerned with how rape alters the family dynamic. Will immediately becomes obsessed with finding the assailant. In his mind, doing physical damage to the culprit would ease the immense guilt he feels of not being able to protect his child. Lynn on the other hand is more focused on what their daughter is going through emotionally. When Lynn lashes out at Will by stating “you are doing nothing” it is a telling moment for both characters.

While Trust may not be a great film, it is good enough that it will play well with the same folks who helped to make films like The Blindside a hit. While Trust may not be a feel good movie, it is one that parents should see with their kids if for nothing else but to open dialogue with their children.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TIFF10 Review: A Married Couple

A Married Couple

To honour last year’s passing of legendary Canadian filmmaker Allen King, TIFF included one of King’s most profound, and controversial film, in their program. Originally released in 1969, A Married Couple examines the turbulent relationship between Billy and Antoinette Edwards. The couple constantly bickers over everything from the car to what their money should be spent on. These arguments may seem rather petty to some, but they are part of a much bigger issue that neither Billy nor Antoinette are willing to address.

A Married Couple was made during a time when Allen King was attempting to get over a bitter relationship of his own. The documentary is King’s way of dissecting what causes relationships to fall apart. In the case of Billy and Antoinette, the unspoken elephant in the room is their lack of true intimacy, both physically and emotionally.

Antoinette is going through the motions of daily life as she fell out of love with Billy years earlier. This is evident by the fact that she prefers to sleep in a separate room and openly flirts with other men in Billy’s presence. Her outlandish plans to renovate the house with items the couple do not need, is Antoinette’s way of forcing Billy to pull the trigger on a divorce. Billy, on the other hand, continually fights a losing battle to maintain the gender status quo in his home. Billy sees himself as the provider and expects a certain level of obedience from Antoinette based on this fact. When he gets abusive with Antoinette it is clear that he knows that he has lost the last bit of control he had in the relationship. Billy knows that he can never live up to the high expectations Antoinette had for him when they first got together.

The issues raised in A Married Couple may have taken place in 1969 but they are still extremely relevant today. King wisely leaves the audience to place judgment on the couple. He merely presents the facts as they were filmed. A Married Couple is a fascinating documentary that, 41 years later, still packs a punch. Frankly it can still rival many of the best documentaries made today. A must-see for couples, fans of documentaries, and cinema lovers in general. A special Criterion edition DVD of A Married Couple will be released later this month. Be sure to pick up a copy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

How do you find a fresh way to tell a story when the character has been immortalized by the legendary Bruce Lee? This is the question that director Andrew Lau and action star Donnie Yen had to face when bringing Chen Zhen, who you may remember from Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, back to the big screen. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen aims to not only honour Bruce Lee’s work but to create a brand new version of Chen Zhen for this generation.

After the classic battle at the Hongkou Dojo in Fist of Fury, Chen Zhen is not seen for several years and is presumed dead. Yet Chen Zhen is far from deceased, as he is one of the Japanese soldiers fighting alongside the British in the First World War. After the war Zhen returns to Shanghai just as the Japanese are slowly taking over China. As the Japanese start to assassinate prominent Chinese figures, Chen Zhen is forced into action. Disguised as the Masked Warrior, he races to save all the people who have been publicly placed on the “death list”. With political unrest sweeping the country, Zhen and a few rebel activists find themselves in a David and Goliath battle against the Japanese army.

About a halfway through Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen it becomes apparent that Andrew Lau’s biggest misstep is not utilizing Donnie Yen to his full potential. Yen is one of the best martial artist working in cinema today. He not only has physical ability, but he is also extremely charismatic. This is why it is perplexing that the action sequences in Legend of the Fist are so few and far between. While the historical aspects of the film are interesting, Andrew Lau tends to get caught up in the melodrama a little too often. At the end of the day, the audience is going into Legend of the Fist for the action.

The opening scene alone, where Yen’s Chen Zhen single-handedly saves his platoon in the war, is a sight to behold. Yen’s choreography is wonderfully fresh and energetic. It is just a shame that the audience must wait so long in between action sequences. The wait helps to enhance some of the glaring problems with the story. One of the big issues is that the film can never decide on a single tone. At times the film plays like a James Bond film, other times it goes the historical epic route, while also occasionally dipping into the superhero genre.

Donnie Yen deserves a lot of credit for keeping Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen entertaining despite its many flaws. His performance not only gives a loving nod to Bruce Lee, but he also provides his own unique take to the character of Chen Zhen. It is Yen’s action scenes that make Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen worth a look. It is a shame that the action scenes were not on display more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Press Release: The Reel Asian International Film Festival

As one film festival in Toronto ends, another is getting ready to begin. Last week The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival offered a sneak peak into a few of the films they will be showcasing this year. The full list of films will be announced in the coming weeks.

NOVEMBER 9 TO 15, 2010

The 2010 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) will celebrate its 14th year as Canada’s longest-running and largest showcase dedicated to contemporary cinema by East Asian and Southeast Asian moviemakers from Canada and around the world. From November 9 to 15, 2010, the festival will present more than 50 films and videos from over ten countries, including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the United States and Canada.

