Sunday, September 10, 2006

TIFF 2006

This year Dave and I are taking the week off to see movies at the Toronto Film Festival. Now before you ask (as some have), we are mostly seeing movies during the day, while Rosie is in daycare so she will not be an orphan for the week!

Because we never get to go out anymore (or rarely at least), we're seeing movies we want to see whether they're a big Hollywood production or not.

Here the schedule:

Monday September 11, 2006
All The King's Men, Steven Zaillian, 2006, RYERSON - 9:30 AM
Quick Review - This was a good movie but not great. It had some pacing problems and should have been a half an hour shorter. Also, about 3/4 of the way through the movie I found myself asking "What is this movie about anyway? What are the themes?". It seemed like it didn't know what it was trying to say... That being said, the performances are outstanding and make the movie worth seeing. Sean Penn is excellent as usual, and Patricia Clarkson is amazing - giving her character much more weight and interest than what was in the script. Apparently the Director spent that last 8 months re-editing the movie after initial poor reactions from management. I think he overthought things way too much, as the symbolism is VERY heavy-handed. At the end there's a scene that is supposed to be tragic, but the way it shot were making people laugh in the theatre...

Stranger than Fiction, Marc Forster, 2006, RYERSON - 12:30 PM
I really liked this movie. It is smart with excellent performances from Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhall. I was really worried that Will Ferrell would be really annoying in this movie, but he actually pulls off being a straight man very well. Queen Latifah is the only one who is miscast. Having said this, the movie could have been great and just missed the mark. It's very fun and thoroughly enjoyable though. Two thumbs up from me and Dave.

Sharkwater, Rob Stewart, 2006, RYERSON - 3:30 PM
Can't comment on this as it's the one film I didn't see. Dave really liked it, but found it was pretty depressing in terms of how we're destroying the planet (it's a documentary on sharks and apparently we've destroyed 90% of the shark population already - sigh).

Tuesday September 12, 2006
Away From Her
, Sarah Polley, 2006, RYERSON - 9:30 AM
This has been my favourite movie so far at the festival. The performances by Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent were outstanding and the story was incredibly layered and nuanced (no surprise since the source material is Alice Munro, but Polley herself wrote the script). I can't say enough about this film - it really moved me and is an incredibly impressive feature directorial debut by our Sarah Polley. Good news is that is just got picked up for distribution in the US by Lion's Gate in the spring, and that they are already planning an Oscar push for Julie Christie. Go see it!

Macbeth, Geoffrey Wright, 2006, PARAMOUNT 2 - 1:30 PM
I have to say that this movie ranked at the bottom of the 12 that I saw for the week. Although not out and out bad, I didn't feel that this update of the classic Shakespeare tale added anything new to the story. The Director - Geoffrey Wright (of Romper Stomper fame), set the story in modern times with Macbeth as a rock and roll/drug dealer character, with all the swagger and bravado that comes with this. Basically I found this interpretation completely unsympathetic.

As well, the 3 witches of the story are depicted in this version as sexy Catholic schoolgirls who entice, seduce (and have sex with) Macbeth. Needless to say - I HATED this! Since the movie opens up with the three of them defiling tombstones in a cemetery, let's say things started off poorly for me. I ended up drifting off twice, then things picked up a bit mid-way through. Some redeeming qualities for me were a good interpretation of Lady Macbeth (portrayed as sympathetic) and McDuff.

The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky, 2006, VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) - 6:00 PM
I'd like to say that I loved this movie, but I didn't. It was OK, and that's about it - certainly not bad enough to have been booed in Venice though...

The actors are all good, but I found the performances (with the exception of Ellen Burstyn) kind of static and stilted. Part of the problem for me is that Away From Her which I saw the same morning deals with much of the same themes (a deep love between two people, what is life, what is death, how to deal with loss), but deals with them in a much more subtle and vastly superior way, that the Fountain gets blown away in comparison.

My main issues is that I didn't believe the love between Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Basically we're supposed to believe that they are each other's great love, but we really aren't given any scenes that show this. Mostly I felt that Hugh Jackman's character was selfish and it took him a long time to figure out what was right and how he should have treated his wife. This made him fairly unsympathetic in my eyes.

I think the Fountain suffers from Aronofsky having worked on it for so long - 6 years in fact, that perhaps he lost focus and the ability to get across his themes clearly. I can glean the ideas behind it, but they seem hidden or muffled behind a lot of symbolic imagery. I much would have preferred the same ideas to come from the performances or the script, even though the film is visually stunning. I don't think this will do very well and will be surprised if Warner's even makes their money back on the project...

