Monday, July 30, 2007


5. City of God

This film came out of nowhere at the festival. There was so much buzz going out about it that I made it into a screening. Wow!!! This ended up being the film that made me start ACTIVELY seeking out foreign films on any subject when I made my lists up. Before, for me to seek it out, a foreign film had to be one of three types - martial arts, horror, action.
The story begins with the early stages of the City of God, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (in the 1960's) showing where many of the problems stem from- the extreme poverty, overcrowding etc. Here, in the early stages of the favela, we meet our main characters, along with the supporting cast. The story revolves mainly around two characters living in the favela, Rocket and Lil Ze, and how they take two different paths through life. Rocket's dream is to become a photographer and to escape the City of God while Lil Ze becomes a powerful gang leader and drug dealer.
There is a lot style to how Fernando Meirelles shot the film and you become invested in Rocket's fate.

4. Seabiscuit

Never much cared for horse racing. I have ridden a horse and didn't feel my life was missing anything if I never did it again. But I do love underdog stories. Seabiscuit is an ultimate underdog story that makes it impossible for you to not root for the horse.
The story of `Seabiscuit' is actually the tale of four long shots: Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), a wealthy self-made man and natural salesmen who's suffered both personal and financial loss through the Depression, Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), an aging horse trainer unsure of his place in the world with the ending of the frontier, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a short-tempered jockey with various handicaps against him, and Seabiscuit, an undersized mustang whose been mistreated his whole life.
The final race is so well shot and scored that any time it's on TV, I will stop what I'm doing to watch it.

3. Love Actually

This was the first film I ever saw in digital. The film wasn't ready so they brought it in on disc. I'm still in disbelief that this film didn't do better at the box office over the holidays. I know the R rating hurt it. But this was the perfect feel good romantic holiday movie. Despite the clearly fantastic story lines, I like the characters, and the amazing A-list cast does a great job. I loved all the storylines (eight) and would not have minded spending more time with them.

2. LOTR: The Return of the King

The finale to what ended up being the best trilogy on film of all time. The 7 hours of film that leads up to the Return of the King is only precursor though, when you sit and watch this film. It's just plain brilliance. Everything about the film is wonderful. Return of the King dispatches its characters to their destinies with a grand and eloquent confidence. In a way new to the trilogy, the emotional momentum surges along with the physical action. After early ambivalence over his responsibility for the Ring, Frodo grows into the job; after long dodging his royal inheritance, Aragorn finally rises to the occasion; Sam, especially, emerges as a three-dimensional character of intense devotion to Frodo even after he has been tricked by the Iago-like Gollum and exiled by his closest friend; and the ineffectual Hobbits Pippin and Merry take on some size, figuratively if not literally. A tremendous achievement.

1. Spellbound

Where "City of God" got me invested in foreign films, "Spellbound" got me invested in documentaries. I don't know how they did it, but they made me sweat in a film about a spelling bee. The eight kids they focus on are all interesting, and they spend just enough time on them before heading to Washington D.C. that we are invested in them. Now I admit, part of the tension once they get there may be because I couldn't even begin to spell ANY of the words they are given. So I have no idea whether they are spelling them correctly or not. I have to wait for that dang bell to sound.


Can't say that 2002 is much better than 2001. Add in the fact that I skipped the 2001 TIFF and my choices are rather lean.

5. Brotherhood of the Wolf

I stumbled upon this film by chance and was greatly rewarded. It was my first hint that France can produce more than light comedy. The film is mostly mood and atmosphere but it handles it well and entraces the viewer into it. In 1765 something was stalking the mountains of south-western France. A 'beast' that pounced on humans and animals with terrible ferocity. Indeed they beast became so notorious that the King of France dispatched envoys to find out what was happening and to kill the creature. By the end, the Beast of Gevaudan had killed over 100 people, to this day, no one is entirely sure what it was, wolf? hyena? or something supernatural?
The king sends two men to find out. And the battle begins. It's a period costume horror martial-arts werewolf movie and surprisingly all those pieces work together provided you don't concentrate too hard. And it's got Monica Bellucci. God bless the French.

4. LOTR: Two Towers

The first film just whetted the appetite. This film improved on the original and left us impatient for the conclusion. Gollum will go down in movie history as the first truly memorable CGI character (sorry, JarJar) to interact with actors. It's a great performance by Andy Serkis. The opening scene of The Two Towers provides an outstanding, yet very brief, taste of action, cinematography, and special effects, only to be matched (and far surpassed) in the final hour of the film. The stunning events of the third hour of The Two Towers are undoubtedly the centerpiece of the film, and while the first two hours serve finely as story development, they primarily build anticipation for the final hour, which mostly depicts the battle of Helm's Deep. More than anything else, the first two hours merely tease and torment the patient audience. But even though there may not be much action in the first half, it's the time taken to develop the characters that allows us so much investment once the battle begins. All three movies ran 3 hours and I applaud New Line for having the faith in both Jackson, to pull it off, and the audience, to want to sit through it.

3. Rabbit Proof Fence

Director Phillip Noyce had a stong festival in 2002. He brought to the festival "The Quiet American" and "Rabbit Proof Fence."

This is the true story of Molly Craig, a young black Australian girl who leads her younger sister and cousin in an escape from an official government camp, set up as part of an official government policy to train them as domestic workers and integrate them into white society. With grit and determination Molly guides the girls on an epic journey, one step ahead of the authorities, over 1,500 miles of Australia's outback in search of the rabbit-proof fence that bisects the continent and will lead them home. These three girls are part of what is referred to today as the 'Stolen Generations.' The performances by amateur actors Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and Laura Monaghan (who had never seen a film before let alone acted in one) are authentic and heartbreakingly affecting. The real Molly is shown over the closing credits. YouTube has a short documentary on the shooting of a scene of the film.

2. Spirited Away

I had heard of Hayao Miyazaki but never bothered to find any of his films. My misconception about Asian animation was that it couldn't be as good as Disney films. I went to see Spirited Away at Toronto only because my first option at that time had fallen through. I was fortunate as this film opened my mind to what storytelling can do. I had no idea where the story was going or how it was going to end, I was just along for the ride.
The story centres around Chihiro, a young girl about to move into a new place and who feels insecure about the new environment she will be living in. These fears become a part of her encounter with a strange abandoned amusement park that she and her parents find when they reach a dead end in their car. At the park they find that their is a stall that is seemingly open, with glorious displays of mouth watering food. There are no people about but Chihiros parents decide to gorge themselves on this bounty and pay later. As Chihioro explores she comes across a strange boy who warns her to get out before dark. It is too late however, because as night falls, ghosts are awakened, and then by the time she gets back to her parents they are turned into pigs. She then finds that the route she came from is gone and she is now trapped in this place, her only allie being the boy she met earlier. She is told to get a job at the centre piece of the park, a bath house run by Yubaba, an evil power mad witch. This is a bath house for the spirits and Chihiro has to find a job there before she is found and turned into an animal herself, then unable to save her parents.

