Yes, it’s that TIFF time of year again! My schedule has 45 films on it from Sep 8th – 18th … with probably a few more to come.
My schedule is mostly finalized, with just a small number of gaps to fill in after the advanced order process. We ended up in Box 27, and the lottery pulled #9 of 39, so we were at least in the first half. Including the tickets ordered for Sakina, I think I ended up getting 40 of my 47 selections, so not too bad at all!
Here’s a rundown of my confirmed films, including some of the reasons that made them stand out for me. Sometimes it’s simply because a certain director or actor is involved, others because the summary sounds intriguing. I also try to cover a wide variety of genres and programmes, and also take some ‘chances’ on films without a whole lot to go on. I do try to limit the number of films that will be definitely be getting a wide release and will be easily accessible sometime after the Festival.
As in past years, it’s broken down by programme and I’ve marked my “must see” films with a *.
Usually a well-represented programme, last year was an oddity when none made my list. Because my first couple of years yielded some gems, I always pay particular attention to what’s available from first-time Canadian directors. Luckily, this looks to be a strong year and a few films have found their way onto my schedule (plus there was a tough omission because of scheduling conflicts; but that’s a topic for another post).
- Daydream Nation: stars Kat Dennings (Defendor, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Charlie Bartlett) in a “striking and slyly funny” coming of age story.
- Jaloux: “In this psychological thriller that was improvised during its 16-day shoot, a couple trying to mend their relationship set off for a weekend in the country. When they encounter a friendly neighbour, they are too absorbed in their marital woes to see that he is not who he appears to be.”
- The High Cost of Living: stars Isabelle Blais (Borderline [TIFF08], Sur la trace d’Igor Rizzi [TIFF06], Saints-Martyrs-des-DamnÃ©s [TIFF05] — see a pattern here? Also The Barbarian Invasions and QuÃ©bec-MontrÃ©al) and Zach Braff (!), which is enough to sell me. Doesn’t hurt that the description sounds good, too: “Deborah Chowâ€™s dark drama centres on the burgeoning relationship between an unlikely pair. Nathalie is expecting her first child and Henry is on his way to his next drug deal. Their paths fatefully collide one night in an event that will irrevocably change their lives.”
High Cost of Living
Contemporary World Cinema
- Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: “An exiled detective is recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths that threaten to delay the inauguration of Empress Wu.”
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
- The Edge: this one from Russia just sounded too unique to pass up; “Fusing steampunk aesthetics with selective fragments of Russian history, director Alexey Uchitel hurls his new love-laced war epic straight into post-apocalyptic territory.”
- Womb: speaking of strange, Eva Green (Casino Royale) is a woman whose “consuming love forces her to bear the clone of her dead beloved”. Wha?!
Billed as a “showcase for innovate new filmmakers”, there’s usually a lot of good possibilities to choose from. That was true this year, but because of scheduling only two made it onto my list.
- Autumn: “A devastating glimpse into the war-torn wasteland of Kashmir.”
- Ceremony: Uma Thurman, Lee Pace (Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies); “Along with his unwitting best friend, a young guy looks to crash the wedding of an older woman with whom heâ€™s infatuated.”
- Black Swan*: yes, this will be released later in the year, but c’mon: directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler [TIFF08], Requiem for a Dream) and staring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel, this is not to be missed. And have you seen the trailer? What a perfect way to close my festival.
- Peep World: cast includes: Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Judy Greer; “Four siblings come to terms with the publication of a novel written by the youngest sibling that exposes the familyâ€™s most intimate secrets.”
- West is West: sequel to East is East; father forces youngest son to accompany him to Pakistan, his first trip back since he deserted his first wife and young family thirty years before. (aside: not that she’s in this one, but Archie Panjabi, who played the daughter in East is East, just picked up an Emmy for her role on The Good Wife. Congrats!)
West is West
“Films made by the most influential directors living today.”
- Nostalgia for the Light: documentary; “In Chile’s Atacama Desert, astronomers peer deep into the cosmos in search for answers concerning the origins of life. Nearby, a group of women sift through the sand searching for body parts of loved ones, dumped unceremoniously by Pinochet’s regime. Master filmmaker Patricio GuzmÃ¡n contemplates the paradox of their quests.”
