Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Slowly finishing up the TIFF

There simply wasn't enough time to really do full reviews of each movie while I was up at the festival. Most of the time I would only have 45 min. online at a time. Not enough time for a slow witted guy like me, so I did brief summaries. I'm now going back and finishing up. I've gone back to the first two days in which I actually did full reviews and added pictures and links. There are links to trailers of the films in the titles of the reviews. You should notice them underlined. Click on it and you can see the trailer. Of course, if the title is not underlined, it means there is not a trailer yet. I'm slowly finishing it up. Sometime in October sounds nice. The festival was great this year, not as good as 2005, but still very good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Saturday, Sept. 16

10 am - Times and Winds - Varsity 3
Incredibly slow moving Turkish film about three youngsters and their interactions with their families. Not much happened, not much reason to see again.

Noon - Day Night Day Night - Varsity 4
Low budget tale of a young woman who has decided to be a suicide bomber and her last days on the planet. Woman is taken to a hotel where she is isolated only to be greated periodically by masked men and quizzed. Eventually she is dropped of in Times Square. Film is INCREDIBLY nerve wracking once she gets to her target. Does she go through with it? Is it successful? Does the bomb work? Really good film that looked to be shot on a single hand held camera.

2:45 pm - The Last Winter - Varsity 4
Billed as a horror movie, the horror elements don't really show until the last 10 minutes and then, they don't make sense. Film works more as a claustrophobic drama set in Alaska where a oil mining team is isolated from everyone. When one of the crew goes crazy, paranoia is unleashed. Good film, but definitely would not satisfy horror fans.

4:45 pm - Resue Dawn - Varsity 8
Film tells the tale of Dieter Dengler's escape from a POW camp in Vietnam before the war actually began. This is the second movie that director Werner Herzog has done on the subject. He did a documentary a decade before. Christian Bale stars as Dengler and he and Steve Zahn, as another prisoner, add humor to a rather bleak tale of survival.

7:30 pm - Outsourced - Varsity 8
Cute, crowdpleasing comedy of telemarketer Todd who is sent to India to set up a call center for his company since they can pay them less. Todd cannot leave India until the center is able to meet certain goals which means he must train the locals to speak more "American". Typical culture clash film but with heart. Not great but fun to sit through on video.

Midnight - Sheitan - Ryerson
Four college kids meet up with a girl at a dance club and head out to her place in the wilderness. Horror ensues. Like "Hostel" in that none of the characters are really likeable, therefore when the terror comes, there is really no one to root for.Vincent Cassal is incredibly over the top in his portrayal of Jacob, the antagonist.

I'm done. 43 films in 10 days. I'll try to type longer reviews once I get home.

Friday, Sept. 15

3 pm - Seraphim Falls - Elgin
Old fashioned western of a man (Pierce Brosnon) being chased by another (Liam Neeson) through the wilds and only slowly do we understand the motivation for the chase. Film is shot in a beautiful location and Bronson does a good job with limited dialogue at showing his character's struggle to survive even though he has demons from the past. But the film pace is very slow and as a result, butts start shifting in the seats.

6 pm - When the Levees Break - Ryerson
Spike Lee's documentary on New Orleans before/after Katrina is told in four parts. Powerful documentatry that does show both sides although it's definitely slanted as it should be. This has already been shown on HBO.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thursday, Sept. 14

Noon - Alatriste - Paramount 1
Based on Arturo Pérez-Reverte's best-selling series of novels of the legendary Captain Diego Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen), the films shows how his life takes a turn when a fellow soldier falls in battle; his final wish is for Alatriste to watch over his son, Iñigo. The film is epic in scope and sometimes certain storylines seem to disappear only to reappear later. Still the film is well acted and has plenty of action and political intrigue.

3 pm - The Fountain - Ryerson
Essentially a love story told in three time periods with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz playing the doomed lovers. All involve Jackman's character trying to keep his love going with Weisz's. Film is beautifully shot and well acted, but.... is not for everyone. The story moves back and forth and the final storyline, set well in the future is minimalist at best.

5:30 pm - Blindsight - Varsity 3
In India, children who are born blind are outcasts, because it is believed they are being punished by God for sinning in a past life. Incredible documentary focuses on six students being led by a blind mountain climber on a expedition up Mount Everest. The tension is incredibly high during this film and very much a life affirming film.

9 pm - Exiled - Elgin
Johnny To's latest film To spins the tale of the traitor Wo, who has decided to quit his criminal life and wants to live quietly with his family. His story is tied to that of the other hit men - and former buddies - who have come to Macau to kill him/save him. Resolved to take him down, but also willing to negotiate a sort of gentlemen's agreement, they grant Wo another day of life and help him find one last job to provide for his future widow and newborn baby. Film is ridiculously violent, but in a crowdpleasing way. The film's humor and heart were surprising. The funnest film of the festival.

Midnight - Severance - Ryerson
Second funnest film of the festival. "Deliverance" meets "The Office" with "Shaun of the Dead" sensibilities. The sales division of international arms company Palisade Defence is "rewarded" with a corporate retreat at a chalet in forests of Hungary. When the road to the retreat is "blocked", they go for it on foot. They find a lodge in shambles and eventually that they are not alone in the woods. The film is VERY bloody, but VERY funny.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wednesday, Sept. 13

9:30 am - Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing - Ryerson
Great documentary that tells of the groups exploits from Natalie's famous putdown of Bush in London till the present day. Films shows the group dynamic and how they developed songs for their latest album. It also shows how they dealt with the backlash both personally and professionaly. Great music, humor and personality.

