Thursday, September 30, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 9 & 10

5:15pm I had a pretty relaxed morning. I spent most of it doing a polish on, what will hopefully be, my next feature. Then I headed downtown to walk around, met up with the one and only Kris Holden-Ried who arrived safely from Newfoundland. Ironically both he and Christine Horne shot back-to-back episodes of Republic of Doyle so look for that in the near future! We did some shopping, I got some gifts for the loved ones back home and then we parked ourselves at a bar. And now I'm brewing some coffee in the hotel sweet 'cause I got a little more saucy than I had intended. It was nice to see a familiar face after a few days of being on my own, and I have a particular fondness for Kris. The guy makes me smile from ear to ear. So we're drying out in our respective hotel rooms before heading out for dinner and then to screen the film. I'm excited for tonight's screenings - at both Edmonton and Sudbury we had afternoon screenings and I think the evenings have a different vibe to them so it should be interesting. I've really enjoyed my time on the road touring this film. I love how it plays, I love how people respond to it. But I'm really looking forward to tomorrow afternoon when I get to pick Ephraim up from daycare. This Saturday we've got the final screening of this little tour in Toronto at the Indie-Can festival. So if you haven't seen the film check it out there. It's Saturday night, at the Innis Town College Theatre, 2 Sussex Ave, 8:30pm and it's a FREE SCREENING. So that means no tickets, which means you might want to get there early.
Okay. Time for coffee.

6:17am I'm tired. We went out for dinner and drinks with Kris' friends from Calgary, and for some reason Kris and I thought it would be a good idea to have an espresso shot around 8:30pm to help keep us going through the film. I think I slept for maybe an hour all night with our
5:00am wake up to go to the airport. I'm beat.
That being said, the screening was fantastic. Really solid crowd, good energy, lots of laughs, lots of reactions. Good Q&A afterwards and discussion outside the theatre following the film. It plays pretty well to an audience, I'm sure that it's not everyone's cup of tea but enough people enjoy it so it does have an audience. Sitting in the airport waiting for my plane - Kris and I are on different airlines, but the same flight time back to Toronto, so we're racing to see who gets there first :) It's been a blast visiting these cities and showing the film, but I'm ready to go home. I miss my family. Can't wait to pick Ephraim up today. And again, for those who haven't seen it, we've got a screening this Saturday at Innis Town Theatre, 8:30pm.
Here's hoping I sleep on the flight...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 8

8:43am I actually slept in this morning! Which is good 'cause I was stupid tired last night. Headed down for the breakfast buffet, which is loaded with awesome, but a little pricey. Alas. Here's to treating yourself! And as part of it they bring you over a canteen full of coffee AND a take-out cup if you don't finish it. Now that's my kind of breakfast! By the time I got back to my room the little elves had already made my bed. Then I decided to catch up on some work I haven't had time to do.

4:44pm The screening at the University of Calgary went pretty well. The film played well and got a decent amount of laughs and then we had a really good discussion afterwards. It's been raining so now I'm just back checking in on some e-mail before I head off to meet up with Brenda, the head programmer for dinner. Then more movies…

11:53pm Had dinner with Brenda as well as Jennifer another programmer. What's been really great on this entire trip is getting to talk with programmers and other filmmakers and discuss not so much the art of film, but the business of it. This trip has been extremely valuable for that alone. Caught two films from the world cinema program At World's End and A Somewhat Gentle Man. Then headed straight to bed.

1434 - A Somewhat Gentle Man

This is Stellan Skarsgard as you've never seen him - although maybe it's just that I haven't seen enough of his films. This is one of those "guy gets out of prison and has to re-evaluate his life" kind of films. It's got a wonderfully dark sense of humor. I found that it got a little bit repetitive and dragged on just a bit. Could have been a tad tighter for my liking with a little bit more going on. Fantastic characters, some groan-inducing (in a good way) comical stuff. I liked it enough to recommend.

1433 - At World's End

One of the programmer's at CIFF told me that this was probably her favorite film in the world cinema category this year and I can see why. It's a fantastic action adventure but with a wonderful sense of humor. The entire cast is just a great group of misfits that are a lot of fun to spend time with. The premise is a bit zany, and they poke enough fun at it, and it's the kind of film where you just can't predict where the hell it's going to go so you sit back and enjoy the ride. It's a wonderful film and I hope they release a north america bluray at some point.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 7

4:00pm Got up this morning and barely caught the deluxe breakfast. Apparently the weekday times are much shorter. Got ready to head to the airport, but then got a little concerned when no one picked me up. So I called in and apparently the transport guy is no longer working for the festival and he neglected to mention that I needed a ride to the airport. But the Edmonton guys stepped into action and I got to the airport in plenty of time. Landed in Calgary just after lunch. Picked up by a lovely girl (who had a card with my name on it!) and we talked about our children on the way to the Delta.
Got settled in and then walked over to the festival office, which was hard to find inside the mall. Each festival is quite a bit different. I tried asking about other filmmakers that were in town, etc… but I get the sense that they don't do the networking thing here, which is kind of a shame… There is a Fubar 2 party tonight, so I'm debating going to that, although there's a film I really want to see so who knows… And in the festival office they were giving away free copies of the True Blood comic book. Sweet. Also their program book is pretty awesome. We're in the 'Hump Night' section and I really like the write-up they did for the film. Wish we would have had something more like it in the write-ups for Sudbury and Edmonton.
I got back to my hotel and a little elf had left me a welcome note from the festival as well as a chocolate boot with chocolate bark inside. Partially flattered, partially creeped out that someone came into my room. But they left chocolate, so the flattered side of me wins :)
I was hoping to see a theatre show called Blind Date while I'm in town tomorrow night so I called for tickets and it looks like it's sold out. Which is a drag. So I guess I'll just see more movies…

11:21pm I came into my room. The lights were on. The radio was on. The television was on. My bed had been stripped of the fancy pillows and unnecessary covers. Also a bottle of water and chocolates beside my bed. Again, I'm creeped out… except… there's chocolate… I call the front desk:
"Hello, Mr. LaLonde."
"Um. I think someone was in my room. Lots of stuff is turned on."
"It's part of our complimentary turn down service."
"It's a little creepy."
"A lot of people think that at first."
"And then they think it's not creepy?"
"They find it comforting."
"They're comforted by all the wasted electricity?"
"… the chocolate."
So today was pretty tame. I treated myself to a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. Tomorrow I'll be more adventurous and eat in the city. I walked around a bit and then took in Small Town Murder Songs and Bummer Summer, then had a nice walk back to the hotel, whereupon I was creeped out by my room.
I think I'm actually going to get to bed at a decent time tonight. Tomorrow I've been asked to come to the University of Calgary to screen my film for the students and do a Q&A.

1432 - Bummer Summer

This is the kind of film that could have been so damn terrible. I'll give you the set up - it's shot on a digital SLR in black and white. Save at the end, the camera stays still inside of it's scenes, not even rack-focusing (which drove me a little nuts at times) when it's characters move in and out of focus. And it's improvised using completely unknown newcomers.
Recipe for disaster, isn't it?
It works. Sadly, I went from being absolutely in love with this film half-way through to really liking it by the end. It loses just a tad of momentum, but the characters feel so natural and real and you care about what they're going through, even if it's minor and subtle. Each shot in this film feels like a beautiful photograph and what we're seeing is the story of that photograph. It's not pretentious at all, though it sounds like it very well could be. If you like coming of age stories and don't mind something bordering on experimental I think that this is the film for you.

