TIFF 2016: The First Wave

The inactivity on this blog is done. At least momentarily. I’m back in Toronto, but lived in Portland for four years (where I had my TIFF hiatus) and now, I’m going to get back to focusing on cinema.

Here are the GALA films announced by the Toronto International Film Festival Group today (and reminders to myself on which I intend to see):

GALA

Arrival — directed by Denis Villeneuve (Paramount Pictures : Canada/U.S.)

An adaptation of Ted Chiang’s 1999 short story Story of Your Life, the film is about beings from spacecrafts on Earth, a doctor (Amy Adams), who becomes the seminal figure in sustaining communication between them and us, and her the team that unifies with her in preventing global calamity. A keynote is that this film centers around nascent psychic communication and the metaphysical beyond a close encounter.

Count me in. Also starring Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Tzi Ma and Michael Stuhlbarg. (8/10 priority for TIFF, American theatrical release is November of 2016)

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Deepwater Horizon Peter Berg (Lionsgate / Summit Entertainment : U.S.)

From the writer of The Kingdom and World War Z (Matthew Michael Carnahan) comes another spectacle-type film. Seemingly about the circumvention of all types of laws and incoming calamity, Berg and Carnahan’s latest collaboration documents the 2010 BP Oil Spill and stars Mark Wahlberg.

Although the Peter Berg film of the year has already been released (and directed by Michael Bay), the Friday Night Lights director’s latest film is scheduled for a late September release and if his track-record can speak for itself, Berg’s latest should be a provocative enough action-drama. It also has the largest budget of any film ever shown at the festival with $150,000,000. (6/10 priority for TIFF, American theatrical release is September 30th)

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The Headhunter’s Calling Mark Williams

From one of the co-writers of The Judge (Bill Dubuque) comes a film about a corporate headhunter, a person who seeks the best opportunities/deals they can for their employer, his domestic unraveling and the competitiveness of his career. With Dafoe, Molina, Brie and Gretchen Mol co-starring, we can assume the rival he’s pitted against is probably Dafoe, with the boss being Molina, because Brie might be too young to be Butler’s wife and Mol seems the right fit for that part.

The writer also has The Accountant slated for the year (the Ben Affleck/Gavin O’Connor awards prospect), so you know, you can wish the best for this one. This is the director’s debut. (5/10 priority for TIFF, with no American distributor or release date as of yet, although Spain’s Inopia Films has it lined up for a year-end release)

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The Journey is the Destination Bronwen Hughes

While there is very little information about this project on IMDb, it is co-written by Jan Sardi of Shine and most recently TIFF lauded Mao’s Last Dancer fame.

Actually, I decided to do a little research and thanks to THR, a Maria Bello interview reveals much about the film. It’s about a young photojournalist (Ben Schnetzer), his adventures, and his mother who emotionally deals with his journey; sounding almost reminiscent of Into the Wild, I know that I will certainly get around to seeing this. As for Hughes, her credentials speak for themselves; an accomplished television director who has a cult favorite under her belt, Harriet the Spy. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no distributors)

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JT and the Tennessee Kids Jonathan Demme

It’s a Justin Timberlake concert documentary. I don’t know what more I can say about that, but um, if you love Justin Timberlake, he’s most definitely going to be at Gala of this one. It would be ultra cool if he stuck around for the second-run morning screening for big-time fans, though. (5/10 priority for TIFF, with no distribution yet)

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LBJ Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner is a name in American cinema that will stand by it forever. Like Oliver Stone, like Brian DePalma, like Steven Spielberg, while Reiner isn’t nearly as accomplished as his peers of the 80s, he’ll always be known for his off-camera personality and genuine love of cinema. Even in a film such as Flipped, you can sense that Mr. Reiner enjoys filmmaking.

Since Ghosts of Mississippi, he has seemed content making the stories he enjoys come to life. While they haven’t garner Oscar nominations or been very prestigious, this latest offering is a Lyndon Johnson biopic starring Woody Harrelson and it might be a return to a form people have wanted from him since The Bucket List sounded like it could be macabre. With Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird Johnson and Bill Pullman, as well as Richard Jenkins in support, this might be the film champions of Reiner have been waiting for. (7/10 priority for TIFF, with no distribution anywhere as of yet)

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Lion Garth Davis

I’m just going to copy and paste the IMDb synopsis because the first thing I thought was “Wow, sounds like an attempt at another Slumdog Millionaire-type award run by The Weinstein Company”.

“A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.”

From the writer of the Ledger/Cornish romance Candy (interesting) and the director of some Top of the Lake, this encouraging and probably uplifting film stars Nicole Kidman and David Wenham with Rooney Mara as the good white people and DEV PATEL?! (Get out/10 for TIFF anticipation, set for the late November release in America)

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Loving Jeff Nichols (Focus : U.S.)

Even with as dissatisfying as his framework has become since Shotgun Stories, or perhaps for it, Jeff Nichols’ is the most salt-of-the-Earth director today. He works at an incredible clip – Midnight Special premiered in Berlin this year, Loving at Cannes – but beyond that, the actors in each of his films and the stories they create together are always convey a level of personal revealing that is seldom matched at as consistent of a rate.

That’s why I say, of all the Galas, this is assured to be a good ticket. Lion will have a lot of people fawning for it, especially with the more gentle attendees of the festival, but with Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton playing an interracial couple in 1950s Virginia, I doubt you will find a more sincerely tender film all festival. With Michael Shannon in support. (9/10 TIFF priority, set for a early November U.S. release)

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The Magnificent Seven Antoine Fuqua (Sony Pictures / MGM : U.S.)

I know I won’t see this one at the film festival (opening night gala, I usually don’t even go on the Thursday unless there’s an interesting midnight madness movie), but I figure it is a gala presentation, so…

Denzel Washington is one of the few actors who, when not paired alongside Mark Wahlberg, will get me to see his film. That said, I’ve seen both Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven on the big screen, so I’m hoping for a more modern, perhaps manic (see: 13 Assassins) approach to the material, rather than an attempt at working the script into something for everyone. However, it is rated PG-13 and co-stars Chris Pratt so I don’t know. Also starring: Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio (watch out for him) and Byung Hun-Lee (frequent Park Chan-wook collaborator). Set for a late September theatrical release across North America.