11:45 am - Pan's Labyrinth - Varsity 8
In 1944, Ofélia is forced to move into her stepfather's home, now that her motheris about to give birth. She hates her new life and her new father, the tyrannical Captain Vidal who is intent on snuffing out the rebel forces. Ofélia finds an ally in Mercedes, Vidal's servant, who is secretly helping the rebels. She also discovers a labyrinth near the house and meets its grotesquely fawnlike keeper, Pan, who gives her three dangerous tasks to complete. The movie is really does not depend on the fantasy world to give it life. The tension and suspense comes from the real evil that is Capt. Vidal. Wonderfully told tale that is dependant on our sympathies with Ofelia.

3 pm - The Namesake - Elgin Theatre
Mira Nair's adaption of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa LahiriAshoke's novel. Film tells the tale of Ashoke Ganguli and his wife, Ashima (Tabu), who seek a new life in the United States. Previews made it seem that the film is mostly about their son's (played by Kal Penn) struggles to maintain his heritage while prefering his new roots (American). But it is really a story about the parents. Their sacrifice and their hopes and dreams through their children. Film has an epic feel to it. Kal's son is arrogant for so much of the film that I never developed any sympathy for him. The emotional center was his mother Ashima. Film dragged at times, but is still moving.

6 pm - Starter for 10 - Ryerson
Coming of age tale in Britain of Brian Jackson. Brian's goal in life is to learn as much as possible. He also dreams of being on a quiz show. Both become possible as Brian attends an upper-class British university. But this all gets derailed as he falls in love. Cute story with a twist in the "big match" that you don't normally see. James McAvoy has been in three films at the TIFF and has shown that he has the prescence to be a star.

9:30 pm - Black Book - Roy Thomson Hall
Paul Verhoeven return to his native Netherlands for a film about a young Jewish woman's attempts to help the resistance during World War II. The film was plenty of action, double crosses, sex and comedy to keep the audience revited to the screen for its length. Not really a film to make you "think" as much as a "popcorn" film.

Tuesday, Sept. 12

10:15 pm - The Last King of Scotland - Paramount 2
The movie tells the fictional tale of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who meets Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) while working at a Ugandan clinic. Garrigan becomes Amin's personal doctor and slowly opens his eyes to the atrocities being committed. Well told tale although Garrigan doesn't come across as particularly bright. Whitaker is fantastic as Amin.

3 pm - Catch a Fire - Ryerson
Phillip Noyce's latest film tells the real life story of Patrick Chamusso, a refinery foreman who eventually joins the liberation army. He is falsely accused of a bombing by a police chief played by Tim Robbins. When the brutal interrogation leads to his wife being beaten, Chamusso decides to take action. Well told tale about a dormant personality being awakened into action by outside forces. Derek Luke gives a terrific performance as Chamusso.

6 pm - Quelques Jours en Septembre (A Few Days in September) - Ryerson.
Juliette Binoche plays a government agent sent to reunite two children with their father, Elliot (a spy on the run). The spy thriller doesn't have much thrill to it. It's more of a character piece between Binoche and the two kids, who had never met before. It tries to throw Sept. 11 into the background but doesn't succeed in its attempt.

9 pm - Mon Mellier Ami - Roy Thomson Hall
At a dinner gathering, art dealer Francois is shocked to learn that no one at the table considers him a friend. Once more, they don't believe him capable of having a friend. So sets the story in motion as Francois, led by a charming taxi driver, seeks to learn how to find his BEST friend. Slight tale, but charmingly played comedy.

Midnight - Trapped Ashes - Ryerson
Horror film that tries to bring back the "Tales from the Crypt" type storytelling. A group of strangers on a studio tour get trapped inside a horror set. The driver believes the only way out is to tell you innermost horror story. So four stories with varying comedic success are told. None of the tales are scary, but some do have comedy that works. Low budget, straight to video.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, Sept. 11

Never Say Goodbye - 9 am - Paramount 13

Incredibly popular Bollywood picture about two married couples who have members that end up having an affair. The film is over three hours long, but didn't seem to drag much. The music was catchy and the peformances charasmatic. Dev was the only character that didn't seem to build much sympathy from the audience. The film was beautifully shot. It was intersesting the dialogue. It was a mixture of Hindi and English, most of the time within the same sentence. The film has already become the most popular Bollywood film in North American history as it has played in Indian theatres across the country.

Stranger than Fiction - 12:30 pm - Ryerson

Great film that was just as funny and as heartfelt as the trailer make it look. If certain theatres at home do not clean up with this movie, then it will be something the theatre did wrong. People expecting to see a comedy in the vain of Will Ferrell's "Talledega nights" or "Anchorman" will be greatly disappointed. This is Ferrell's best ACTING. He's simply an everyman. The comedy comes out of his reactions, not the physical comedy he's known for. He garners such sympathy that it creates genuine tension as the film progresses and his inevitable date with death approaches.

10 Item or less - 3:30 - Elgin Theatre

The actors had not seen the film yet. Film is a small film about an actor (Morgan Freeman) doing research on managing a run down grocery store and the relationship he develops with a cashier (Paz Vega) there. It's a mostly two person, dialogue driven film in which not much happens. But because the two characters have such personality, you don't mind spending the time with them. Can't see this being a commercially successful film, but it's a good one to spend a couple of hours with at home on the couch with.

