TIFF 2016: Canada presents…

These came out a couple of days ago (and I glanced at the titles) but I’ll post them for future reference so anyone curious can see what these are about. (Plot descriptions are courtesy of http://www.reelcanada.ca/canadian-films-at-tiff-16/)

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

BELOW HER MOUTH, April Mullen, Canada (World Premiere)
Below Her Mouth is a bold, uninhibited drama that begins with a passionate weekend affair between two women. Dallas, a roofer, and Jasmine, a fashion editor, share a powerful and immediate connection that inevitably derails both of their lives.

Starring Erika Linder, Natalie Krill, and Sebastian Pigott.

IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD, Xavier Dolan, Canada/France (North American Premiere)
After 12 years of absence, a writer goes back to his hometown, planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, fits and feuds unfold, fuelled by loneliness and doubt, while all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen, and tolove. Starring Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, and Léa Seydoux.

MEAN DREAMS, Nathan Morlando, Canada (North American Premiere)
Mean Dreams is a tense coming-of-age thriller about a 15-year-old boy who steals a bag of drug money and runs away with the girl he loves. While her violent and corrupt cop father hunts them down, they embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. A potent fable at its heart, Mean Dreams fuses the desperation of life on the run with the beauty and wonder of first love. Starring TIFF Rising Star Sophie Nélisse, Josh Wiggins, Bill Paxton, and Colm Feore.

TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR, Canada (North American Premiere)
This film is set in the Great North, near the North Pole, in a modern town where about 200 souls live precariously in minus 50 degree weather, and where roads lead to nowhere but the endless white. It is in this eerie lunar landscape that Lucy and Roman, two young tormented souls, fell in love. But now, ghosts from Lucy’s past are coming back, and she needs to run away or she will burn. Together, these lovers decide to make a leap for life, a leap for inner peace. Starring Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan.

WEIRDOS, Bruce McDonald, Canada (World Premiere)
Nova Scotia, 1976. It’s the weekend of the American Bicentennial and 15-year-old Kit is running away from home. With girlfriend Alice, Kit hitchhikes through the maritime landscape towards a new home with his mother, Laura. Along the way, Kit and Alice’s relationship is tested as Kit approaches a realization that will change his life forever. Starring Dylan Authors, Julia Sarah Stone, Molly Parker, and Allan Hawco.

WINDOW HORSES (THE POETIC PERSIAN EPIPHANY OF ROSIE MING), Ann Marie Fleming, Canada (North American Premiere)
Window Horses is a feature-length animated film about a young Canadian poet who embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery — of herself, her family, love, history, and the nature of poetry. Featuring the voices of Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Don McKellar, Nancy Kwan, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, the film is filled with poems and histories created by a variety of artists and animators, who set out to blend a vast myriad of differences between cultures, philosophies, arts, and time frames.

MASTERS

ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE, Deepa Mehta, Canada/India (World Premiere)
In 2012, a young woman was gang raped by six men inside a moving bus in New Delhi. She was beaten senseless and thrown naked out onto the street. Eleven actors collaborated on Deepa Mehta’s devastating fictional dramatization of the lives of the rapists.

WE CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, Alanis Obomsawin, Canada (World Premiere)
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in the Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicentre.

TIFF DOCS

ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, Fred Peabody, Canada (World Premiere)
Investigative journalists Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi, and others are changing the face of journalism, no longer tied to mainstream media, choosing independent alternatives. Cameras follow as they uncover government and corporate secrets, just as ground-breaking and influential American journalist I.F. Stone did decades ago.

BLACK CODE, Nicholas de Pencier, (Canada World Premiere)
Based on the book by Professor Ron Deibert, Black Code is the story of how the internet is being controlled and manipulated by
governments in order to censor and monitor their citizens. As they battle for control of cyberspace, ideas of citizenship, privacy, and democracy are challenged to the core.

GIANTS OF AFRICA, Hubert Davis, Canada (World Premiere)
On a continent where dreams are often displaced for necessity and survival, the game of basketball brings hope to many young men in Africa. Masai Ujiri, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, returns to Africa each summer to stage basketball development camps. Young men from across the continent overcome staggering odds, with an unwavering spirit, to attend these camps that are held in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda. As Masai and his team of coaches work to train and inspire the raw talent that they encounter, Giants of Africa captures the amazing physical and emotional journey that these young African men pass through.

MOSTLY SUNNY, Dilip Mehta, Canada World Premiere
Growing up in small-town Sarnia as the daughter of strict Sikh parents, no one anticipated Sunny Leone’s remarkable transformation into an adult film star and Penthouse cover girl — not even Sunny herself. More astonishing still, she has reinvented herself in India as a mainstream reality TV star and Bollywood actress, beloved by millions despite widespread awareness of her spicy past. Mostly Sunny asks what makes Sunny tick, and explores the birthplace of the Kama Sutra’s paradoxical relationship with sex.

THE RIVER OF MY DREAMS, Brigitte Berman, Canada (World Premiere)
Actor-writer-director Gordon Pinsent is one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Filled with humour, passion, and complexity, this film by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman tells Gordon Pinsent’s story, as well as a universal story about the human condition, while making creative use of state-of-the art digital technology.

THE SKYJACKER’S TALE, Jamie Kastner, Canada (World Premiere)
The Skyjacker’s Tale is a documentary thriller about Ishmael Muslim Ali (né Labeet), one of the most wanted U.S. fugitives ever, who successfully hijacked a plane to Cuba after being convicted of murdering eight people on a golf course owned by the Rockefellers.

THE STAIRS, Hugh Gibson, Canada (World Premiere)
The Stairs tells the story of Marty, Greg, and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street involvement in Toronto. Using that experience, each works in public health to help their old neighbourhood, while struggling to maintain their newly-found stability. Told over five years, The Stairs defies stereotypes about drug use, sex work, and homelessness through an intimate portrait that is by turns funny, surprising, and moving.

DISCOVERY

ARQ, Tony Elliott, USA/Canada (World Premiere)
In a future where corporations battle against sovereign nations over the last of the world’s energy supplies, Renton and Hannah relive a deadly home invasion over and over again. The intruders are bent on getting the ARQ, an experimental energy technology that could end the wars — and is also creating a time loop that is making the day repeat.

HELLO DESTROYER, Kevan Funk, Canada (World Premiere)
A young junior hockey player’s life is shattered by an in-game act of violence. In an instant his life is abruptly turned upside down; torn from the fraternity of the team and the coinciding position of prominence, he is cast out and ostracized from the community. As he struggles with the repercussions of the event, desperate to find a means of reconciliation and a sense of identity, his personal journey illuminates troubling systemic issues around violence. Starring TIFF Rising Star Jared Abrahamson.

JEAN OF THE JONESES, Stella Meghie, Canada (Canadian Premiere)
Writer-director Stella Meghie’s debut feature is an acerbic coming-of-age tale that revolves around the troubled Jones family, one of whom dies at the start of the film. When the paramedic who answers their 911 call falls for rambunctious Jean, the courtship goes south during a calamitous funeral. Starring Taylour Paige and Gloria Reuben.

OLD STONE, Johnny Ma, Canada/China (North American Premiere)
When a drunken passenger causes Lao Shi to swerve and hit a motorcyclist, the driver stops to help the injured man. When no police or ambulance arrive, he drives the victim to the hospital, checks him in, and finds himself responsible for the man’s medical bills. The repercussions of Shi’s selfless act expose a society rife with bone-chilling callousness and bureaucratic indifference. On the verge of losing his cab, his job, and his family, Lao Shi has to resort to desperate measures to survive. Starring Chen Gang.