Offering a finely-balanced combination of community mixed with film festival glamour, Reel Asian brings highly-anticipated premieres of award-winning international films as well as a diverse showcase of independent work made by Asian Canadian directors. This year, the festival has been expanded by two days to provide an even larger selection of screenings and events!

Reel Asian strives to develop programming that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada and increases public understanding and appreciation of the artistic, social and cultural contributions of people of Asian heritage through film. Reel Asian is a lively and engaging festival that brings together local talent, international directors, academics, industry, and new audiences. This November, thousands of people will attend Reel Asian for special screenings with directors in attendance, receptions, panels, workshops, live presentations, and more.

The following press release includes key announcements, sneak peeks and festival details.

Reel Asian’s full festival line-up, including the Opening Night Gala film, will be announced at the Official Press Launch on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.

As part of our initiative to reach new audiences beyond the downtown core, Reel Asian recently presented films such as UP THE YANGTZE (Yung Chang) and LAST TRAIN HOME (Lixin Fan) to hundreds of excited audience members in the 905 area. This fall Reel Asian makes the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts a part of its official program, and will be presenting Hong Kong blockbuster IP MAN 2 on October 18, and a second screening of the closing night film, AU REVOIR TAIPEI, on November 15.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: IP MAN 2 (Dir. Wilson Yip, Hong Kong 2010)
Presented with The Reel Thing at the Richmond Hill Center for the Performing Arts
In 1949 Hong Kong, Wing Chun martial arts master Ip Man struggles to start a new school and comes up against corrupt British authorities. Based on the true story of Bruce Lee’s Master Ip Man, and starring Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung.

CLOSING NIGHT GALA: AU REVOIR TAIPEI (Dir. Arvin Chen, Taiwan 2010, Canadian Premiere, Director in Attendance)
A lovesick boy, a passive-aggressive bookstore clerk, a jaded mob boss, and a flamboyant gangster come together in this brilliant adventure-romance caper. Taiwanese American director Arvin Chen’s debut feature is sweet, absurd, and gleaming with visual style.

BI, DON’T BE AFRAID (Dir. Dang Di Phan, Vietnam/France/Germany 2010)
Winner of SACD Best Screenplay Award at Cannes International Critic’s Week
BI, DON’T BE AFRAID is seen through the eyes of Bi, a precocious six-year-old boy who lives with his parents, his aunt, and his grandfather, who, after a long absence, has suddenly returned with a grave illness. Director Phan contrasts the gradual deterioration in the adults’ lives with the youthful innocence of a perceptive young boy in a remarkably assured directorial debut that heralds the arrival of one of Asia’s most promising new filmmakers.

TOILET (Dir. Naoko Ogigami, Japan/Canada 2010, North American Premiere, Director & Cast in Attendance)
Three siblings, a nerdy engineer, a brilliant pianist and an aspiring air guitarist, struggle to relate to their estranged Japanese grandmother after the death of their mother. Shot in Toronto, the film features an almost all-Canadian cast. Director Ogigami gained both national and international recognition with KAMOME DINER (2006) and MEGANE (2007).

OXHIDE II (Dir. Liu Jiayin, China 2009, Toronto Premiere)
A father, mother, and daughter (the filmmaker) make dumplings together in this brilliant feature film where simple actions become mesmerizing and meaningful.

DOOMAN RIVER (Dir. Zhang Lu, South Korea/France 2010, Toronto Premiere)
Chang-Ho is a 12-year-old boy who befriends a North Korean who has just crossed the border between North Korea and China. Chinese Director Zhang Lu beautifully portrays the complexities of nationalism and humanity from a young boy’s perspective living along one of the most important and least understood borders of our time.

This exciting new commission of works by Chinese Toronto-based directors (Lesley Loksi Chan, Lillian Chan, Aram Sui Wai Collier, Heather Keung, Howie Shia, and Joyce Wong) on the theme of “Chinatown” will include new music composed by Arthur Yeung and a live performance by a Scarborough youth stage band.

Oscar-nominated Koji Yamamura (FRANZ KAFKA’S A COUNTRY DOCTOR) is one of the most successful animation filmmakers in Japan today. Yamamura will be in Toronto for a masterclass and programme of his work specially-curated by Michael Fukushima and Marco de Blois.

GALLERY INSTALLATION: RMB City by Cao Fei (aka China Tracy) at A Space, 401 Richmond St. W., November 5 to December 18
RMB CITY is a virtual utopia that boldly illuminates the complexities and contradictions of contemporary China. Using role-play, depictions of iconic architecture and the platform of Second Life, Cao Fei (aka China Tracy) acts as a guide, philosopher, and tourist. Her series of new Chinese fantasy realms are self-contradictory, political, and laden with irony and suspicion. Cao Fei is a young artist who has become internationally acclaimed for her extensive investigation into art in the virtual world. Reel Asian is thrilled to present her first solo show in Canada.

Reel Asian's 5th Annual Pitch Competition, So You Think You Can Pitch?, is back for 2010! A collaboration between the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and Charles Street Video (CSV), the pitch competition features prizes worth a combined value of $28,000. Ten teams of filmmakers will have six minutes to pitch their projects to vie for over $10,000 (emerging category) and $18,000 (professional category) worth of production, post services and artist's fees at CSV. Applications are being accepted until Friday, September 24, 2010 – visit our website to apply.


