Sunday, August 31, 2008

Screwed by punctuality: sagas of the bin

Number fucking nine.

Saw on the TIFF site that the number selected (was it not randomly computer-generated? did they ask someone's kid what his favorite number was?) to begin the ticket draw was number nine. And I, of course, dropped my ticket form off on Wedneday mid-afternoon and it went into bin number (wait for it) eight. And they filled seventy-eight boxes with forms. How many forms in a box? Fifty? So are there 3900 people who will be processed before I am? Am I going to get a single one of my top picks? Looking over my list I see at least seven I can pretty much guarantee will be filled before my form is drawn.

Seriously, at this point it's probably for the best if I think negative thoughts; the surprise waiting for me in my inbox later tonight or early tomorrow morning can only be an improvement.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Program book day and the torture of choosing a top twenty

You know that classic scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High where the teacher passes out a mimeographed quiz and all the stoner students take a huge whiff of the papers? Yeah, that’s me soon’s I crack open the TIFF program(me) book every summer. Sad, ain’t it? I actually said “Amazing! Smell this!” to my manager and she did indulge me, though I suspect it’s because I so rarely get enthused about very much at the office and she didn’t quite know what nuttiness might ensue otherwise. I passed out the promo goodies (a bag of coffee, some Lindor chocolates, a Pizza Nova contest card, and I kept the Stella Artois glass) and settled back to get to highlighting the index.

So the book is out! Kind of muddy earth tones on the cover, not exactly the eye-catcher that the blazing blue of ’06 or the green of ’04 was, but never mind, I don’t get it for the cover. And I’ve actually worked out a top twenty schedule in record time. I think. Sort of. I’m missing a couple that I was hoping to squeeze in, and if I get them at all as backups, it’ll be at the cost of something I want even more, but I did the best I could with the overall festival schedule. My top twenty is actually a top eighteen, as I’m taking friends to a couple of shows. So the eighteen I’m hoping to see this year are, in chronological order: Country Wedding, A Film With Me In It, Un été sans point ni coup sûr, Middle of Nowhere, La Mémoire des Anges, Genova, White Night Wedding, Ashes of Time Redux, The Hurt Locker, Not Quite Hollywood, the evening with Kathryn Bigelow, Plastic City, Adam Ressurected, The Dungeon Masters, Firaaq, Krabat, Chocolate and My Mother, My Bride and I. I’ll spare you my backup list until it becomes a going concern.

What’s the breakdown? Ten are in a language other than English, two are documentaries, two are Canadian (specifically Quebecois), two are Icelandic, two are matinees of Midnight Madness flicks and only one is something I suspect might get a theatrical release in Toronto.

And Genova made my list, despite the muddling efforts of the fest organizers. When I open the book, I tend to skip over the gala section for the obvious reason. This year, what with the Special Presentation change (which the woman behind me in line, for whom this will be her twentieth year at the fest, was also commiserating about. Power to the people), I was going to skip the SP section as well. Skimming through the book, frustration mounted as that particular program seemed to be the thickest of them all. I verified that a handful of SPs were playing in non-gala theatres after their premieres, so I called up once more to see if a verdict had been reached on 2nd screening prices. At which point it was explained that the pricing pertains, ultimately, to the venue more than the program. Galas you know, but SPs are only premium priced if they play at the Visa Screening Room. The Winter Garden Theatre, on the other hand, located in the same building, though I have no idea where, is also playing host to Special Presentations at the old price. So it sort of makes sense, though such a distinction is spelled out only monumentally obliquely if you care to hunt for the facts. Genova makes the list. I hope I get in.

Looking forward to Ashes of Time Redux. I must admit my interest in Wong Kar Wai waxes and wanes; I nearly fell asleep at 2046 but thought My Blueberry Nights was quite wonderful and unfairly maligned by the critics. ‘twas a time, back when a good 40% of what I was watching was in Cantonese with English subtitles, that Wong was a major concern in my cinematic life. To this day I think Chungking Express is the most romantic movie I’ve ever seen; the final line of dialogue between Tony Leung and Faye Wong makes me want to hug myself with joy every time I hear it. The original version of Ashes is more problematic. It was a wu xia pan whose production spiraled out of control and was banged into a well-nigh incomprehensible form in the editing room, yet was still a wonky masterpiece. I remember lending a bootleg to a German friend while at film school and she called me up just as Brigitte Lin was slicing the lake in two, saying “Thees is my new favorite moo-vee! Thank you, thank you!” The way the camera lingers on Maggie Cheung’s face during her closing monolog cemented her status as one of the greatest iconic screen beauties of all time. If this re-edit maintains all the power of the original but also renders the story understandable, Wong will definitely have his mojo back.