PRANK, Vincent Biron, Canada (North American Premiere)
Stefie, a lonely young boy, is approached by Martin, Jean-Sé, and Lea to record their daily pranks with his cellphone. The four prankmeisters decide to set up a stunt which goes beyond anything they’ve done so far… but who will be the victim? Prank is a funny and sometimes scary coming-of-age story about friendship, curiosity, peer pressure, and the loss of innocence.

WEREWOLF, Ashley McKenzie, Canada (World Premiere)
Blaise and Nessa are marginalized methadone users in a small town. Each day they push their rusty lawn mower door-to-door begging to cut grass. Nessa plots an escape, while Blaise lingers closer to collapse. Tethered to each other, their getaway dreams are kept on a suffocatingly short leash.

CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA

BOUNDARIES, Chloé Robichaud, Canada (World Premiere)
The paths of three women cross in Besco, a small isolated island facing an important economic crisis. Starring Macha Grenon, Emily VanCamp, Nathalie Doummar, and Rémy Girard.

X QUINIENTOS, Juan Andrés Arango, Canada/Colombia/Mexico (World Premiere)
Three separate but powerful stories of three teenagers who must come to terms with their new reality when they are forced to migrate to different parts of the Americas after the loss of someone they loved.

VANGARD

NELLY, Anne Émond, Canada (World Premiere)
A film inspired by the life and work of Nelly Arcan. Nelly is a portrait of a fragmented woman, lost between irreconcilable identities: writer, lover, call girl, and star. Several women in one, navigating between great exaltation and great disenchantment. The film mirrors the violent life and radical work of its subject, paying tribute to a writer who insisted on taking risks. Starring TIFF Rising Star Mylène Mackay.

PRIMETIME

nirvanna the band the show, created by Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol; directed by Matt Johnson, Canada (World Premiere)
Two lifelong best friends and roommates are planning the greatest musical act in the history of the modern world. If only they could book their first gig.

TIFF CINEMATHEQUE

A COOL SOUND FROM HELL, Sidney J. Furie, Canada
A striking record of hipster Toronto in the 1950s, Sidney J. Furie’s long-thought-lost second feature follows a bored young man who kicks his middle-class destiny to the curb and plunges into the Hogtown netherworld of jazz, sex, and narcotics.

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TIFF: SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

“The Age of Shadows (Miljeong)” Kim Jee woon (South Korea)

My first bias of the day: South Korean cinema. If you know the names of Hong Sang-soo, Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Jee-woon, Kwak Jae-yung, or a plethora of others just getting started, you know the 2000s have been a boon for South Korean cinema and on my word, I believe that country has the most consistency in terms of quality films.

This is from one of the names just mentioned, Jee Woon-kim, whose A Bittersweet Life made waves in 2005. While The Age of Shadows has yet to get an IMDb plot spec, AsianWiki claims the film is about an anti-Japanese independence organization called “Heroic Cops” who fought for South Korea’s freedom during Japan’s occupation of the country.

It stars Song Kang-ho (Oldboy, Thirst) and sounds like the most

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“All I See Is You” Marc Forster (U.S.)

One of the bigger director names in the SP programme (and a TIFF regular with films such as Stranger Than Fiction. Starring Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Town) and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless), this is a film about a married woman who gets her sight back, only to see the unsavory truth in her relationship. Co-written by Sean Conway, who’s writing accomplishments include films with the titles The Orgasm Diaries and Older Women. It’s almost needless to say that this film might border tawdry or voyeuristic at times.

This will be one of those hit or miss movies, to be sure, because it’s got a few interesting names attached to it, but no American distributor insofar. It’s also worth noting that every filming location is Thai or Spanish, so this will probably also have to do with surgeries and intimacy away from home. I will say that, if there is nothing much playing against this one, it will be worth a shot for the pairing of Lively and Clarke, actors who have shown great range and depth in recent years. (7/10 priority for TIFF, only distribution holdings are by the Lebanese company Eagle Films, who are scheduled to release Blair Witch this year)

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“American Honey” Andrea Arnold (U.K./U.S.)

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Arnold at this festival (in 2011) and even more the pleasure of following her work since 2006’s Red Road, so not only is my bias showing, but I don’t care.

She is one of the finest directors working today. If Fish Tank didn’t eloquate that, well Wuthering Heights certainly did. If only the stories she told were a bit tighter all around… but I digress. Her stories are conveyed very naturally and emotions are exposed without a veil. With this, a story that sounds reminiscent of Almost Famous, this film is about a young woman (Sasha Lane) getting caught up in . Arielle Holmes and Shia LaBeouf lend support, which honestly, when coupled with who is directing the feature, is enough for me to just do it. (8/10 priority for TIFF; would be more, but A24 holds distribution rights and the film is slated for a September 30th limited release.)

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“American Pastoral” Ewan McGregor

The directorial debut of Ewan McGregor (Velvet Goldmine, Star WarsBeginners) comes after Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, The Quiet American) stepped away from the project. This had been a project of Noyce’s since 2003 when Lakeshore Entertainment held the rights, but for almost that long, Ewan McGregor has been attached to play the protagonist.

I say all of this because no matter what the content of the film, this is most notably the directorial debut of a fine actor, who is now a veteran in the industry. The film is about an American family, parented by Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly as the Levov’s, whose set of values and unity are questioned after their daughter (Dakota Fanning) commits a violent act in the name of politics. For fans of McGregor, of course you have got to see this, and I know I eventually will, but I’m personally kind of tired of these domestic ideas turned into films. We Need To Talk About Kevin was the last great one and I hope the best in reception for this one. (6/10 priority for TIFF, Lionsgate is releasing the film on October 21st nationwide)

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“Asura: The City of Madness” Sung-su Kim

TIFF’s rundown of the film sounds simple enough: a shady cop gets in over his head when he’s caught between a corrupt mayor and Internal Affairs. However, the highlight of this selection is the film’s director, who is known for a few under-the-radar works from a decade ago. He’s worked with Ziyi Zhang (The Warrior) and City of the Rising Sun is a film that, if more people had seen it, may actually be highly regarded in America as it is reminiscent of 1970s works.

That said, the film is world premiering at the festival and no one can attest to its quality. But if you have a penchance for South Korean cinema, and some free time on your hands, I would blindly recommend this because it’s been made by a man who is 20+ years into his career and there is a chance that given its two hour run time, this material will go interesting places. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution announced)

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“Barakah Meets Barakah (Barakah yoqabil Barakah)” Mahmoud Sabbagh

A self-financed (re: independent) film about a blossoming love in Saudi Arabia. The man is named Barakah, the woman is also (nickname Bibi) and romance is described as a couple trying to bloom in a loveless environment.

This movie premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival this year and the only thing (slightly) off-putting to me is that it is labeled as a comedy. As it were, I would be more inclined to watch a more dyspeptic love story. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distribution as of yet)

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“Barry” (Vikram Gandhi)

So here it is: our first official Barack Obama biopic. Not unlike W., this film is making its premiere at TIFF and is about an American president who will, after his eight years in office, leave the White House. Starring Jason Mitchell as the current commander-in-chief, Barry is about President Obama during his years in college.