Fay Grim - 6 pm - Ryerson

Sequel to Hal Hartley's "Henry Fool." This film hard to describe because it throws so many genres together and see if they mix. It's shot digitally, so it almost look like a documentary at times. It throws comedy, espionage, drama and action in as well. And a lot of exposition. The story centers around Henry Fool's wife Fay Grim who gets drawn into a web of political intrigue when her husband's memoirs suddenly are wanted by government's across the globe. The acting is spot on, but it is certainly not a film for everyone as my head did feel at times it would explode trying to keep up with everything.

Sunday, 9/10

Shortbus - 9 pm - Ryerson

Definitely not a film for everyone. A brutally frank comedy/drama about young 20-somethings trying to figure out their relationships in New York. The film is earmarked for NC-17 before the credits really get going, with its explicit sex. But after the credits, the film's shock value either goes away or we forget about it and instead become involved in the characters lives and decisions.

Black Sheep - Midnight - Ryerson

There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand. And they're pissed off. Broadly played comedy/horror mixture for the most part delivers. It's never scary, but certainly throws in the blood. There is something just funny/wrong about seeing sheep attack humans with a thirst for blood. Also throw in the dynamic that if you are bit, you will become a were-sheep and you have a film that save for some slow stretches early, is an definite for any midnight program.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Minor irritations

Just a few things, comments that have irritated me during this great festival.

1) I was standing in the holdout line for the Gala screening of 'Babel.' A couple in front of me was having an animated discussion with one of the volunteers. The source of anger. Wording on the ticket. You see, if you buy a Gala package, you will have something to the effect of "Priority" on the ticket. For those who buy the single tickets, they say "Best Seat Available." But it really means best seat available in the 2nd or 3rd balconies, not the floor. The woman was arguing that "Best seat available" should mean she should be able to wait until the last minute and then choose empty seats on the floor. "They used to let us do that." She really hated that those who were lucky enough to get RUSH tickets, got to go to the floor seats. "There is a huge difference in terms of seeing the film on the floor (the best) and seeing it in the balconies. We want to be able to see the stars. This is RUINING our festival experience. It makes it not worth our time to hire a babysitter." Aaarrghh.
a) There is such a HUGE difference between the floor and the balconies that the stars ALWAYS are seated in the 2nd balcony. Not the floor.
b) There is probably a reason they don't want a mass of people hanging by the doors are the off chance that floor seats MIGHT be availabe. And since the RUSH tickets are given out until during the opening comments, they MIGHT just want to make sure everyone is seated quickly. The fact that they did it in the past shouldn't matter. They're not doing it now, adjust. It normally takes only one idiot to screw it up for the rest of us, and that's probably what happened.
c) I've gotten better pictures from the second/third balconies than from the first. The angle is better. If it's not, buy yourself a camera that's not cheap ass.
d) Buy the GALA package, you get floor seats.
e) If it's really not worth it, keep your ass at home and let REAL movie lovers get the tickets. It should be 1) about seeing the MOVIE and 2) about the whole festival experience of being in the house with the stars. Any bitching is sour grapes.

2) I saw "Shortbus" on Sunday night. There is ZERO chance this film will play at my theatre. That's because within the first two minutes of the film, before even the credits, it's going to land an NC-17.

The MPAA and exhibitors across the country have so messed up the NC-17 that it is worthless now. Most exhibitors refuse to play NC-17 movies. What idiots we are. We should embrace the NC-17. We should want more filmakers to make film NC-17. Remeber NC-17 does not mean pornography. There's still the X. It does mean adult. It does mean NO ONE under 17. How is this not being embraced?

What's one of the keys to the TIFF? No one under 18 is allowed into any of the screening, except the kiddie films. That means NO crying babies, NO gigly teenagers running back and forth doing their mating ritual of girls running to the bathroom together, with the boys following, NO kids running up and down the aisle, NO wondering what the hell is that parent bringing their kids to see THIS movie. How is this, the NC-17, not a win-win for the director and the exhibitors. Serious minded adult films, ones that don't even have explicit sex/violence, could apply for the NC-17 just so that kids could be kept out. And as far as kids sneaking in, an NC-17 makes our job easier. For an R rated film, they could be with an adult 21 yrs or older, but with an NC-17, if we catch them, they're gone.

Somehow, the MPAA and exhibitors either need to create a new rating, or claim back the NC-17. The moviegoing experience could only benefit.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I'll be brief

I'm going to try and write up longer reviews, including Q&A, later, but I'm falling too far behind.

Volver - Ryerson - 9:30 am - 9/9

The most packed 9:30 am show I've ever seen at the fest. Toronto loves it some Almodovar.
The story opens with two sisters attending the grave of their mother who died in a fire with their father. While in town, they visit their crazed aunt who believes their mother is taking care of her. Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, has a daughter and an unemployed husband and is struggling to make ends meet. The other sister, Sole, operates a illegal hair salon out of her house, unlucky in love. One day Sole is startled to hear a noise coming from the trunk of her car, when she investigates, she finds her mother. So begins the drama, comedy, suspense that is Volver. The movie was wonderfully acted and had energy to spare.

Penelope - Ryerson - 12:45 pm - 9/9

The Wilhern family has a curse on it. The next daughter to born to the family will have the nose of a pig. Fortunately for the Wilherns, it seems boys run in the family. Until Penelope. To avoid scandal, the parents fake her death. When they are older, they begin seeking suitors. It seems only a marriage to someone of her equal will break the curse. This is a romantic fable, that the audience just loved. There are definitely some trivial moments and not every star in the cast strikes the right note, but if marketed properly, it could easily be a success.