Earlybird Sales Start September 13 for Passes, Galas & Select Shows
Online sales through - click "Buy Tickets"
Walk-up sales through T.O. Tix at Yonge-Dundas Square (Tuesday through Saturday 12pm-6pm)
Charge-by-phone: 1 888 222 6608 | Group Sales: 416 703 9333

Advance Sales Start Oct 13 for All Shows
Online sales through - click "Buy Tickets"
Walk-up sales through T.O. Tix at Yonge-Dundas Square (Tuesday through Saturday 12pm-6pm)
Charge-by-phone: 1 888 222 6608 | Group Sales: 416 703 9333

Future Day Tickets (starting November 9 at Innis Town Hall, open from noon until 20 minutes before the last screening)
Online sales through until 11:55pm the day before the show - click "Buy Tickets"
Walk-up sales at Innis Town Hall until the day before the show – cash only
Charge-by-phone: 1 888 222 6608 until 11:55pm the day before the show

Same Day Tickets (available one hour before the screening)
Walk-up sales at each venue - cash only

Regular Price / Discount Price*
Regular Screenings $12 / $10
Youth Screenings $5 / n/a
Opening Night Gala $20 / $15
Closing Night Gala $15 / $12
Centrepiece Presentation $15 $12
Festival Pass $80 / $65
Industry Pass $45 / $25
4-Pak (no galas or centrepiece, in advance only) $35 / n/a

*Discount applies to students (with valid current ID), seniors over 65 (no ID required), earlybird purchases (before Oct 13) or group sales (by arrangement)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The King's Speech Wins TIFF's People's Choice Award

TORONTO – The 35th Toronto International Film Festival announced its award recipients at a reception at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre Hotel today.

The award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Vincent Biron for Les Fleurs de l'âge,which explores a summer day for a regular group of school kids. The jury remarked: “Director Vincent Biron manages to take a moment of an ordinary childhood summer and render unforgettable art from it. This gem of a film captured the jury’s hearts with its quiet, poignant, but also vivid and wonderfully sympathetic portrayal of ‘a day in the life’ of several children on the cusp of small but revelatory experiences of teenage life. The jury was stunned by the talent and originality we found in the short films selected this year. We hope there will be more venues and increased opportunities for the public to see these incredible films and shall be working toward this end.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize and is supported by the National Film Board of Canada.

The SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Deborah Chow for her compelling debut feature The High Cost of Living. Starting with a collision between unlikely characters, Deborah Chow's The High Cost of Living maintains a compelling realism with a strong sense of emotional power. Eliciting inspiring performances from her perfect cast, and with a keen eye for subtle detail, Chow demonstrates exceptional maturity in this superbly directed debut feature. The award carries a cash prize of $15,000.

The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Denis Villeneuve for Incendies. In stories of immigration and war, one generation's quest for closure and forgetting can conflict with the next generation's search for identity. Denis Villeneuve takes a wrenching family drama and successfully navigates it through the brutality of a real life war with a breathtaking level of film making artistry. For its masterful telling of a complex story which spans cultures, continents, and generations, the City of Toronto Award goes to Incendies. Generously sponsored by the City of Toronto, the award carries a cash prize of $30,000.

All three Canadian film awards are selected by a jury of industry professionals. The feature film jury consists of writer/director Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time); filmmaker/producer Nick de Pencier (One Week, Four Wings and a Prayer); journalist and TFO veteran Lucie Amyot; and director Bruce Sweeney (Last Wedding, Excited). The short film jury members are Canadian documentary filmmaker and author Shelley Saywell (In the Name of the Family, Women in War); documentary producer, journalist and author Noah Richler (This Is My Country, What’s Yours); and writer and directorSudz Sutherland (Love, Sex & Eating the Bones, Doomstown).

The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 19th consecutive year. The jury members consist of jury president Lotfi Ben Khelifa (Tunisia), Madhu Eravankara (India), Janusz Wróblewski (Poland), Necati Sönmez (Turkey),
Pierre Pageau (Canada) and Alice Shih (Canada).

The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Shawn Ku for Beautiful Boy (USA). The jury remarked: “This film shows its audience that in a world of chaos and insanity, humanity is the only key to life.”

The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Special Presentations is awarded to Pierre Thoretton for L'Amour Fou (France). The jury remarked: “This film portrays the poignant, emotional and cinematic expression of the life and times of an internationally renowned artist, exploring his stark loneliness and artistic overtones.”

The Cadillac People's Choice Award is voted on by Festival audiences. This year’s award goes to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech (United Kingdom/Australia). The King's Speech tells the story of King George VI. After his brother abdicates, George ‘Bertie’ VI (Colin Firth) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded nervous stammer and considered unfit to be King, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Cadillac. Runner-up is Justin Chadwick’s First Grader (United Kingdom).