While the film already has Canadian distribution (with no scheduled date for release), it’s hard to say whether or not this will play theatrically before Barack Obama leaves office. However, with a writer (Adam Mansbach) and a director who have been critically untested, it’s also impossible to estimate how good or bad this might be. On that alone, there is curiosity. Co-starring Ashley Judd, Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) and Anya Taylor-Joy. (8/10 priority for TIFF, no American distributor as of yet)

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“Birth of the Dragon” (George Nolfi)

The title for this one sounded reminiscent of a Bruce Lee-esque martial arts film – lo and behold, it’s actually another moment-in-time biopic of the very legend.

All I know is that the film is set around a no-holds barred fight with Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) in California and that Phillip Ng (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) will play Bruce Lee. Director George Nolfi only has The Adjustment Bureau to his credit when it comes to feature films, but it was written by the duo who penned Nixon and Ali, so expect an expansive and honest look at Bruce Lee. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no distribution rights owned anywhere yet)

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“The Birth of a Nation” (Nate Parker)

Here’s some more of my bias: You can count me in already. Nat (Nate Parker) plays slave who was raised literate by the family who owned him, so that he could preach to the other servants growing up. He is taken across America to preach to other slaves and in doing so, bears witness to the ungodly scope of his people’s indescribable torment and begins to orchestrate change.

I don’t know if my words do what Nat Turner thought or did, and I don’t know if the film will unearth those accounts and truths perfectly, but I do know that I must see this film. (10/10 priority for TIFF, with an October 7th limited release across North America)

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“Bleed for This” (Ben Younger)

The fourth biography I’m describing in a row. From the director of Prime (2005, Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep – in case you’ve forgotten) is the story of Vinny Pazienza, a multiple time WBC champion in each the lightweight, super lightweight and middle-lightweight weight classes, and I’m going to go off-topic, but why is Miles Teller so entitled? I’ve seen the trailer for this one, and it looks just fine, and Aaron Eckhart plays his boxing coach, but this actor – and that is all he is – comes across as too damn smug to have the brains or heart of a boxer. Perhaps he’ll have his moments; perhaps I’ll be dead wrong and this will turn out to be a big-time Oscar player.

But this guy, man. A very fine and affluent performer – he clearly conveys what he believes is the right emotion in every scene, but this is a triumphant story and I love boxing. I’ll probably even go see this without thinking twice, but I hope this joins the catalog of fine boxing films that dates back even beyond 1949’s The Set-Up (but that is an unforgettable one). Co-starring: Katey Segal, Ted Levine and Ciaran Hinds. (9/10 priority for TIFF, scheduled for a November 23rd limited release in North America by Open Road Films)

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“Blue Jay” (Alex Lehmann)

Ah damn, my heart hurts already. From writer Mark Duplass comes the story of high school sweethearts who have a serendipitous reunion when they both return to their home-town in California.

Starring the writer alongside Sarah Paulson (American *insert word* Story), and set at an effective 85 minutes, this promises to be tender and emotional, and I would hope as audacious and sincere as The Puffy Chair, which, to me is a lot, but when cinema honestly looks at imperfect people, I don’t care who’s on the screen or what the budget.  (9/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution as of yet – also, world premiere)

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“Brimstone” (Martin Koolhoven)

This movie sounds crazy if you read the description on IMDb. From what I gather, this is some kind of period mystery about a young woman (Dakota Fanning), her family (Carice van Houten, Kit Harrington, Jack Roth, presumably) and the preacher (Guy Pearce) who terrifies her.

The film is also classified as a thriller and western, and if it weren’t directed by a man whose last film was Winter in Wartime (which you should check out if you like sleek European war films; finer than Max Manus and even The Counterfeiters, I thought) I would have no words for what to expect with this. However, you have great actors (and you can dispute Fanning’s worth, but she is a desired actress who turned down roles to be in this), so there might be something here, especially given its epic 140 minute runtime. That said, at two and some-odd hours, I do wish to see an ambitious film that features women in lead roles, but these almost-long films fit oddly into schedules. It does sound worth a watch, though. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no set release dates anywhere, though the company in France that released The Neon Demon and The Duke of Burgundy holds its rights)

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“BrOTHERHOOD” (Noel Clarke)

I haven’t seen KiDULTHOOD or AdULTHOOD, so I can’t really comment on this. Noel Clarke is a gifted individual, though, and if you have the time I would suggest checking them out because my friends often say they are great films. (0/10 priority for TIFF, unless I somehow see the first two, and it has a late August release date scheduled in the U.K.)

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“Carrie Pilby” (Susan Johnson)

Starring Bel Powley from the recently acclaimed Diary of a Teenage Girl comes yet another film about a young woman struggling to find peace with her sexual desires and personal relationships. This time, however, it is about an “extremely intelligent” woman and is labeled as a comedy.

It comes from the director of Mean Creek and is an adaptation of an acclaimed 2003 novel. Co-starring Gabriel Byrne as her father and Nathan Lane as her therapist, it’s almost promised to pack a few witty punches and could wind up being the surprise hit of the festival. It was also made out of earnest – through Kickstarter crowdfunding – and was co-written by the scribe of Death at a Funeral. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no distributors yet)

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“Catfight” (Onur Tukel)

Now this sounds like a probable miss at the festival (although, again, I hate being negative, but there are always a handful of trite and cliche films that make it through virtue of name recognition).

Starring Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, this dark comedy has the image of two bloodied women fighting each other on its TIFF page and could be a little bit crazier than imagined. However, I don’t like the title and I know I’ll hate myself if it turns out to be a hilarious film everyone can’t stop talking about (because the talent is there for greatness). I just can’t see myself wanting to watch another story of former high school friends who now rival one and other because they are in each other’s lives. (6/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)

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“City of Tiny Lights”(Pete Travis)

From the director of Vantage Point and Patrick Neate, writer of 2003’s Tesseract, comes a BBC produced crime/mystery about London private eye Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed) investigating the disappearance of a Russian prostitute. In following this task, he is confronted with personal demons (or something like that).

It sounds good solely because it stars Riz Ahmed and not because the character’s last name sounds like “actor”. Ahmed is an undeniable talent in film and if he’s in every single frame of this one, I can promise you that I will watch it. But without anyone I know in the supporting cast, and nothing much to go on except a half-racist sounding IMDb plot synopsis, I can’t promise I’ll have enough gall to see this there. But if I do, it’s for Riz Ahmed. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)

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“The Commune (Kollektivet)” (Thomas Vinterberg)

Not having seen The Hunt, I will still blindly walk toward the call of a new Vinterberg film. With Ulrich Thomsen and Trine Dryholm, I can almost guarantee that I will watch this somewhere down the line. However, this is a film festival, and this isn’t ones I’m going to select. Mostly because it’s been out in Denmark since January and that means that it will come to Bell Lightbox somewhere down the line and I can see it there.

However, for those visiting Toronto, this story of a community crumbling by way of clashing priorities might be exciting to watch. I’m sure it’ll be a lucid film and an accurate account of what it’s trying to represent, and to any huge fan of Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, Submarino, Far From The Madding Crowd) it’s a must. (7/10 priority for TIFF, with many release dates across Europe, but the next being January of 2017 in France)

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“Daguerrotype (Le Secret de la chambre noire)” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Oh wow, a French-Japanese fantasy-horror from Kiyoshi Kurosawa? If that weren’t enough it stars Constance Rousseau, Tahir Rahim, Olivier Gourmet and Mathieu Amalric.