1431 - Small Town Murder Songs

I got to meet Ed Gass-Donnelly very briefly as I was checking in and he was checking out at Sudbury, and this has been on my list to check out while on the festival circuit. This is a very different film from Ed's last, which shows a nice variety. It's intended to be more character drama than it is a murder-mystery, which is good because... there's no mystery really. It's all pretty cut-and-dry. There are some really stylistic sequences where Ed combines music and montage and it gives it a great and unexpected energy. Visually it's a really interesting to film, but content wise I found it to be a little lacking. When I said there isn't a mystery I was wrong - the mystery is about Peter Stormare's character and his backstory. We get glimpses but never a full picture, and because of that I don't know where the character is coming from or where he needs to go. Martha Plimpton sounds like she's trying to do her best Fargo impression, and that would be great if it wasn't for the fact that no one else had that accent in the film. And sadly, Aaron Poole's character probably could have been removed from the film and it never would have made much of a difference. This sounds like I'm slagging the film, but that's not my intention. I think Ed's aim here is to make something in the vein of a Coen film, although with a more serious bend. I think he's got a great future in filmmaking and this is an interesting stepping stone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 6

11:37am Today is a pretty casual day. Got up and had breakfast with Christine and then we said our goodbyes. She's got some work to do, and I want to check out the city. But first I headed over to her friend Patricia's place. She added me as a friend on facebook and I was browsing around and noticed that she does this great children's art. Check out here website here ( So I went down and bought something for Ephraim, whom I miss terrible. (I miss you too Emily, don't worry!)
Checking in on some e-mail. A good friend of mine (whom wrote the closing credit song for our film) sent me some tracks that he wrote from being inspired by the script that (we hope) is next for us to make. So that was a pretty nice treat to get. Now I'm just waiting for a ride to head down to Whyte Ave, which everyone says is the 'must-see-street' in Edmonton.

3:56pm Did a good little walkabout. Whyte Ave is nice, I'm sure that there are far more interesting shops than I went into, but my usual hunts are only for books, comics and movies. I had planned to perhaps do some clothing shopping whilst on my trip - perhaps in Calgary. So I had a nice 5K walk today, over the river - which with the leaves changing is pretty damn gorgeous.

12:21am I got to the cinema early and went out with some of the EIFF staff for drinks, including Guy the feature programer and Kerrie the festival producer. Really great people, and I can only imagine how hard they work their ass off to make this festival happen. Checked out Heartbeats, I couldn't get in to see The Pharmacist because it's a local film and everyone and their grandmother showed up to see it, so I went to see Frozen (which broke my all-Canadian-streak for this festival) instead, and then headed back for some much needed sleep. Head to Calgary tomorrow.

1430 - Frozen

This film made me break my all-Canadian-streak at EIFF. I had planned to see The Pharmacist, but it's a locally made film and therefore packed. This film is part of a tradition of morally questionable people doing stupid things, and then paying for them, often, with their lives. So knowing that, the challenge of the film is how do you be creative within your premise and locked in location. This is Open Water in a chairlift at a ski resort. And for my money, I can think of a ton of different ways they could have gotten out of it, but I think they exploited the premise in terms of being a thriller pretty darn well. The film offers some solid comic relief when it's needed most, and it's tense. It's a hard film to watch - its not gory, in fact it's very tastefully done in that regard. In fact, for what it is, it's pretty skillfully done. Not the kind of film you ever need to watch more than once (although I could be convinced to check out the commentary), for fans of films of this kind of premise, you'll get a kick out of it.

1429 - Heartbeats

I haven't seen Dolan's first feature, but I have to be absolutely honest when I say that I have no idea how this film has gotten the praise that it does. Reviewers use the words "bold vision", etc... to describe something that is, for my taste, unremarkable. The film is gorgeous to look at. There is absolutely no denying that. It's a technically well made film. Even that actors are all strong, but they aren't given a whole lot to do. In fact, it's an exercise in watching unlikable people. A boy and girl are best friends and both fall in love with this guy who is, for lack of a better term, a douche. The film uses these spralling sections shot in slo-motion that doesn't do anything besides show off the pretty photography. I like to think that my taste is pretty flexible and I can tolerate things with a mild level of pretension if the film is able to say something about the human condition. I don't know what Dolan's intention was here. It's unclear to me. If someone has seen this movie and absolutely loves it, please please please tell me why. I need to understand...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 5

7:52am Been awake for about an hour, which means I've adjusted to the new time zone, but it also confirms that my body will pretty much only let me sleep for six hours at a time. The hotel has a "Deluxe Continental Breakfast" so I'm very curious to see what's "deluxe" about it. I think I'm going to walk around and explore a bit as well. Our film screens this afternoon, and I might check out the film before it, Two Indians Talking which is supposed to be good. As for our film, I just really want people to show up at the screening :)

8:24am The "deluxe continental breakfast" at The Matrix is, surprisingly, deluxe. Eggs Benny, roasted potatoes, granola and a host of other breakfast appropriate carbs. Nice.

1:01am Just got in. Now… what the hell happened today. This morning I went for a great long walk to seek out a comic book store I'd heard about. I didn't buy anything, but it was a pretty awesome store called Happy Harbour Comics.
Then I went for a really lovely walk along the ravine on 100 Avenue on the way back to the hotel. Got to the theatre in time to screen a film Two Indians Talking, and then it was time to screen ours. Just before the doors opened we were about to do a test of the film on the screen, but one of the volunteers opened the theatre to let people in - so they had to hope that it would be fine, and it kind of wasn't. The aspect ratio was off, it was a little too bright, and the sound effects channel was off. However the audience, which was pretty damn plentiful, didn't seem to give a damn and the only way to fix it was to stop the screening. I think just like you don't wake a sleeping baby, you don't disrupt an audience that is enjoying your film. So I let it go. Most people stayed for the Q&A and it was great. It was moderated by Christian Zyp who interviewed me for the radio station a little while back, and the questions were intelligent. I didn't feel tripped up like I would doing these Q&As, which was nice. Lots of great feedback from the audience who seemed like the flick. The screening was full of laughs and reactions, and that's the best that I can hope for.
Afterwards Christine and I went to grab dinner at a place her lovely, very pregnant, friend Patricia recommended. I wish I could remember the place - it was amazing. I'll try to walk past it today.
After that I checked out the Fathers & Sons screening 'cause I'd hung out with Jay Brazeau the night before and I like Carl Bessai as a filmmaker and from what I've seen of him in interviews. I'll save my praise for that film for my little mini-review, but it was a delight. Really loved it. My original plan was to go and see Let Me In, but then the opportunity came up to go out with the Fathers & Sons crowd and I couldn't pass that up. I'm a big fan of more intimate sit-downs in bars with people as opposed to things like the party last night, so it was right up my alley and I got to hang more with Jay, who is one of my new favourite people - he's the kind of guy that makes you want to write something for him. And I got to hang out with Carl Bessai, who is a super nice guy. I consider myself pretty damn fortunate that I'm hanging out with some of our countries established directors.
So today was a good day - really great audience at the screening - got to hang out with some fantastic and talented people. Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Christine, which sucks. It's been amazing having her along. But I'll be joined later on in the week by the one and only Kris Holden-Ried.
Tomorrow I hope to explore a little more of Edmonton before I head to Calgary on Monday.

I just noticed that we got a little shout-out in a Calgary publication. Click here to read about it.

1428 - Fathers & Sons

One of the benefits of having your film in a festival is that you often get to meet other filmmakers, actors, etc... and if you're lucky you hit it off. I got to spend some good time with the actor on the above right, Jay Brazeau, and if it wasn't enough for him to be a charming and wonderful guy to hang out with, he has to go and be a phenomenal talent as well. This film was improvised from an outline, but I swear you would never know it. It feels so tight and focused that it would almost have to be written. It's an ensemble film that deals with different situations of fathers and sons, and it's really quite fantastic. At times poignant, but always downright hilarious. I haven't seen it's predecessor Mothers & Daughters but you can be damn sure I'll check it out. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, there are some damn amazing Canadian films this year and I'm excited to be amonst them touring in the festivals.