The Cadillac People's Choice Award presents a free screening of the Cadillac People’s Choice Award-winning film tonight. The screening takes place at 6 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first served basis beginning at 4 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre. For more information on this screening, visit

Cadillac People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award
The Cadillac People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Jim Mickle’s Stake Land (USA). In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work. Runner-up is Michael Dowse’s Fubar II (Canada).

Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award
The Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Sturla Gunnarsson’s Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie (Canada). At 75 years old, David Suzuki shows no signs of slowing down. In this captivating documentary portrait, the passionate environmentalist's legacy lecture is entwined with candid interviews in which he reflects on his life and shares deeply personal stories, revealing a side previously unseen. Runner-up is Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light (France/Germany/Chile).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pitch Your Movie: It’s Only Divine Right

The end of TIFF is quickly approaching for me. I have four films tomorrow and then I will have reached twenty-four films max for this year. I hope to start posting some TIFF reviews next week after I take a day or two to decompress a bit. First I need to take care of some commitments I made prior to TIFF. As I mentioned in a previous post, I took part in a Hollywood Fantasy Draft a few weeks back over at Anomalous Material. Over the last three weeks all the participants of the draft have been pitching their film ideas. As my pitch is scheduled for tomorrow, I opted to post it a day early as not to conflict with all my TIFF films. Why I choose a date during TIFF is beyond me, but I tried my best to scrape something together in the few moments I had available in between screenings. On a side note, Castor of Anomalous Material has generously allowed me to feature all 27 pitches in a special edition of Pitch the LAMB later this month. So be sure to check that out as well.

It’s Only Divine Right directed by Spike Jonze

Tagline: Sometimes doing nothing is the greatest crime of all.

The Cast

Johnny Depp – Salvador Bramalea. A con artist who lack of action, and mental instability, leads to major consequences.

Brad Pitt – Daniel Bramalea. Salvador’s brother who is the “muscle” in the con. Daniel’s love for money supersedes almost everything else in life.

Rosemary Dewitt – June Geogra. A human rights activist that frequent butts heads with mayoral candidate Newbury. June also strikes up relationship with Salvador.

Denzel Washington – Stanford Newbury. A mayoral candidate that goes to great lengths in a attempt to win the election.

Julianne Moore – Annie Sithy. A psychiatrist who tries to help Salvador with is reoccurring visions. Annie is also a drug addict. Annie and Daniel are romantically involved on the side.

Don Cheadle – Detective Roland Queensway. He is in charge of tracking down the Woodland Killer

Salma Hayek – Sofia Newbury. She is a trophy wife who spends most of her days drunk. Until the chance to become an instant celebrity arises.

Charlotte Rampling – Margo Bramale. Mother of Salvador and Daniel; it is Margo who organizes and plans all of the family’s cons.

Zooey Deschanel – Detective Ashley Shin. Queensway’s new partner who just made the ranks of detective a few months ago.

The Pitch

The film opens with a close up on a young man whose face is looking directly looking into the camera. He is attractive, in his twenties, and is talking to someone who we do not see. Judging from the conversation they have just had a late night rendezvous and are making plans to met again. Without warning a clear plastic bag is placed over the man’s head and he struggles to grasp for air. As the man fights to stay alive we see a gloved hand appear from behind him and covers his mouth. The eerie sounds of his last moments are still heard as the screen goes black.

Act I
The next morning we see Salvador Bramalea (Depp), his brother Daniel (Pitt) and their mother Margo (Rampling) eating breakfast at a diner. The Bramalea family are con artists who are set to make the biggest score of their careers. The con consists of convincing a local mayoral candidate, Stanford Newbury (Washington), that they have special ties with the infamous Ianccio crime syndicate. Stanford believes that the Bramelea family can use their mob ties to help facilitate a victory in the upcoming election. Little does Stanford know, but it is Salvador and Daniel who are sabotaging his competition. Salvador arranges for a few key opponents to get into compromising situations (e.g. photos with women who are not their the candidates wives, drug use, etc.), while Daniel is the muscle of the operation using physical force to sway members of city council to vote for Newbury. Although Salvador and Daniel are the best at what they do, there has always been a level of jealousy between them due to Margo favoring Daniel over Salvador.

One day Salvador has a disturbing vision. A series of images flash before his eyes but they do not make any sense. There is Salvador is in a priest’s robe, Daniel has a beard and is in a wheelchair, there is a man crying, a glamorous looking woman on CNN, and an angelic looking woman staring at him. Salvador tells Daniel about his vision but his brother quickly dismisses it as a result of lack of sleep due to all the late nights on the Newbury job. Later that evening Salvador is watching television and a breaking news alert discusses the recent murder of Alan Jamis, the man from the opening of the film. The reporter points out that the murder echoes those of the Woodland Killer from a few years back. The Woodland Killer had notoriously violated and murdered several young but was never caught. The reporter claims that Jamis was known for his homemade custom jewelry which often featured characters from Japanese anime. The news report featured reactions from three prominent figures: Detective Roland Queensway (Cheadle) who is involved with the investigation; mayoral candidate Newbury; and June Geogra (Dewitt) who is a human rights activist. Detective Queensway tells the reporter that the police have several leads and will be doing everything they can to catch the murderer. Salvador instantly recognizes Queensway as the man who was crying in his vision. Newbury gives a statement regarding how he will be taking a tougher stance on crime than the current mayor. Salvador notices that Newbury’s wife, who is standing beside him on television, is the same woman Salvador saw on CNN in his vision. The last interview is of June Geogra who criticizes the politicians for ignoring the crime in poorer areas of the city. Salvador is stunned to see that June is the angelic person in his vision.