Sitting at 131 minutes runtime and stars Gourmet as a photographer obsessed with the techniques of 19th century photography for its supernatural/life-sustaining powers. Rousseau plays his daughter and Rahim his assistant who falls for the daughter. I have no idea how it will play out, but it was purchased by Celluloid Dreams at Cannes last year, so all of those boxes it checked obviously intrigued many from the jump. Hopefully it’s as good as it sounds. (9/10 priority for TIFF, with an October release in Japan and one in France come February of next year)

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“A Death in the Gunj” (Konkona Sensharma)

Set in 1979, in the town of McCluskieganj (which had been colonized by England until 1933) the story of Shutu (Vikrant Massey), a young Indian student who begins to unravel as he and his family embark on a road trip. I imagine “the Gunj” will be a town wherein there is a penultimate moment for the protagonist, but apart from this being Kon Kona Sensharma’s directorial debut, I can’t say much more about this.

It’s making its world premiere at this year’s film festival and I hope Ms. Sensharma the best of luck in her first reception as a director. The vague outline sounds like there is a lot of room for plot and character development. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution as of yet)

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“Denial” (Mick Jackson)

From journeyman director Mick Jackson (everything from 1992’s The Bodyguard to 1999’s Tuesdays with Morrie to most recently the television-adaptation of Temple Grandin’s life) comes another real-life story to add to his catalog.

This drama about a historian and the Holocaust denier who sues her for libel stars Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall. Now, this isn’t a story I know anything about, but if history serves correctly, there was a Holocaust and yeah, this film will be a cacophony. However, with Tom Wilkinson in support, alongside Weisz and Spall, this will undoubtedly be one of the finest exhibitions of actorly talent this festival. With a screenplay by David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) this even has the potential to be Oscar-nominated because of the familiar names attached. (7/10 priority for TIFF, in North American theaters October 7th)

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“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven)

I have heard a lot of good word from a few friends out of Cannes about this film. It’s heavily been on my radar for its star, Isabelle Huppert, and to be honest, if there’s anyone I would hope to meet this year, it’s her. She’s been a favorite actress of mine for years now and if you see Story of Women or The Ceremony then she just might become one of yours as well.

The film, directed by someone I’m sure you feel one way or another about, concerns the life of the head of a video game company (Huppert) and the ruthlessness with which she lives her life. When there is a domestic problem, I don’t know what happens because I don’t want to know anything else. This is another bias and this is me being sold on yet another title. (9/10 priority for TIFF, with a November 11th release in the U.S.)

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“Foreign Body (Jassad Gharib, Corps Etranger) Raja Amari

This Tunisia/France co-production is about a young Tunisian woman who, after informing on her radical Islamist brother, immigrates to France and, as the TIFF website says, finds a world full of hope and danger.

This is Raja Amari’s fourth feature and she has some acclaim across the globe. While I haven’t seen any of her work, she is a frequent collaborator of Hiam Abbass and she shows up again in this film. If I were more familiar with Amari’s work, I would feel some way about whether or not I would see this, so, to make sure I don’t miss something I may love, I will check out something of hers (perhaps Red Satin). (6/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)

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“Frantz” (François Ozon)

I’ll always regard Francois Ozon because he’s one of two directors (the other being Jan Hrebejk, Divided We Fall), that directed a work of R.W. Fassbinder since his passing in 1982. With a long list of work, from the playful 9 Women to the provocative In the House and many films before, between and since, Ozon’s work ethic is as prolific as the many genres he has dabbled in.

Starring relative unknowns Paula Beer and Pierre Niney, and filmed in black and white, Frantz is set in post-WWI France wherein a widow develops a relationship with a stranger who she finds mourning by his grave. It sounds interesting, it’s 113 minutes long, and Ozon seems to have been on a roll as of late, so I imagine this will be a very good film. But, once again, this is a film that will be released in Canada (it already has French distribution lined up for September 7th) and unless it’s scheduled at a convenient time, I’ll pass on it for something I can’t wait for. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distributor yet, but it has a home in ten countries and counting.)

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“The Handmaiden (Agassi)” (Park Chan-wook) 10/10

Park Chan-wook. That is enough of a reason for me. Thirst, Oldboy, Joint Agent Security — if you’ve seen a film of his, you’ve probably fallen in love with his visual aesthetic and the way with which he translates the roughest human emotions and experiences so delicately to his audiences.

Who’s in it? Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri. What’s it about? A handmaiden-turned-crook and I stopped reading there because I want it to be as much of a surprise as it can, personally. There’s a trailer out. It looks Victorian from the stills I’ve seen. I highly recommend you see this if you’re unfamiliar with Chan-wook’s work. (10/10 priority for TIFF, Amazon owns the distribution rights.)

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“Harmonium (Fuchi ni tatsu)” (Kôji Fukada)

There is an elegiac style to Koji Fukada. With this story, a tale of quiet tension, Toshio owns a workshop and hires Yasaka, an old friend who has just been released from prison. Yasaka begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life and again, that’s where I stopped reading.

I have a bias toward Japanese films as well. It could be viewed as a stereotype, but from the most acclaimed ones of recent memory (Departures) to the most obscure I’ve seen (Ramblers, Vacation) there is an ordinariness to the approach of storytelling, as well as visual compositions, that I find mesmerizing. It doesn’t mean every film is good, and of course each director is different, but I’m keeping my eyes out for this one. (8/10 priority for TIFF)

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“I Am Not Madame Bovary” (Feng Xiaogang)

Shot through a circle the entire time, Feng Xiaogang’s latest film is about a woman (Fan Bingbing) who fights against her country’s legal system after her ex-husband was able to leave her broke.

I watched two trailers for this one, but couldn’t make much of it, except that it looks almost as ambiguous as it does ambitious. That said, those are some of the best films to see, in my opinion (I loved Post Tenebtas Lux), so, I’m more interested in this than a few of the others, although the visual conceit might become bothersome at some point. We’ll see. (8/10 priority for TIFF)

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“The Journey” (Nick Hamm)

This almost sounds like a television film, but it’s a couple of great actors running the show, so surely this showcase will not disappoint.

Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney play two political leaders in 2006 who brought about an agreement to end the fighting between Republican (those for Irish freedoms) and Unionist (those for continued political relations between Great Britain and Ireland) after decades’ long violence. I’m not crazy over the sound of this, but again, Timothy Spall is enough of a reason to see any film, so one where he is a lead is a must. (6/10 priority for TIFF)

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“King of the Dancehall” (Nick Cannon)

First of all, this is a film directed by Nick Cannon. So I guess it being a musical about an American man, from Brooklyn, travelling to Jamaica and getting lost in the dance culture is not a crazy scenario to imagine. It even sounds fitting – and given the amount of enthusiasm and general joy Nick Cannon seems to have been generating all his life, it could be a great fit. We’ll see what happens.

Directing himself alongside Busta Rhymes (Finding Forrester), Beenie Man and Whoopi Goldberg, this definitely promises to boom with personality. (7/10 priority for TIFF)

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“La La Land” (Damien Chazelle)

I was considering skipping this one at the film festival because, well, it stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is a musical and is undoubtedly going to come out to a lot of love when it his theaters. Damien Chazelle just proved his aptitude with Whiplash and that alone is enough to get a ticket. I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s a hot ticket right there.