1427 - Two Indians Talking

Having done a fair amount of research into native issues with the historical documentaries I used to be involved in, I'm always curious about things like this. This film takes place in the 24 hours before a road block is to be set up on a busy highway - a road block that will cost millions of dollars in lost business for the area. This film is more or less a two-hander in the vein of Waiting for Godot or My Dinner with Andre, but the momentum sticks and it doesn't get visually bland. The cast is solid and the writing inspired. It never gets preachy as the conversation between these two cousins touches the pros and cons of everything from the road block itself to their culture and place in the world.
My fear with a film like this is always that it will never reach the audience that could benefit from it the most. People that don't give a shit about native issues are probably not going to bother checking it out, which is a damn shame. The film doesn't preach, it just says it how it is - and more people need to hear it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 4

6:51am It's official, I don't think my body will tolerate more than six hours of sleep at a time. I forgot to say yesterday that before our screening Mireille was lovely enough to drive us to the Big Nickel and let Christine and I act like tourists. I've been taking a few photos here and there, but I think I'll just post them all at the end. We have to leave the hotel in about an hour to catch our flight to Toronto, then a lay-over, then we'll hit Edmonton. Hoping I can grab a nap today at some point, otherwise I think by the evening the 2 hour time difference is going to kick my ass.

4:25pm Just landed in Edmonton so it's actually closer to 6:30. The layover was pretty painless. I had a phone interview with one of the students at the University of Calgary - I'm screening the film there and talking with them, so he just wanted to get some info beforehand. The flight was pretty great. Gotta say, it's been a long time since I've flown Air Canada and I was damn impressed. It's the first time I've seen the little TV things that make it so you can customize your viewing, and I finally got to see The Trotsky. Got to our hotel, which is pretty freaking nice. I have this gigantic bed. I'm going to try to take a nap before we hit the functions. It's opening night of the festival here so it should be pretty exciting!

12:45am (technically 2:45am). You know how you get to the point where you're just so tired that you're not tired anymore. That's where I'm at. At any rate I'm hoping it'll help with the time difference. Today was a weird day as we were a little burnt out so I don't think we got a great first impression of the city - but through no fault of it's own. I'm open minded and optimistic!
After checking in, relaxing, I headed down to a little wine/cheese thing where it was a little empty, but I ended up getting to chat with Michael McGowan, the director of One Week as well as tonight's opening night film Score: A Hockey Musical. Afterwards there was a reception, but we got lost walking back to the Hotel first, and then I got lost walking back to the reception. I will master the streets of Edmonton - I swear!!! I got back to the party and got to hang out with Jay Brazeau who is one of those amazing character actors who have been around forever. Seriously, look the guy up on - he's got almost 200 acting credits to his name. Incredible. We're both screening tomorrow so we'll check out each other's films.
And now. Time for bed. Please please please let me sleep in… please!!!

1426 - Score: A Hockey Musical

I'm not a hockey fan so it's hard for me to really judge this film from an appropriate standpoint. What's great about it is that Michael is really trying to make films for Canadians. I really loved One Week and so it's easy to see where his passion for the country lays, and I think that's a pretty damn fantastic thing. The audience at the Edmonton premiere were in fits of non-stop laughs and cheers, and so while it's not necessarily my thing, I think it could do pretty well across the country.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1425 - The Trotsky

Caught this on the flight from Toronto to Edmonton. Loved it. This is a smart, fun, well crafted film and if it doesn't become a cult classic I'll be amazed. Baruchel, as always, is phenomenal, and the supporting cast is as well. Ben Mulroney even gets a pretty great dig at himself in. This is a film that I think people of all ages could love, but more importantly I think it's a great film to speak to teens. I know it got a pretty healthy release and I'm glad for it. Hoping to meet Jacob one day, I still need to see his first film, but I'm a big fan. Do yourself a favour and check this out as soon as possible.

Film Fest Tour: Day 3

8:43am I realized that the beds in the hotel have these machine things that let you make the bed harder or softer - so I had a much better sleep and actually slept in a little. Huzzah! I was able to deal with some e-mail, and now I'm going to try and get a little work done before Christine and I meet up to have breakfast. Then we want to do the big nickel, although it's supposed to piss down rain all day, which means it's a good day for everyone to go the movies!

3:57pm Just got back from the screening. I kind of felt like I needed a chance to chill out a little bit after the screening. Usually I'm just go-go-go, but a little "me" time was in order. The screening went pretty damn great. I have to say that I was a little surprised that we didn't have as many people as I've come accustomed to seeing at this festival, but whatever we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm. Lots of laughter, sighs, and general reactions. The Q&A after was the first I'd done for this film and I felt more comfortable than I thought I was. Most of the crowd stuck around and we covered quite a bit of stuff. What was really nice was that after a lot of the people who didn't stick around for the Q&A found me in the lobby and came up to me singing their praises for the film, and saying that they can't believe that the house wasn't packed and that people missed out on a great film. So it was pretty damn rewarding. Numbers are always good, but a quality audience is far more important - and with a small film like ours it's important to manage your expectations. I consider it a win. Afterwards Rayne, the producer of Le Divan du Monde, and I spent the ride back to the hotel singing each others praises. I'm looking forward to getting to know her and her partner Dom. Resting. Might check out some shops. I have a friend whose in town with a short, so hopefully I'll see her later.

6:23pm Treated myself to an awesome dinner at the hotel bar. Mmmmm.

11:38pm The rest of today was more or less uneventful. Went and saw Howl, and then to another party. Starting to feel a bit burnt out and luckily Christine had the good sense to head back to the hotel which made me follow closely after. Gotta check out by 8am to catch our flight. Much excitement to follow! I will say though, any filmmaker considering coming to Sudbury - DO IT. Goddamn this is an awesome festival. The staff is amazing and lovely, and treats you like royalty, and the audiences are just hungry for film. It's a great festival for filmmakers. Do not hesitate to submit your films here!

1424 - Howl

I had a good friend in highschool that introduced me to Ginsberg, so the material is pretty familiar. And I'm the type that knows I'm not intelligent enough to really grasp all that's going on inside of his masterpiece, and that's kind of what the film is about - how to make sense of a work like Howl. As soon as Franco opens his mouth he IS Allen Ginsberg. I really hope his performance gets recognized in some form. This is absolutely not a film for everyone, it's pretty unconventional but at the same time I think this is about the best you can do for an adaptation of this work that also serves a bit as an autobiography. If you're a Ginsberg fan this is a no-brainer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 2

8:05am I think it's official, my son Ephraim has ruined me for sleep. I got to bed shortly after midnight and was looking forward to a fantastic sleep. I got up around 5. Tossed and turned, slept kind-of-sorta-of, and then by 6:30 I decided to give up trying. Gave Emily and Eph a quick call and then I headed to the pool for a swim. It. Was. Cold. But refreshing! Hopped in the shower in my room and was greeted by the world's best smelling soap. My sometimes writing partner Ryan sent me some stuff to look at overnight, so I'm now going to head down to the lobby and see if there's a diner within walking distance so I can grab some breakfast and do a little work. I'm just hoping that these aren't the kind of breakfast places that open at 10am and laughably still call themselves breakfast places.