A few other observations…

Control Alt Delete, a Canadian film about a guy obsessed with internet porn who actually begins to have intercourse with his hard drive, was produced by Lynne Stopkewich, who directed the classic necro drama Kissed, and thus seems to be building a career around movies featuring characters humpinandpumpin things they really shouldn’t. Only in Canada.

Looking through the Galas I can’t spot this year’s massive misstep, that high profile red carpet event that either tanks completely upon release or is critically reviled or both. All The Kings Men, anyone? How about 2005’s closing night gala Edison, starring Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake, which went straight to DVD as Edison Force? I’m leaving Elizabethtown out of this grouping because I thought the release version was a lopsided masterpiece and I don’t hold its “work in progress” gala catastrophe against it.

I ran into Colin Geddes at FanExpo and we talked about the Midnight Madness lineup. It’s a really solid program this year, though oddly enough there’s no musical documentary like there usually is. Geddes was raving about The Burrowers, though I really disliked JP Petty’s S&MAN two years ago. If I can somehow squeeze into a screening of Martyrs, I just might hit that one on top of my ticketed program.

Is every Israeli director named “Amos?” Just wondering.

I think John Malkovich is in about eight movies at the festival this year. Maybe not that many, but his photo seems to be all over the book for some reason.

I’ve already seen the trailers for seven of the Special Presentations in theatres, two of which star Greg Kinnear, who’s actually done really well at the TIFF with Auto Focus and The Matador, among others. Ghost Town seems to be the oddest festival entry of the year, a comedy that seems so unbearably mainstream and generic and is really only going to pack ‘em it so folks can see and hear Ricky Gervais in person.

So anyway, I’m dropping off my form after my lunchtime comics run tomorrow and my fingers will be crossed until the weekend. What did everyone else pick?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Various random thoughts on the film list

The closing night gala is Stone of Destiny, about the theft of the Stone of Scone which is kinda funny because I just last weekend watched the episode of Highlander in which Mac, Fitz and Amanda are revealed to be the ones who lifted the rock. Okay, so that’s just funny to me.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a Special Presentation, and I noticed that Traci Lords is in the cast list. Which got me wondering if this is the first time Lords is onscreen at the TIFF, but then I realized that as a John Waters veteran, it’s probably not even the first time she’s been thirty feet high on the Visa screen.

In between my recent 24 marathons, I’ve rented a couple of former festival flicks lately. Saw Shortbus (2006) last night and liked it quite a bit, though the ending was way too inconclusive for my liking. There were some truly spectacular moments of pathos, though, particularly the former mayor’s lament and the closing song. And I rented The Boys and Girl from County Clare pretty much on whim (an hour and a half of Irish reels and Andrea Corr’s cheekbones? Sold!) only to discover later that it had played at a Gala in 2003. It was…fine, I guess, entertaining enough despite a script loaded with more clichés than a Bon Jovi lyric; I’m still sort of puzzled as to how it made the gala cut.

Only two of the galas worry me about subsequent general release possibilities: Who Do You Love and The Good, The Bad and the Weird. I really hope there’s a Mongol-style surprise and Lionsgate or Alliance picks them up for theatrical.

Two weeks to go!

Initial thoughts on the film list and one final rant

So, Christmas (ie: Program Book Day) is just around the corner and things are in kind of a holding pattern. The full film list went live on Tuesday, but with no blurbs or schedule accompanying it, such a posting tends to leave one more frustrated than anything else. Each year I spend that Tuesday evening cross-referencing titles with the imdb, but since most of the films haven’t had any kind of release even in their home countries, and many others have secured little if no distribution, information can be scarce. Many titles don’t show up at all on an imdb search, and others have little more than a title and main cast credits in the listing: no external reviews or official website which makes advance querying futile until the book comes out to give a few more hints.