That said, the head of Venice Film Festival recently proclaimed to be the best film he’s seen submitted to the festival in years and will be “an American classic” which is the heaviest praise I can think of, so I’m going to have to get a ticket. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – if a film is good, you’ll understand it all when it’s over. (10/10 priority for TIFF, set for a North American release in November)

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“The Limehouse Golem” (Juan Carlos Medina)

From Juan Carlos Medina, a rather new director (one feature to his credit from 2012), comes this story of skepticism in a British town. From IMDb: A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical so-called Golem – must be responsible.

It stars Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth, Bill Nighy and Eddie Marsan – and with the latter two you’re definitely in store for a couple of dependable and committed performances. The story also sounds interesting, but with over 300 films playing at the festival annually, this horror/thriller isn’t quite in my wheelhouse. (6/10 priority for TIFF)

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“Manchester by the Sea” (Kenneth Lonergan)

While You Can Count On Me was an accomplished film and commendable for its amount of compassion, despite its lack of shine, Margaret was even more of a compelling viewing for me personally. The three-hour cut was fantastic to behold and ever since the debacle, and not knowing whether or not that long-gestated film would ever be released in a form approved by its director, I have wanted to see everything this man makes. Forever. He is a legend of someone who has fought distribution companies for his voice to be heard and whether or not he feels he accomplished that, he’s back with a new story and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m sorry to be so vague, but I don’t know much about this film – I did around the time of Sundance – but thankfully drinking has helped me to forget most of it. What I have retained is that Casey Affleck is the lead (an actor of fantastic highs), Michelle Williams (potentially the best actress working today and that Kyle Chandler deserves an Oscar nomination. I don’t know how everyone will be, I don’t know what will come together, but I’m absolutely anticipating this one. (10/10 priority for TIFF, set for a limited release on November 18th in North America)

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“Maudie” (Aisling Walsh)

A film set in Canada (Nova Scotia) and pretty extreme in length (150 minutes). This, I guess you could call it an epic, is about Maudie (Sally Hawkins) an artist with arthritis who works as a housekeeper. She has a husband (Ethan Hawke) and with time, she becomes a pillar of the community. At least that’s what I imagine how it will unfold.

It’s a shame that I will probably find the film too long to fit into my schedule because I love Sally Hawkins and any chance I get to watch her demonstrate her mercurial talents is one that I’ll seize. Ethan Hawke is a great actor, too, so to anyone who wants to get more bang for their buck, I doubt you will be very disappointed. It also has a release date in Canada – not yet America – so if I want, I believe I can see it in a few months, (6/10 priority for me, set for an October release through Mongrel Media)

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“Neruda” (Pablo Larraín)

From IMDb’s page: An inspector hunts down Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who becomes a fugitive in his home country in the late 1940s for joining the Communist Party.

Luis Gnecco plays the titular character, but the task of inspector is Gael Garcia Bernal’s, who you probably have adored in anything from The Science of Sleep to The Motorcycle Diaries. Alfredo Castro also stars in what looks to be a significant role, and if you’ve seen Tony Manero, then you know what kind of chaos Larrain and his familiar co-stars can get up to. (That film, by the way, is the reason I will always be excited to watch a Pablo Larrain flick; his unpredictability can leave one aghast) (9/10 priority for TIFF, slated for a December 16th release in North America)

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“Nocturnal Animals” (Tom Ford)

I remember back in 2009, I thought  A SingleMan sounded kind of tame and potentially too soft, especially with actors like Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Then, there was this buzz surrounding the festival about it and no one who didn’t own a ticket could get one. Waiting until December to see what it was all about was one of the longest waits I’ve had for a movie and when I finally saw it, my mind changed completely about what I could ever assume about a plot outline or the capacity of anyone. Tom Ford instantly became a director I wanted to see more from and now is the opportunity.

Starring Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals is the story of an art gallery owner who, after the publication of her ex-husband’s latest novel, feels as if what was written is what he plans to do to her. I suppose this will have some stalking and many ominous tones, but with Jake Gyllenhaal as the potential maniac, I’m very excited to see the visual acumen of Tom Ford against what could be considered a Hitchcockian tale (from the logline). I know I have to see it, so that’s me. (10/10 priority for TIFF, schedule for a December 9th release date through Focus Features)

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“The Oath” (Baltasar Kormákur)

From the TIFF website: Icelandic auteur Bathasar Kormakur directs and stars in this psychological thriller about a father who tries to pull his daughter out of her world of drugs and petty crime, only to find that danger can be found in unexpected places.

His daughter is played by Hera Hilmar and while I’m sure this will be another good action film for Bathasar Kormakur to add to his already solid resume (Contraband, 2 Guns) I think I can wait a few more months for what sounds like another version of the Taken plot. It could be better than that, but who knows? (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution in North America yet)

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“Orphan (Orpheline)” (Arnaud des Pallières)

Damn, dude. Why does the world have to do me like this?

Starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Adele Haenel, two actresses I adored based on one performance each, comes a film about orphans. That said, Arnaud des Pallieres has the distinct honor of making a film called Parc, which I think is the most tonally uneven foreign film I’ve seen at the festival (but then, I have pretty good taste, ha). So I don’t know what to say about this except that I want to see it, but also don’t want to see it. So I’ll probably see it. (8/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distribution as of yet; world premiere)

“Paris Can Wait” (Eleanor Coppola)

The debut of Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, Paris Can Wait is about an unfaithful movie producer’s wife (Diane Lane) who, en route to Paris from Cannes, is joined by one of her husband’s associates (Alec Baldwin) in this wistful and light-hearted affair. 

I don’t know where the film intends to go, but it’s being marketed as something that Nancy Meyers’ might have directed. Not only that, but even as a film directed by a woman married to a big-time American producer and director it comes across as a bit of a privileged storyline. A rich person with emotional crisis? I don’t think the world cares about those stories anymore. (5/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)

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“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch)

I did myself a disservice by watching the trailer TIFF uploaded for this one. I know what Jim Jarmusch is like – I even moderately enjoyed The Limits of Control – but this movie looks very stifling; as if we’re meant to accept that Adam Driver is a ruminative and harrowingly existential poet/bus driver. It doesn’t even seem funny or amusing, but maybe it’ll be deep? 

Call me presumptuous, but this one looks a bit too solipsistic for me. Adam Driver is a very good actor (still waiting to see Hungry Hearts) and Jim Jarmusch is an independent legend (if you’ve yet to see Night on Earth, please do so). I just don’t think that, with the myriad films playing, I want to be subjected to a downtrodden protagonist on any of those days. Maybe some lonely winter day, but for now… (7/10 priority for TIFF, slated for a late December limited release through Amazon)

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“The Salesman” (Asghar Farhadi)

While A Separation wasn’t my cup of tea, and I found The Past even more melodramatic by comparison, you cannot deny the effort that director Asghar Farhadi gets from each member of his cast. With The Salesman, a four-person ensemble about the deterioration of a couple’s love for one and other during their stage production of Death of s Salesman, I can’t help but be drawn to the romantic truths Farhadi will look to convey. 