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A Monster Calls Juan Antonio Bayona

This will be a spooky film. From the director of The Orphanage, this one is a fantasy (probably bordering on horror) about a child (Lewis MacDougall) who copes with his mother’s terminal illness by befriending a tree monster. Felicity Jones is his mother and Sigourney Weaver is in a role called “Grandma,” and with Toby Kebbell in a role and Liam Neeson as a monster, this should be an emotionally devastating, if family friendly film. (7/10 TIFF priority, set for a theatrical release in North America come October)

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Planetarium Rebecca Zlotwoski

The film debut of Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose, this promises to be a special interest viewing to many tabloid-reading folk. Co-starring Natalie Portman as her older sister, the pair star as psychic-mediums in France (the country of Zlotwoski’s most recent feature). There, they are discovered by a producer who surely wants to exploit them.

The film festival has a handful of these films in the Gala Presentations every year. These aren’t necessarily bad movies – especially since no one has seen them – but they serve more as cultural fodder or a commodity and this sort of fits both categories. It’s foreign, it’s undoubtedly well-produced; it’s co-written by Laurent Cantet collaborator Robin Campillo. I just hope those who go to its world premiere enjoy it for more than the prospect of seeing its stars because if not for the who, this would not be a Gala presentation. (7/10 TIFF priority, only scheduled for a mid-November theatrical release in France so far)

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Queen of Katwe Mira Nair

Lupita N’yongo and David Oyelowo. If seeing great actors, who oftentimes do not get the interesting lead roles they deserve finally get them appeals to you, then this is a must-see. While N’yongo is the more untested talent, she has proven her capabilities in the past, and in this role, she plays a Ugandan woman training to become a chess champion. 

It may sound dry, and from well-regarded director and one of the co-writers of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, this may be one of the well-liked, but ultimately forgettable films of the festival. However, it won’t be for some, and I really do hope for Nair and Oyelowo to find more success soon. From ESPN writer, Tim Crothers. (7/10 TIFF priority, set for a September 23rd release across North America)

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The Rolling Stones Ole Ole Ole: A Trip Across Latin America Paul Dugdale

There’s no IMDb page for this one, but I’m going to take shelter and assume that this one is self-explanitory. If not, I will be shattered. (6/10 priority for TIFF)

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The Secret Scripture Jim Sheridan

The names attached to this one are intriguing to say the least, with the director being the largest wild card of the bunch. Starring Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrava as Roseanne McNully, a woman who spent time in a mental asylum and kept a diary. 

Knowing Sheridan, this will have sentimentality in spades, but hopefully it’s the kind of approach administered in In America and not of the Brothers remake. (7/10 TIFF priority with no date set for its release, although Relativity Media holds its rights and is probably going to see if this is the right movie to release for awards’ play)

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Snowden Oliver Stone

A biopic about Edward Snowden, the former TSA employee-turned-government traitor, who exposed the lies about the American citizen’s privacy. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has recently been exploring a lot of biographical films of late, this will undoubtedly be a good movie, but how good will it be? 

We know Oliver Stone has the potential to deliver with explosive material, but also that in recent years he has become less angry in his approach to cinema and more empathetic to his subjects. If this is met with the coldness and odd humor of W., it may serve the almost surreal material a little better, but until we see this, it’s impossible to know what kind of Oliver Stone film this will be. Co-starring Shailene Woodley and Zachary Quinto as the first journalists to interview Snowden in Russia. (6/10 TIFF priority, the film is set for a theatrical release during the film festival (September 8th to 18th)

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Strange Weather Katherine Dieckmann

From the director of 2006’s Diggers (and an apparent Uma Thurman disaster called Motherhood I missed), Katherine Dieckmann is back with her first feature since 2009. It stars Holly Hunter who travels back home, to America’s south, after the death of her son. I don’t know if she’s there to settle a score or rectify a situation, but IMDb describes the film as a movie about grief and forgiveness. 

Co-starring Carrie Coon. There are two fine actresses to view here, but this doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. I like my southern flicks directed by David Gordon Green, anyway. (5/10 TIFF priority, no release date slated yet, although Great Point Media holds world-wide distribution rights)

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Their Finest Lone Scherfig

A comedy about propaganda? Well, okay. 

Starring Jack Huston, Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy, the film is set in England during WWII. I don’t know who’s in charge, but after Germany’s Blitzkrieg, members of this cast are tasked with creating films (or a film?) to raise morale of the civilians at home, fearful of Hitler’s rise. This is also an adaptation of a novel by the same name, so if you’re curious, by all means run out to a bookstore and let me know if this sounds good. Shoot, if I do it first I’ll post a one-two. (7/10 TIFF priority for me with no distribution anywhere set) 

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A United Kingdom Amma Asante

Potentially on-par with the message of Jeff Nichols’ latest offering, Amma Asante (director of Belle) and the writer of the quietly explosive Eye in the Sky and Five Minutes of Heaven (Guy Hibbert) come together with David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike to tell the story of love beyond race in a racist world. 

Co-starring Tom Felton (DRACO!), Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey) and Jack Davenport (you’ll know him if you see his face), this film about the Prince of Botswana marrying a British woman in late 1940s will undoubtedly slap the pro-UK taste right out of your mouth, especially if you’ve just seen the aforementioned Their Finest at the festival, Amma Asante will probably crush the sophomore curse and we can all expect an American distributor soon. (7/10 TIFF priority, slated for a mid-November theatrical release in the Kingdom. I would say U.K., but I don’t know if the U exists anymore.)

Alright, thanks for reading, or skimming this post. I’ll try and keep at it for the next few weeks. On that note, I’ll work on a piece for Special Presentations tomorrow. Peace.

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James Franco: Ambition Incarnate

It seems that every week there is a new article written about James Franco’s incredible exploits made more impressive by his ever-growing laundry list of desired projects. Two weeks ago, Franco made his ambition known by stating that he wants to direct two of the most beloved novels in American history – William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. This statement shocked both the literature community as well as the cinematic one. Neither novel has yet been adapted to the screen because of both the daunting task a director would have to live up to the source material, as well as the fact that being two of the most cherished books ever written, Hollywood executives are slow to put an adaptation into motion for fear of their own careers. To film a version of either of those novels is an extremely risky production – one that can elevate a career to iconic or devalue one to the point of a punchline – so for an actor with the current value of Franco to want to make his feature-length directorial debut with either novel is the gutsiest move this decade will see. That is, of course, if his ambitions come to flower.