1. Signs

The film is commercial and emotionally manipulative but I don't care. The final confrontation where all the clues come in to focus, "Swing away", still resonates every time I watch it. Of course the clues are much more obvious after multiple viewings, but it doesn't diminish the power of the ending and the fun that's had throughout. There seems to be a lot of backlash at M. Night Shyamalan lately. The one I find funniest is that he is "insulting" the audience with his surprise endings because he thinks he smarter than us. No, he's entertaining us. Not all of his films have worked, but when they do, like this one, there are few who are better at keeping things tense to an almost unbearable degree, with no action. In "Signs", other than a brief glimpse of the alien on video, we don't see the creature until the last five minutes of the movie. Yet you are in constant worry throughout the entire movie and you're not even sure if it really is a 'monster' movie. The acting is superb.


2001 was a drop off from 2000. It didn't seem to be as many films that amazed me.

5. Gosford Park

There are so many characters here that one spends a good deal of time trying to sort out who's related to whom, what the pecking order is downstairs, etc. But with a steller cast and Robert Altman at the helm, we know that we will learn what we need to by the end. Oh, and there's a murder mystery too. The film is an update of Jean Renoir's 1939 film LE REGLE DU JEU, in which wealthy relatives of an aristocrat come to a shooting party at a country home. Here, because of the obviously strained relationships between the host and his family has been less than amicable, it serves as a springboard where everyone's worst behavior and heretofore concealed feelings towards each other really come forth with an undertone of mean-spirited cruelty just brimming below the surface, while the servants act as non-entities when in their employers' presence but occasionally break into. The characters are so many but so well played, that I had to watch again just to see what I missed.

4. A Beautiful Mind

I had absolutely no interest in seeing this film. Math, madness...not interested. But despite this, I found myself in the theatre one day. I found myself pulled into another kind of story, a powerful, emotional story of how one man learned to battle his own demons and dazzle the world."A Beautiful Mind", based on the novel by Sylvia Nasar, is the story of John Forbes Nash Jr., the genius mathematician, whose life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when he is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After fierce battles with his inner self, he overcomes this and returns to win the Nobel Prize in 1994 for his breakthrough game theory in economics that he had been working on during his years in Princeton University in the 1950s. Since I knew nothing about the real Nash, I had no idea where the movie was taking me and got lost in the story and the wonderful acting.

3. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring

I really can't say that I was a fan of the Tolkein novels. In fact, I couldn't make it through them. They gave me a headache. But when I saw the trailer for the first time, I knew that this was going to be special. If I was running New Line, I'm not sure I would have given the director of "Heavenly Creatures", "Dead Alive" and "The Frightners", the keys to this franchise. The world would have missed out. The film was engrossing from the prologue to the end and I never felt a need to look at my watch. It was like being a kid again, remembering how in awe I was when seeing "Star Wars" for the first time.

2. Amelie

You'll either fall in love with this film or you'll be driven insane. Personally, I was one who fell in love with it and with Audrey Tautou. Amelie is about a strange young woman whose life is nothing special, but it gets better when she's helping other people feel wonderful. But when Amelie finds a man in whom she has an interest, she finds that she can only play games with him from a distance. When the time comes to approach him, she can't. The film never takes itself seriously and is a lot of fun. Audrey Tautou could not be overemphasized for her importance in portraying Amelie. The film wouldn't work without her impish charm.

1. Traffic

A dazzlingly complex film, `Traffic' takes a hard, unflinching look at the so-called `war on drugs' that is perfectly clear and uncompromising. Director Steven Soderbergh takes the various viewpoints of the drug culture -- the users, the dealers, the police, and the politicians -- and weaves their differing stories together into a single story that is both deep in its ideas but very simple to understand. His loose hand-held style lends the film an extremely spontaneous realistic tone, but the modifications of color amplify the drama. Each storyline has its own distinct look that accentuates the emotions underlining the film. The cast and the acting is top notch. Soderbergh had a banner year in 2001 with this and "Erin Brokovich". Traffic is a film that has to sink in, when you start to think about it it just gets better and better.


5. Chocolat.

This was the film that introduced me to the great Juliette Binoche. A light hearted comedy drama with a social message that didn't seem to be hitting you over the head with. Set in France in the late 1950s, Lansquenet is a village resistant to change. When a woman with her young daughter in tow arrive, nothing could be a greater threat to the status quo.
She opens a chocolate shop and has an uncanny ability to pick out the perfect type for each visitor. Incredibly charming film.

4. Magnolia

I saw this film at the first Butt-numb-athon in Austin. I was amazed as Paul Thomas Anderson's ability to weave in the multiple storylines that seem to have little in common and then bring them all together. The cast is great and there are many actors, Tom Cruise included, that play against their normal type. Aimee Mann's songs are haunting. But it was definitely not for everyone. My mom HATED it. "Why are frogs falling from the sky?"

3. Almost Famous

I started college wanting to be a journalist. This film certainly fueled that belief. This was the film where I discovered that Cameron Crowe has a knack for picking the perfect music for his films. Not that it started here. Going back, I discovered it's been there from his first film. Music and the love for it is what drives this film along. The performances are all first rate too. There are no villans, simply real people.

2. The Hurricane

At Toronto in 1999, I stumbled into a screening for this film. All I knew about it was that it starred Denzel Washington and it was about a boxer. I left the screening moved and wanting more. Even before the movie started, there was a buzz at the Elgin. The real Hurricane Carter spoke before the film of his trials and about his first meeting with Denzel. They were having dinner at a resteraunt. The dinner started with two people, Denzel and Carter. By the end of the meal, there was only one, The Hurricane. Denzel picked up on how Carter spoke that quickly, "and I loved it," Carter said. The movie was a powerful story of how a man stays strong, but still needs friends and love. Iwas absorbed throughout.

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

This was the reason I went to Toronto this year, just to see this movie. The movie didn't disappoint. It was beautiful visually. It had a tragic, compelling story. And the martial arts were pretty good too. I've loved Michelle Yeoh since Police Story 3 and Chow Yun Fat since Hardboiled. The RUSH line for the Gala wrapped around the entire building. It was crazy. It was the only time I've ever been able to sit on the lower level for a Gala.