1:12am Today was busy. I went off looking for a place that I was recommended to for breakfast called Frank's Cafe, but after forty-five minutes I couldn't find it so I decided to settle for the hotel breakfast - which worked out great because I ended up randomly meeting up with Armand and we had breakfast together, after which we decided to watch each other's films in the media centre. So needless to say, I didn't get any work done. Tomorrow might not be any better.
Just as I was heading off to my CTV interview, the lovely Christine Horne got to the hotel. I really can't explain how happy I am that she's here. Of course, as a representative of the film, but I just really adore Christine and I like spending time with her. I got to CTV and they prepped me, letting me know that it would be a two minute interview and I'd probably only get answers to two questions in. So I decided to keep my answers short and tight so we could get more questions in and therefore more information out. I think I did pretty okay. They make you sit in a separate studio, just facing a camera, so that's… interesting… but I got a lot off, I was able to mention our distributor, talk about what the film's about, when it's screening, that Christine is in town, and then I was even able to pimp out the other two films in our screening program.
When I got back out Christine and I went for lunch at a place called the Laughing Buddha and one of the things they focus on is sandwiches. The five year-old inside of me decided on something called "Sticky Mouth", which was: peanut butter, bananas, cranberries, and cashews - with a pickle on the side. It was delightful.
I got lost walking back and rushed to a screening of a film called Everybody's Couch (or Le Divan du Monde), of which I'll sing the praises of below. I then climbed down the mountain and browsed through the Chapters waiting for Christine, we grabbed dinner and then watched Jack Goes Boating.
The after party tonight was fun again - not quite the same as being in a cave, but we really enjoyed the band playing in the background. It was fronted by a local musician named Sarah Craig, we're going to try and pick up her CD tomorrow at a music store nearby us.
We got back to the hotel and decided to hit the hospitality suite, where Christine's metabolism demanded a late night pizza, which Mireille one of the lovely programmers ordered for us. The three of us just sat around having drinks, eating late-night pizza and chatting. Really enjoyed myself, and now it's straight to bed. Christine and I want to keep up our tradition of going out for greasy spoon breakfast (and I now know where the place I was looking for this morning is) so we're going to do that, hit the record store, and then be cliches and go to the giant nickel, and then we're off to the screening of our film.

1423 - Jack Goes Boating

This is an interesting film. Hoffman really likes these underdog everyman's. This is the kind of film that in lesser hands would be a disaster, but Hoffman is skillful both as a director and an actor, and it becomes an experiment in how much can you make the audience squirm awkwardly, and how much humor can you get out of that. Quite a bit, I'll tell you! Amy Ryan is the love interest here, and if you don't know who she is then you really need to. She's adorable and lovely and... I love her. I do.
I don't think this film will be for everyone, but the people that like it will like it a LOT.

1422 - Le Divan du Monde (Everybody's Couch)

Holy shit did I love this film. I've gotten to know the film's producer Rayne Zukerman a little over the past few days at the festival, and I'm hoping to be able to meet her partner Dominic Desjardins (the film's writer/director) as some point in the near future - not surprisingly he's shooting his second feature already.
This film is a road trip that takes us from Vancouver to P.E.I. and they really do a wonderful job of representing the country. It was like comfort food to me to see all of these places, some I know well, others not so much. There's a tiny part of this, intentional or not, that's a love letter to our Country.
The film's two leads Melanie LeBlanc and Antoine Gratton are really wonderful together. You want to spend time with these people, and you can anxious each time you fear that they may go their seperate ways.
This is a really really great film and it just had me smiling ear to ear. This film absolutely needs to reach a wide audience, I think people will really connect to it. I'm trying to think of more ways to say how much I loved this film. I guess you'll just have to seek it out yourself.

1421 - A Windigo Tale

I got to know Armand, the director of this film, and so this morning we decided to watch each other's films since we're not available to go to the official screenings. I grew up in the area that he shot this film, and it's interesting to know that it was made just before all the shit went down there between the natives and non-natives. It has nothing to do with the film, however I thought it was an interesting side note.
This film, more or less, is about the after effects suffered by the generation of people who were forced to attend the residential schools. Having studied this to some effect with my historical documentaries I'm always amazed how unknown this part of Canada's history is - or how easily we just sweep it under the rug. It can't be ignored however, that for a long time in our history our gov't put a lot of effort into trying to assimilate and essentially erase the native culture. There have been a lot of apologies in recent years, and that's really great, but it can't erase the sins of the past just because the effects are still (and probably will always) be felt.
I think Armand does a good job of representing the way of life for a lot of people that live on a reservation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Film Fest Tour: Day 1

7:45am Sitting at Pearson Airport. I just got breakfast from the Wolfgang Puck express, and it was free. Well… I might try and pay for it on my way out. I got the breakfast and stood at the cash register for 10 minutes waiting for one of the employees to come and get my money, but they seemed more interested in talking amongst themselves, so instead of let my over-priced food get cold, I sat down to eat it.

I'm excited about this trip. It's the longest I've been away from my wife since we've met, and also the longest I've been away from my son, who day by day, is becoming more and more a little boy. I'm going to miss them both a lot, and that will be hard. As I get older I find myself being more of the stay-at-home type. It's an effort for me to go out, but I do enjoy it once I do. Got to the airport super early, so I can relax, respond to some e-mail. Read.

12:25pm Plane ride went pretty smooth. The business woman beside me complained that she couldn't find a rental car in Sudbury and couldn't understand how the hell Sudbury could be so busy - I told her about the film festival and she thought I was kidding, "An international film festival in Sudbury? Why?". I politely declined response.
It's hard to say this without sounding a bit like an ass, but the airport in Sudbury is cute. You land and BAM, right there is your luggage and someone from the festival was waiting for me. It's a pretty small airport, but you can't beat how quick you get out.
In the hotel lobby I was introduced to Ed Gass-Donnely, a fellow Canadian filmmaker, whose film Small Town Murder Songs, I've been looking forward to seeing. My room wasn't ready to I was whisked up the festival suite and given my pass. Also there is a media suite where I can watch any of the films that are playing in the festival - which is awesome because there's a bunch that I won't be around for. I plan to do just that, maybe even this afternoon before I head off for the day.
The staff recommended a place in town for lunch called "Respect is Burning". It reminds me of a not-so-corporate East Side Mario's. The menu isn't exactly vegetarian friendly, but I'm sure I'll manage. When I asked for a table for one they looked at me like I was a leper. On the way here we drove through "new Sudbury" which, sadly, looks pretty much the same as every other new part of every other city that I've been to in Canada. I was shown the SIlvercity where the films will be played and we observed how it was surrounded by the same restaurants and stores that every other movie theatre complex is. It's almost as if someone decides to build a theatre and then they get a bunch of other stores that "come with it".
Our screening isn't for two days, so I'm looking forward to relaxing and taking in some other films and meeting other filmmakers. I've been told that the festival gets good numbers for all their screenings, especially during the day. Apparently a lot of people in Sudbury book time off work to attend the festival. Now those are my kind of people.