And they have! Well, one of them at least. As of last week, Franco has acquired a cast and a team of producers to assist him in realizing one of his many ambitions with his directorial debut – the adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Although I have not read the novel — I shamefully admit that I’m not a literature fiend — I find myself waiting in irrevocable anticipation for this feature. I’ve found James Franco to be one of the most determined and dedicated artists of the past decade, one who will always give everything to any performance to ensure that the quality of his work matches his appreciation for being able to do so in such a wonderful industry. I can expect nothing less with him at the helm. What also accelerated my interest was the cast he had gathered for the film. One: Michael Shannon, who James and I both consider the best actor working today. Two: Paul Dano, who I consider one of the most capable performers of today and one who has given one of my favorite performances in There Will Be Blood. Three: Joaquin Phoenix, who isn’t someone I really care for, but who is still equipped with great talent that I’m sure will become nascent once again under Franco’s thumb. Richard Jenkins is also set to be apart of the cast; a finely tuned character actor who can hone in on specific emotions in the most quiet ways.

James Franco is also set to revive his character “Franco” on the daytime soap General Hospital. This, amidst filming his scenes for the Richard Kuklinski bio-thriller The Iceman (also starring Michael Shannon), finishing up his doctorate degree in filmmaking, finishing up indie-drama Maladies with Catherine Keener, working on his hosting duties for Oscar night (not to mention preparing a speech on the off-chance that AMPAS gives him Best Actor over Colin Firth, a win which Franco deserves), getting gears in motion to have his adaptation of Blood Meridian come to light (he’s already piqued the interest of some producers with scene he directed straight from the novel, with full cast and production) and oh yeah, as of yesterday? Preparing for his upcoming Broadway performance in Sweet Bird of Youth opposite Nicole Kidman.

It’s neither the accomplishments or ambition that make James Franco marvelous. Nor is it his age, nor his courage. It’s his spirit. His persona that embraces celebrity, but never perpetuates negativity. He is a man with infinite dedication to his craft and to the preservation of integrity in art.

He’s an artist that I’d love to work with, but be it one year from now or twenty I’m thinking this will never be my reality because I can’t find a reason to imagine that the vigorous work ethic of James Franco will at all diminish with his age, and that even when I’m fifty and James is sixty-three and sporting silver hair, he’ll be too busy doing seven things at once to consider a cinematic partnership with me. But when I am fifty and James is sixty-three that will all be okay because I’ll have experienced his tremendous ability for thirty more years from today.

2011 Oscar Nominees

I’ll list the nominees and put the ones that I got wrong in red.

Best Picture

* “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
* “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
* “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
* “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
* “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
* “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
* “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
* “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
* “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
* “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

* Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
* Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
* Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
* Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
* James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

* Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
* John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
* Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
* Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

* Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
* Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
* Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
* Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

* Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
* Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
* Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
* Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
* Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

* “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
* “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
* “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
* “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
* “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

* “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
* “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
* “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
* “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
* “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

Animated Feature Film

* “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
* “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

* “Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* “Inception”
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
* “The King’s Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* “True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography

* “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
* “Inception” Wally Pfister
* “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
* “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
* “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

* “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
* “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
* “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
* “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
* “True Grit” Mary Zophres

Directing

* “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
* “The Fighter” David O. Russell
* “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
* “The Social Network” David Fincher
* “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

* “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
* “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
* “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
* “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)

* “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
* “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
* “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
* “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
* “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

* “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
* “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
* “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
* “127 Hours” Jon Harris
* “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

* “Biutiful” Mexico
* “Dogtooth” Greece
* “In a Better World” Denmark
* “Incendies” Canada
* “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

Makeup

* “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
* “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
* “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

* “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
* “Inception” Hans Zimmer
* “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
* “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
* “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

* “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
* “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
* “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
* “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)

* “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
* “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
* “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
* “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
* “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action)

* “The Confession” Tanel Toom
* “The Crush” Michael Creagh
* “God of Love” Luke Matheny
* “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
* “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

* “Inception” Richard King
* “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
* “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
* “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

* “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
* “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
* “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
* “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

* “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
* “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
* “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
* “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

SUMMARY
Best Picture – 10/10
Best Actor – 5/5
Best Actress – 5/5
Best Supporting Actor – 4/5
Best Supporting Actress – 4/5
Best Director – 4/5
Best Original Screenplay – 4/5
Best Adapted Screenplay – 4/5
Best Cinematography – 4/5
Best Film Editing – 4/5
Best Animated Feature – 3/3
Best Foreign Feature – 4/5
Best Documentary – 3/5
Best Art Direction – 4/5
Best Costume Design – 4/5
Best Makeup – 2/3
Best Visual Effects – 4/5
Best Sound Mixing – 3/5
Best Sound Editing – 3/5
Best Original Song – 2/4
Best Original Score – 5/5

All in all, I did pretty well. Better than most years anyway. For whoever is reading this post, I’ll be doing an extensive analysis series of the nominees throughout the upcoming weeks. Talking about each category and my opinion on each of the nominees, presenting my personal picks and discussing those as well.

2010 BAFTA Nominations

What I got wrong is reddened.