Everybody loves Lists

Since I'm waiting for more TIFF films to be announced (mainly the final two Midnight Madness films) and I've seem to have a posting itch, I'm reaching back to the past.

My top 5 films each year since 2000. These are my favorites, not necessarily the ones I think are the best made, just that I enjoyed them the most. I picked 2000, b/c this coincides with my first trip to Toronto in 1999. Three of the films that I saw at that festival made my list for 2000 (when they were released stateside).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

Margot at the Wedding by Noah Baumbach will be part of the Special Presentations program.

After learning of her sister Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) plans to get married, Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son leave New York City for the country in order to pay her a visit. Less than impressed by her sister's new fiancé (Jack Black), Margot's unabashed honesty compels the entire family to unleash their true feelings, forcibly coming to terms with the dysfunctional yet indispensable relationships that surround them.

I really liked Baumbach's last film, "The Squid and the Whale." The trailer looks fun and Jack Black appears to be playing an actual human being.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Sean Penn will be part of the Special Presentations program.

INTO THE WILD is based on a true story and the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer. After graduating from Emory University in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) abandons his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

Interested to see Sean Penn at Toronto.

In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah by Paul Haggis is part of the Special Presentations program.

The film the story of a young soldier who goes missing upon returning to the U.S. from Iraq. When his war veteran father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his mother (Susan Sarandon) begin questioning the circumstances surrounding their son's mysterious disappearance, they embark on a journey to piece together their son's final days, enlisting the help of a police detective (Charlize Theron) to aid in the investigation.

I'll admit that I'm a big Paul Haggis fan. That seems to put me in the minority on most "geek" film sites. I've never understood the animosity that some have for "Crash", a film that I thought deserved it's Academy Award. I liked Million $ Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags from our Fathers, Casino Royale, all of which he helped in the screenwriting. Hell, he even wrote for Walker, Texas Ranger. How can anyone argue with the greatness of Chuck Norris?

Trailer looks good to me.

I'm Not There

I'm Not There by Todd Haynes is part of the Special Presentations program.

Formerly going by the title of "I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan", this is a film about the life of Bob Dylan. The film follows seven characters, each embodying a different aspect of Dylan's life story and music. It's the first biographical feature project to secure the approval of the pop culture icon. The film is about the life of Bob Dylan's early days as a struggling folksinger, the rise to the forefront of the early-'60s folk scene, the controversial switch to rock, the motorcycle accident and the subsequent retreat from public view, and the latter-day de-emphasis of recording and concentration on the concert series known as the Never Ending Tour. Sounes somehow has uncovered some new information in that oft-scanned showbiz legend, mostly about Dylan's childhood and his jealously guarded family life. Some of it actually provides further insight into his songs, particularly those about his wife, Sara (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Sounes also blows the lid off Dylan's heretofore unknown 1986 marriage to one of his backup singers. Each story expresses an aspect of Dylan's mercurial personality and each story is to be filmed differently, in a style appropriate to its theme: Woody - an 11-year-old black boy, always on the run; Robbie - a womanizing performer, always on the road; Jude (Cate Blanchett) - the young androgynous rock star; John/Jack (Christian Bale) - a folk idol who reinvents himself as an evangelist; Billy (Richard Gere) - the famous outlaw, miraculously alive but growing old.

Not sure about this one as I'm not a huge Dylan fan. But it's got a standout cast and a really good director (Far from Heaven, Velvet Goldmine) that has me at least curious. There's a clip of the film on YouTube that let's you see some of the style the film is being shot in.


Atonement by Joe Wright will play as part of the Special Presentations program.

Based on the award-winning novel by Ian McEwan, ATONEMENT reunites director Joe Wright (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) and actor Keira Knightley for another classic British romance - one that spans several decades. Thirteen-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses Robbie Turner (James McAvoy of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND), the man who loves her older sister Cecilia (Knightley), of a rape that he did not commit.

McAvoy was a big hit of last year's festival, appearing in three films (Last King, Penelope, Starter for 10). The film looks to be a solid dramtic weepy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Andrew Dominik is part of the Special Presentations program.

The film film that delves into the private life and public exploits of America's most notorious outlaw. As the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James (Brad Pitt) plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his enemies, who are trying to collect the reward money and glory riding on his capture. But the greatest threat to his life may ultimately come from those he trusts the most.

This is the second film Dominik has directed. His first was "Chopper" which starred Eric Bana.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Theatre Venues

Last year I posted the theatre venues and seat counts in a post labeled "Things to Remember."

I don't know about you, but my memory is not that stellar. So as I continued to post, those venues sunk further and further down.

This year, I've included them up top as a sidebar column so that they are always available and noticeable. What an idea!!! Brilliant!!!

Wish I had thought of it. That honor goes to the MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS blog. And Blutz is doing me one better. He is including map links to every venue as well as the ticket offices as well. So check out his blog for that an more.

As far as the venues go:

Roy Thomson Hall - host the GALA screenings. That's it. You get to see the stars show up on the red carpet, say a few words before the show and that's it. ZERO chance for a Q&A.

Elgin Theatre - also has a seperate ticket package. Also has ZERO chance for a Q&A. Also has the most psychotically committed ushers to seeking out those trying to take pictures of the stars in the theatre.

Ryerson Theatre - always has a solid lineup of films. The GALA screenings typically have their second screening here the next morning. Q&A are expected just about anytime except for the 9am shows. Stars gotta sleep. Has been the host of the Midnight Madness program since the Uptown was torn down.

Varsity Theatres - a more eccletic mix. Will have a few higher profile films screen in theatre #8. Q&A are plentiful here.

Cumberland Theatres - not going to find many films with mainstream stars here. Haven't experienced any Q&A there either, but I'd figure they probably do happen.

Paramount Theatres - the only theatre that is not within a block or two of a subway stop. You HAVE to give yourself time to get there, unless you are going to spurge on a taxi. Q&A happen frequently. So I have to pick the films wisely and give myself time both before and after.

I have not been to screenings at Jackman Hall, the Royal Ontario Museum and only one at the Isabel Badel Theatre.

Again, seat count is a huge determinate in your quest to get tickets for a film. The Ryerson is ALWAYS the safest choice that you will get tickets b/c of its 1209 seat capacity.

Why not the Elgin since it has 1500? TIFF sells seperate packages for the 6 and 9 pm shows for the Elgin. This dwindles down the available tickets for sale. How many do they sale? Who knows, but surely they sell at least 500, which means at most 1,000 are now available.