Nostalgia for the Night
“Dialogues with some of the most compelling figures of working in cinema today,” often their latest film followed by a discussion. I’ve never attended one of these in the past, but this year there are two that were of interest. Unfortunately, Steve Nash’s film about Terry Fox (Into the Wind) just couldn’t be fit into the schedule. But I’m greatly looking forward to:
- Waiting for “Superman”*: “From An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim comes Waiting for â€œSuperman,â€ a provocative and cogent examination of the crisis of public education in the United States told through multiple interlocking stories â€“ from a handful of students and their families whose futures hang in the balance, to the educators and reformers trying to find real and lasting solutions within a dysfunctional system. Guggenheim reveals the invisible forces that have held back true education reform for decades. Following the Mavericks screening, audiences will be treated to an on-stage panel discussion with Guggenheim, producer Lesley Chilcott, educator Geoffrey Canada, and philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.”
Waiting for Superman
It’s tough on the body (I’m getting old!) staying up for the true midnight screenings, but the relative lack of other early morning films at this year’s festival means I can at least get a decent sleep before starting my next full day of films. Plus, there’s nothing like a MM audience; I have three titles lined up so far, and probably another one to come.
- Bunraku: Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Demi Moore. “In a world with no guns, a mysterious drifter, a young samurai and a bartender plot revenge against a ruthless leader and his army of thugs, headed by nine diverse and deadly assassins.”
- SUPER*: directed by James Gunn (Slither), with Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion. With a cast like that, I seriously couldn’t have cared what the plot is about. It happily looks like a winner: “After his wife leaves him for a drug dealer, a frustrated husband decides he will win her back as Crimson Bolt, a costumed vigilante armed with a monkey wrench. His actions bring him an admirer, an overeager comic store clerk who wants to be his sidekick.”
- Vanishing on 7th Street: directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist); supernatural thriller starring Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo.
Vanishing on 7th Street
Real to Reel
Some of the best films I’ve seen in past years have been documentaries, so it was strange to have none last year. This time around there’s only one from the programme, although I do have a few more docs that are from other sections.
- Inside Job: a look into the machinations that caused the global financial crisis.
Short Cuts Canada
Ahh, short films … criminally under-appreciated. If I could, I’d see all six collections — the good far outweigh the bad, but there’s no avoiding the latter — but that would just eat into too many precious slots. I do make it a point of seeing a minimum of two, though. Below is a sampling of some of the titles being shown in the selected programmes:
- Short Cuts Canada Programme 1 (see the link, this whole programme looks great):
- Old Ways: “When a judge sentences a child to the death penalty, the court mitigates a public relations crisis with an elaborate and dubious scheme.”
- How to Rid your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You!*: ever since I stumbled across Nadia Litz in Love That Boy, I’ve been a fan. Her cred was also boosted by starring with Don McKellar and Tracy Wright in Monkey Warfare (TIFF06). This film is her directing debut.
How to Rid your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You!
- Short Cuts Canada Programme 6:
- Animal Control*: starring Julian Richings! “Larry is an amateur taxidermist who, as the pick-up man for the local Animal Services, gets all his specimens through work.”
- Eggcellent: “An underperforming chicken is under enormous pressure to produce at work.”
- 127 Hours: from directory Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting) and starring James Franco; based on the true story of a hiker trapped by a boulder.
- Blue Valentine: a love story with faves Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams is a film festival jackpot.
- Buried: Ryan Reynolds, a lighter, a BlackBerry … buried in a coffin. Yes, this will get a wide release soon, but it seems a good companion to 127 Hours; and the film and Reynolds have been receiving raves since its premiere at Sundance.
- Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)*: I technically don’t have a ticket for this yet but I’ll keep trying, even if it means the rush line. From the assistant director of Monsoon Wedding, and with Indian superstar Aamir Khan. “In the teeming metropolis of Mumbai, four people separated by class and language are drawn together in compelling relationships.”
- Easy A: OK, this is even more ridiculous, because the film will be hitting theaters everywhere the SAME DAY as my screening. But we had this slot open, so I thought why not — and early buzz has been really good. Stars Emma Stone (Zombieland, Superbad) and, well, you’ve probably already seen all the commercials and billboards.
- Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie: a description would be redundant. I figure it’s my Canadian duty to see this for all the good work Mr. Suzuki has done.
Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie
- Good Neighbours*: from the director of last year’s The Trotsky, which was great and also starred Jay Baruchel (dude seems to be everywhere this year).