BEST FILM
BLACK SWAN Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
INCEPTION Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
THE SOCIAL NETWORK Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin
TRUE GRIT Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

DIRECTOR
127 HOURS Danny Boyle
BLACK SWAN Darren Aronofsky
INCEPTION Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH Tom Hooper
THE SOCIAL NETWORK David Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
BLACK SWAN Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
THE FIGHTER Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
INCEPTION Christopher Nolan
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
THE KING’S SPEECH David Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 HOURS Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
THE SOCIAL NETWORK Aaron Sorkin
TOY STORY 3 Michael Arndt
TRUE GRIT Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
BIUTIFUL Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
I AM LOVE Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
OF GODS AND MEN Xavier Beauvois
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella

ANIMATED FILM
DESPICABLE ME Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
TOY STORY 3 Lee Unkrich

LEADING ACTOR
JAVIER BARDEM Biutiful
JEFF BRIDGES True Grit
JESSE EISENBERG The Social Network
COLIN FIRTH The King’s Speech
JAMES FRANCO 127 Hours

LEADING ACTRESS
ANNETTE BENING The Kids Are All Right
JULIANNE MOORE The Kids Are All Right
NATALIE PORTMAN Black Swan
NOOMI RAPACE The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
HAILEE STEINFELD True Grit

SUPPORTING ACTOR
CHRISTIAN BALE The Fighter
ANDREW GARFIELD The Social Network
PETE POSTLETHWAITE The Town
MARK RUFFALO The Kids Are All Right
GEOFFREY RUSH The King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
AMY ADAMS The Fighter
HELENA BONHAM CARTER The King’s Speech
BARBARA HERSHEY Black Swan
LESLEY MANVILLE Another Year
MIRANDA RICHARDSON Made in Dagenham

ORIGINAL MUSIC
127 HOURS AR Rahman
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Danny Elfman
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON John Powell
INCEPTION Hans Zimmer
THE KING’S SPEECH Alexandre Desplat

CINEMATOGRAPHY
127 HOURS Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
BLACK SWAN Matthew Libatique
INCEPTION Wally Pfister
THE KING’S SPEECH Danny Cohen
TRUE GRIT Roger Deakins

EDITING
127 HOURS Jon Harris
BLACK SWAN Andrew Weisblum
INCEPTION Lee Smith
THE KING’S SPEECH Tariq Anwar
THE SOCIAL NETWORK Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

PRODUCTION DESIGN
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara
BLACK SWAN Thérèse DePrez, Tora Peterson
INCEPTION Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat
THE KING’S SPEECH Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
TRUE GRIT Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

COSTUME DESIGN
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Colleen Atwood
BLACK SWAN Amy Westcott
THE KING’S SPEECH Jenny Beavan
MADE IN DAGENHAM Louise Stjernsward
TRUE GRIT Mary Zophres

SOUND
127 HOURS Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron
BLACK SWAN Ken Ishii, Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella
INCEPTION Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick
THE KING’S SPEECH John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Paul Hamblin
TRUE GRIT Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F Kurland, Douglas Axtell

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Nominees TBC
BLACK SWAN Dan Schrecker
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicolas Ait’Hadi, Christian Manz
INCEPTION Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb
TOY STORY 3 Nominees TBC

MAKE UP & HAIR
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Nominees TBC
BLACK SWAN Judy Chin, Geordie Sheffer
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
THE KING’S SPEECH Frances Hannon
MADE IN DAGENHAM Lizzie Yianni Georgiou

All in all, I didn’t do too poorly. Giamatti in lead actor was undeniably a risky choice – one not done out of his win last night at the Globes, but because he had never been nominated there and this is one of his finest hours. Somewhat, but not utterly, surprised that Rapace got nominated for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but a little saddened by Williams missing out an important precursor due to it. Overall, I’m genuinely shocked by the laudation Black Swan has received at this ceremony – even snagging a “special visual effects” nomination. In addition to that, Pete Postlethwaite’s nomination for The Town is interesting (even though many will consider it undeserved and only given because of his recent death) and one I champion in a way because it derails Renner’s momentum in the same film; a performance I consider less the quality of Pete’s. And hell, the lack of Melissa Leo in The Fighter – a performance that many figured to be the frontrunner by this point – in the Best Supporting Actress category is only as shocking as it is relieving that this category’s intrigue has been revived.

My personal favorite aspect of their nominations? The whole Best Picture lineup. With three of my least liked “acclaimed” films missing top five placement (The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours & Toy Story 3), the BAFTA has submitted to us an overall great, and in turn brilliant (because how often does one find all of the nominees at least somewhat worthy of their recognition?), lineup?

I just hope AMPAS pitches as interesting of lineups as the British Academy has today.

TIFF Titles: More Special Presentations and Some CWC

I Have Some Regrets, But I Can Just Forget Them

127 Hours – starring: James Franco and Clemence Posey. Easily one of my most anticipated of the year, ‘127 Hours’ isn’t just Danny Boyle’s follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire, but it also sounds like the most amazing adventure film ever. Essentially, it’s about a guy who goes mountain climbing and has a boulder fall on him, trapping him in the mountains without anybody around to save him. What follows is a reflection of his life as told by him (I’m unsure as to if there’ll be narration, though I doubt it). Franco will dominate this film and I honestly couldn’t be more excited. (Anticipation Meter: 10/10)

Amigo – starring: Garret Dillahunt and Chris Cooper. John Sayles is known for doing exceptional work on occasion and has for well over 20 years now. Be it 1987’s Matewan which garnered plentiful critical laudation or 1996’s Lone Star which is beloved by many, Sayles, while an obscured name in cinema, is a person who can shine at any time. Although he’s been on a more subdued streak as of late, his reteaming with Cooper can only be a positive thing. As for the film itself, it’s about a young man (gotta figure it to be Dillahunt) who is torn between family and country during a war conflict in 1900. It’ll either be great or very average… I’ll be sure to watch a Sayles film between now and the festival before I make up my mind about this one, but I do like me some Dillahunt. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10, but it could grow)

Balada Triste – starring: Santiago Segura and Fernando Guillén Cuervo. Spanish humor is a bit too eccentric for my tastes – at least the most popular kind of Spanish humor – and that exactly what ‘Balada Triste’ seems to be founded on. With a plot about the lives of two clowns after they disfigure one and other over the love of a lady during the Civil War, this, to me, screams ‘Not for you, Tyler’. That said, if you’re fond of the abrasive quirkiness of traditional Spanish comedy… it will be? Haha. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

