Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival

It’s that time of year again. Time to get my film-on with my annual September dalliance at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I’ve been going to TIFF for over a decade now, ever since my salad days as a poor woe begotten film student. Blowing a substantial amount of my tuition money on as much as 35 tickets a year TIFF was a sleep deprived, poorly fuelled and nonstop whirlwind that I looked to every time.

Of course, by the end of it many of the movies would often blend in to one another and if you quizzed me at the end of the day I’d be hard pressed to tell you what films I’d seen that morning.

But that’s not the point, is it?

The best film experiences I’ve had come from crowding into a movie theatre with a bunch of like minded film devotees who aren’t there to simply kill a few hours on a Friday night but are eagerly looking forward catching the latest cinematic offering by their artist of choice. This means an audience with no texting, or yakking with their neighbours or taking phone calls in the middle of the show, which is a rarity in this time and age.

This year, for the first time ever, I actually got all my first choices. This promises a pure, uncompromised cinematic injection the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. Unfortunately circumstances have forced me to moderate my festage somewhat; this year I’m seeing a paltry 10 films. So to make the best of the situation I’m forgoing my usual wide sampling (Canadian, Inde, Sci-Fi, Horror, ANYTHING WITH TAKESHI KITANO IN IT) in order to focus more on the Hollywood hits that I’d probably would have seen in the theatre anyway but won’t have time to catch this year.

So, in no particular order, the films I’m seeing at TIFF this year are…

You might know it as the fast car movie starring Canucklehead pretty boy Ryan Gosling but DRIVE boasts some serious auteur credentials in director Nicholas Winding Refn. I was first exposed to Refn’s work during TIFF two years ago when I caught VALHALLA RISING, an epic Viking quest fuelled by blood, religion and hallucinogenic drugs. The film was so powerful that I went back and checked out Refn’s other movies including his seminal work, the disturbing PUSHER trilogy. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked on his distinct directorial style and his unflinching take on complex subject matter. I’m highly looking forward to this one.

Do I really need to explain this one? Directed by Morgan Spurlock, Mr. SUPER-SIZE-ME himself, the film is a behind the scenes look at the fans who attend the San Diego Comic Con. When I was at SDCC this year Spurlock was in attendance doing some additional filming. It’s a film tapping into the particular niche of geek culture that I call home. There was never any doubt I was going to pass this one up.

I’ve got a man crush. The recipient of said crush? Jason Statham.

KILLER ELITE is the latest entry for the king of slightly better-than-average action flicks. Only this time he’s backed up by a little more actorial gravitas with screen heavyweights Robert DeNiro and Clive Owens.

Working a well worn plot, retired SAS agent must get back into the biz in order save his mentor, ELITE promises two hours of splashy gun battles, gritty one-liners and plot twists so thin they might as well be invisible. I can’t wait.

I had to have at least one Canadian entry and why not the sequel to one of the grittiest, dirtiest, foulest (and best) Canadian films ever? Made 14 years after the original LOGO, which owned the faux documentarian style, following around the fictitious and titular punk band fronted by Headstones singer Hugh Dylan, director Bruce McDonald is going back to the well by re-exploring the same basic plot with a new band and a 21st century backdrop.

Unfortunately I’ve found McDonald’s latest films to be rather an uneven lot, so I have to say I’m seeing this one more out of a sense of dutiful obligation than burning desire. But watching the first film was a transformative experience for me in film school and I live in hope that with this follow up McDonald will be able to capture some of the grubby lightning that made the first entry so damn good.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who will forever be known to me as the little kid from 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN) and Seth Rogen bring the funny. Nothing wrong with that right?

Basic plot? Gordon-Levitt is diagnosed with cancer and is told that his chances of surviving are 50/50. Rather than be overwhelmed by his diagnosis he chooses to embrace life and what not. At least that’s what the trailer is trying to tell me.

Look, I’m still a newish dad right? That means I’m strangely interested in movies and television shows where other newish parents struggle with the responsibilities that parenthood bestows upon us. That’s mostly so I can feel better about my own parenting missteps and reassured that not screwing things up too bad.

A HAPPY EVENT is just that. Refusing to be thrown off by the fact that its French, and all the baggage that might entail, I thought I’d check out some international parenting films and see what they’ve got to offer.

WARNING: I just checked out the imdb summary while writing up this post. I may have badly miscalculated here. The recap is full of that flowery pretentious language that tells me I’m in for a deep, thinking film that promises to explore the ‘human condition’, rather than the endless stream of dirty diapers and feeding time follies that characterizes my current situation.

More international goodness. This film was kind of my wild card entry. I read ‘Irish’ and ‘dark comedy’ in the film’s synopsis and decided to just wing it, sight unseen. Other than that I have no idea what it’s about.

Lamb watching maybe?

I’ve had some luck with the Russian roulette method of choosing films before, getting exposed to some interesting films I would not otherwise have seen. I’ve also seen some real stinkers too. I’ll let you know what side of this coin this one turns out to be.

A film I picked based on the strength of its cast. Starring Jason Segel as a shut in afraid to leave his mother’s house, it looks like a nice piece of light comedy that shouldn’t have too much thinking involved. I do enough of that already.

The film also stars comic talents Ed Helms and Judy Greer so I’m hoping its not going to be another improve-edy. (We all agree that those are done with for a few years right?) But I’ve only really gotten into Segel’s work over the last year or so after catching HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER in reruns over the summer. So I’m prepared to laugh, laugh til it hurts.

The great romantic era of baseball movies is over. (As is the great romantic era of baseball itself) In its place is a game played by millionaires and managed by billionaires.

And yet, for me anyway, the allure of the game lives on.

I’ve recently started warming up to baseball again, coasting on all those warm, fuzzy nostalgic feelings from my youth. Will MONEYBALL be able to adequately capture how the game has changed so substantially and yet still manages to be relevant to the fans?


I just want to watch a good baseball movie again. And this one doesn’t look too shabby.

No, Brad Pitt probably won’t be at the screening. Sorry.

Post-apocalyptic MAD MAX\THE ROAD mashup, starring Charlie from LOST!



Sigh, you had me at stabby.

Seriously, this is not highbrow stuff here and that’s just how I like my post-apocalyptic films.


  1. Two of those are GALA'S...Should I assume you are seeing non-Gala screenings?

    I might rush MONEYBALL...Which screening are you hitting?

    There's also a new one by Hirokazu Koreeda (who did the entirely depressing, but INCREDIBLE film NOBODY KNOWS that was at TIFF a few years back) called I WISH.

    what, no Kitano this year or Miike?

  2. I should be glad you are doing it again this year, but I'm mostly just jealous that I wasn't on the ball enough to get a block of tix in time. Blerg.

    Next year I will be fully doing it up again like years past.

  3. No Kitano period this year and I didn't see a Miike.

    I'm seeing all non-galas, mostly because I don't need to pay more money just to sit 200 feet away from celebrities.



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