Realize that the Ryerson and the Elgin will typically play films with either stars or directors that more of the public has heard of, so there can be more demand, which could hurt your chances.

But I still like my chances at getting tickets for a 6 pm show at the Ryerson over a 6pm show at Varsity 1.

In fact, the past two years, you would have seen a great festival if you did nothing but book films that show at the Ryerson. But what fun would that be? You have to have the thrill of leaving one screening and having only 10 min. to get a mile up Yonge for the next one.

One piece of advice for lovers of Midnight Madness. Forget about 9:30 Galas.

Unless you get lucky enough to pick the rare GALA that is 90 min. or less, you won't be able to get over to the Ryerson in time for the midnight screening.
1)The distance between locations is substantial and will take at least 10 min. by subway, if your lucky and in good running shape.
2) And this is true of most venues. If you're expecting your 9:30 pm Gala to start on time, your fooling yourself. It's not a blight on the festival, just the further the day progresses, the more things naturally start to run behind. Especially at Galas, where the stars have to stop for interviews all the way down the red carpet. Running behind, I have found, has actually been more of a blessing as it's allowed me to get from venue to venue without feeling like I'm going to keel over once I sit down.

Planning for TIFF Pt. 1 - Lodging

Lodging needs to be the first priority b/c where you stay can determine how much of the festival you can partake in.

First factors to consider.
1) Traveling party. Are you alone or are you going with someone? This determines your budget and what size room you need. If you are alone, as I have been, you know you are footing the entire bill, so your choices narrow. Going with others helps you to split the price, so you can afford more.
2)Location, location, location. Yonge St. should be the focus. Varsity, Ryerson and Elgin theatres are all located off Yonge. The most high profile films play at these venues. You can go as far north as Bloor and as far south as King. You can go as far west as Bay St. and as far east as Jarvis. If you find a place in this box, you are within either a) walking distance of or b) a subway stop of every TIFF venue. This is key. You may want to catch a nap between films, or go take a shower, etc. You can't do that if you are staying outside this box.

Next: What type of festivalgoer are you?
a) Want to see as many movies as possible?
b) Want to see as many stars as possible?
c) Want to see some film, some stars and what Toronto has to offer?

If a) then you really don't need a fancy place. You just need a bed to sleep (at most 8 hours), a drawer to throw your T-shirts and shorts in and a shower to get yourself going.
If b) then you do want a fancy place where you might see that stars brewing in the lobby, plus you'll need a private restroom, big closet to hang up your best clothes, and room service for any last minute items.
If c) you need a standard hotel room with a hotel desk that knows where the popular places to visit are and maybe host a tour to Niagra Falls.

If you are a b) then check the TIFF website under Plan your stay and Festival Hotels. These are the hotels that will typically have industry people staying at them. They are also the hotels that are very expensive. So plan on dishing out plenty. Your paying for status.

a) and c) can search the same way, which is as follows.

1) If you are determined to stay in a hotel, start looking as early as you can. Check Yahoo Travel,,, etc. Check at least once a week in each by typing in your planned days of travel. Specials show up all the time and without notice. They will vanish just as quickly. Twice I've been able to book rooms at hotels on Yonge for $75 CAD a night that normally go for $135. When you see something that seems too good to pass up, read the fineprint, then reserve it. I normally am booked for TIFF by December.

2) Don't shy away from B&B's. There are tons of B&B's in Toronto. At least 20 that are within the box that I talked about above. is a good source for B&Bs. You can usually find rooms from $60-90. You will have shared bathrooms. You probably won't have a TV. But the bed will be comfortable. Again, if you are there to see movies, a B&B is perfect b/c you're not planning on spending much time in the room. I've never had to wait on using a restroom, b/c my timetable will be different from the normal tourist that are staying there. Most even provide breakfast, where you can bond with the fellow guest.....or not.

I've always been somewhat nomadic in that I've never stayed in one place twice. But that is mostly because I'm always looking for the best deal. There really hasn't been a place that I've stayed at that I wouldn't go again. The rooms have always fit or exceeded my needs.
Places I've stayed.
1999 - Hotel Shelby (Clarion) - two far north east to be of much use.
2000 - Days Inn (on Carlton Street) - central perfect location, College TTC stop.
2002 - Victoria Inn - too far south. Below King St.
2003 - Bond Place - got a great deal on a room, under $90, and have never seen it anywhere near that price range again. Location is great, right by Eaton Centre.
2004 - Courtyard by Marriot. One block north of Days Inn. Centrally located.
2005 - House on McGill - My first venture into a B&B. Never bumped into anyone. Nice and quiet. Perfect location a block away from the Ryerson. Made friends with the house cat.
2006 - Les Amis B&B - On the other side of the street from McGill. Block away from Ryerson. Owner made breakfast every morning. Comfortable bed.
2007 - Days Inn. This will be the first year that I return to a previous location. A block further away from Ryerson than the B&Bs. But the $75 CAD a night price was too good to pass up. Essentially what I was paying at the B&Bs but I get my own restroom and two beds.

A L'Interieur

À l'intérieur by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo is screening Saturday, Sept. 15 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

C. Geddes describes the film as "Four months after the tragic car accident that claimed the life of her husband, the very pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis, sister of French pop idol Vanessa Paradis) is relaxing alone in her suburban house on Christmas Eve, waiting for her mother to take her to the hospital where her doctor will induce labour. The silent night is broken by a knock on the door as a woman (Betty Blue’s Beatrice Dalle) calmly asks to use the phone. Immediately suspicious, Sarah refuses to let the stranger in and calls the police, who find no trace of the woman when they arrive. When they depart, Sarah locks the door, unwittingly trapping herself in a jealous maternal struggle for the survival of the new life within her belly. Sarah must fight back against a scissor-wielding madwoman hell-bent on taking one thing away from her…

A nice calm bloody terror to end the festival with. says it's "for those who like their blood by the barrelful". Perfect.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Dai-nipponjin by Hitoshi Matumoto is screening Friday, Sept. 14 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

C. Geddes describes the film as " Daisato lives a mundane life in a rundown house tagged with insulting and obscenity-riddled graffiti. This middle-aged slacker seems a puzzling subject to be followed by the documentary crew that films his banal daily routine. That is, until he prepares for his “job.” As bolts of electricity rip through the sky, Daisato is transformed into a stocky giant several storeys high, sporting tight purple briefs, tattoos and an Eraserhead-style hairdo. In his hand is a big stick – for beating the crap out of monsters.