Deep in the Woods – starring: Isild Le Besco and Nahuel Perez Biscayart. One of the more interesting sounding films to be announced thus far at the festival, plot-wise at least (really sounds like something that should’ve been categorized in Vanguard, actually). This French feature, the latest by Benoit Jacquot (with whom I am not acquainted), is about a wild man who emerges from the woods one day in 1865, casts a spell on a beautiful doctor’s daughter and runs away with her deep into the woods where they explore the basic principles of man – sexual interaction and violent destruction. Seems simple, sounds exciting, but execution is vital in films such as these so I’ll be sure to watch a Jacquot film before really deciding anything. Could easily be the best of the festival if executed with dexterity. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Everything Must Go – starring: Will Ferrell and Rebecca Hall. When this project was announced a few months ago, I had eagerly hoped production would wrap early (as most indies do) so that this feature would play at TIFF. Well all has worked out as I’ve wished and I cannot wait to see this. It stars Will Ferrell (one of the most interesting actors working today when he picks up a script that allows him to utilize his dramatic chops) as an alcoholic motivator. After his life (Hall) leaves him, he attempts to turn his life around. Alright, not the most fascinating of concepts, but Ferrell in the lead of this feature has me pitching a tent… and camping outside of the screening room so I can be first in line to see what promises to be Ferrell’s best performance to date. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Force of Nature – starring: It’s a documentary. It’s a documentary about environmentalist David Suzuki… that sums it up, haha. I am not a fan of Suzuki (unless we’re talking about Seijun or Ichiro… kidding, neither tickle my fancy much – I respect both of them in their individual fields, but eh, one’s a bit of fun and the other’s a consistency. Too bad they never teamed up or something…) Anyway, haha. (Anticipation Meter: 1/10)

Good Neighbours – starring: Jay Baruchel and Scott Speedman. After receiving moderate acclaim at last year’s festival, writer/director Jacob Tierney is back with ‘Trotsky’ star Jay Baruchel in this, a feature about disconnection from society. Victor (Baruchel) moves into a new apartment, disrupting Louise (Emily Hampshire) and Spencer’s (Scott Speedman) subdued relationship. Coupled with the arrival of Victor, too, is a slew of murders in their vicinity. It’s meant to be a darkly humorous spin on a realism thriller – I haven’t seen what kind of talent Tierney wields, so hopefully The Trotsky will be available to me before TIFF because this is a concept that sounds more prone to failure than success, especially for the inexperienced. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Gorbaciof – The Cashier Who Liked Gambling – starring: Toni Servillo and Mi Yang. Toni Servillo has been on quite a tear as of late – starring in not only one, but two of Italy’s most acclaimed films in the last few years with ‘Il Divo’ and ‘Gomorrah’. Well here he’s back with a feature that falls just shy of a 90 minute duration and sounds appealing as a Coca-Cola raindrops (no idea where that comparison came from). Anyway, the film is about a gambler (Servillo) who works cash-office at a prison who tries to get both he and a pretty illegal immigrant (Yang) out of their dead-end lives. I also like that the film is said to be sparse in dialogue. All of this sound a lot like an Aki Kaurismaki film set in Italy – I like that a lot. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Heartbeats – starring: Xavier Dolan and Niels Schneider. Apparently Xavier Dolan is a phenom after last years ‘I Killed My Mother’ which is said to be something Eric Rohmer would’ve made if he were a 19 year old Canadian. I wouldn’t know – for some reason the distribution of that film for English-speaking Canadian is pretty shitty. You’d think you’d want Anglophiles to enjoy the film considering English is Canada’s primary language, but whatever. Well anyway, the plot of this is about three young adults struggling with their three-way relationship. Guess Dolan’s doing Truffaut now. In all honesty, the trailer looks beautiful, but I’m not seeing this at TIFF – it’s already playing in Quebec. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10, but for TIFF it’s a 3/10)

Hereafter – starring: Matt Damon and Cecile de France. One of the films I didn’t expect to play at TIFF was this, Clint Eastwood’s latest. Why? Well he hasn’t exactly been kind to the Toronto International Film Festival, but I’m glad he’s come to his senses and has chosen to premiere his latest at our fine film exhibition. Albeit a bit vague, the film is about three people (Damon, de France and Bryce Dallas Howard) who have an encounter with death and react to it in their own individual ways. I believe they’re separate narratives that stem from the same incident. Although, yes, this story has been done to death, Eastwood has never steered me the wrong way yet. Even ‘Invictus’, which looked to be a gigantic bore, turned out to be an exhilarating and very motivational film with plentiful going for it. I’m definitely seeing this. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

The House By The Medlar Tree – starring: Antonio Ciurca and Omar Noto. A re-adaptation of the novel that Luchino Visconti’s ‘La terra trema’ was based on, ‘The House By The Medlar Tree’, too, is about a family of fisherman who are adherent to the whims of the sea. Its dramatic tension is meant to be based around a disconnection between generations in ritual which is an interesting theme, but something about all of this smells fishy. Writer/director Pasquale Scimeca not being the owner of a well-regarded film in a decade… and even then that’s been his greatest achievement. That and I don’t really care about family values perceived by cinema – they get so maudlin and boring so quick that it’s almost sickening. Sea-sickening. I won’t be swimming to this one, and no, I won’t feel gutted about it either. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

I’m Still Here – starring: Joaquin Phoenix. For the longest time, I thought this was all a hoax – all signs pointed to it being a big practical joke… but then I saw the trailer and now I don’t really care about the authenticity of it. It looks like an amazing study of one man’s collapsing under the burden of being a star in Hollywood. How you can lose your identity because you’re being seen as so many different figures by a multitude of people at one time. I still retain the thought that this is a mockumentary, but if it isn’t, man will this be the most depressing film in a long time. Gotta see it – definitely a film festival movie, even if it comes out in theaters in September (or is meant to, anyhow). (Anticipation Meter: 10/10, but for TIFF it’s an 8/10)

Incendies – starring: Maxim Gaudette and Mélissa Désormeaux-Pouli. Last year, director Denis Villeneuve released the most potent feature about school-oriented massacres with ‘Polytechnique’. Because of the chilly, horror-esque atmosphere of that feature, I’ve a lot of faith in Mr. Villeneuve. However, the concept for this, his latest, sounds rather mundane and without much thrill. The film is about twins Simon and Jeanne who find out that their father, who they had thought was dead, is still alive and living in the Middle East with a brother that they were unaware of. Could be a good drama with plentiful mystery, but I think I’ll just wait for it to have a conventional cinema run in Toronto instead. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Julia’s Eyes – starring: Belén Rueda and Lluis Homar. There is so much awesome packed within this feature. First of all, Guillermo del Toro is producing it. Second, it stars Belen Rueda from The Orphanage and Lluis Homar from (most recently) Broken Embraces. Third, it’s a horror/thriller about a woman (Rueda) stumbling across her blind twin who was hanged to death in her basement – she believes it to be a murder and investigates the surprising death of her sister. Yeah, that sounds really great – I’m seeing this. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