Fido - Paramount 2 - 3:45 - 9/9

Day of the Dead meets Pleasantville. It's 1950s America and a virus has spread across the globe causing the dead to return to life as flesh eating zombies. Thank goodness for Zombicom. Zombiecom has created a collar that surpresses the zombies hunger desires and allows them to lead productive lives as servants and manual labor. The film was very funny, with some gory moments. The gore is not enough to satiate horror funs, but enough to maybe keep away middle-America.

Indigenes - Varsity 1 - 6:15 pm - 9/9

A "Glory" of sorts for the French colonists in Africa who fought for France during WWII. Well acted and effectively paced story follow four such Africans as the struggle to fit in, survive and get the honor they deserve. The ending is very similar to the ending of "Saving Private Ryan" minus the Private Ryan.

Babel - Roy Thomson Hall - 9:30 pm - 9/9

Four different stories play out with their links only becoming apparent as the film progresses. Well acted, powerfully told film that preaches how "listening" can sometimes be as important as "talking."

The Host

The Host - Midnight - Ryerson - 9/8

The movie that has broken all sorts of box office records in South Korea. Movie is essentially a monster movie with the main protagonists consisting of a family instead of the army.

Early prologue sees the U.S. govt. dumping toxic chemicals into the Han River. Thus the creature is born. One sunny day at the park is interrupted when the creature decides to take a run through the park causing a stampede of terror. The daughter of a vendor is swept up in the monster's tail and dragged into the river. Song Kang-ho plays Gang-du, the non too bright vendor determined rescuing his daughter after a cell-phone call proves she's still alive. This is made more difficult when the government quarantines all survivors of the attack under the threat of virus contamination.

Movie was very fun with an interesting creature which we get to see early and often. The young girl, in particular, is very good, showing calm and resourcefulness in the face of danger. If only she could have been the rescuer instead of the rescuee. Movie played really well with the audience but did tend to drag in the middle section. Could play well in the States if Magnolia markets the film right.

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show - 9 pm - Ryerson Theatre - 9/8

This was another movie that I was desperately looking to get out of and find another one to see. I'm glad I didn't. Most of the films that I see at the festival are "downers", it was nice to find one and simply laugh. The film is similiar in structure to "The Original Kings of Comedy" and "Blue Collar Comedy Tour." Vince picked four comics and some friends to travel around with him on buses and hit 30 cities in 30 days, playing in various types of venues (mostly smaller). It also tells backstories on each of the comics, how they got started, what they felt after performing, etc. It was a very funny film. Vince Vaughn and the comics were all in attendance and did a Q & A afterwords

  • Before the screening, Vaugn introduced the film. "I've decided we are not going to show the film tonight. Instead, I'm going to see you a song from the bottom of my heart, and I'm going to need your help in this number so we can reach the heavens with song."
  • He had been here before with "Clay Pigeons." "And this is really the best festival in that you guys get to come to the shows. I really wish the other festivals would take a cue from that. It's really supposed to be a celebration of film, it means a lot to me that you took the time to come see the film."
  • They decided to do the "trip" 21 days before they actually began. So they had three weeks to get the equipment, buses, book the venues, etc.
  • Vaughn met Peter Billingsly and comic Ahmed Ahmed while working on the "Steroid" afterschool special. "I was never that big a fan of stand up comic. I had always found situations to be funnier. The one thing that moved me about all four comics was that they were talking about their lives, experiences that they were having. I found something very appealing in that and that audiences would be able to relate to them. There not just doing gimic jokes.
  • Someone asked his advice on how to get into the business. "To me, when I started off in the biz, no one said 'Hey, let's go to Hollywood and hit it big.' We went because we weren't very good at doing anything else. Acting was the one thing that I really loved. The focus today is on being "famous", it's about being successful. They're not going to be 'actors, musicians, because they love the craft. They are picking an occupation that will make them 'famous.' You have to really love it. You have to be able to take what's inside you and really express it in an authentic way. And success may come or it may not come, but the important thing is that you are doing something you love and that you HAVE to do it.
  • There were a couple of shows that they performed that had to be CLEAN. Comic Joe Caparulo said that he did curse once at the show at Notre Dame and then had sweat it out to see if they would get paid. He did say that overall performing "clean" routines in not especially hard, "it just means my sets are shorter."
  • They would like to tour again, but they would never attempt 30 nights in 30 days again.

The Silence

The Silence - 5:45 pm - Varsity 8 - 9/8

This movie reminded me of some of the great British crime TV series of the late 90s, early 2000s such as Wire in the Blood and Touching Evil. The biggest difference being that the film was Australian, not British, but it had the same type of atmosphere and look to it.

The film tells the story of a police officer, Richard Roxburgh, who has been taken of active duty following a "situation" and reassigned to work for the police museum. As he is setting up the latest display, he notices a similiarity between several photographs, a woman. When he finds another photograph, this time of the woman's murder, his investigative skills turn back on. He become obsessed with finding out who this woman was and who killed her. As he proceeds, the case takes a personal turn and becomes increasingly dangerous.

I enjoyed the film. It was originally broadcast on Australian TV in two parts and that is how I enjoyed the film, more as TV, than as an actual movie. I got into the characters and would be interested in seeing more about them. The film looked as if it were shot with a digital camera with the different styles, reminding me a little of "Collateral". I did guess the big "secret" before the reveal, but it the main focus of the story was to heal Roxburgh character from his "embarassment" that got him kicked off the active force. There was great chemistry between Roxburgh and his young assistant, Emily Barclay.