Admitting that he is a sincere filmmaker — or at least tries to be — is undeniable. This movie has played at Cannes and already has North American distribution (which is a huge sign for an Iranian film, no matter who directed it). Amazon holds the rights to this film, as well, so while missing this wouldn’t be a tough pill to swallow, I would prefer to get at it as soon as possible. (9/10 priority for TIFF, a December 9th release date at select cinemas is scheduled)

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“Salt and Fire” (Werner Herzog)

There are quite a few people doubting the prowess of Werner Herzog these days, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of them. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michael Shannon, this film is about the nature in South America and man’s hand in destroying it the ecology. IMDb’s synopsis is vague, but it sounds like Gael Garcia Bernal plays a man aimed at bringing down the corrupt power of Michael Shannon, but before he can see his resolve, the two men must come together to overcome a more immediately pressing crisis. Adapted from a short story by Tom Bissell.

I love those two actors – I love the director. The film has distribution lined up for November in Germany and December in France, so if it were absolutely terrible, I think France of all places would have avoided a winter release. Pure speculation, but there’s no reason for anyone to say whether or not it will be good. I’m just hopeful. And if you haven’t seen Herzog’s work from the 70s until Fitzcarraldo, you’ve missed out on the best streak of any actor in cinema’s history (my words). (9/10 priority for TIFF, with no North American distribution yet)

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“Sing” (Garth Jennings)

From the director of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Son of Rambow comes Garth Jennings’ first film in almost a decade. With an all-star cast supplying the voices for his first animated film, it’s impossible to know exactly how good versus how popular Sing will be after its American release in December, but I can promise you that if this film has the same type of comedy as his previous films, it will be the perfect counterbalance to the R-rated Sausage Party

If madcap, family-friendly animation is your bag, and if you like Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World, then this is probably the perfect movie for you. Featuring dozens of chart-topping songs from the 1940s ’til now, it’s about a koala bear (Matthew McConaughey) who tries to get more business at his theater by sponsoring a singing competition, which sounds like a movie that is going to be either really entertaining and jovial or outright annoying. For the latter possibility alone, I think I have to skip this. With Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlaine, Leslie Jones and John C. Reilly in support. (7/10 priority for TIFF, scheduled for a wide release across North America in December)

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“Souvenir” (Bavo Defurne)
“Things to Come (L’Avenir)” (Mia Hansen-Løve)
“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade)
“Trespass Against Us” (Adam Smith)
“Una” (Benedict Andrews)
“Unless” (Alan Gilsenan)
“The Wasted Times (Luo Man Di Ke Xiao Wang Shi)” (Cheng Er)

I imagine The Light Between Oceans would be here if not for its September 2nd release date.

TIFF ’15: ANOMALISA

Anomalisa is the pet name Michael Stone, a traveling lecturer (voiced by David Thewlis) gives a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) after a brief sexual encounter that he initiates. He calls her this after she calls herself an anomaly, as well as many misanthropic, belittling things. She is uncomfortable in calling herself an anomaly, but only sometimes. She reads the dictionary when she reads books with large vocabularies, thinks her friends are prettier than her, and doesn’t ever believe anyone will love her. Michael, on the other hand, has spent the night trying to find any woman he can to satisfy his sexual sadness.

This is past the halfway point of Charlie Kaufman’s latest film about a solipsistic male with literary success passing through life without appreciation. It is also the first time I’ve realized what a paltry writer this most critically lauded man is. In the form of an animated film, however, the purpose of his work becomes more scant and it is clear that he most successfully communicates in quirks. When you hear two characters speaking candidly, you’ll see that it’s always one who is more vulnerable and the other who is incapable of empathy. It is as if he is always writing in front of a mirror.

Much of the wry humor from this film comes in the form of dejected people moving through life in the same patterns they always have. A cab driver will recommend the city’s zoo time and time again; the bag boy at the hotel will be as mechanic as they all are, but because he is a stop motion figure, it’s refreshingly funny. These are little moments that work, but only because of the implemented gimmick. If this were a film starring David Thewlis, it would nonetheless be acclaimed, but I personally take less from an animated film expressing existential ideas, unless the atmosphere or scope is equally mature (When The Wind Blows), but here, the animation is precisely monotonous to a fault – it would have worked better in the hands of Spike Jonze.

I could write more about this movie, but I honestly hated it. This is from a fan of all of Charlie Kaufman’s past work, but now, I’m starting to wonder if any representation of women in his movies make any sense. Upon reflection, they are loose caricatures meant for their male counterpart to deal with – and most of the time, they lack the depth of intelligence. Even in Adaptation., Susan, the author Meryl Streep plays, is an aloof mind hopped up on drugs compared to even the more asinine Kaufman persona. Just take these things into consideration when characters are speaking and you think the writing is so honest and true because honestly, I believe that this writer only knows how to examine himself and depreciate others in his own self-depreciation.

The conversation when Jennifer Jason Leigh’s voice turns into a Tom Noonan is most telling. You don’t like people? You don’t like yourself? Fine. But explain that more than having the words she’s saying “Oh we can go to the zoo” seem like the worst piece of shit he’s ever heard. It isn’t. If he really wanted any joy in life, he might have thought that was okay, but if he can’t appreciate anything, then why did this movie exist? Why did Lisa feel any happiness despite knowing the worthlessness of their encounter? That makes no fucking sense, Charlie. From me to you.

Django Unchained

DJANGO UNCHAINED

I haven’t fully written my opinion on a film in awhile because I’ve
grown to feel that film criticism — or criticism in general — can be
like starting a fight; sometimes critics take their criticisms too
seriously (like me, previously unbeknownst to me) and deflate the films
they discuss or themselves feel deflated if their view and articulation
does not resonate with the world. These days I feel like writing about
anything related to cinema can only be viewed as an extension of my own
creative mind, so before you read this, know that this will be, maybe,
some unusual type of write-up on Quentin Tarantino’s latest film – of
which I’m sure you are anticipating or have seen and have probably
liked because it’s a likable film.

Prior to the 1PM advanced screening showing that my wife and I snuck
into this afternoon, I had seen the seven films by Quentin Tarantino,
most of them more than once (Death Proof being the only exclusion). If
you are unfamiliar with his work, the man’s style hearkens back to and
is a hodgepodge of cinema past and present. This means spaghetti
Westerns (Sergio Leone, Franco Nero and Sam Peckinpah), the Nouveau
Vague (until now, mostly Jean-Luc Godard, but this film reminisces
Francois Truffaut more), the Samurai films of Tomu Uchida and Hiroshi
Inagaki, and others – even Blaxploitation. That’s why when you enter a
film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, you should try to
remind yourself not to feel offended during the movie you’re about to
watch. Because his mind, his heart, his vision is all deeply founded in
cinema. He is rooted in it. So when you hear his overt use of the word
n-gger it isn’t that he is too cavalier about it – it’s because
filmmakers before him have decided that it was okay – because he
relates back to them for clarity – because he grew up watching and
loving those movies. That’s what I believe is the case, anyway, and if
so, it allows his films to be as sprawling and carefree as he is.

In Django Unchained’s case, it gets in the way of the film having a
real moral or emotional catharsis, but as was Inglourious Basterds this
is a sort-of wonky look at a rough patch in history with the intention
to send the audience home feeling like they’ve won, like mankind has
won. Here, I feel as if Jamie Foxx’s carnation of Django wasn’t raw
enough, wasn’t a slave enough, to get the hairs on the back of my neck
to stand up the moment he succeeds. He succeeds often – he is the
stallion, the hero climbing the mountain to slay the dragon and free
the princess, he is Quentin Tarantino’s chosen character for Quentin
Tarantino’s film, and that means you’ll have to like him, and that
he’ll do all the things Tarantino wants his good guy to do. He’ll do
everything you expect him to do, and in that, Jamie Foxx’s beautiful,
reflective eyes and nice charisma gets the film by with the tone I
think Quentin Tarantino intended this film to have, and that’s a kind
of tongue-in-cheek, but violently harsh tone with, of course,
victorious undertones.