- Heartbeats*: from Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan. After taking Cannes by storm last year, word is that this is a very respectable follow-up – all the more impressive considering the pressure to live up to I Killed My Mother.
- Incendies*: directed by Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique [TIFF09], which cleaned up during Canadian awards season). Hearing some great buzz already.
- Let Me In*: I’m usually wary of quick remakes of foreign hits, but Let the Right One In was a fantastic and touching horror film that deserved to be seen by more people, so I’m hopeful this version does it justice. It takes just the right child actors for the main roles, and looks like they’ve cast things perfectly: ChloÃ« Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, 500 Days of Summer) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road [TIFF09]).
Let Me In
- Miral: another one that I don’t have a ticket for yet, but I’ll almost certainly try the rush line if I need to. I saw Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at TIFF07 and was hugely impressed — his directing style was very artistic, but was never distracting and always supported the story. So I’m eager to see what he does in this story set in Israel and Palestine over the course of 1948 to the mid-90s. It stars Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire; she certainly has screen presence (The Hollywood Reporter reviewer of this film calls her “distractingly attractive”; ha!), but I’m curious to see how she is in a more developed role like this.
- Never Let Me Go: I’d normally wait to see a film like this, which will get a wider release and isn’t *quite* high enough on my list of things to see. But it fits nicely into the schedule and having Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightly doesn’t hurt, either.
Never Let Me Go
- Submarine: honestly, I was sold when I saw that it was directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from the UK show The IT Crowd).
- That Girl in Yellow Boots: “A portrait of a biracial woman trying to find her place in Bombay, it is exactly the brand of urgent, passionate filmmaking that is transforming how we think about Indian cinema.”
That Girl in Yellow Boots
- Trigger*: can’t miss Bruce McDonald at the festival (Pontypool [TIFF08], The Tracy Fragments [TIFF07]. What’s more, it has a great Canadian cast led by Tracy Wright (in sadly her final performance) and Molly Parker, with appearances by Don McKellar and Sarah Polley. This is the perfect choice to open up the new Bell Lightbox … too bad that’s a ‘premium’ screening not covered by my pass and I’ll have to see a later screening.
- What’s Wrong With Virginia: Jennifer Connelly stars as Virginia, a charming yet mentally ill mother whose greatest love is her protector and illegitimate son. Also stars Ed Harris.
What's Wrong with Virginia
I usually catch at least a couple from this programme, where “films defy convention; twisting genres, styles and narrative structures to tell fresh and provocative stories.”
- A Horrible Way to Die: “When a serial killer escapes from prison, he pursues his ex-girlfriend, who has fled to start a new life in a small town.”
A Horrible Way to Die
- Confessions: ” A stylized mixture of cruelty and compassion, the film spins the dark tale of vengeance of a teacher whose little daughter has been killed by two of her students.”
Here’s my pretty-much-final schedule for TIFF 2010; a couple of tentative titles are highlighted in a different color. Be sure to navigate to the next week, where it gets really busy!
You can read a breakdown about (most of) my choices here.
The first day of the festival is really easy to recap, since I didn’t have anything scheduled! I did this so I could still make it for the first floor hockey game of the season.
My festival started with Perrier’s Bounty, where I met up with Mike beforehand in the lineup. The movie was really fun and darkly hilarious; the cast was fantastic, they put together a great group. They have distribution lined up in the spring for UK and Ireland, but nothing yet for North America. I don’t think it would be a huge hit, but lots of people would like it.
After that, I headed over to the AMC theaters for the Swedish film The Ape. I have to note one welcome improvement to this year’s festival: indoor lineups for AMC! In case of bad weather, this should be much better than the one giant queue outside on Victoria St. (and beyond) and then pulling people out of the line when a particular movie is letting in.
The Ape was … interesting. It starts off with some mysterious circumstances and follows the main character through his day. His edginess sets the stage and as bits of the story come into focus it gets more and more tense. Now, answers aren’t always apparent and there’s lots of symbolism if you want to interpret things … so it may not be for everyone. But definitely some interesting things done with this film.
Day 3 is a busy one, with a full slate of 5 films.
Just a quick note to kick things off for this year’s fest. I have a draft schedule nearly done, which you can view here; so far I’ve slotted in 28 out of 30 films. Yes, I’m only going with the ‘lite’ Festival Pass this year. Since the second Thursday evening (U2 concert) and the entire final Saturday (to celebrate Dean’s recent wedding) are booked with other happenings, fitting in a full slate of 40-50 films wasn’t feasible.