Welcome to the world of Dainipponjin (which translates as “The Great Japanese”), a sixth-generation superhero defending Japan from outlandish “baddies,” as Daisato calls them. These ridiculous villains include the freak with the comb-over hairdo who pulls down skyscrapers with elastic arms or the revolting beast that lets rip stink clouds equaling the smell of twenty thousand human feces chased by a dash of horny suitor.

Surrounded by mystical tradition and ceremony, his predecessors were national champions feted with parades and cheering fans. Today, Daisato’s battles are broadcast late at night to diminishing ratings. He has become the scapegoat of New Japan, whose citizens bitterly complain about the noise and destruction of property he causes. Daisato has his own problems, including an agent insistent on branding him with sponsor advertisements, an Alzheimer-afflicted grandfather who transforms into a giant in dirty underwear and an ex-wife and daughter who are embarrassed by his often cowardly exploits.

This film reminds me of "Zebraman", a movie with the focus more on humor than on action. I loved from the screening at Cannes said the film is "tears down the face funny." Good enough for me.

Flash Point

Flash Point by Wilson Yip will play Wednesday, Sept. 12 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

Geddes descibes the film as "Hot-headed cop Jun (Donnie Yen), whose punch-drunk brand of justice earns constant reprimands from his superiors, is after drug-dealing brothers Archer (Ray Lui), Tony (Collin Chou from Matrix Reloaded) and Tiger (Yu Xing from Kung Fu Hustle). Undercover cop Wilson (Louis Koo, from Election) infiltrates the gang and gains its trust. When his cover is blown, the resulting battle leaves him crippled. Archer is snared by the lawmen, but the day before his trial, Tiger vows to wipe out the only witness – Wilson – setting off an unforgettable series of high-octane chases and fisticuffs."

The film is from the same director and action choreographer from 2005 great SPL. Donnie Yen (Hero, Blade 2, Iron Monkey) has always been a favorite of mine. The film looks to be boncrunchingly violet. Awesome.

The Devil's Chair

The Devil's Chair by Adam Mason will be screening Tuesday, Sept. 11 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

Geddes describes the film as " With a pocketful of drugs, Nick West (Andrew Howard) takes out his girlfriend Sammy (Polly Brown), for a shag and a good time. When they explore an abandoned asylum, the discovery of a bizarre device – a cross between an electric chair and sadistic fetish machine – transforms drugged-out bliss into agony and despair. After Sammy is brutally assaulted and murdered by unseen forces, Nick becomes the number-one suspect.
So begins British horror director Adam Mason’s gore-fest The Devil’s Chair, a dark and terrifying journey to the meeting place between insanity and the supernatural.

Years pass and Nick, who had been locked up in a mental hospital, is released into the care of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Willard (David Gant), who is hell-bent on exposing the truth behind the killing. Accompanied by Dr. Willard and several of his students, Nick returns to the scene of the crime. However, the decrepit asylum hides a blood-drenched secret. With Dr. Willard’s team in mortal danger, their only hope is the clinically insane Nick.

Chained by memories of the horrifying event and the conflicting version of reality engendered by his psychiatric treatment, Nick is forced to fight the forces of pure darkness to save the team and prove his innocence. Events build to a brutal, gut-wrenching climax where nothing is what it seems, but everyone is ripe for slaughter."

Having watch the trailer, I have no idea where this movie is going. Which will probably be part of the fun.


Stuck by Stuart Gordon will be showing on Monday, Sept. 10 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

Geddes describes the film as "Brandi (Mena Suvari) is a compassionate young retirement-home caregiver in line for a promotion. Tom (Stephen Rea) is a victim of the downsized economy, out-of-work and newly homeless. Their worlds crash together when Brandi, driving home from a club after too many drinks and pills, accidentally hits Tom, the impact smashing his body head-first through her car’s windshield.

With Tom lodged in broken glass, the panicked Brandi drives home and locks the car in her garage. She pleads with Tom, conscious and in severe shock, to stay calm, promising to take him to a hospital. That is, until she realizes her fate is tied to that of her victim: if discovered, this “accident” will extinguish her bright future. Blocking the image of the bloody, broken Tom from her mind, Brandi waits for him to die so she and her drug-dealer boyfriend can dispose of the body. Realizing her plan, Tom knows he must escape if he wants to survive. "

The fact that a situation like this really happened nearby in Fort Worth is just insane. What went through her mind. Film reminds me of "Misery" just much more twisted, which is what you should expect from Stuart Gordon.


Vexille by Fumihiko Sori will be showing on Sunday, Sept. 9 as part of the Midnight Madness.

Can't have MM without an anime.

Geddes describes the film as " 2077: for ten years, Japan has isolated itself from the rest of the world, opposing a United Nations treaty restricting areas of advanced research in biotechnology. At the behest of Japanese mega-corporation Daiwa, who monopolize the global market in industrial robotic technology, the country’s borders have been closed and a sophisticated magnetic shield has blocked communication and satellite surveillance. Life in Japan has become a mystery.

Following the discovery of a “human” limb with flesh replaced by a form of bio-metal, S.W.O.R.D., a United States Special Forces unit that polices treaty violations, is dispatched to infiltrate Japan. The unit, which is led by female commander Vexille, teams with an underground rebel force in Tokyo. The revelation of Japan’s new reality shakes Vexille, as she witnesses the destruction of both land and citizenry by Daiwa and the monstrous Jags, whirling, metallic android cyclones (reminiscent of Dune’s sandworms) that seek out and devour any form of metal in their path.

Sori directed the non-animated "Ping Pong" which was a film that I thought was hilarious as well as heartfelt. The previews for the film look to be fun.

Diary of the Dead

Diary of the Dead by George A. Romero will play Saturday, Sept. 8 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

With two films yet to be named, Colin Geddes has already done MM fans an act of kidness that could never be repaid. George A. Romero and Stuart Gordon - two LEGENDS of the horror genre. Wow!!!

Geddes describes Romero's latest as "Jason (Joshua Close) and a small crew of college students are in the Pennsylvania woods shooting a low-budget mummy flick for their film-school project. Their faux frights are replaced with real ones when news reports indicate that the dead are returning to life. In shock and disbelief, the group embarks on a journey back to the safety and security of their homes. Meanwhile, the government first denies, then promises to quell the crisis, but they don’t succeed; technology fails and communication with the rest of the world becomes impossible. Driving an old Winnebago past burning cars and shambling corpses, the crew soon learn that there is no escape from the plague of the living dead, nor is there any real home for them anymore. Attacked by ravenous walking corpses at every turn, Jason obsessively films the madness, an unflinching eye in the midst of chaos, even as his friends die around him."