11:30pm Finally back in my hotel room. Before I get too far into it, the first thing I have to say is that the support for this festival is pretty goddamn amazing. I talked to several people who not only take time off work during the festival, but some of them have moved away and come back just for the festival. It's heart warming to see people that love film this much.
When I got back to the hotel from my lunch my room wasn't ready so I headed to the media sweet and checked out Winnebago Man (review to follow). I wanted to watch This Film Is Broken but apparently not all the films screening are available. Alas.
I finally got into my room and debated taking a quick shower, instead I did a freshen up and then headed back up to get a ride over to the cinema. The guy who drove me said that he's known as Handy Andy. Really nice guy. I sat in for a screening of Modra a film that's in the same program as ours. Afterwards I was hoping to grab some coffee from the Starbucks attached to the Chapters, however it's kind of mountainous and I couldn't figure out how the hell to get down there. I settled for the food a the Silvercity.
Next up was the Gala screening of Made in Dagenham, Sally Hawkins is just fantastic in this. I was going to see The Disappearance of Alice Creed but all of the other filmmakers currently at the festival were going to the after party and so I followed along. I'm really glad that I did. I hung out with our driver Stephane, and filmmakers Armand Garnet Ruffo (also an author of such works as Grey Owl) and Toronto producer Rayne Zukerman. We closed up the party with various conversations on various topics, all of which were very delightful to me. I'm glad I went. It was in the science centre, which meant having to walk through cave like hallway to get to. Not so bad on the way in, on the way out many Steam Whistles made it a little more challenging.
Tomorrow I am joined by the lovely Christine Horne. I can't tell you just how excited I am to have her joining me for this festival as well as Edmonton. In addition to being a very talented actress she's a pretty damn fantastic human being as well. I look forward to festivaling it up with her. Also tomorrow around the noon hour (either 12:30 or 12:50) I will be interviewed on CTV, I think it's just the Northern version - but check it out if you can. I'll be the nervous filmmaker trying not to sound like an idiot.

1420 - Made in Dagenham

This if the kind of film where, if you don't find yourself cheering the characters on, then you probably don't have much of an intact heart. Revolving around women in the UK trying to get equal pay to men the film keeps a pretty good balance and rarely dips into melodrama for effect - just one side story does. This film is just packed with some great lines, and some wonderful performances including Bob Hoskins who I adore here. The real star of this film, however, is Sally Hawkins. Some of you know of her already, but the rest of you will soon. She should be nominated for this film. She deserves it. This is the kind of film that I think is going to reach a lot of people. I think that the audience for this film is large and it deserves to find it. Easily recommended.

1419 - Modra

It's no surprise to me at all that Mongrel Media picked this film up for distribution - it's right up their alley. I was really hoping that Ingrid Veninger, the writer/director, was at the festival because I would have loved to chat with her afterwards - instead her mother stood in, and she was adorable.
This film is pretty gorgeous, the town of Modra is the kind that I think most people would probably love to spend some time in. This story is sweet and I think captures that awkward adolescence period pretty darn well. There are some moments that are so honest that you can't help but laugh out loud, and others that are touching and a bit sad. If nothing else the film has made a pretty awesome discovery in Haillie Switzer, she's the kind of person who you write down as someone you want to work with in the future.
No idea how big of a release this film will get, but for those who like character driving stories, you'll probably enjoy this one.

1418 - Winnebago Man

Like a lot of people I've spent some time on YouTube, and therefore I've seen the Winnebago Man, often cited as the angriest man alive. I've also seen the Star Wars kid, Charlie Bit Me. There's a sort of celebrity that comes out of these viral phenomenons. At the beginning of this documentary, that almost seems to be what it's about. I'm interested in the idea of how celebrity is created and why. What it does to people, but the fans and the individuals. I think that's the film that the filmmakers set out to make, but in the end, I'm not quite sure that they had a really strong focus on any one thing. As a result they've made something that is at certain times quite interesting, but at the very least extremily entertaining. I'm glad I got a chance to see this, but it didn't really cover the ground I was hoping it would. If you've seen the Winnebago Man Clip on YouTube (and if you haven't click here) then this might interest you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Super Paper Mario

We bought this game YEARS ago when it first came out, and I played half of it right away... and then... I don't know why but I never finished it. Thankfully the Wii saves everything so I picked up where I left off. I don't play a lot of video games, I try to keep productive and there's a small part of me that says that they're a waste of time - but goddamnit, sometimes I deserve to waste my time!
I like Mario games. The gameplay in this is pretty simple, and yet it's not an easy game. It's a bit of a puzzle with a lot of pieces in play. As you go along you add more characters and powers to your palette and the trick is knowing how and where to utilize them. So there is a LOT of gameplay, which might delight some and annoy others who want the game to move quicker.
My biggest beef with the game is the story - I don't mind the story - I like it - it's just that there is a lot of it, and a lot of dialogue and it REALLY slows down the gameplay. Frustratingly so. ESPECIALLY when you're replaying a level and you know the story. I bet that once through the entire game you've spent at least two hours reading text, or furiously pushing the 2 button to blast past it. What I don't understand is why there isn't a feature to skip past it and head right into the next bit of gameplay. Something to consider, Nintendo if you do a follow-up to this game.
So this one is tough for me - I did like it - but I had a really hard time recommending it because of how annoying all the text is. I say that if you can put up with that you'll probably enjoy it. Now I'm looking forward to my next Mario game... Will it be Galaxy (the first one) or the New Super Mario Bros... any recommendations?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

1417 - The Time Traveller's Wife

I bought this book for my mother-in-law years ago and I've been intending to read it ever since. And now I want to even more. This is a really great premise, and whenever you're adapting something you run the risk of getting bogged down and missing the point of the original. I don't know if they did, but I just feel like this film is dancing around a lot of REALLY great ideas, but it doesn't latch onto them long enough. I felt, as well, that we were told too much information about what will happen to Henry that the tension is muted. Eric Bana is a tad flat here, especially up against someone like Rachel McAdams. I buy in completely that she's head over heels for this man, and I love her because of it. She works the different ages and taps into them that it feels like a time capsel of someone's life. Bana, I just don't know what his character wants and needs - the guy is just floating from time to time. It's hard to say that it's his fault. I still enjoyed the film but now I definitly have to read the book sometime in the near future...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

TUWOPS - Canadian Distributor!

It's my pleasure to announce that our film, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, has partnered with the company Industry Works Pictures as their Canadian Distributor, as well as sales agent, which means that they'll be working out selling it to the rest of the globe. We think it's a really great fit and the film will get a theatrical release inside of Canada as well. Within the next few months we should have a lot more news as things progress along, but it's very exciting to know that this film will have a life after the festivals.

TIFF is over for me, saw my last film today - so now I'm resting up before I begin my tour of Sudbury, Edmonton and Calgary!

1415 - Peep World

The cast for this film is practically a laundry list of people that I want to work with. Judy Greer, Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall, the list goes on and on...
I love films about dysfunctional familes. I know that one day I'll write one of my own once I organize my binders of notes from having studied my own family. This film is about a family whose youngest sibling has published a book about the insanity he has lived within - it's a great premise, but I almost felt like we never got the full crazy from the family and I would have liked that. That being said it's a really fun little movie, and well worth checking out!

1414 - Ceremony

This was a film that I just decided to see on a whim - I hadn't heard anything about it and was going just based on gut. I have to say, I had some reservations as the film started up, but I thought it was really quite lovely as it went along. It's the kind of film that sneaks up on you and you realize that all the things that were bugging you a bit at the beginning are all intentional, and it's part of the characters progression. The cast is really great. I don't know if this film has been picked up at all, but I give it my thumbs up for a little coming-of-age story full of great characters.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1413 - Trigger

It's almost not fair for me to write about this film. I had just come from a luncheon that I was invited to as part of my Irving Avrich Award, so I was rushing in, and at the same time I was dealing with a frenzy of e-mails dealing with some stuff for our film, so my head wasn't in the right place, and I think I missed a good chunk of good stuff. I will say this, of what I was able to focus on I liked. I tagged this under "like" but upon another viewing (and I damn well promise to watch it again) it could easily elevate to a "loved it". Tracy and Molly are fantastic and play off of each other like old friends. Don McKellar has a cameo in this that is unlike anything he's ever done. He slayed me. Brilliant.
Like I said, I'm not going to say a whole lot 'cause it's not fair - but I will say that I'm really looking forward to a rewatch of this film. It's a great tribute to Tracy and her ablities. She'll be missed.