Films seen Saturday, September 13th …
While maybe not offering up anything as stunning or innovative as his earlier work, the latest from Darren Aronofsky is a very solid and enjoyable film. You get really invested in Mickey Rourke’s character, and despite his obvious failings you want to root for him. A sad, touching, and very well-executed movie.
Isabelle Blais is excellent as the (trying to be) former party-girl, attempting to reconcile her previous wild ways but who still hasn’t quite moved past some of that behavior.
Guy Ritchie back at his best. Lots of action, a twisty plot, and plenty of humor.
Inju, la bête dans l’ombre
In the end, I don’t think the story quite holds up. Some interesting elements, but there was something lacking. A few times it was hard to tell if the scene was supposed to be silly-funny or was serious and just done poorly.
Maybe it was last-film-of-the-festival fatigue, but I can’t seem to recall the specific end of the movie. I remember the main character’s epiphany of where his journey had brought him, but his final voiceover is just a blur. Unfortunately I think this character was a little weak to carry the film, and for something that moved at such a leisurely pace, this was a detriment.
Films seen Friday, September 12th …
Gory, disturbing, and thoroughly messed up … as advertised. But it was entertaining from the get-go.
I’m still having a hard time judging this one. It was an interesting story of dysfunctional family members dealing with their own issues, but something seemed off with how the story turns partway through. There’s some good, dark humor and I liked following the characters’ stories … but something in the end — that I can’t put my finger on — wasn’t quite satisfying.
I was very intrigued by the idea of Bruce McDonald doing a horror film. But then I heard it wasn’t really a horror film, per se, as it focused on characters in an underground radio studio reporting on the unseen chaos outside; so my excitement was a little tempered as I wondered how they would sustain the film with such a narrow focus. But I needn’t have worried. Stephen McHattie was awesome as radio personality Grant Mazzy, and his eccentric personality carries the film along nicely. There is also plenty of suspenseful action that hits close to home in the studio, so the setting isn’t as isolated as I once thought.
Controversial premise, to be sure, but I think it avoids some outrage by having a supernatural element. Overall it was ok, with a few scares along the way.
Films seen Thursday, September 11th …
Explores the many reaches of an organized crime syndicate. The film was engaging, but there wasn’t much of an overall plot … just a bunch of stuff that happened, albeit often violent and tragic and worth the viewing.
The Brothers Bloom
A fun movie, but mostly memorable for the excellent cast rather than the story. There’s an offbeat tone that is likely to turn off some people (not as much as for Brick, though), but I enjoyed it.
The more I think about this film, the more flaws I find. It was entertaining at the time, though. I don’t buy that Zooey Deschanel’s character would have any interest in Paul Dano’s, and there were some plotlines that didn’t seem necessary (scientist friend) or were just straight inexplicable (imagined (?) stalker who provided the beat downs). Editing issues, or something that I’m missing?
Wow, borrrring! I don’t get the good reviews this part-documentary/part-fiction film received. Stuck with talking heads throughout, the stories told by the interviewees/characters tended to just ramble on and on and weren’t interesting at all.
This is the kind of film that I love the film festival for, in the sense that’s it something I likely wouldn’t come across anywhere else. Not knowing much about it, it was a nice treat to watch as this suspenseful film unfolded and took unexpected (certainly by Hollywood standards) turns.
Films seen Wednesday, September 10th …
Ashes of Time Redux
Not the film to see when you’re sleepy and can’t pay attention. I couldn’t keep track of who the brothers and sisters were, or the romantic connections. Nodding off here and there, I completely lots track of the story. Will have to re-evaluate this film one day, and so for now assigning a grade wouldn’t be fair.
Played before Cooper’s Camera. A hilarious short film that perfectly sets up the concluding punchline.
Funniest movie I saw. Jason Jones gets the lame but well-meaning dad schtick down without going overboard, and the 80s feel of the movie seems perfectly done. An xmas movie about family, but probably not something you want to be watching with your young (or old & prude) relatives! Gets an extra point because I have a soft spot for funny xmas films. I’ll eventually add this to my DVD collection.
Medicine for Melancholy
The grown up and serious version of a movie like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, where boy and girl meet each other and explore the city together. Likable cast and the characters’ conversations touch on some interesting subjects.