Act II
Soon Salvador’s visions start to become more prominent in his day to day life. It even affects his and Daniel’s work as Salvador starts to lose grip on reality. He frequently see June’s angelic image following him wherever he goes. Frustrated, and slightly concerned that his brother is going mad, Daniel arranges for Salvador to meet with a local shrink, Annie Sithy (Moore). Daniel, through his shady connections, often supplies Annie with illegal drugs. Some of these narcotics Annie gives to her patients and others she keeps for her own personal use. Daniel and Annie have also been intimate on more than one occasion. During one of their psychiatric sessions, Salvador confides in Annie that he has had visions similar to this when he was younger. Annie informs Salvador that he needs to seek out the focal point of the vision, the angelic June.

Salvador eventually seeks out June at a protest she has organized outside to the police station. Queensway comes out side and he and June get into a heated debate. Queensway threatens to arrest June and her protestors if they do not disband immediately. Before Queensway can give the order to his officers, Salvador swoops in and defuses the situation with his charm. As Salvador and June leave, Queensway orders his partner, Ashley Shin (Deschanel), to conduct a background check on Salvador as something does not sit right with him. June and Salvador start to spend more time together as June believes that Salvador is a fellow activists. As the two get closer romantically, Salvador is conflicted about telling June about both his true profession and his visions. Amidst this there is another news report about the body of a young boy surfacing. Newbury’s wife, Sofia (Hayek) is at home drinking herself into a stuper mocking her husband for not have the stones to catch this guy. Newbury chastises her for been drunk at ten in the morning.

A few days later Margo, Salvador and Daniel have a meeting with Newbury regarding the final three weeks before the election. Margo assures Newbury that things are on course and that the few problem areas will be dealt with shortly. While in Newbury’s office, Salvador sees a unique looking bracelet on the floor. He goes to pick it up but Newbury quickly steps on it without even breaking his stride. Newbury informs the Bramalea family that they need to speed up the timelines in order to get results. He adds that they need not bother with the little things that do not concern them otherwise the consequences will be steep. This last point seems to be geared towards Salvador who is slowly getting up from the floor.

Outside the office Salvador informs his family of what he saw. Salvador does not like the latest vibe he got from Newbury and contemplates terminating this particular contract. Daniel is adamantly opposed to this idea as they have invested too much time and effort into the project. Margo, as usual, agrees with Daniel as the money is too good to pass up and the job is almost over. Margo orders Salvador to stay home for the remainder of the job as his mental instability could ruin everything. Despite his better judgment Salvador opts to stay quiet and ignore what he saw earlier that day. All is quiet for a few days until there is a thunderous knock on the door of the Bramalea home. Detectives Queensway and Shin have come to question Salvador about the brutal murder of June Geogra.

The papers are baffled about June’s death, several articles question whether or not the Woodland Killer has finally found a taste for women after molesting and killing so many young men over the years. The news of June’s death sends Salvador over the edge and he is unable to tell what is real and what is not. He spends two days in bed hallucinating and getting deeper and deeper into his vision. On the day of June’s funeral several journalist are there to get a few sound bites from Queensway and Newbury. Margo, Salvador, and Daniel attend the funeral as well. After speaking to the press, Newbury comes over to give his condolences to Salvador. As the two men sake hands, Newbury slips one of June’s earrings into Salvador’s palm. Newbury then tells Salvador and his family had better stay the course or more of their loved ones will meet the same fate. Shocked, Salvador can only listen as Newbury explains that is the one conning Salvador’s family and not the other way around. Newbury states that he and the Ianccio family have been close for years, and he knew the Bramalea’s where lying to him since day one. The only reason he did not say anything was mainly because it was cheaper to use them.

Salvador is barely hanging on mentally but is determined to avenge June’s death but he needs more evidence. He follows Newbury to one of the campaign offices one night. There are faint sounds of a young man screaming for help. As Salvador turns down the corridor the sounds get louder. Soon Salvador reaches the door where the screams are coming from. Peering through the window he sees Newbury on top of a young Asian man who is struggling to fight him off. The Asian man is the same man that was crying in Salvador’s vision. Salvador reaches for the door knob but feels the cold end of a gun on the back of his neck. He turns around to find Daniel staring back at him. Daniel admits that he has been the one abducting young men for Newbury. Daniel has not only been getting a large paycheck for his services, but Newbury has promised him property in the Caymen Islands. Salvador knows he is losing touch and must get the young man in the room away from Newbury. Figuring he was a dead man either way, Salvador turns and opens the door. Before Daniel can pull the trigger he is shot in the lower side from behind. Detective Shin, who has been following Salvador for the last few days, appears in the hall and checks to see it Daniel is still alive. Daniel is still alive but has suffered severe nerve damage. Salvador pulls Newbury of the man and starts to punch him relentlessly. Detective Shin stops Salvador before he kills Newbury.