The film was shown on Christie Digital and looked very good. I've now seen four films on Digital and they've all looked very solid, great sound and clear picture.

  • Co-screenwriter Mary Walsh talked about how she got the idea for the story in the Q&A. She was researching a story on horse racing when she discovered that there was a police museum. Someone before had given her a book of old crime scene photos "Evidence". She became fascinating with the photos and the stories that were happening just outside the frame. She then got notes on a Sydney display of photos where the researcher talked about how after spending months and months of looking at these photos, the streets of Sydney came alive with the "ghosts" of the past. So that's where the idea began.
  • The producer said that there were two versions of the film made. The two part TV version and the film. "Cate Shortland is a wonderful director at establishing atmosphere, we were fortunate that she agreed to come on board. I was also interested in this story as it delved into the male psyche. His inability to talk about violent things from the past.
  • Only three or four of the photographs were real crime scene photographs, the rest were recreated in a big shoot before the film began.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Time and Climates

At last year's festival, there was a fim called 3-Iron by Ki-duk Kim. It was getting rave reviews and I had an opportunity to go see it, but then passed. So when I heard he had another film this year, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity.

Time, 12:15 pm - Paramount 3, 9/8
Apparently there is a big obsession with plastic surgery in South Korea, where a study estimated that 50% of women in their 20s had been under the knife. The film opens with a cringing credit sequence showing several plastic surgeries actually being performed. The film centers around Se-heui (Park Ji-yeon) and her boyfriend Ji-woo (Ha Jeong-woo). Se-heui is jealous of her boyfriend eyeing other womenand feels inadequate with her "same boring old face," certain that he will leave her soon. Ji-woo is perplexed at why she can't understand that he is just "looking" but is in love with her. The next day Se-heui has disappeared. Her cell phone has been disconnected, her apartment empty. There is no goodbye note, nothing to tell Ji-woo what has happened. As the months go by, Ji-woo tries to get back in the dating scene but can't seem to forget his "lost" love. He bumps into a woman whose face is covered in bandages while on a ferry boat, senses a connection only to lose her soon after. Months later, Ji-woo falls for a waitress at the coffee shop whose name is Sae-heui, very close to his onetime g.f.'s. He then receives a note with "I love you" scribbled on it, and signed "Se-heui." Despite many clues, Ji-woo is slow on the uptake. When all is revealed, the story has one more twist in it.

This film was great. The story moved along quickly and the acting was well done. You could feel sympathy, but also pity for Se-heui in her plan to win back her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she didn't think it through before acting. Does she want Ji-woo to long for her old self or fall for the new one? This is a certainty for art houses across the country but won't play on a broader scale.

Climates, 3 pm - Ryerson, 9/8

First miss of the festival. This is a story about a couple, Nuri and Bahar, who while on vacation decide to call it quits. Nuri, who broke off the relationship, has second thoughts and looks to see if reconciliation is possible.

I knew I was in trouble in the pre-credit sequence. It last about 6 minutes, feels like 20. It has maybe two lines of dialogue, the rest of it focusing on two extended cuts of Bahar's face. Actress Ebru Ceylan does a wonderful job of expressing her character's realization that their relationship is over. The scene is of her watching her husband take photographs of ruins. You can see her go from humor, to boredom, to happiness, to sadness and finally to anger. I'm sure this was the point, but it seemed to go on too long. The director uses this approach throughout the movie. The movie is only 98 min., but seems like over two hours, b/c there is only 45 min. of actual substance. Once the couple breaks up, the rest of the movie is scene through the male Nuri's eyes. Sorry, but Nuri was the least interesting character. I kept wanting to know what was happening to Bahar, the only one with any seeming passion. I stayed till the end just to be sure Bahar was not idiotic enough to take Nuri back.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Lives of Others and Borat

The Lives of Others - 9 pm - Elgin Theatre, 9/7

Sometimes you just luck into movies. "The Lives of Others" was a second choice selection of mine. The first choice was "The Bothersome Man". When I went to pick up my tickets on Thursday, I noticed that "The Bothersome Man" was still available so I picked it up. I was excited to get my 1st pick back. I only chose "The Lives of Others" b/c it was playing at the Elgin, a large seating capacity. As the day progressed, I began reading more and more about "Lives" and eventually came to the decision that I should again reverse course and go back to my second choice. So I did.

The director/writer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and star, Ulrich Muehe, were in attendance. From the Q&A:
  • This is a very personal film for me and for those involved. It was an emotional rollercoaster when I was writing the screenplay because on one day I would meet with people whose lives were destroyed by these secret police, the Stasi; and then the next day I would meet the people who had done these very things and hear their side. It was important to me to get a feeling for both sides. That work payed off because this story then attracted the staff and actors who wanted to be a part of this and for this story to be told.
  • For example, the property master was someone who during the time that this movie was set, had expressed discontent at living in the GDR at that time. One of the people he told it to was an informer which led to him being arrested and being placed for two years in a Stasi prison, subjected to several of the interrogations and humiliations that you see in this film. For him it was very important that this story be told. His contribution was going to be that he didn't want to recreate or rebuild any of the equipment that was used in the past. Instead he went to museums and other places and found the real things. All bugs, tape recorders, etc. in the film are the real things.
  • He said without Ulrich Muehe's involvement the film wouldn't have gotten made. "Great actors are the real producers of movies. They decide what gets done. For doing it he had to confront demons of his past. He was under tight survellience since high school b/c the Statsi knew he would be big.