However, there are moments where you’ll wonder where he’ll go with it.
An hour* into the film, Dr. King Schultz and Django enter Calvin
Candie’s house — on a cotton plantation, with a plan to get Django’s
wife Broomhilda from him — to see, before them, two Mandingos (they
are called) fighting each other to the death. For game. And it is
violent. And it is brutal. To see and feel – and what isn’t seen is
heard, and what isn’t heard is still thought and felt. This is how
we’re introduced to Leonardo DiCaprio’s villain.

The writing/justification for his character’s wild behaviour isn’t
quite understood. I mean, it is written to be understood – his
character hasn’t left the plantation all his life, it’s a time before
any sort of society or real civilization, at least to him. He is very
insecure, very insecure, and that is an issue too. Is this because the
times made him that way — that his situation was simply as ruinous for
his mind as the time was for his slaves’? If so, Quentin Tarantino
spares no expense allowing us to feel sorry for his antagonist – or
anyone like him. It’s very black and white and right here Tarantino is
going black, baby – even Dr. King Schultz’s charisma is almost
identical to that of Col. Hans Landa’s, but because the character sides
(even if incidentally) with the slaves (ie. Django) his actions, the
same ones he would take to the Jews in Inglourious Basterds, are
considered triumphant. It’s moralistically slippery because its only
stance is a superficial one, a judgmental one, and therein lies the
film’s only major problem – its lack of humanity.

Storytelling and dialogue have always been Tarantino’s strong suit.
While his tale of vengeance is fully realized, narratively, I feel the
cleverness in Tarantino’s verbosity wavering – at least in these
historical pieces. I feel he’s trapping himself in the times, using
language that might be relevant, might be clever, might even be funny,
but it’s mostly flowery and possesses not an idea, but a point – a
point his character wants to make, and none of them really have
anything to say except to each other, and that just leads to more plot.
That’s okay – that makes a movie pass by really fast if it has panache,
and this does, Tarantino’s films always will – but it does lack that
soul quality. (Maybe if someone more deeply rooted themselves in the
lead role the film would have possessed more humanity – well it would
have – but it would have just skated over the underlying scriptural
issue.)The best actors in the film do bring a lot of themselves into
their roles and that helps bring to life the dark, yet colorful cast of
characters: Christoph Waltz is wonderfully composed and precise as the
sharp-shooting Dr. King Schultz, Leonardo DiCaprio (whose performance
is ever growing on me) is wild and triumphant, but also edgier than
I’ve ever seen as Calvin Candie, and Samuel L. Jackson is perhaps the
most interesting as Stephen, who appears to be – or at least I
interpreted him as – the sadistic male version of Hattie McDaniel’s
mammie from Gone With The Wind; when he cries at the end, you will
laugh and be mind-blown. These are three great performances.

As I said before, I think Quentin Tarantino is absolved from any
vilification, morally or otherwise. I think his intentions are as pure
as cinema, but this is a daunting film, and while you can play with any
subject matter to entertaining effect, it’s clear to me that with
stories like this one, ones where all of its characters are living some
sort of hell, you have to have humanity; you have to try and understand
people. Sometimes he’s rather play a Rick Ross song to convey his
protagonist’s charged blood-lust instead of his face – and that’s okay.
(Actually, the song that plays was produced by Jamie Foxx, so in a way
that is him. By some extension, it’s all him.) For the most part, the
violence of the film is gruesome – a hot topic for a lot of people to
talk about because it has effected them all. Unfortunately, very few
people seem to be raving how satisfying the film was. People can take
pain but not unless you give them the right pleasure, and sadly that
ending felt too much like artifice. He built up something real – the
violence, too, was real – but ended it so foolishly, like a cartoon.

So, it is my opinion that Django Unchained is entertaining and has a
lot of things to be enjoyed. There’s beauty (Robert Richardson’s
cinematography is picturesque), there’s excitement (the story unfolds
interestingly enough, it moves along) and is an undeniably finely tuned
and well put together motion picture. Ultimately though, there’s
nothing more to think about when those credits close, save a few of the
scenes and the acting throughout. Oh, and of course the technical
production – for the beautiful homage of a world they all created
through collaboration. All of them.

* The first hour is one in which Django and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) get to know each other after the former is bought by the latter in the film’s opening scene. You will notice that the slave walking montage that plays with the opening credits features a lot of panoramic shots, far-zooms, cinematic playfulness and beauty. This will be featured a lot in the film to fine effect. Not quite how Robert Altman handled the lens, but still not bad.

My Official TIFF Schedule.

After the lottery draft – I got box 16, so a healthy placement – this is my schedule (as I said last year, I won’t give up on the emboldened tickets; I’ll get to the box office early that morning and snatch ’em up!)

Thursday, September 10th
6:00pm -7:40pm – An Education (RYERSON)
9:00pm – 10:45pm – Antichrist (RYERSON)

Friday, September 11th
9:30am – 11:10am – The Happiest Girl in the World (SCOTIABANK 3)
12:15pm – 1:45pm – Huacho (SCOTABANK 1)
3pm – 4:50pm – Creation (RYERSON)
5:30pm – 7:05pm – The Good Heart (AMC 6)
9:00pm – 11:05pm – Fish Tank (SCOTIABANK 2)

Saturday, September 12th
10am – 11:40am – The Day God Walked Away (ISABEL BADER THEATER)
12:45pm – 2:05pm – Independencia (SCOTIABANK 3)
3:45pm – 5:20pm – Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot (AGO)
6:00pm – 7:50pm – Up in the Air (RYERSON)
10:00pm – 12:30am – Enter the Void (AMC 6)

Sunday, September 13th
9:15am – 11:05am – La Pere de mes Enfants (AMC 5)
12:15pm – 1:50pm – Dogtooth (AMC 5)

3:00pm – 4:45pm – The House of Branching Love (AMC 3)
5:30pm – 7:30pm – The Road (RYERSON)
9:30pm – 11:00pm – Accident (SCOTIABANK 1)

Monday, September 14th
9:15am – 10:50am – Triage (SCOTIABANK 4)
2:00pm – 3:45pm – The Sunshine Boy (AMC 10)
5:00pm – 7:05pm – Agora (SCOTIABANK 1)
9:00pm – 10:45pm – Leaves of Grass (RYERSON)

Tuesday, September 15th
9:30am – 11:15am – Les Herbes Folles (SCOTIABANK 3)
12:00pm – 1:40pm – Soul Kitchen (RYERSON)
2:45pm – 5:15pm – Un prophete (AMC 3)
6:00pm – 8:00pm – Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans (RYERSON)
8:45pm – 11:05pm – Tales from the Golden Age (AMC 3)
12:00am – 1:30am – [REC] 2 (RYERSON)

Wednesday, September 16th
9:30am – 11:10am – The Front Line (RYERSON)
12:00pm – 1:30pm – Youth in Revolt (SCOTIABANK 1)
2:30pm – 4:40pm – Glorious 39 (VISA SCREENING ROOM)
5:00pm – 6:55pm – L’Affaire Farewell (RYERSON)
9:00pm – 10:30pm – Gigante (AMC 3)