Fast forward two years. Newbury’s trial is over and he is serving a life sentence behind bars. The trial reveals that there were many more victims than anyone could have anticipated. Sofia writes a best-selling tell all book about what is was like to be married to a serial killer. She uses her new found fame to peddle her book on the television talk show circuit. Daniel, who is now paralyzed, serves 15 years in jails for his crime. Though Salvador has visited him a few times, Margo is driven mad with grief. As for Salvador, the guilt from of June’s death still ways on his mind. Having covered his tracks in regards to the con, Salvador spends the rest of his days in a seminary trying to atone for his sins. Thought the visions are not as frequent, he is still haunted by the luminous vision of June every now and then.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is This Hero Super Enough To Save TIFF?

We are at the halfway point of TIFF and it has been another interesting year. As there is still plenty of festival left to go I will keep this post brief. I just wanted to bring your attention to a recent podcast I took part in over at The Dark of the Matinee blog. The Mad Hatter and I briefly discussed the new Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page film Super which had its premier at TIFF a few days ago.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love

As I will be immersed in all things TIFF, there will be no new post on this blog for about a week or so. However, I will be updating my twitter feed with TIFF stuff as much as possible in between screenings. Fortunately there are a bunch of great Toronto based blogs, listed below, that will satisfy all your TIFF information cravings.

Your TIFF Related Blog Reading List Until I Return:

Row Three
Movie Moxie
The Dark of The Matinee
Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
Toronto Screen Shots
Toronto J-Film Pow Wow
The Final Girl Project
Black Sheep Reviews
Big Thoughts From A Small Mind’s Twitter Feed

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

My 2010 TIFF Schedule

My 2010 TIFF Schedule

The 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (a.k.a. TIFF) official kicks off tomorrow! The following is the list of films I will be seeing during the course of the festival. I will have full reviews for all the films below after the festival is over. Keep an eye on my twitter page for TIFF updates during the week.

Click on the titles for the plot synopsis

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen directed by Andrew Lau
A Married Couple directed by the late Allen King

Trust starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, and Viola Davis; directed by David Schwimmer (yes, Ross from Friends)
Viva Riva! directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga
Autumn directed by Aamir Bashir

Cirkus Columbia directed by Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land)
A Useful Life directed by Federico Veiroj
The Illusionist directed by Sylvain Chomet (Les Triplettes de Belleville)
The First Grader starring Naomie Harris

Super starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion, Liv Tyler
The Trip starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; directed by Michael Winterbottom
Vanishing on 7th Street starring Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo; directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9)

Beautiful Boy starring Maria Bello and Michael Sheen
Tracker starring Ray Winstone, Temura Morrison
Machete Maidens Unleashed! featuring Roger Corman, John Landis, Weng Weng,etc.

The Debt starring Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Sam Worthington; directed by John Madden
Balada Triste (The Last Circus) directed by Álex de la Iglesia
I Saw the Devil starring Lee Byung-hun; directed by Kim Jee-woon

Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams
Half of Oscar directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca
A Screaming Man directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

The High Cost of Living starring Zach Braff
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame starring Andy Lau
Even The Rain starring Gael García Bernal
Bunraku starring Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd and Demi Moore

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2009 in Review

TIFF 2009

A few people refer to last year’s TIFF as "the year Oprah invaded Toronto". While the big O was the focal point for a lot of the press, she could not take the shine away from usual level of top notch films we have come to expect from the Toronto International Film festival. Although I saw several good films, 2009 ended up being a rather “Whale Rider” heavy year for me.

Total Number of Films Watched: 27

My Top 5:

A Serious Man
Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire
The Art of the Steal

Honourable Mention: The Loved Ones, Cleanflix, Year of the Carnivor, The Ape, If I Knew What You Said, Good Hair, The Road
 The Disappointments: The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Warrior and the Wolf, Vengeance, Like You Know it All

The Whale Riders (aka. I regret passing on these films): A Single Man, Lebanon, Mr. Nobody, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The White Ribbon, A Prophet, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Mao’s Last Dancer, Enter the Void, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Lebanon, Mother, Harry Brown, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Memorable Moment: The question and answer sessions that Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Terry Gilliam held after the screening of their respective films Mimacs and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Jeunet and Gilliam are directors whom often incorporate fantastical elements in their films. So it was a pleasure to listen to each of them explain their creative process. Especially in regards to how they come up with such imaginative tales.

Random Star Sightings: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Cera, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Lee Daniels, Sook-yin Lee, Terry Gilliam

**Tune in tomorrow to see my 2010 TIFF Schedule!**

Monday, September 06, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2008 in Review

TIFF 2008

After taking a break from TIFF in 2007, due to circumstances beyond my control, I made my triumphant return in 2008 with a strong selection of films. Many people question how come the Oscar winning film The Hurt Locker did not make my best of the year list for 2009. The truth is that I originally saw The Hurt Locker back in 2008 and, while I did enjoy it, there were so many other films that stood out at TIFF that year. So I never fell in love with Locker way others did.