1412 - Black Swan

So last week there was the first press and industry screening and the line-up was insane. I kept hearing that this was the film to see at the festival, and because I have my pass, I thought I'd check it out - especially because there's been some Oscar buzz about it. Truth is, the Misses and I don't get out to the movies that often, so the more I can see now the better.
I have to be honest, at the end of this film I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Was it a well made film? Of course! It's gorgeous to look at, it's interesting, but... I don't know. Some movies I watch and they just spark, you know you're watching something amazing, with this I just kind of felt like I was watching a decent film. The truth is that they're toting this film as a companion piece to The Wrestler, but the truth is that it's actually "The Wrestler in Ballet School", not to ruin anything, but beat for beat, it's more or less the same story. Not to bag a guy for being interested in exploring the same theme, but we get it - people kill themselves for their art. I'm a fan of Natalie Portman, and I know that part of the point of her character was that she was supposed to be a bit tight and frigid, but it was almost too much to the point where some of her performance felt oddly wooden, which was weird for her. I don't know how much of it was her, or how much was fancy camera work with a double, but I completely bought her as a ballerina. That and the film does some pretty impressive subtle effects. Like I said, it's a pretty damn good movie, but I just don't get the fuss.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1411 - True Blood: season three

Now that up top is a sexy photo right there. This show is doing really well and thank Christ that the world has an alternative to the crap-fest that is the Twilight film series (nothing personal fans, but I just think those films are melodramatic bore-fests). As per usual this season was full of twists and turns, and practically trippled the numbed of supernatural beings that exist inside of the world - not to mention the adding of several new characters, including the fantastic Russel, a vampire force that needs to be seen to believe.
If you like anything supernatural and especially vampires and you haven't seen this series, get on it ASAP. They've done a really good job of setting up arcs for the next season, so let's see what happens... in a year... goddamn that's too long to wait :(

1410 - Entourage: season seven

This is a series that I've often described as being like a pastry, I know it's not going to really satisfy me nutritionally, but I don't care - it tastes good. This season managed to do something that the previous six did not - they made Vince an interesting character. They did, however, also make him a douchebag in the process - but at least now I want to watch him all the time instead of little moments here and there.
This is a show that's gotten better as it went along and now it's HBO's longest running series. Only one more season is planned from what I've read and I just saw something that suggests it'll be a shortened season, only six episodes - and then the promise of a theatrical film.
For a series known for it's crazy ups and downs this season ended on the biggest down of all, and it'll be a lot of fun to see how it comes back up, or if this series has a much darker ending in mind... guess we'll have to wait to find out...

1409 - Griff the Invisible

Here's an example of a film there I nearly walked out of, but because I stayed I found myself quite liking a lot of aspects of it. I hate to say that, while the script to this is full of wonderful stuff, I think it should have been directed by someone else. The tone and pace doesn't work, and sometimes the performances don't either - and I'm not quite sure that it's the actors fault. This is the kind of film that has a great premise and needs someone else to remake it to fully realize the ideas that are going on within it, 'cause at it's core, it's a really fantastic and sweet story - it just didn't quite get it out in the way that it needed to.
So the film is a bit of a train wreck for a large part of it, but there is enough here to make me say that you might want to check it out. The performance by Maeve Dermody is worth the price of admission alone.

1408 - Good Neighbours

I feel badly that this is the first Jacob Tierney film that I have seen. I will remedy that. Those who read this with any regularity know that I love Jay Baruchel, so I'll shut up about that guy (he's great in this, of course). I won't go on about the plot too much only because there's a bit of a mystery to this and I don't want to spoil anything. I will say, however, that I was a little let down there there weren't a few more twists and turns. I figured things out pretty quick and it didn't deviate. Now that would be a problem if the film wasn't so enjoyable to watch. It's more or less a chamber piece taking place almost entirely within an apartment building Quebec during the referendum. The style of the film is really great, the look, the lighting, composition, coloring, production design - it's all great. There's a really playful and fun score that plays throughout as well.
I think this is a film that anyone who enjoys the macabre will really dig. The Canadian films I've seen at TIFF this year are far better than any I've seen in my many years of attending TIFF and it really gives me hope for this country's film industry. Please see this when it comes out - you will enjoy.

1407 - Rabbit Hole

This was my first film of the day, and to be honest, I was tired, cranky, and needed a coffee desperately, and got to the theatre too late to be able to grab one. So I was primed to let a film piss me off.
This is the best film I have seen at the festival, and probably this year. I've always liked John Cameron Mitchell, and he's done a bit of a turn here from his usual fare. Kidman and Eckhardt are at their career best and if they don't get nominated for this film then I'll be amazed. Diane Weist also gives a nomination worthy supporting performance.
The film is simple, it's about a couple dealing with the grief of losing their only child, a four year old boy. But the film never asks us to pity them, it's never melodramatic, it's full of life, love, humor, and real pain. There is a scene in the middle of the film that is so wonderfully intense that I could myself crying uncontrollably in the theatre. I'm not talking little tears in the corner of my eyes. I embarassed myself with how I was carrying on. That's how much this film kicked my ass. I don't think I've ever been that affected by a scene in a film. No doubt, in part, because I've got a little guy myself.
So, it goes without saying, that I strongly recommend this film. It deserves as much attention as it can possibly get.

1406 - Three

If I'm honest I find Tykwer to be a bit of a hit and miss. Like everyone else I loved the hell out of Run Lola Run. This film took a while to get going for me, but once it did I was pretty engaged in the characters. It's arty almost for the sake of it rather than because the film requires it. I think it would have been just as effective played straight. Personally I think that the film could have been a good half hour shorter and still had more going on. Good performances, interesting story, but this isn't for everyone, that's for sure. If you like slow-moving-European-dramas, you'll eat it up.

1405 - I Saw the Devil

Anyone who likes Asian horror-thrillers will eat this up. It starts with quite an intense bang. The one thing that I find is better overseas in horror is the emotion behind it, and it's there in spades at the beginning of this film. Here's the gist of what it's about:
A man's wife is killed by a sadistic serial killer, so he hunts him down and when he catches him, instead of killing him, he decides to play with him the way a cat does a mouse - hurting him, releasing him, hurting some more, until the mouse figures out how to get away from the cat.
Sound interesting? It is. And despite it's two and a half hour length, it moves along at a pretty good clip. If gore bothers you, you may well wish to avoid this one. It's the kind of film that people will either love or hate, and I bet dollars to doughnuts that we're going to see a North American remake in the near future.

1404 - Barney's Version

This is probably the most Hollywood looking Canadian film I've ever seen. The production value, cast, everything is really quite impressive and makes me hopeful for the future of films in our country. I haven't read the book, but I can only imagine that there was far more great material than they had time here. I quite enjoyed this. It's a longer film, and rarely did I feel that. It's chock full of amazing performances all around including one by a Canadian actress that I think is quite damn great, Rachelle Lefevre. Dustin Hoffman reminds me of my own father, and that always makes me smile. Minnie Driver is just really quite fantastic.
When Paul Giamatti first came out of the woodwork I thought he was the next best thing, and then he just was kind of... there. He wasn't playing all the keys on his piano. This performance however shows just how many octaves he's got. It's a great performance in a really solid film. It makes me want to go back and read the book. Highly recommend this one.