Let Me In – starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz. Two years ago, there was a Swedish film that received a lot of acclaim by the name of ‘Let the Right One In’. The respect it ascertained quickened the heartbeat of American producers and two years later… we have a readaptation of the novel of which that Swedish film was based. I didn’t like that film – a story about a lonely boy who befriends a peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire – and the trailer for this version of the film looks to show no signs of improvement. Shame because the concept is pretty cool – just how its developed is really, really lame. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10 – my rating for the original)

Mothers – starring: Ana Stojanovska and Vladimir Jacev. Macedonian cinema isn’t exactly… popular. In fact, there’s only one Macedonian director that I know of and it’s the one who directed this feature. His name: Milcho Manchevski – and if you’re in tune with foreign cinema of the 1990s, odds are you’ve seen one of his films in ‘Before the Rain’ which won the Golden Lion in 1994, along with picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Feature. But more about this film. It’s about… well not mothers, really. Actually, it sounds rather fascinating. It’s three short stories that take place all over Macedonia. One’s about a kid who gets flashed and reports the crime; the second is less interesting as it’s about the only two old souls left in a destitute little town, regaling a documentary crew in its history; the third is a mockumentary look at a serial killer who targets, you’ve got it, mothers. This sounds really ambiguous and I am interested in it, but I’m also gunshy when it comes to the uncertain at TIFF. If I hear people raving it, I’ll make sure to snag a ticket for it or if it plays at a convenient time I’ll throw it into my schedule hoping for the best. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Passione – starring: Misia and Massimo Ranieri. With a no-name cast, the great appeal for this feature isn’t who is in front of the camera, but rather who’s behind it – John Turturro. Unfortunately, that’s about all to the film that is appealing to me. It’s a look back on Italy’s long history, telling tales of disaster with a great collection of the homeland’s rich musical catalog in the background. It isn’t for me, not whatsoever. The Italians cherish history and take great pride in traditionalism; this is what the film appears to encompass. I do not. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

The Poll Diaries – starring: Paula Beer and. Edgar Selge. The latest film by Chris Kraus (the best name in cinema) is ‘The Poll Diaries’ – Oda, a fourteen year old girl (Beer) nurses an ill Estonian behind her oppressive scientist father’s back. The setting is just prior to World War I – there is great racial tension and Oda’s actions will hold serious ramifications if she is found out as she’s a German. Sounds pretty interesting – Kraus is known for making pretty fine pictures (the other two films to his credit have achieved moderate international acclaim; much more in Germany), so I’d be willing to check this out. Not too enthusiastic, but I wouldn’t mind it finding a spot in my list. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Repeaters – starring: Dustin Milligan and Amanda Crew. Drawing a lot of comparisons to ‘Groundhog Day’ in formula, ‘Repeaters’ is a Canadian film about three young drug addicts are given a one day pass in hopes of rebuilding relationships with those they’ve wronged; parents, friends, others. Their anxiety and misfortunes do not end as the day does because the following day they awake to have the day repeat itself. It’s a pretty good concept and it only sits at 85 minutes in duration which is good when I’m unsure as to the quality of a film. Doubt I’ll see it at TIFF, but I won’t be surprised if it’s well-liked. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Rio Sex Comedy – starring: Charlotte Rampling and Irene Jacob. When you’ve got Charlotte Rampling and the word sex mingling with one and other in a film description, you know you’ve got something hot. Toss in Irene Jacob and it becomes even sexier. The film is about the US ambassador to Brazil (Bill Pullman) who has a liberating experience upon arrival – meeting new and exciting people in exotic places. The concept is far too familiar to leave anything but a stale taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t anticipate this to be anything more than a fun yarn. (Anticipation Meter: 5/10)

Special Treatment – starring: Isabelle Huppert and Bouli Lanners. Similar to Before Sunrise and other films entirely about two people connecting over a period of time, ‘Special Treatment’ is about two fractured people trying to ascertain a sense of self. Alice (Huppert) is a high-class prostitute feeling exhausted with her life, so she sees Xavier (Lanners), a well-regarded psychoanalyst with marital issues and a fleeting identity. Over the course of their time together, Alice and Xavier attempt to remedy one and other with their individual wisdoms. This could either be a very invigorating character study about two lost souls or a very boring one. I’ll take the risk if my schedule allows it. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Trigger – starring: Molly Parker and Tracy Wright. This is IMDb’s synopsis: Trigger’ is the story of two rock n’ roll women who once shared a friendship, a band and a whole lot of chaos. Now a dozen years later they meet again, and over the course of one evening rediscover friendship, remember rock’n’roll and reignite chaos. Bruce McDonald (one of Canada’s most popular filmmakers) directed it, so it’ll probably be alright, but “embrace life” films like these tend to irk me far more than they get me rhapsodizing. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)


What’s Wrong With Virginia?
– starring: Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris. After winning Best Original Screenplay in 2008 for ‘Milk’, Dustin Lance Black is back and taking a crack at directing his first major feature with ‘What’s Wrong With Virginia?’, a story about a woman (Connelly) who is mentally ill and devotes herself to her illegitimate son (Harrison Gilbertson). Ed Harris plays a married Mormon sheriff who could be the boy’s father, but because he’s running for public office, tension hits a high in regards to the father of this boy. In an additional twist, the daughter he has with his wife (Emma Roberts) begin to date Virginia’s son. If not for that last bit of information, I would’ve called this film flagrantly melodramatic and while I would’ve seen it, wouldn’t have encouraged anyone to do so for TIFF. But I have faith in Dustin Lance Black (his script for Milk was wonderful) and he seems very sincere in what he pontificates, so count me in, if for nothing but watching Connelly absolutely dominate a leading role for the first time in ages. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Now to catch up on the few Contemporary World Cinema films…