I remember seeing "Night of the Living Dead" on TV when I was young and being spooked out the rest of the evening. "Dawn of the Dead" was a masterpiece. I'm glad he's back in control of the genre that he brought to life. Fangoria TV did a good preview of the film that has shown up on You Tube.


Frontieres by Xavier Gens will be showing Friday, Sept. 7 as part of the Midnight Madness program.

MM director Colin Geddes describes the films as "As Paris’s banlieues burn due to riots protesting the election triumph of an extreme right-wing party, a group of youths use the chaos as cover for smash-and-grab robberies. For Yasmina (?), the money is an escape from the slums she has known all her life. With the police on their tail, her gang splits up, planning to meet at an inn near the Luxembourg border. Arriving at their destination, they encounter their hosts, the Von Geisler clan, who seem to be stuck in time: a jackbooted patriarch, his savagely flirtatious daughters and his thuggish sons. Revealing themselves as neo-Nazi fanatics, they see Yasmina as a fresh bloodline for their fascistic fantasy of starting a new Aryan brotherhood. Her friends find themselves trapped in a grim abattoir as Yasmina fights against the Von Geisler’s invitation to become “one of the family” in their twisted Gothic household."

Gens next film will be "Hitman" whose trailer most people saw on "Live Free or Die Hard." The French just seem to be able to do bloody horror better than us. Definitely the perfect film to keep us sleep deprived festivalgoers awake at night.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Midnight Madness

Damn you, Colin Geddes. Just when I thought I was out, you pull me back in.

Eight of the ten Midnight Madness titles were announced today. They all sound interesting and appealing to me. Damn it.

Midnight Madness has always been a Catch-22 for me. Do I really want to see the movie? Cause if I do, it'll be REALLY hard to get up at 8:30 am in the morning to hit the early show the next day. The movie will get out around 2 a.m. Then you have to wind down b/c you're hyped about what you saw. Volver shows at 9 a.m. Guess I'm getting four hours of sleep tonight.

And it's not just the films that Geddes programs, and he knows it. It's the crowd. The group of crazies that go to the midnight screenings are critical to the success of the films. There have been countless films that I LOVED at the Midnight Madness that I would never want to see again. But that's not to say they are all lightweight films. Ong Bak, Gozu, Ju-on, Haute Tension, Undead, Bubba Ho-Tep, SPL, Kontroll, Zebraman, The Host, Black Sheep and Severancen are all films I encouraged others to seek out. That's not even mentioning "Borat", which remains the only MM film that I couldn't get tickets to.

Usually, there's at least one film that I know I'm not interested in. Most of the time it's a documentary. I just can't get myself up for a documentary, no matter the subject, at midnight.

I can get up for blood, sex, gore, Takashi Miike, monsters, and kung fu. Which is what Colin always supplies.

So far he's eight for eight this year. There's no documentary so far for me to catch up on my sleep. That means less sleep for me during the festival. Why, Colin, why.

Shake Hands with the Devil

Shake Hands with the Devil by Roger Spottiswoode will be part of the Special Presentations program.

Based on Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire's award-winning book of the same name, the film tells the story of a Canadian commander torn between his duty and his conscience when he finds himself an eyewitness to hell on earth. Dispatched to Rwanda in 1993 to oversee a fragile cease-fire, Dallaire finds peace agreements between the rebels to be on shaky ground - agreements that end with a secret but long-planned genocide campaign.

At the 2004, I was fortunate enough to see Hotel Rwanda. After the film, I found that there was a documentary playing at the festival about the man on whom Nick Nolte's character was based. It was a powerful documentary about how a man struggled to come back from such attrocities and integrate back into society.

Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises by David Cronenberg will be a Gala Presentation.

EASTERN PROMISES follows the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a Russian gangster tied to one of London's most notorious organized crime families. His carefully maintained existence is shaken when he crosses paths with Anna (Naomi Watts), an innocent midwife who accidentally uncovers potential evidence against the family. This sets into motion a harrowing chain of murder, deceit, and retribution, with Nikolai at the apex of it all.

Cronenberg's films (Videodrome, Crash, Dead Ringers, The Dead Zone) are always great, but his reuniting with Viggo is the big draw for me. I loved History of Violence and was surprised that it didn't play better. The film also has the always slimy Vincent Cassal as well.

Days of Darkness

Days of Darkness by Denys Arcand will be a Gala Presentation.

Jean-Marc (Marc Labrèche) wrestles with the quiet frustrations of his mundane modern-day life. In his dreams, Jean-Marc is a successful author, a star of the stage and screen, a knight in shining armor who has women falling at his feet and into his bed. But in reality he is a nobody - a clock-punching civil servant, insignificant to his workaholic wife, a failed father and closet smoker. Stuck between his dreamland and reality, Jean-Marc's struggles to find the place where he truly belongs.

I've been a fan of Arcand's since Barbarian Invasions. I had to go back and find the beginning of the tale "The Decline of the American Empire." He did a great job of portraying a family that didn't know how to communicate.

Reservation Road

Reservation Road by Terry George is part of the Special Presentations program.

A compelling tale about the lure of revenge and the power of redemption, the drama revolves around two fathers whose families and lives tragically converge with the death of a child in a car accident. In the aftermath, Ethan, the grieving father (Joaquin Phoenix) and Dwight, the man who hit the child, (Mark Ruffalo) each react in unexpected ways as their families struggle to cope and an emotional reckoning looms.The film also stars Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino.

Terry George directed one of my favorite films, Hotel Rwanda, so I'm interested to see what he does with another emotional drama.


Nightwatching by Peter Greenaway is part of the Special Presentations program.

The year 1642 marks the turning point in the life of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt, transforming him from a wealthy respected celebrity into a discredited pauper. At the insistence of his pregnant wife Saskia, Rembrandt has reluctantly agreed to paint the Amsterdam Musketeer Militia in a group portrait, a portrait that would become his most celebrated painting - The Nightwatch. Going about his work, Rembrandt discovers that there is conspiracy afoot after a man is shot dead during routine musket practice. Determined to bring these conspiracies to light, the artist builds his accusation meticulously in the form of the commissioned painting itself, simultaneously uncovering a seamy and hypocritical side to Dutch Society in the Golden Age.

Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Theif, His Wife & Her Lover, Pillow Book, Prospero's Book) is a director whose films are not ones that I've always enjoyed, but I certainly could never take my eyes off them.