The film is set in 1984, in East Germany where the Stasi's and its informers goal is to know everything about the lives of others to make sure there is no dissent for the government. Capt. Wiesler is a chief interrogator and devoted officer who will go 12 straight hours with a suspect if that's what it takes to break him. When Wiesler and his boss, Lt.-Col. Grubitz go to the latest play by George Dreyman, who is one of the few "trusted" writers left in the GDR, Wiesler gets a sneaky feeling. He feels that Dreyman isn't all he's made out to be. Soon he is put in charge of bugging the man's house and its subsequent survelliance. Higher ups in the government want Dreyman exposed as a dissident. As the story plays out, Wiesler basically holds Dreyman's future in his hands.

The acting is great and you can see Wiesler's struggle as his ideals slowly get blurred by his fascination with the writer. There is geniune suspense in wondering how the twists and political motivations will play out, despite the fact that there is no real action in the film. The film was a wonderful surprise.

The film WILL play in the U.S. if for no other reason than it is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classic. They know how to market a film. I don't, however, believe it's going to play beyond the art houses. It will have to get nominated for an Academy Award, if not win it, before I can see it playing at local cinemas. Still this is one to remember come award season.

As for "Borat", I was completely unsuccesful in my attempt to get tickets to the screening. As far as the RUSH line goes, ONLY 4 people got in. So if you were not in line at 5 p.m., you were out of luck. I did get pictures of Borat's crazy arrival. He came in on a mule driven carriage. There was only one problem. The mule was IN the carriage with him. Instead four hefty peasant women were pulling him in. We were not told our bad luck about tickets till 12:30 am. Also, from all I've heard, the screening ended up being canceled due to projector problems. Still, it sounds like Borat did his best to keep the audience entertained as did audience member Michael Moore. The experience still would have been wild. The show has been moved to tonight at midnight at The Elgin. The Elgin actually seats more people, but there is no way that I'm missing "The Host."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

6 pm - Ryerson. Cillian Murphy in attendance. The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

The Palm D'Or winner at Cannes. The story of two brothers whose fight for an independent Ireland eventually leads them in opposite directions. Highlights of Q&A with Cillian Murphy

  • When asked what it was like to work for Ken Loach. "Any actor worth his/her salt would give their right arm to work with Ken. His method which is often confused as something else. What he does is set up an environment for actors whereby there is no such thing as marks, or lighting setups. The camera is invariarably very far away with a long lens so it feels like a very private experience. Pure is the word I would use to describe it.
  • People get confused and think that there isn't a script. There is a very strong script that Paul Laverty has written, but we're just not privy to it as actors. As a result, what that lends itself to is a performance that is honest. That is not premeditated or intellectualized. You can't rely on tricks. It's terrifying and exhilierating in equal proportions.
  • The film played very well in both Ireland and the U.K. There was some backlash in papers in Britain, but the reviews were good.
  • He did a lot of reading in preparation for the film. Ernie O'Malley (sp?) was one specifically he read on since he was a doctor and got involved in the fight for independence.
  • The script is set. Paul and Ken know where the characters are and where their going, but there is a certain amount of freedom to express yourself. For example, there may be a scene that is completely lit so you have the freedom to go here or there and not be restricted by lighting setups. But we don't contribute to the story other as actors portraying the parts.

The movie was extremely well acted and moving. I liked that the characters' motivations/actions were not easily figured out. Nor were they completely likeable. We get to see both sides of the argument toward the peace treaty. I did have trouble in the beggining of the film with the heavy accents, but as the film progresses, I was able to understand. The film did seem to run a little long. Thanks to its kudos at Cannes, it should do well at arthouses, but I doubt it will go wider than that.

The Magic Flute

2 pm - Elgin Theatre, 9/7

Let me get a few things out of the way.
1) I work at a movie theatre. Huge chain. So when I review a movie, I'll sometimes be looking at it from a perspective of "will it play."
2) I am not an opera person. I am not a Mozart fan. That's not to say I'm against either, but I'm certainly not an expert on them either.

Kenneth Branagh was not in attendance. The movie was actually premiering in two places almost similtaneously. In Toronto, and in a famous opera house in Venice. He did tape a nice introduction that played before the film. The film was presented on Christie Digital and looked great. Roger Lanser, the cinematographer, was in attendance.

This film was in the TIFF lineup as part of its celebration for the 250th anniversary of Mozart. The libretto of the famous Mozart opera was adapted into english by Stephen Fry.

A soldier, Tamino, is brought back from death by three field nurses. When he regains his senses, he is sent on a mission by the queen to rescue her daughter who has been kidnapped by the enemy. Tamino is sent with the comedic sidekick, Papageno, on this dangerous mission. But when Tamino falls in love at first sight, his mission becomes secondary.

The film is a visual feast of computer animation and set design. It opens up with a spectacular opening sequence with no dialogue. The story was, at times, hard to follow for a novice like me. The english translation helped add comedy to several of the songs. Benjamin Jay Davis as Papageno was the standout for me. He added life and comedy to every scene he was in, as the unlucky in love, bird lover.It was very well done and I'm glad a saw it. I can't, however, see it playing wide at home. It is very specialized. Once the opera gets going in full force, you're either going to love it or it will drive you mad. For me, the singing was so melodic, it actually was too relaxing. I had to prod myself not to fall asleep in the middle. But for those looking to take a chance on an opera, this is a great introduction to get your feet wet.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to my second home

I've made it back to Toronto. This is my seventh year of attending the TIFF in the past eight years. Took me awhile to find a place to do the update. My favorite two internet spots are no longer in business. But there are still plenty of internet cafes up Yonge St.