1403 - The Bang Bang Club

This is a film that there had been some buzz about so I was interested to see it. Essentially it's about war photographers, what they go through, the rush of getting a great photo amidst the horrors that surround you. And eventually the wider theme comes out, and it's, kind of, about the idea of journalists and photographers and whether they should just stay observers, or is it their responsibility to get involved in their subjects. Do they have to stay back both physically and emotionally?
The stuff inside of the war zones is amazing, really. I mean, I just can't imagine shooting stuff like that. It's gotta be intense. That stuff was done super super well. In terms of the story I found it got a bit melodramatic, not quite preachy, but I was kind of surprised at how I got more and more annoyed by it as it went on. I'm curious to see what others thought about this film, for me, by the end, I didn't care for it all that much, even though I admired many of the technical aspects of it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

1402 - Everything Must Go

Just one movie today, then I'm talking the rest of the weekend to hang out with the family before I dive back into it hard on Monday. I like Will Ferrell. I like him most when he's playing an actual person and not an over-the-top-man-child. Not to say that those films aren't enjoyable, I'm just stating my preference for how I like my Ferrell.
I don't know the short story on which this is based, but I can only imagine that it's heavily adapted. I believe that this script was on the imfamous black-list some years ago, but I'd never read it. (just checked, I have it on my computer... huh... maybe I'll give it a gander at some point....) So this is a film about a man on his way to hitting rock bottom, and the set-up is pretty great. There is a nice blend of funny, sad, and a little pathetic, and Will carries it all well. I was a little disappointed that later on it didn't seem to escalate futher, and if I'm honest I would have like to seen the actual rock bottom be a little rockier. That being said, this film has some really lovely moments and even lovlier performances. Laura Dern is a gem, and Rebecca Hall continues to shine as she moves up the movie ladder. It will absolutely hit theatres at some point - it's not the Will Ferrell that most people expect, but it's not something that's going to piss off his man-child fans either.

Friday, September 10, 2010

1401 - Daydream Nation

This film is in the Canada First program at TIFF, which is the program we would have been in had we been selected. So I was excited to see this for several reasons - the first being that it's Canadian, the second because my new friend Katie Boland is in it, and third because I fucking LOVE Kat Dennings.
Kat is great in this, she builds on a lot of the great stuff we've seen her doing in films, but at the same time really has a chance to shine within the material that she's given. Jon Joffin's cinematography was fantastic and the music selection added a really nice emotional touch to the film. Katie is pretty damn awesome in her scenes as well and manages to steal a few great moments. I look forward to working with her at some point (that goes for you as well, Ms. Dennings!)
If I have to give criticism to the film it's this - it's very ambitious in that it wants to be a lot of different things, and I think that the film suffers a bit because of it. Films often use the 'coming-of-age' blanket to justify a passive protagonist that doesn't really have a goal or agenda, but just drifts through. It helps a lot when that protagonist is Kat Dennings though. There is a lot to like and enjoy about this film and I really hope that it gets an audience inside and out of Canada. I think that the writer/director, Mike Goldbach, is someone we're going to see time and again, and if you're reading this Mike, I'd love to buy you a beer sometime and talk shop.

1400 - The Illusionist

I really liked The Triplets of Belleville so I was excited to see that Chomet had a new film in the festival, and not only that but that it was adapted from an unproduced screenplay by Jacques Tati. There no doubt that this is through and through a love letter to Tati. The characters, the comedy, the commentary, it's all there. But I have to warn you, don't go into this expecting a warm and fuzzy frolicking ride. There is a bitter pill to be swallowed in this film and the ending leaves you feeling pretty lousy. I don't think that spoils anything. I will say that I felt like it started to drag a bit, and it's only eighty minutes long.
If you're a fan of Triplets, Chomet in general, or especially Tati, check this out, but proceed with emotional caution.

1399 - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

So anyone that knows me knows that I love Woody Allen, so there was no way in hell that I was missing this. I know that it'll be in theatres in the near future. I don't care. In fact I arranged my whole schedule today around making sure that I would damn well see this.
Now, I'm going to be completely honest about what I think about this film, and you can say I'm bias, but I don't care. I honestly think that this is some of Woody's finest work. It's on a par with Hannah and Her Sisters in terms of the way he handles the comedy within an ensemble. Everything works in this film. Woody is often criticized for creating worlds that don't exist with people who live in beautiful apartments and are surrounded by culture and art. And I say, so what? There's a slight fairytale element to his stories, but the way he colors his films, and the music he uses I think point to that anyway. So if that's your criticism of the man, just stop watching his films.
The cast is top notch. Everyone has a moment to shine in this and that they do. I don't want to give away anything and so I'll keep tight lipped about it. All I have to say is that if you've ever been a Woody fan, at any point, this is the film you've been waiting for from him.

1398 - Erotic Man

So let's get something out of the way right off the bat. If you're going into a Jorgen Leth film, already you're probably okay with something that's on the pretentious side. I haven't seen a LOT of his other stuff, but I thought his role in the doc The Five Obstructions was really interesting and enough to make me want to see this. I think this film is getting labelled as a documentary, but it's more of a... well, I don't know - an visual essay I guess.
A few things are certain by watching this - Leth LOVES women, and you can tell by the way that he photographs them. He has no qualms about showing them intimate and naked. It didn't bother me, but I never really found it sexy. Leth is engaging enough to keep his presence and narration in the film from being overtly pretentious, so it's just there on the surface. But I do have to say, I was pretty blown away by how many people walked out of this film - not surprising that a low of them were women.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

1397 - I'm Still Here

So I guess today was my Affleck brother double feature. This film was directed by Ben's brother Casey whom you probably well know is a fantastic actor in his own right.
Most people have some kind of knowledge that Joaquin Phoenix retired from acting for a hip-hop career and has been getting his ass handed to him ever since. The first question you're going to ask is - was it all a hoax? I don't know. The film isn't about that - it plays it straight. Inside the TIFF guide it says something to the liking of "this film doesn't provide the answers to what's going on with Phoenix, mostly because it's still going on". And that's true. And it's fine. In truth, it doesn't matter if it's a hoax, because whether it is or not this is the biggest career suicide I have ever seen. It's amazing in that regard. The film feels like it's real and authentic, probably because Phoenix is so goddamn candid, you can't imagine that someone would want to come off as this much of a douche bag unless they actually were. This is an examination of one of the most self-inflated-ego-centric people I've ever witnessed. Someone who believes that because they're famous, and that they want to change career paths that people should automatically embrace them in their new path, regardless or not if they're any good at it. Sean Combs appears in the film and he's fantastic, whether he's playing along, or this is the real him - he's great. I can't imagine that this film isn't intended to be a bit comedic. There are moments that are just downright hysteric where you can't believe what you're seeing, including a moment which I'm sure everyone else will ruin, but I won't, where one of his assistants gets back at him for treating him like shit.
In truth I've never cared much for Joaquin Phoenix as an actor. I didn't not like him, but him being in a film was never a draw for me either. But as a character study of a man on a collision course with himself, he's ridiculously entertaining. I'm sure that we're going to see a lot more of him now that this film is coming out, but I can't imagine him having a career after this. If he does, awesome, but it'll be interesting to see, in ten years, if he's still here...

1396 - The Town

As a consolation of my film not getting into TIFF this year one of the Canadian programmers, Steve Gravestock, was very generous and gave me a free Industry Pass through something called the Irving Avrich Fund. I have a luncheon next week for it so I'm curious to know more, but in the mean time I'm using the pass to see pretty much everything I can. I get into screenings that aren't open to the public (which makes it super easy to see the films so long as you're there half hour or so before the film). So over the next week and a bit look forward to several reviews at the end of each day (with a lag come the weekend). But without further delay, my thoughts on this fine film:
Affleck has gotten kind of a pass an actor I think. I don't know why - I've always liked him. But I think that Affleck the director has just given Affleck the actor a second wind. As a director Affleck is as good, if not better, than anyone else working in this genre of film. Maybe it's the people he's hired to work with, maybe not - it doesn't matter. This film, which is by no means short, flows so goddamn well. It's a thriller with a shit-load of awesome character work. Rebecca Hall is really lovely in this film, and we're going to see A LOT more of her in the years to come. She's in at least one other film at the festival and I'm hoping to get to see that one as well. What's really great about this is it lives in that style of crime thriller where the good guys and bad guys are both on par in terms of their intelligence. The cat and mouse are on equal footing so to speak. The entire cast is pretty fantastic and Affleck knows how to lighten it up from time to time. The set-ups and pay-offs are well hidden within some lovely character moments, and there's a backstory side-plot about a characters mother that almost breaks your heart.
This is a great film and I know it's going to get a big release some time in the near future. Do yourself a favour and see it.