The Brave One

The Brave One by Neil Jordan will be part of the Special Presentations program.

New York radio host Erica Bain has a life that she loves and a fiancé she adores - and it all is taken away when a brutal attack leaves Erica badly wounded and her fiancé dead. Unable to move past the tragedy, Erica begins prowling the city streets at night to track down the men she holds responsible. Her dark pursuit of justice catches the public's attention, and New York is riveted by her anonymous exploits. But with the NYPD desperate to find the culprit and a dogged police detective hot on her trail, she must decide whether her quest for revenge is truly the right path, or if she is indeed becoming the very thing she is trying to stop.

This is a mainstream movie that will be released during the festival on September 14. It stars Jodie Foster and Terrance Howard and is directed by Jordan (Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire, The Good Thief), so it should be solid. But if it conflicts with something else, I'll pass b/c I know I'll be able to see it when I get home.

Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton by Tony Gilroy will be a Gala Presentation at TIFF 2007.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house "fixer" at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. A former criminal prosecutor, Clayton takes care of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's dirtiest work at the behest of the firm's co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack). Though burned out and hardly content with his job as a fixer, his divorce, a failed business venture and mounting debt have left Clayton inextricably tied to the firm. At U/North, meanwhile, the career of litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton's firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. But when Kenner Bach's brilliant and guilt-ridden attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) sabotages the U/North case, Clayton faces the biggest challenge of his career and his life.

I love courtroom dramas. George Clooney has, lately, picked very interesting projects. It's still shocking to see how great he is and remember him from Facts of Life. This is Tony Gilroy's directorial debut. He wrote the screenplays for all three "Bourne" films as well as "Devil's Advocate."

Romulus, My Father

Romulus, My Father is the directorial debut of actor Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge, The Silence). It is part of the Special Presentations program.

ROMULUS, MY FATHER is based on Raimond Gaita's critically acclaimed memoir. It tells the story of Romulus, his beautiful wife, Christina, and their struggle in the face of great adversity to bring up their son, Raimond. It is the tale of a boy trying to balance a universe described by his deeply moral father, against the experience of heartbreaking absence and neglect from a depressive mother. It is, ultimately, a story of impossible love that celebrates the unbreakable bond between father and son.

The film has a great cast with Eric Bana and Franka Potente.


Honeydripper is directed by John Sayles and is part of the Special Presentations program.

From its website. - 1950. Rural Alabama. Cotton harvest. It's a make-or-break weekend for the Honeydripper Lounge and its owner, piano player Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis. Deep in debt to the liquor man, the chicken man, and the landlord, Tyrone is desperate to lure the young cotton pickers and local Army base recruits into his juke joint, away from Touissant’s, the rival joint across the way.

After laying off his regular talent, blues singer Bertha Mae, Tyrone announces to his sidekick Maceo that he has hired the famous electric guitar player, Guitar Sam, for a special one night only gig:pack em in and save the club.

On the day of the show, the train arrives and Guitar Sam is no where to be found. Tyrone is forced to take drastic action. He makes a deal with Sheriff Pugh to release Sonny, the kid who hopped off a freight car here in Harmony, and turned up in the club claiming he could play the guitar as well as any Guitar Sam.

Tyrone cleans Sonny up and launches a last ditch scheme to pass off the young guitar picker as Guitar Sam just long enough to cut the lights and run off with cash box. When Sonny takes the stage and launches into his first scalding electric licks, Tyrone will learn if it’s lights out for the Honeydripper or if his luck has changed: he might just be another man saved by rock n' roll.

I'll admit there was a time when I would get John Sayles mixed up with Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries). But I still enjoyed Sayles' last film, Silver City. I really enjoyed Lone Star. So I'm interested in this film. Plus I'm sure it will have good music. This scene was found on You Tube.

Under the Same Moon

Under the Same Moon by Patricia Riggen is part of the Contemporary World Cinema. It received a standing ovation at its premiere at Sundance.

Hoping to make a better life for herself and her son Carlitos ,Rosario crossed the border illegally four years ago and now works in Los Angeles as a cleaning lady. Carlitos, 9, yearns to be with his mom but still lives in Mexico with his grandmother. When grandmother passes away, Carlitos, who has no way to contact his mom, decides to head to the U.S. to find her.

Film has a supporting role by America Ferrera of Ugly Betty fame. The film looks manipulatively uplifting, but with all the tragedy films that I'm sure to be seeing, I might not mind the manipulation.

Secret Sunshine

Secret Sunshine by Chang-dong Lee is part of the Contemporary World Cinema program.

Sin-ae moves with her son Jun to Miryang, the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to come to herself and set out on new foundations, another tragic event overturns her life.

This film has Kang-ho Song in it. He is watchable in everything he's been in. And he has been in some of my favorite South Korean films (The Host, Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance).

Mourning Forest

Mourning Forest by Naomi Kawase is in the Contemporary World Cinema program. The film won the 2007 Grand Prix prize at Cannes.

A caregiver at a small retirement home takes one of her patients for drive to the country, but the two wind up stranded in a forest where they embark on an exhausting and enlightening two-day journey.

Iska's Journey

Iska's Journey by Hungarian director Csaba Bollock plays in the Contemporary World Cinema program.

In her dirt-poor village in the Zsil River valley, Iska, 12 years old, works in terrible conditions scavenging metal, coal and anything else of value from the rubble. When she returns home penniless after daring to dicker with a buyer, her resourcefulness is rewarded with a sound beating. Deciding she's better off on her own, Iska leaves home and begins to drift, soon finding herself ensnared in an orphanage system. There she is interrogated for possible signs of physical abuse by her parents, she replies: "They don’t beat me every day". She then sets out on her first voyage from her small town to the Black Sea, where she becomes the victim of human trafficking, meeting on her path other children in the same situation yet determined to escape their harsh destiny.

Sounds like it will be very much a downer film, but one that might be powerful. Seems to fall in the vein of the great 'Lilya-4-ever."

Home Song Stories

Home Song Stories is the story of Rose (Joan Chen), a glamorous Shanghai nightclub singer, who struggles to survive in seventies Australia with two young children. Based on writer/director Tony Ayres' own life, this is an epic tale of mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, unrequited love, betrayal and secrets. The film plays in the Contemporary World Cinema program.