We Keep Having Sex With Our Exes

A Night For Dying Tigers – starring: Jennifer Beals and Gil Bellows. According to TIFF: The night before Jack goes to prison for five years, his family gets together at their ancestral home for a farewell dinner. What begins as a civil, if not joyful, reunion quickly devolves into a morally questionable whirlwind of regret, reversals, and revelations. Could be good – I do find the actors to have some merit so I have faith in them carrying out such a story with relative conviction, if nothing else. My main concern is that the filmmaker hasn’t proven himself to be capable of such a heavy concept and films like these need fantastic writing to keep from sinking like so many similar ones. I’m too uncertain with this to watch it, but I hope it turns out to be something great. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)

Crying Out
– starring: Jean Lapointe and
Michel Barrette. One of the five Canadian films selected for the CWC programme is ‘Crying Out’, a Quebecois tale about three generations of men from the same family drunkenly travel around Quebec, slowly forming a stronger bond with each other. In all honesty, family… yeah, that’s nice, sometimes films about family bonding can be great, but this sounds so very bluntly contrived. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Modra – starring: Hallie Switzer and Alexander Gammal. So I watched the trailer for this because I’m unsure (here, if you’re curious) and while it may seem nice and all, I don’t have faith in either of the leads conveying an authentic performance. And films about gradually growing from friends to partners in love rely entirely on the chemistry of the actor you have at your disposal. I would’ve been far more inclined to see this if I felt otherwise about the actors, but because I their efforts will be rather paltry, I have no interest. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)


Route 132 – starring: François Papineau and Alexis Martin. According to TIFF: ‘Route 132’ focuses on a man who loses a loved one and embarks on a journey in an attempt to rediscover his roots and come to terms with his grief. A really, really boring concept – I won’t delve into why because that should be rather tacit by this point. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Small Town Murder Songs – starring: Peter Stormare and Aaron Poole. To begin, the title is pretty cool – I’m hooked already. As for the plot, it’s meant to be a Gothic mystery about a sheriff (Stormare) trying to ascertain the identity of the person who raped and murdered a young girl by a lake. He has a storied past – he, too, is an enigma. However, despite how cool all of this sounds, the TIFF review makes sure you know that this film plays on religious themes quite heavily, which can be great, but often come off preachy. I’ve had too many bad experiences with religion playing a big part in contemporary films (really, I haven’t felt a great inclination to praise any religion-based film since the 70s), so I’ll pass on this one, but of all the Canadian features announced in this programme, this is the most interesting one. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

That’s all for now. I’ll be sure to update my blog with the City to City announcements and catch up on the Masters, Galas and whatever else may be announced. I cannot wait to see what Vanguard churns out – please, oh please, be screening Gus van Sant’s ‘Restless’.

TIFF Anticipation Update (Reel to Reel, Midnight Madness)

For awhile there my TIFF prospects died, so I haven’t been updating the blog for obvious reasons. Now they seem to have been resurrected so I’ll get back to running down the titles – assigning them a number and so on and so forth. Because I was working on documentary features before – generally redundant because I see, at the very most, three or four of those during the festival as I’m not much a fan of non-fiction – I’m just going to sift through them without writing too intricate of descriptions and when I come across ones that pique my interest I’ll throw them on the list and give a reason as to why I (and you) should see it at the festival. As for the rest of the regular features, they will receive the same treatment as the ones mentioned in the first post.

If You Walk Away, I’ll Walk Away (REEL TO REEL – Documentary Features)

Boxing Gym
(Fredrick Wiseman, USA) Fredrick Wiseman is hands down the most beloved documentary filmmakers in cinema. From controversial, difficult to endure – not only because they consisted of difficult subject matters, but also because of their duration – features like Titticut Follies to Juvenile Court to Domestic Violence… the man will go down in history as the greatest documentarian. He turned 80 this year and I love my boxing – count me in. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, USA) The idea of Werner Herzog filming obscured age-old pictorials in inaccessible caves – in 3D no less – sounds a bit too good to be true. Considering the man is one of the finest visualists, especially when he’s at his most laidback in nature, this promises to be something beautiful. While the content itself isn’t much to my liking, odds are I’ll just check this out for the experience. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

The Game Of Death (Christophe Nick, France) One of the greatest films I’ve ever seen is I As In Icarus (Henri Verneuil, 1979) and one of the finest scenes in that masterpiece is one where the protagonist goes to a psychology plant and watches two men be placed into a room. One man is set up to an electric current while the other is told to turn to up the shock until he can’t handle watching the other man’s pain any longer. This is essentially what ‘The Game of Death’ is about – people controlling the comfort of other people with the reward of one million dollars for whomever will hurt their opponent most. Sounds like an amazing documentary – I am so down. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (Mark Hartley, Australia) Two years ago, documentarian Mark Hartley made one of the most pleasurable documentaries I’ve ever seen with ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ (if you love cinema and haven’t seen it, you’ve got to, an absolute riot). Although the interviewees were mostly with very low-profile B horror filmmakers, the stories that were told and the way it was all edited together made for 90 minutes of cinematic fellatio. I have complete faith that Hartley’s followup will share a similar zeal. It’s about all of the films that were made for cheap in the Philippines in the 1970s. Fun. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

So those are the four documentaries from Reel to Reel that have strong possibilities of winding up on my film festival list. I’d do a post for the Wavelengths, but the TIFF site is absolutely ridiculous this year and is very unhelpful with this programme. However, I may see James Benning’s Mahr, but I wouldn’t put too much money down on that happening. Hope it does though – I’ve been meaning to check out some of his work.

I Don’t Read Books and I Can’t Be Your Lover (MIDNIGHT MADNESS)

Bunraku – starring: Josh Harnett and Woody Harrelson. What do you get if you take guns away from our way of life? A lot more sword crime, of course. ‘Bunraku’ is set in a world where guns are banned upon death and if you want to enact revenge on a mobster – in this case, the mobster’s name is Nicola because we’ve got to perpetuate the stereotype that all Russians are mobsters – you’ve gotta chop his head off in well-choreographed fashion. With a young Japanese samurai forming a triad with two locals to take Nicola down a peg (or a life) the three set off to… well, find Nicola. It promises to be a bloodbath and a lot of fun. I’ll see it if I can handle its midnight placement. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman – starring: No idea. To be blunt, this film sounds bad. I mean, it could be good, but the synopsis possesses a lot of what I have about Chinese cinema. It’s got a fantastical plot, overly eccentric sounding character, is meant to contain a lot of slapstick/absurd humor and borrow from films that I was none too fond of. I’m never going to see this movie… if you like the spaghetti western stylings of ‘Sukiyaki Western Django’ then this might be for you. It wasn’t for me… however visually appealing that film was. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Fire of Conscience – starring: Leon Lei and Richie Ren. As mentioning in my other post, Cantonese cinema hasn’t done anything for me yet. This isn’t giving weight to the idea that it could. It sounds rather generic – two cops go out to investigate the murder of a prostitute, but their sleuthing soon evolves into a shoot ’em up extravaganza. I don’t doubt the intentions of the filmmakers and I’m certainly not suggesting that this won’t be a mildly amusing flick… it’s just not worth staying up to see at a festival that steals more hours of your sleep than… ghosts? Too tired to be clever. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)