Total Number of Films Watched: 32

My Top 5:

The Wrestler
More Than A Game
Slumdog Millionaire
Witch Hunt

Honourable Mention: The Hurt Locker, JCVD, Pontypool, The Brothers Bloom, Treeless Mountain, A Film with Me In It, Ashes of Time Redux, Lost Song, Fifty Dead Men Walking

The Disappointments: The Sky Crawler, Edison & Leo, Dead Girl, Last Stop 174, A Year Ago in Winter, What Doesn’t Kill You

The Whale Riders (aka. I regret passing on these films): Wendy and Lucy, It Might Get Loud, Medicine for Melancholy, Hunger, I’ve Loved You So Long, Waltz with Bashir

Memorable Moment: Being in the last box and still getting 90% of my first choices. For those who have never experienced TIFF before there are a number of ways you can get tickets. Individual tickets are sold on the TIFF website as well as box offices downtown. TIFF also offers various packages that are designed to please a diverse range of filmgoers. To give everyone who purchases a package a fair shot at tickets to the films they really want to see, TIFF incorporates a lottery system policy in which all the submitted ticket requests are place in boxes based on when they are handed in. At the end of the selection week a box number (e.g. Box 17 out of 49) is picked at random and that is considered the starting box. The TIFF staff works their way around the numerous boxes, assigning the request tickets base on availablity, until they get back to the starting box. Obviously everyone hopes that there box is the first one picked; or at least near the first box to guarantee that the get all of their first choices. In 2008, after years of avoiding it, I ended up in the last box of the selection pool. I was sure that I would have to reselect the majority of films, as many other festival goers have had to do in the past. Yet it turned out that I received tickets for pretty much everything I wanted to see. The only ones I did not get tickets for were a few of the big budget film, such as Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno, that were not “must sees” to begin with.

Random Star Sightings: Kathryn Bigelow, Jeremy Renner, Guy Ritchie, Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Dev Patel, Frida Pinto, Danny Boyle, Lebron James, Darren Aronofsky, Wong Kai Wai, Bruce McDonald

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2006 in Review

TIFF 2006

For me 2006 was all about the directors and a character named Borat. I not only got to see the latest films from directors such as Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronosky, Ken Loach, Tarsem Singh, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu ; but I also was fortunate enough to see one of my favourite independent directors, Hal Hartley, present his film Fay Grimm and conduct a question and answer session after the screen. The only thing that overshadowed the outstanding directors at the festival that year was Borat, a man who tops my list of the most memorable moments I have ever experienced at TIFF...but more on that later.

Total Number of Films Watched: 30

My Top 5:

The Lives of Others
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Pan’s Labyrinth
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Honourable Mention: Babel, The Last King of Scotland, The Fall, Fay Grim, Waiter, Bunny Chow, Death of a President, Day Night Day Night, Private Property

The Disappointments: The Fountain, Bamako, A Crime, Renaissance, Day on Fire, Cheech, One to Another, I am the Other Woman, Kabul Express.

The Whale Riders (aka. I regret passing on these films): When the Levees Broke, Rescue Dawn, After the Wedding, The Host, Paris, je t’aime, Little Children, Black Book, Away From Her, Dixie Chicks: Shut up and Sing

Memorable Moment: Borat’s Midnight Madness screening which ended up being the most talked about topic of the entire festival. While I knew of The Ali G Show, I had never seen an episode so the character of Borat was rather foreign to me. My selection of the film was completely based on the trailer I saw online. The night of the world premier screening, there was a deafening buzz building in the line. People were walking up and down the ticket holders line trying to get us to sell our tickets. One person was offering up to a hundred dollars for each ticket he could get his hands on. He ended up spending four hundred dollars to get himself and his friends into the screening. While the quick money was tempting, I held onto my ticket merely to see what all the fuss was about. When Sacha Baron Cohen arrived in full Borat character, on a cart being pulled by peasant women, the crowd went bananas. After a funny introduction from Borat himself, everyone settled in to finally see the film. After fifteen minutes, during a few big laughs, the theatre projector broke down. While the staff worked on fixing the projector, Cohen jumped back on stage and did his Borat routine for the crowd; his improvisation was fantastic and get the crowd in a positive mood. After ten minutes or so documentary filmmaker Michael Moore pops up to the balcony section, where I was sitting, and attempts to fix the projector. Shortly after Ari Emanuel, the agent Jeremy Piven’s character on the show Entourage is based on, shows up to get the status on things. Realizing that a special part is needed for the projector, Moore decides to conduct an impromptu question and answer session with Larry Clark, the director of Borat. After about an hour a festival staff member announces that the screening would have to be postponed until the next night. The following evening the screening is even more backed than before, as it was in a larger theatre, as even Dustin Hoffman and a few other celebs came out for the chance to see the much talked about film.