1395 - Splice

I've never seen a Natali film, but I was really intrigued by the premise here. Canadian films get a bad wrap, but this one is well worth seeing. Especially if you're into sci-fi at all. I thought that this was filled with some really interesting ideas (although not always fully explored) and there are some sequences that are really just quite fun, and one in particular that actually made my jaw drop. I don't want to spoil anything so I'll stop short. If you like your Sci-Fi with a dash of thriller, this might just be the film for you.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

1394 - Hot Tub Time Machine

When high concept is done properly, it's really really fun to watch. The comedy writing duo behind this Sean Anders & John Morris are responsible for some of the more interesting high-concept comedies I've seen recently. There's this, She's Out of Your League, and Sex Drive. And each time I come out thinking that the film was far better than I thought it would be. For my money, these two guys are worth paying attention to.
The set-up with the hot tub is stupid, and the filmmakers know it - and they don't care. It allows leverage for the zany. There is a lot in here that's predictable, but it's enjoyable to watch the trip, so you don't care if you've already figured out where it's going to go.
Without ruining anything I'll say that this is a fun ride for those who like this sort of thing.

1393 - Gerry

I have got a stack of films on my desk that is embarrassingly high. I have a bad habit of going on sprees where I buy a shitload of films, and they never get watched. So now I've taken to making a stack of films I own that I haven't watched, and I'm not allowed to watch anything else until I get through the stack. I picked this up back in the winter when the Blockbuster on Spadina closed down. I knew what I was going into when I watched this film, in fact I think I was expecting a little bit more Samuel Beckett. It's gorgeous, for sure. And Damon and Affleck carry the entire thing well. There are some wonderful stand out sequences, including one with Affleck stuck up on a rock. It's easy to look at this and say that nothing happens, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. I have my theories about the ending, but I won't spoil anything here. If you like films that are a bit non-traditional you'll probably enjoy this one, otherwise you might want to avoid it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

1392 - A Serious Man

The Coens always tell stories that are, at the very least, interesting. I don't pretend to know enough about Judaism to get all the jokes and ideas, but this film was entertaining from beginning to end. The irony is a lot of people online say, "but what was the film about?". I think truth is that it's about trying to figure out what things are about.
Bad things happen to good people and vice versa - it's whether we pick up and continue or not that decides who we are as a person.
The performances from relatively unknowns, were extremely entertaining and enjoyable. Despte my tremendouse respect for the Coens, I've been a bit hit and miss with them latetly. I think that, in a broad sense, they amuse themselves first and the audience second, or worse, they amuse themselves for the sake of the audience.
If you like the Coens and/or you know a fair amout about Judaism then this is probably the flick for you!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

1391 - Extract

I like Mike Judge, Jason Batement, and a score of other actors that are in this film, so it wasn't hard for me to pick this one up. Sadly, it's even easier to set it right back down again. This is by no means a bad film. It just didn't do a heck of a lot for me. There were a few fun moments, but nothing that made me really laugh out, which is what I look for in a comedy these days - laughs that surprise me. The cast is delightful, if not underused given how many great actors are in this film in supporting roles. If you're a fan of Office Space then there is no reason to not check this one out, just manage your expectations and you'll be fine.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

1390 - Breaking Bad: season three

This is a series that just continues to get better and better. What's really amazing is, if after watching this season, you went back to the pilot I think that a lot of the characters wouldn't even be recognizable. That's how far these people have come in three seasons. It's a show that continues to test it's premise, mess with its characters, and put them in the worst possible situations. It's a show that's not scared of messing with itself. I'm really want to avoid any kind of spoilers, but I just have to say that AMC is giving Showtime and HBO a run for its money with their original series. In terms of writing and acting it's hard to imagine a series better than this one.

Friday, September 03, 2010

1389 - Jennifer's Body

I read this script back when it was floating around on the Black List a few years back, and I really really liked it. It had this great 'Heathers' vibe to it, and with Juno in my mind I could kind of visual this. Unfortunately the director, Karyn Kusama didn't have the same vision I had. In fact, I'm kind of puzzled as to what her vision was. The script I read wasn't a whole lot different from this finished film (save that random make-out scene between the two girls that ends as bizarrely as it began), however the execution of the script, which is essential in this type of film, felt rather lacking.
For a horror-comedy it's not really played for laughs or scares, sadly. The satire is there and it's clever. Like I said, I liked the script, the ideas, the story, but they all fell flat. There are a lot of clever ideas in this film, but they aren't harnessed properly or something. Judging by a quick glance at other reviews it would appear that I'm not in the minority as to how I feel about this. I really wanted to love this film. Alas, it was not to be. In fact, I'm kind of finding a hard time thinking about how I could/would recommend it to others. If you're dying to see this film, knock yourself out. Maybe you'll present an argument for it that I just have over looked. So for what it is, it's fine. However, for what it could have been... I don't know.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

1388 - Towelhead

I've wanted to see this film since I first heard about it. The supporting cast is full of people I love, and not to mention Alan Ball behind it - I knew it would be an interesting run.
Going for the shocking title escapes me a bit, since the film is more to do with her sexuality than her ethnicity, however I'm sure that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Toni Collette is lovely, although probably underused here. I thought that Summer Bishil and Aaron Eckhardt had amazing chemistry and I was excited to see where it went. This isn't the kind of film that you ever really need to see more than once, but it's worth checking out for sure. Just keep in mind, it doesn't pull punches. It's aggresive in it's attitudes and it's all the better for it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Dream in High Park: Romeo & Juliet

It's been years since I've been to Dream in High Park, and it's been awhile since I've seen a Shakespeare play. I promise you that I'm not saying this out of bias, but this was up there with some of the most interesting, engaging, and downright amazing Shakespeare that I've seen of my admittedly limited viewings. I was worried when I first heard of the play within-a-play aspect of the show, but it goes away quickly enough and then, really, it's all about the real play. Not to say that the setting of the show in a train station doesn't work, it actually allows for the doubling of roles, and simplicity of the sets, and makes that really smooth. There were some clever nods to the doubling within that as well.
For me the supporting stand-outs were Clinton Walker as Mercutio/Capulet, as well as Ron Kennell, who has the coveted role of the Nurse, who if you're familiar with the play, know that it always has the potential to be a scene stealer. He's fantastic in this. It would be so easy to overdo it, but he handles it just so.
And now to our Romeo and Juliet. Jeff Irving plays Romeo as a teenager, which Romeo is. And does it ever work. I mean this play doesn't work unless you buy into the romantic delusions, which really only make sense if these two are, in fact, love lorn teenagers, tired of being told what they can and can't do. He brings this really nice naivity to the role that I've never seen before, and he throw tantrums with the best of them. A pleasure to watch, truly. And then there is Christine Horne. For those of you who follow this with any regularity you know that I've worked with Christine, and I consider her a friend, so while there absolutely is some level of bias here, I don't care. She was brilliant. As I told her after the show, I loved seeing the fourteen year old Christine Horne come alive on stage. I could go on and on, but I'd rather you go see it for yourself.
It's only on for a few more days, but if you've been putting it off, get your ass to High Park before the 6th, or live to regret seeing one of the most exciting and engaging stagings of this show with some of the most talented performers in the city.
Loved it.