Fubar 2 – starring: Paul Spence and David Lawrence. I couldn’t get through the first one… obtuse, beer-guzzling humor just isn’t my thing. Like a paltry ‘Harold and Kumar’. If you’ve seen the first, you know what the sequel must be about. If you haven’t, it’s just about two dudes drinking brews and acting retarded. No thanks. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Insidious – starring: Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. An absolute must. ‘Saw’ is the film that really got me into cinema, so I’ll forever be indebted to James Wan and Leigh Whannell. This is their first original collaboration since ‘Dead Silence’ (not so good…) but their latest promises to be wonderful. Although I’m not easily enticed by supernatural horror films – this about a family (headed by a husband and wife played by Wilson/Byrne) who face tragedy after one of their sons fall into a coma. After the incident, spirits begin to pervade their home. Doesn’t sound all that amazing, but as I said, Wan + Whannell = have to be there. (Anticipation Meter: 10/10)

Red Nights – starring: Frédérique Bel and Carrie Ng. TIFF describes this cat and mouse thriller to be pulpy and fetishistic. From the stills I’ve seen, it looks to be exactly that. While the visual design is appealing and the premise promising some softcore lesbian scenes, I can’t get behind this feature because it sounds far too mundane – far too great a waste of time and not worth depriving myself of sleep over. The plot is literally just one person has something the other wants… ensue 90 minutes of “get back heres” and “nos”. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

Stake Land – starring: Connor Paolo and Nick Damici. Just copying and pasting TIFF’s description: In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work. Sounds like it could be good fun – I especially like that George A. Romero and the author of ‘I Am Legend’ liken the film to hardcore vampire films of yore. Could be good – it’d be interesting to see it. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Super – starring: Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. ‘Real’ superhero films have been a pretty hot trend as of late. From 2006’s ‘Special’ which depicted a man taking pills that made him feel like a superhero to this year’s ‘Defendor’, filmmakers seem to have been swayed the way of vigilance. This feature – starring Dwight from The Office, Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon – promises to be nothing, if not a fun time. I don’t anticipate this to be an amazing film – the only directorial credit to writer/director James Gunn’s repetoire is ‘Slither’ which was average at best – but I do expect to be amused, and isn’t that all you’re looking for in a sold-out crowd at midnight? (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Vanishing on 7th Street – starring: Hayden Christensen and Thandle Newton. Brad Anderson has made a small name for himself this past decade. Not only did he direct one of the more acclaimed small budget horror films of the aughts with ‘Session 9’ but he’s also been responsible for the psychologically bent ‘The Machinist’ and most recently ‘Transsiberian’ (a film that could’ve been great if the second half had lived up to the first). While his latest, ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ stars two of the most paltry actors working today, the film sounds very entertaining. It’s about a group of people banding together to escape the darkness that has consumed their town. I will definitely see this if it plays early on in the festival and might risk crucial sleep later on. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

The Ward – starring: Amber Heard and Jared Harris. John Carpenter’s first film in almost a decade promises to… well, be more interesting than ‘Ghosts of Mars’. Mr. Carpenter’s latest feature is simple – a young woman (Heard) is terrorized by ghosts in a mental institution. Yeah, it isn’t a high concept thriller or will be bound to spark conversation over how intricate the plotting was, but it does sound like a good time and an even better vehicle for the young Amber Heard. Depends what day this plays on – if it’s early on in the festival, I’ll see it. If it’s later… no. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

I’ve got a lot of titles to go through still before August 24th… and then a few more on that day as well. Glad I get to attend this year’s festival once again. Two more things: first, I saw the trailer for ‘Black Swan’ and my anticipation shot up plenty – count me in for that. Secondly, if you don’t understand these little quotes I prompt before announcing titles, they’re lyrics – you’d do well in googling them and experiencing a new song or two.

Jeremy Renner to lead PTA’s latest?

Almost everybody who cares about cinema knows of Jeremy Renner by this point. He headlined The Hurt Locker as Staff Sergeant William James in his first — and so far only — Oscar nominated turn. The film, as I’m sure you all know, also took home Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

So I’m most popular in the world for my ‘review’ of PTA’s Scientology script, so I’m going to throw down my two cents on this rumor. Either PTA’s casting crew has messed up terribly in casting Renner as aberrant Freddie or PTA has altered the story significantly in changing his protagonists age 15-20 years. However, this could all be fictitious which would be the best outcome of the three.

See, I interpreted Freddie as a malign young man (he’s in his “early 20s” as the script prescribes) who is very much lost in the world and indulges in his escape — alcohol — whenever given the opportunity. For the role I pictured a far more innocent looking person: think Paul Dano or Emile Hirsch. Someone who has a soft appeal to them; someone you’d care for based off of their caring eyes and frail disposition; someone who you could identify with and root for. Renner possess none of these qualities which is why he was perfectly suited for the role of Sgt. James.

On the flip side, PTA might be wanting to take an ulterior route with the main character; he might want to make him somebody you’d despise. If this is the case, which it most certainly could be, that’s perfectly fine. I’m all for morbid characters flooding my screen. Of course, the character arc of Freddie would have to be altered a bit for what he says/does to align with what PTA would be driving at.

Still, Renner doesn’t fit the profile of a young man so this casting is absolutely terrible in that regard. Either the role has changed significantly since I read the script or someone has sparked up one of the more illogical casting rumors I’ve ever seen.

Source: http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/03/17/jeremy-renner-may-join-paul-thomas-anderson-the-maste/