Random Star Sightings: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Goldblum, Casey Affleck, Kerry Washington, Sacha Baron Cohen, Parker Posey, Saffron Burrows, Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, Hal Hartley, Guillermo del Toro, Adriadna Gil, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Moore, Darren Aronofsky

Friday, September 03, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2005 in Review

TIFF 2005

Since the 2004 festival was filled with personal sadness, I made sure that 2005 would be all about having fun. I saw great films that featured topics such as a man trying to escape his past, a woman seeking revenge, an Irish drag queen and a lobbyist who thanked people of smoking. In regards to that last one, it was a treat discovering a then unknown director by the name of Jason Reitman. Not only was his first feature, Thank You For Smoking, a homecoming of sorts for the Canadian director; but it also the start of a rather exceptional career for the young director. Reitman’s next two films, Juno and Up in the Air, both premiered at TIFF and went on to earn Academy Award nominations.

Total Number of Films Watched: 28

My Top 5:

A History of Violence
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
The Squid and the Whale
Thank You for Smoking
Breakfast on Pluto

Honourable Mention: Capote, Dear Wendy, District 13, Lie With Me, The Matador, Runaway.

The Disappointments: Manderlay, Neverwas, Harsh Times, River Queen, Thumbsucker, The Duelist, Winter Passing.

The Whale Riders (aka. I regret passing on these films): Caché, Brokeback Mountain, Polanski’s Oliver Twist, Tsotsi, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, C.R.A.Z.Y, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Proposition, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Memorable Moment: Standing in the Rush Line (i.e. the last minute tickets line) for the film Beowulf and Grendel which feature Gerard Butler and Sarah Polley. While waiting in the pouring rain I had to endure the ranting and ravings of eight women who were all part of the official Gerard Butler fan club. Many of the women had driven well over six hours just to get a chance to see Mr. Butler. One woman even had a homemade oriental fan with Butler’s face on both sides. The funny thing about this was that it was the year before 300 was released and he became an international star. Up to that point, his biggest films included the Tomb Raider sequel and Dear Frankie.

Random Star Sightings: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Catherine Keener, Keanu Reeves, Twilda Swinton, Cillian Murphy, Sarah Polley, Maria Bello, Laura Linney,Jeff Daniels, Eva Longoria, Noah Baumbach, Aaron Stanford, Robin Tunney, Alan Cumming, Atom Egoyan, Clement Virgo, Clifton Collins Jr., Thomas Vinterberg,

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2004 in Review

TIFF 2004

This was a rather tough year for me. Four days into the festival an uncle, whom I was very close to, passed away. This obviously made the festival less exciting for me as the fiction on screen could not mask the pain of real life. However, one of the bright spots of the festival was being able to see, what would become one of my favourite movies in recent years, Oldboy.

Total Number of Films Watched: 23

My Top 5:

The Sea Inside
5 X 2 – Five Times Two

Honourable Mention: Enduring Love, Primer, Siblings, Sucker Free City, Cronicas, Breaking News (mainly for the wonderful opening tracking shot)

The Disappointments: Phil the Alien, Seven Times Lucky, Arsene Lupin, Steamboy, Trauma

The Whale Riders (aka. I regret passing on these films): Sideways, Hotel Rwanda, Kung Fu Hustle, Nobody Knows, Millions, Tarnation, Kinsey, Double Dare

Memorable Moment: While seeing Javier Bardem, Todd Solondz, and Alejandro Amenábar was one of the highlights, the most memorable moment was watching The Machinist. I had the unfortunate luck of having to watch the film the morning after my uncle passed away. It was excruciating watching Christian Bale wither away on screen. I could not help but think of my uncles last days while watching the film. To this day I am still unable to watch The Machinist again due to the memories it evokes.

Random Star Sightings: Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Todd Solondz, Alejandro Amenábar, Anthony Mackie, Ken Leung, Rhys Ifans, Don McKellar, François Ozon, Emily Mortimer

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Countdown to TIFF: 2003 in Review

TIFF 2003

I learned a valuable lesson at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, in the end, everything about TIFF is based on luck. No matter how much research you do, you never truly know what you are going to get until you are in the theatre and the film is actually playing. I learned this as I sat through, what seemed like, all the bad French films that played that year. This is not to say that there were not several good French films available; it just happened that I somehow manage to pick everything but the good ones. 2003 was the weakest year for me in regards to the ratio of good films to bad ones that I watched.

Total Number of Films Watched: 31

My Top 5:

Lost In Translation
The Station Agent
A Good Lawyer’s Wife

Honourable Mention: 21 Grams, Sexual Dependency, November, Casa de los Babys, Code 46, The Time of the Wolf, Save the Green Planet, The Boys from County Claire

The Disappointments: In the Cut, Twentynine Palms, A Problem With Fear, Errance, Wonderland, Raja, Who Killed Bambi?

The Whale Riders (a.k.a. I regret passing on these films): The Barbarian Invasion, Zatoichi, The Fog of War, Bus 174, Shattered Glass, Good Bye, Lenin!, Coffee & Cigarettes, Les Triplettes de Belleville, Matchstick Men.

Memorable Moment: Getting to see both Dogville and Lost In Translation as they were high on my “must see” list.

Random Star Sightings: Gus Van Sant, Woody Harrelson, Jane Campion, John Sayles, Darryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Lili Taylor, Thomas Jane, Sang-Soo Im