Thursday, September 17th
9:45am – 11:05am – High Life (SCOTIABANK 4)
12:00pm – 1:45pm – Micmacs (RYERSON)
2:30pm – 4:25pm – Police, Adjective (AMC 6)
5:30pm – 7:00pm – My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done? (VARSITY 8)
8:15pm – 10:15pm – Air Doll (AMC 3)

Friday, September 18th
8:45am – 11:00am – Les Derniers Jours du Monde (CUMBERLAND 3)
1:00pm – 3:30pm – The White Ribbon (SCOTIABANK 4)
4:15pm – 5:45pm – Perrier’s Bounty (SCOTIABANK 2)
6:30pm – 8:30pm – Spring Fever (VISA SCREENING ROOM)
10:00pm – 11:20pm – Trash Humpers (AGO)
12:00am – 1:15am – A Town Called Panic (RYERSON)

Saturday, September 19th
9:15am – 11:45am – Baaria (CUMBERLAND 3)
12:30pm – 2:15pm – White Material (WINTER GARDEN THEATER)
3:15pm – 5:30pm – Mr. Nobody (RYERSON)
6:15pm – 8:25pm – Mother (ISABEL BADER THEATER)
9:00pm – ?? – People’s Choice Winner (VISA SCREENING ROOM)

For some reason, I put Soul Kitchen down twice and got a 12:15pm showing of it on Saturday, September 19th where White Material should be. I’ll do a simple swap and get it all proper, hopefully.

My Tentative TIFF Schedule!

ALAS! THE DAY HAS COME! HERE IT IS!!!

Thursday, September 10th
6:00pm -7:40pm – An Education (RYERSON)
9pm – 10:45pm – Antichrist (RYERSON)

Friday, September 11th
9:30am – 11:10am – The Happiest Girl in the World (SCOTIABANK 3)
12:15pm – 1:45pm – Huacho (SCOTABANK 1)
3pm – 4:50pm – Creation (RYERSON)
5:30pm – 7:05pm – The Good Heart (AMC 6)
8:30pm – 10:45pm – City of Life and Death (WINTER GARDEN THEATER)

Saturday, September 12th
10am – 11:40am – The Day God Walked Away (ISABEL BADER THEATER)
12:45pm – 2:05pm – Independencia (SCOTIABANK 3)
2:45pm – 4:15pm – Five Hours from Paris (SCOTIABANK 1)
6:00pm – 7:50pm – Up in the Air (RYERSON)
10:00pm – 12:30am – Enter the Void (AMC 6)

Sunday, September 13th
9:15am – 11:05am – La Pere de mes Enfants (AMC 5)
12:15pm – 1:50pm – Dogtooth (AMC 5)
3pm – 4:45pm – The House of Branching Love (AMC 3)
5:30pm – 7:30pm – The Road (RYERSON)
9:00pm – 11:00pm – Air Doll (SCOTIABANK 2)

Monday, September 14th
9:15am – 10:50am – Triage (SCOTIABANK 4)
11:45am – 1:05am – Trash Humpers (SCOTIABANK 1)
2:30pm – 4:00pm – Accident (AMC 5)
5:00pm – 7:05pm – Agora (SCOTIABANK 1)
9:00pm – 10:45pm – Leaves of Grass (RYERSON)

Tuesday, September 15th
9:30am – 11:15am – Les Herbes Folles (SCOTIABANK 3)
12:00pm – 1:40pm – Soul Kitchen (RYERSON)
2:45pm – 5:15pm – Un prophete (AMC 3)
6:00pm – 8:00pm – Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans (RYERSON)
8:45pm – 11:05pm – Tales from the Golden Age (AMC 3)
12:00am – 1:30am – [REC] 2 (RYERSON)

Wednesday, September 16th
9:30am – 11:10am – The Front Line (RYERSON)
12:00pm – 1:30pm – Youth in Revolt (SCOTIABANK 1)
2:30pm – 4:40pm – Glorious 39 (VISA SCREENING ROOM)
5:00pm – 6:55pm – L’Affaire Farewell (RYERSON)
9:00pm – 10:30pm – Gigante (AMC 3)

Thursday, September 17th
9:45am – 11:05am – High Life (SCOTIABANK 4)
12:00pm – 1:45pm – Micmacs (RYERSON)
2:30pm – 4:25pm – Police, Adjective (AMC 6)
5:30pm – 7:00pm – My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done? (VARSITY 8)
8:30pm – 11:00pm – Baaria (WINTER GARDEN THEATER)

Friday, September 18th
8:45am – 11:00am – Les Derniers Jours du Monde (CUMBERLAND 3)
1:00pm – 3:30pm – The White Ribbon (SCOTIABANK 4)
4:15pm – 5:45pm – Perrier’s Bounty (SCOTIABANK 2)
6:00pm – 7:40pm – The Double Hour (VISA SCREENING ROOM)
9:00pm – 11:10pm – Mr. Nobody (RYERSON)
12:00am – 1:15am – A Town Called Panic (RYERSON)

Saturday, September 19th
9:00am – 11:05am – Fish Tank (ISABEL BADER THEATER)
12:30pm – 2:15pm – White Material (WINTER GARDEN THEATER)
4:00pm – 5:30pm – Irene (AMC 4)
6:15pm – 8:25pm – Mother (ISABEL BADER THEATER)
9:00pm – ?? – People’s Choice Winner (VISA SCREENING ROOM)

if they skip the free screening: 9:15pm – 10:50pm – The Disappearance of Alice Creed (RYERSON)

If for whatever reason they aren’t doing the People’s Choice Winner this year, I’m going to take my dad to see The Disappearance of Alice Creed at 9:15pm on the Saturday.

Well that’s my schedule – 49 tickets used; 48 if they go on with the winner. Perfect because that’ll leave me two tickets to take my dad to some screenings. If not, well, I’ll manage something for the two of us.

If you’re attending the festival, I’d love to hear what your schedule is looking like. Boy, today was just as exhilarating as I knew it would be. Viva la TIFF!

Forizzer’s Halfway Awards [winners]

ForizzscarBruno

Welcome to the fifth annual Forizzscars (probably about 3rd annual halfway awards, but whatever). I posted my nominees last night consisting of the 2009 films I’ve seen so far this year. There’s been some great competition – and most remarkably, the Best Actor category has already been more fierce and deep than most other lineups I’ve had all decade. Well, enjoy!

BEST PICTURE
Br
ünodir. Larry Charles

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sam Rockwell – Moon

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Maria Heinskanen – Marta Larsson’s Everlasting Moments

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jeremie Renier – Lorna’s Silence

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams – Night at the Museum : Battle of the Smithsonian

BEST DIRECTOR
Jan Troell – Maria Larsson’s Everlasting Moments

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Maria Larsson’s Everlasting Moments

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
In The Loop

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Sauna

BEST FILM EDITING
Moon

BEST ART DIRECTION
Nightwatching

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Brüno

BEST MAKEUP
Martyrs

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Star Trek

BEST SOUND MIXING
Up

BEST SOUND EDITING
The Hurt Locker

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Up

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The Spirit of Adventure – Up

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Clint Mansell – Moon

For those who tuned in, I’ve got to give a big thanks. Please leave a comment if you feel strong feeling towards my decisions – I love a good argument.