Control Alt Delete
A silly comedy that gets surprisingly decent mileage out of the joke of a guy who gets it on with his hardware … the electronic kind, that is. The Y2K conceit is pretty stale, though.
Films seen Tuesday, September 9th …
Maman est chez le coiffeur
Completed my trifecta of French-Canadian coming of age stories set in the 60s, each with different approaches and styles. This one was more family-focused and grounded/realistic, but not without many moments of humor. The three children of the film’s family each had their own issues to deal with, and the story felt very genuine.
Short Cuts Canada Programme 3
- Pat’s First Kiss – the animation style was jarring at first, but then kinda neat. A funny story of the creepy encounter that gives this film its title. 6/10
- Forty Men for the Yukon – an interesting and humorous look into the lives of a couple of old guys in a tiny Yukon town. 6/10
- Bedroom – a 15-minute take of a couple in bed discussing their dysfunctional sex life; serious tone, but also with very funny moments. 6/10
- Midi – I didn’t really get what was going on, and it only made a bit of sense after re-reading the description afterwards. 4/10
- Passage – now that’s an awkward sexual experience. I still wonder if the final scene is frustration or revenge. 7/10
- Sunday – not sure what to make of this one. The build up was good and the ending was cool, but I don’t fully understand how they are connected. 6/10
- Green Door – very funny story of mistaken identity and unrequited love. 8/10
I’m pretty behind on these recaps as there just hasn’t been much down time to tackle them. So what I’m going to do is cut down a bit on the comments to just some essential notes; the longer I go without writing something then the more likely it is I’ll forgot what I watched!
Films seen Monday, September 8th …
Powerful film of the abuses the human body can withstand; doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions. Very strong directing, especially for a first timer.
New York, I Love You
As expected, very well done even though only a rough cut (and the producers asked the press not to comment). Nearly all of the stories were good, and I liked the little transitions between them (sometimes a quick moment with some of the characters, rather than just straight jumping into next story).
Got tickets to this day-of, after missing out in the lottery. The separate directions of the story — which are intercut quite well — aren’t that noteworthy by themselves, but as a whole the film shows how life is filled with decision points and even a minor one can drastically affect how things play out. That said, even an action/thriller or family-drama can lead to the same conclusions.
The Hurt Locker
Doing away with the politics of the conflict, this film focuses squarely on the action in the battlefield. But rather than the chaos and adrenaline of battle, this tensely shows a bomb squad unit and the nerve-wracking situations they face.
Un été sans point ni coup sûr
Nice little story in the summer when the Expos arrive to Montreal. Coming of age story for a boy who just wants to play ball, but doesn’t make the neighborhood team. An alternate team is put together by his father, who also comes to appreciate that times are changing and maybe so should he.
Films seen Sunday, September 7th …
A sad and moving story of a family adjusting to life with a newborn baby and living away from the urban environment they are accustomed to. This was a late addition to my schedule; I had the slot open and I saw a few very good reviews for this film. The main focus is on the mother, and I assume she is suffering from postpartum depression. The film evolves gradually, punctuated by moments that force you to catch your breath in surprise or shock. The two lead performances were excellent, particularly
Suzie LeBlanc as the mother.
Wendy and Lucy
Simply told, yet very effective, story about a girl making her way to Alaska for hopefully a better situation in life. Besides a meagre budget, she has two things to her name: her aging car and her dog Lucy. Michelle Williams give a quiet, sad, and immediately sympathetic performance. Each setback, from losing Lucy to the breakdown of her car, are heartbreaking events for her struggling character and she conveys them wonderfully.
White Night Wedding
Another entertaining entry from the Icelandic film industry. The characters in this story are quirky and amusing, although at its core it is a drama about love and loss.
Of Time and the City
I must be part of the wrong demographic to appreciate this film. While new footage is shot beautifully and Tarrence Davies has a great narrator’s voice, I wasn’t engaged at all by this very personal documentary about his hometown of Liverpool. I knew nothing of the city going in, and knew little else about it afterwards. It really is a poetic ode by Davies, as there is often little context for the scenes shown from the stock footage. Yet I overheard from numerous audience members just how much they loved it! These tended to be folks who look about twice my age. I have also seen a number of glowing reviews online. Perhaps all these folks were very familiar with Davies’ work and there was something more about his storytelling that I just didn’t connect with.