Made some last minute purchases online. Hope they pay off.

Gameplan for Day 1.

1)Wake up in time for what will probably be the only time I make it to breakfast at the B&B.

2) Go pick up my tickets. See if by chance there are tickets for "Borat".

3) Magic Flute - 2pm

4) Wait in line at Ryerson for box office to open at 5 pm and see if there are tickets to "Borat".

5) Wind Shakes the Barley - 6 pm

6) Bothersome Man - 9 pm

7) If still have not secured tickets to "Borat", wait in the RUSH line to all hope is lost.

It's not that I think "Borat" is going to be THE movie of the festival. It's the experience. Seeing "Borat" with the Midnight Madness crowd will be a blast.

Single Ticket Madness

Oh, the joys of the opening hour of single ticket sales.

I was up at 5:45 a.m. CST so that I could be ready to go online at 6 am to start buying tickets. I had my list already prepared as I was heading straight to certain locations on the schedule. All I needed was an access point. I tried. And tried. And tried. And tried. ACESSS. Who hoo.

Filled out my schedule. Awesome, everything except "Borat" was available. Hit Continue. ERROR. Noooooooo. I was almost there. Start over. Tried to get access. Tried again. And again. ACCESS.

I finally got completely through by 6:50 a.m. By that point, several of the movies which WERE available, were no longer available.

Here's the key to the online system that I figured out at the end. (Sorry, I was slow on the uptake this morning). If you get an error message AFTER you are into the selection process, DO NOT close the window. Simply hit the back arrow. It should take you to your previous page. Try to continue from there. If I had followed this process, I would have gotten my other two movies.

As it is, I have added the following films.
Galas for "Babel" and "Black Book".
Pervert's Guide to Cinema on Sat. at 12:15 p.m. will take the place of "King and Clown"
Outsourced on Sat. 16.

I'm still rushing both "Borat" and "Volver".

Now I've got five hours till my flight. There's no way I'll be able to go back to sleep. Hope everyone has success in their ticket searching today.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Let the Games Begin

I got my confirmation email at 9:36 p.m. Sunday. I was, needless to say, stressing out all afternoon. Again, I had faith in TIFF, I was worried about FedEx. "Maybe it didn't get delivered." Looking at the list on the confirmation, my fears about my box # were realized.

I read that someone dropped their packet off at 9:15 a.m. on Friday and was placed in box #17. My tracking # said mine was dropped off at 10:30 a.m. The winning box was #22. I was positive that my package was in somewhere between 20-24. It must have been 20 or 21. Despite this, I still got most of my choices, simply more #2s than in the past. Again, picking films in big auditoriums helps. Now it's time for the real fun. The haphazard fun of filling in the gaps to your schedule and determining how many RUSH lines to hang out in. Here's my list.

Thursday, Sept. 7
2 p.m. - The Magic Flute (can't say I'm a huge Mozart fan, but I trust Kenneth Branagh)
6 p.m. - The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Cannes winner)
9 p.m. - The Lives of Others (2nd choice to Bothersome Man)

I knew there was a possibility of not getting "Bothersome Man" b/c it was in two theatres, both in smaller auditoriums. I also did not get the midnight opener, "Borat". I will go to the Rush Line after the 9 film is over. There's no reason not to wait in a Rush Line for a midnight, even if you get there only an hour before. Either I get in, or I get to go to sleep early.

Friday, Sept. 8
5:45 pm - The Silence
9 pm - Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show (2nd choice)
Midnight - The Host (the film I'm looking most forward to seeing)

I did not get "Time" at 12:15 pm nor did I get "Evening with Michael Moore." If I don't get into "Borat" the night before, then I should have no problem getting up early and heading to the Paramount to pick up films for the morning and afternoon.

Saturday, Sept. 9
12:30 pm - King and the Clown
3:45 pm - Fido
9 pm - End of the Line
Midnight - All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

The fact that I did not get "Volver" at 9:30 a.m. at The Ryerson convinces me I must have been in box 20-21. The 9:30 ams at The Ryerson do not typically sell out. It's too early and The Ryerson seats 1200. There's the possibility that they sell out the bottom first and then decide later whether or not to open the balcony. Regardless, this will be an easy decision to RUSH for as I can't believe everyone will wake up early on Saturday to get to the show. I also did not get "Stranger than Fiction" but that's not a huge surprise. Not having a 6 p.m. show will force me to a) find another show b) wait the Rush Line for the gala of "Babel".

Sunday, Sept. 10
9:30 am - A Good Year
1:30 pm - Never Say Goodbye
9 pm - Shortbus (2nd choice)
Midnight - Black Sheep

Why was TIFF so cruel that they scheduled the 2nd show of "Babel" at 11:30 a.m. Normally they schedule the galas second show so that both can be seen. "A Good Year" gets out at 11:28 a.m., "Babel" starts at 11:30 a.m. Physically impossible to make both. Arrrghh. The big gap in the day is so I can watch the Dallas Cowboy game. I picked the gala b/c a) I like Bollywood movies. b) When it's over I'm within minutes of several sports bars. What I didn't count on was that "Never Say Goodbye" was over 3 hours long.