I've liked Joan Chen since "Twin Peaks". I like stories where characters may be "out of their element." Variety gave it a strong review as it played in Berling.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Caramel by Nadine Labaki is a story of five Lebanese women who gather in a Beirut beauty salon to gossip about the days events. Layal (Nadine Labaki) works in a beauty salon in Beirut along with 3 other women. Each one has a problem: Layal has a relationship with a married man, Nisrine who is no more a virgin, will soon be married, Rima is lesbian and Jamal is worried about getting old. Rose, a tailor with a shop next to the salon, is an old lady who devoted her life to take care of her older sister, have found her first love.

It's sounds like a female version of "The Barbershop," which was entertaining to me. Also, "Offsides" - an Iranian film that played at the festival last year had a similar strategy that I enjoyed. The setups were completely different, however. In 'Offsides" you had several Iranian females trying to sneak into a soccer game only to get caught. Once you got past this setup, the film was basically the caught teenagers talking about various issues that face them in their society. For me that was fascinating, learning about other cultures through simple casual conversation. So I have a feeling that Caramel may provide the same opportunity. This is Ms. Labaki's first film and it debut in Cannes. It is part of the Contemporary World Cinema series at the TIFF.

The Banishment

The Banishment is an eerie tale of one family's relocation from an industrial city to the remote birthplace of husband and father Alex . Konstantin Lavronenko who portrays Alex won Best Actor at Cannes 2007 and became the first Russian actor to win the award. The film by Russian Andrei Zvyagintsev is his first since his heralded debut, The Return.

The Orphanage

The Orphanage by Juan Antonio Bayona is part of the Vangard series. Guillermo del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH) produces the film about a woman's return to the abandoned orphanage where she grew up and her conviction that something long-hidden and terrible is lurking inside. The Spanish film looks to offer up scares similar to "The Others". I'm curious that this is part of the Vangard series and not the Midnight Madness. A good scary movie is always fun to watch so I'll see where this falls on the schedule.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Control is the debut film of Anton Corbijn and plays in the Vangard program at TIFF. Based on a true story, the film tells a profile of Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), the enigmatic singer of Joy Division, a band in Manchester, whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.
Now this sounds an awful lot like Kurt Cobain to me, and in fact Corbijn directed a video for Nirvana. So this doesn't interest me at the outset, but Corbijn has got some solid actors, including Samantha Morton, to be in the film. This makes it a toss up for me.

The film played at Cannes to generally positive reviews. The film is shot in black & white.

Les Chansons d'amour

Les Chansons d'amour (Love Songs) by Christophe Honore is part of the Vangard series at TIFF. The film tells of Julie and Ismael attempt to reignite the spark between them by inviting a third person, Alice, into their bed - and singing about it - in this romantic drama musical. But when tragedy strikes, everyone and everything is left at loose ends.
I've always liked musicals, although this one is supposed to keep things pretty dramatic. It's also French, meaning I won't understand it beyond the subtitles.
The film debut in Cannes and stars the delectible Ludvine Sagnier.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge

I remember seeing "The Red Balloon" by Albert Lamorisse at a kid's film festival a decade ago. It was a short film about a boy who finds a red balloon that follows him everywhere. The film had no dialogue that I can remember, but it was the visuals of that balloon in various locations that remain in my mind.

This remake by Hou Hsiao-hsien, I'm assuming, is an expansion of the original, especially since the original ran only 34 minutes. Add in the fact that he has Juliette Binoche in his cast, and I'm expecting a different film, but with the balloon still playing a striking visual. The film has already played at Cannes and will be playing in the Masters program. The basic summary of the film is:

Juliette Binoche portrays a mom who with her puppet shows, the classes she teaches and the two children, Simon and Louise, that she has been raising alone since their father left, she hasn't got a minute to herself. To help her, she takes in a young Taiwanese babysitter, Song Fang, who is a student at Paris University. On his way home from school, Simon, who is 7 years old, leads her through the streets and cafés of his neighborhood. Soon, Song Fang and Simon share an imaginary world: a strange red balloon follows them, even in the exhibition space of the Musée d'Orsay. While Juliette is caught up in a court case involving her tenant downstairs, who refuses to leave, every day, Son Fang becomes more important in her life. In the end, it is Song Fang's Asian perspective that helps Juliette get to grips with her life.

I really enjoyed Hou Hsiao-hsien's last film "Three Times" which had two actors portraying different characters in three time periods. Juliette Binoche is another actress, like Cate Blanchett, that I seek out movies she's in. She has such incredible range and never seems to get pigeon holed into portraying similar characters.

I'm sure this will be a film for viewers with patience. I don't expect there to be a lot of action or dramatic fireworks. It be a film, like the balloon in the title, that you just have to float along with.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

It's not often that there are sequels to period dramas, much less trilogies (as has been discussed with this). In order for it to have success, they must have a solid story to tell. Elizabeth: The Golden Age brings back the cast and director of "Elizabeth" which was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1999. TIFF describes the film as:

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE finds Queen Elizabeth I (Academy Award(TM)-winner Cate Blanchett) facing bloodlust for her throne and familial betrayal. Growing keenly aware of the changing religious and political tides of late 16th century Europe, Elizabeth finds her rule openly challenged by the Spanish King Philip II (Jordi Molla) - with his powerful army and sea-dominating armada -determined to restore England to Catholicism. Preparing to go to war to defend her empire, Elizabeth struggles to balance ancient royal duties with an unexpected vulnerability in her love for Raleigh. But he remains forbidden for a queen who has sworn body and soul to her country. Unable and unwilling to pursue her love, Elizabeth encourages her favorite lady-in-waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish), to befriend Raleigh to keep him near. But this strategy forces Elizabeth to observe their growing intimacy. As she charts her course abroad, her trusted advisor, Sir Francis Walsingham (Academy Award(TM)-winner Geoffrey Rush), continues his masterful puppetry of Elizabeth's court at home - and her campaign to solidify absolute power. Through an intricate spy network, Walsingham uncovers an assassination plot that could topple the throne. But as he unmasks traitors that may include Elizabeth's own cousin Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), he unknowingly sets England up for destruction.

"Elizabeth" was one of the first period films that got me into independent film. While the production values were in no way "independent", the subject matter was. But I was enthralled all the way through. It had a certain "Godfather" vibe to it, with Cate playing "Michael" and Geoffrey Rush as the consiglieri. This was also the film that established Cate Blanchett as an actress to watch for. Any film that has her in the cast, I will go see because I know that she will give a great performance. She also doesn't tend to star in bad "paycheck" movies.

The Golden Age is definitely a film that should have award season in mind. The trailer looks fantastic. The film will be a Gala screening.