Wednesday September 13, 2006
Dixie Chicks - Shut Up and Sing, Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck, 2006, RYERSON - 9:30 AM
This is one of the movies I was most looking forward to, as I'm a big Dixie Chicks fan (yes it's true), and the movie is co-directed by Barbara Kopple - 2 time Academy Award Winner. The movie was very good, although I thought it lost a little momentum by going back and forth in time so much. I would have preferred a more linear presentation.

Anyway, it had many memorable moments in it, including:

  • Nestea (who sponsored their last tour) trying to tell the Dixie Chicks that Bush's popularity would only get stronger as the war was going to be wrapped up in the next few weeks.
  • Their PR person saying that they were "giving the American people too much credit" in being able to understand the ideas behind their infamous Entertainment Weekly cover shoot.
  • And finally the new controversial Natalie Maines quote that is already being picked up in the US media from the 2 public screenings it's had in Toronto where she calls Bush a "dumb fuck". It's important to note the context behind this, which is that Bush made a statement that he was sorry that the Dixie Chicks "got their feelings hurt" from people criticizing them and not buying their CDs, while at the time they were getting more than just criticism but death threats.

The movie was very good and the Toronto crowds loved it. It even was even a runner-up for the People's Choice award at the festival.

Mon Meilleur Ami, Patrice Leconte, 2006, VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) - 12:00 PM
This was a fun, light French film featuring Daniel Auteuil as an owner of an antiques business who accepts a bet from his business partner to produce a best friend. Francois has a great apartment and a business he loves, but he lives by himself and has an awkward relationship with his daughter. He realizes in the film, that he doesn't have any relationships or friendships that have much meaning.
To win the bet though, he must produce a best friend, so he sets out on a desperate search and ends up befriending a taxi cab driver - Bruno. Bruno is the opposite of Francois, he is chatty, approachable, gregarious and outgoing. This is a take on the classic buddy film, and it's quite charming, funny and sweet, It tied with Dixie Chicks for the honourable mention for the People's Choice Award at the festival.

The Last Winter, Larry Fessenden, 2006, PARAMOUNT 3 - 2:15 PM
This is a horror/suspense movie that's almost a more modern take on John Carpenter's "The Thing". Set in Northern Alaska, Ron Perlman plays a rough and tumble, no-nonsense oil company foreman doing exploratory drilling work for oil. He has a small team with him, as well as 2 reprentatives of an environmental company who are trying to make sure that the oil company is not causing damage to the natural surroundings. You can see where this is going...

Strange things start happening to people within the team, and they can't tell if it's due to cabin fever, or because permafrost is melting and no one knows what's really in the permafrost and what's being released into the atmosphere. Or, is nature getting back at humans for their dependence on natural source of energy?

I really liked this movie a lot. It was a very smart genre picture, made even better by Ron Perlman himself doing the Q&A after the screening! To date, this movie hasn't been picked up by US distribution, but I recommend seeking it out.

Thursday September 14, 2006
Quelques jours en Septembre
, Santiago Amigorena, 2006, PARAMOUNT 1 - 9:00 AM

Alatriste, Agusti­n Diaz Yanes, 2006, PARAMOUNT 1 - 12:00 PM

Friday September 15, 2006
, Emilio Estevez, 2006, RYERSON - 9:30 AM

10 Items or Less, Brad Silberling, 2006, VARSITY 8 - 2:45 PM
Dave and I were completely exhausted by the end of the week and somewhat "filmed out", and this was a perfect cap to the festival for us. A nice light comedy starring Paz Vega (of Spanglish), and Morgan Freeman. Yes, that's right - Morgan Freeman in a comedy, and he's wonderful in it. Since he also executive produced the film, I'm guessing this was the only way he could show people he can play something other than the serious detective/criminal/politician role.

The script is light, Morgan Freeman is an actor who's been out of work for awhile and is researching a possible role in a small, independent film. The role would be that of a supermarket store manager, so he's driven out to the boonies in LA to observe one in action. This is where we meet Paz Vega, who is a cashier at the supermarket. She's much too smart for the job and is remarkably efficient.

When the driver never shows up to take Morgan Freeman back home, Paz Vega takes pity on him and brings him along with her on some of her errands before she drops him off. Here's where we see the unlikely pair bonding, and there are some very funny scenes. The best part of the movie is that Morgan Freeman seems to be having a really great time. He is totally letting loose and seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm is quite infectious. I think this film will do well commercially, and I'd recommend for a nice light evening.