Monday, Sept. 11
Noon - For Your Consideration
3:30 pm - 10 Items or Less
6 pm - Fay Grim
9 pm - Mon Colonel (2nd choice)
Midnight - The abandoned

Pretty good set here. Didn't get "Little Children".

Tuesday, Sept. 12
11:15 am - Indigenes
6 pm - Quelques jours en Septembre
9 pm - Mon Meilleur Ami
Midnight - Trapped Ashes

I did not get either of my afternoon choices (Shortbus (which I got as a 2nd choice on Sunday) or Catch a Fire), but it may turn out to be a blessing. Due to the Program Guide not arriving till Thursday morning, there were several films that I forgot about when choosing. I'm going to try and get into several shows at The Paramount (D.O.A.P. (love controversy) and Renaissance (cool looking animation).

Wednesday, Sept. 13
11:45 am - Pan's Labyrinth
3 pm - the Namesake
6 pm - Starter for Ten
9:30 pm - Bugmaster

No problems with Wed.

Thursday, Sept. 14
Noon - Alatriste (this hour was tough as "Breaking & Entering", "Black Book" and "Alatriste" all started at Noon)
3 pm - The Fountain
6 pm - The Caiman (2nd choice)
Midnight - Severance

I didn't get either of my 9 pm choices (Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Jade Warrior). My complaint about Sunday's 2nd showing of the galas goes double for today. Both films "Breaking & Entering" and "Black Book" start at the SAME time. Why couldn't one of them been at 9:30 a.m.?

Friday, Sept. 15
12:15 pm - Infamous
3 pm - Seraphim Falls
6 pm - Kabul Express
9 pm - The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

Will probably skip "Infamous" and find something else. Unless I hear great things about it, I think I would have a hard time not nitpicking how it compares to "Capote."

Saturday, Sept. 16
9:30 am - Exiled
Noon - The Banquet
2:30 pm - The Last Winter
4:45 pm - Rescue Dawn
6:30 pm - Amazing Grace (This should have been a 2nd choice to "Rescue Dawn", not "Outsourced". I can't see both.)
Midnight - Sheitan

So despite being at the bottom of the lottery I still got 37 films, pretty good. And what fun would the festival be if you didn't have to work a little.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lodging choices

This will be the seventh year that I've attended the TIFF and the seventh year that I am staying at a different place.

1999 - Howard Johnson
2000 - Days Inn
2002 - Hotel Victoria
2003 - Bond Place
2004 - Courtyard by Marriott
2005 - House on McGill
2006 - Les Amis B&B

That's not a negative on any of the places I've stayed (they've all been nice), I guess I just a nomad. All of the places, save for the 1st year when I stayed off Sherbourne, have been located off Yonge St. It's been nice b/c I can either walk or take the subway to all the venues in a rather quick fashion.

Since the Uptown closed and the Ryerson took it's place, I've stayed at different Bed & Breakfasts right near the Ryerson. I had never stayed in a B&B before Toronto, never really would have considered one. But they've been exactly what I needed.

1) If you are a true "mad" festivalgoer and are planning on seeing countless movies a day, do you really need an extravagant room. How long are you really going to be there? For me, it's at MOST 9 hours, and 8 of those is sleep. I don't need a pool or a restaurant/bar. I need a bed, a shower and a alarm clock.

2) Location, location, location. All these B&B are located a block north or east of the Ryerson. Typically I've tried to see the 9:30 a.m. shows (the galas from the previous day). By being only a block away, I can wake up at 9 a.m., hop in the shower, get dressed and get over to the theatre in plenty of time. These location also help since I frequently partake of the Midnight Madness shows which are also at the Ryerson. I'm in my bed asleep within 15 min. after the film.

One year I stayed at the Hotel Victoria which was located on Yonge, south of King St. I was a wonderful room and the service was fine. But each morning, I had to wake up extra early, b/c I was so far away from the venues (Uptown was still around at this time). Plus when the midnight movies got out (after the subway had stopped), it was a long walk back.

3) Convenience. B&Bs are typically not mamonth structures. Usually two stories, maybe three. So if you do have to run back and pick up something you forgot, going up a flight of stairs takes much less time than waiting on an elevator to take you to floor 22.

Just wondering what strategies other festivalgoers use when selecting where they are going to stay.

Love those tracking numbers

According to the FedEx website and my trusty tracking number, my order was deliverd to TIFF at 10:30 a.m. Not sure if that's CST or EST, either way it's on time. Whew.. that part of the agonizing is over.

Now it's lottery time. I've read that box #22 out of 40 was chosen in the lottery. Therefore those people in box #21 are hating life, b/c their order will be filled in last. Last year there were 48 boxes.

At first I was pretty excited to hear that #22 was the number. I figured that since mine didn't arrive until late Friday morning, surely mine would be in a box late 20s or early 30s. Not so fast Mr. Optimistic. I've also read that someone who turned in their order at 9:15 a.m. was in box #17. A later festivalgoer turned his in at 11:30 a.m. and was in box #29. Soooooo, there's still an outside chance that I could be in that ever popular box #21.

I'll know by Sunday what I've got. I'm not worried. Regardless of where in the lottery I am, I am at least IN the lottery. Most of my choices were in auditoriums with high seat counts which should help as well. I hope everyone that had their packages delayed were able to still get them out on time.

Since my package was delayed in customs at Memphis, I was PRAYING that the return trip did not go back to Memphis, especially with the storms hitting that area. It didn't, it went to Indianapolis.

Again here's hoping that fate takes us all into consideration and gives everyone their 1st choices.