All I can really do until the 26th, then, is to research what I can and make lists based on directors, actors, and countries of origin that I’m hoping to visit cinematically this year. Two Icelandic movies have made my list--both about weddings, oddly enough; I guess nuptials was this year’s theme du jour in the Reykjavik film community. French-Canadian films seem a little thin on the ground, but the weird way in which Canuck flicks are programmed (a concentration in Canada First! and then scattershot through every other program) makes it hard to be sure until I see the catalog en toto.

Paul Schrader’s latest, a holocaust drama starring Wilem Dafoe, is playing, thankfully in the Masters program and not as a Special Presentation, and that’s my Can’t Miss for this year. Schrader’s one of my few remaining cinematic heroes; Taxi Driver was such a seminal film for me, and so many others, like Hardcore, Mishima, Auto Focus and Last Temptation of Christ, have made a huge impact on my life. I went to the AFI largely because Schrader was one of the first Fellows there…though he dropped out due to political reasons, which I should have seen as an omen for how well I’d succeed in film after actually graduating. So I’ll be lining up early for that one if I can score a ticket, and in my required one fanboy move of the festival I’ll be bringing along my Light Sleeper poster and a Sharpie, just in case director and star walk the gauntlet slowly outside the Ryerson.

This week’s Now magazine also has a pullout section with some interesting info. There’s a purported full rundown of the Galas and Special Presentations and Genova isn’t on the list. Very curious. Cancelled from the fest? Downgraded to an accessible screening? (interjection: I sketched out this posting at work and checked the site at home, and Genova is indeed listed on the TIFF site as being an SP, so who knows?) In its own TIFF article, Eye also makes the first comment I’ve seen so far in the press about the elevation of status and ticket prices for SP screenings. I’m really hoping a few more people will kick up a bit of a stink. It also seems, judging from this pullout, that the second or third screenings of Gala and SP movies are also being held at the Visa Screening Room which ixnays ticket package purchases.

I know I seem to be harping on this issue, but it’s not a minor one to me. I don’t have an issue with the exclusionary galas; part of the international cachet of the film fest is the Hollywood North rollout of Oscar season prestige product and the attendant celebrity buzz. My own preferred beat at the TIFF is the smaller indie film or the obscure foreign entry or quirky doc, so the galas are off my radar. I mean, I’m going to go see Burn After Reading when it gets released anyway, and I don’t feel like I’m being shut out of a valuable viewing experience by not ponying up a couple of sawbucks for the nosebleeds. But in my festival experience, the Special Presentations have a certain magic to them; the Visa Screening Room is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever set foot in—I’d rank it up there with the (late) Rialto in Montreal or the main room at Mann’s Chinese. The films that make that SP cut, they’ve been leaning towards “why isn’t this a gala?” lately but something like, say, Snow Cake or a Johnny To flick late in the evening feel more like regular festival programming, not something that needs to shut out the hoi polloi. True, it’s one program out of the dozen or so, but it still seems like a major step away from the notion of the “people’s festival.”

Okay, I’m officially dropping the subject now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder, Mirrors and more festival picks

Saw Tropic Thunder Friday night and it was....good, I guess. No, it was actually pretty hilarious, and I'll repeat my comment from Pineapple Express regarding bloody viscera and its growing importance in improv-heavy ironic comedies of the day. I suppose what resistance I have to giving the movie an all-out rave is my basic issue with Ben Stiller, namely that his inside-Hollywood self-reference always seems to lend his projects an uncomfortable air of nudge-nudge chumminess that I find really offputting. On the other hand, Stiller seems to only play two kinds of characters these days: on one hand there's the schlemiel whose relationships devolve into Kafka-esque hells (Along Came Polly, Meet The Parents), on the other there's the over-the-top caricature who seems to exist in a separate plane of reality but seems vaguely plausible within the context of the narrative (Dodgeball, Zoolander, Mystery Men). Personally, when he's doing the latter I tend to find him a lot more interesting; Tugg Speedman falls firmly into the this camp, but the returns are shrinking. As for the other much talked-about performances, Downey Jr. is as brilliant as always, and I think would be a shoo-in for a best supporting actor nod if the role wasn't freighted with such political overtones. Tom onscreen for about three times as long as he should be for his role to be at all effective; as it plays, he's boring and irritatingly profane for no discernable reason.

Also saw Mirrors in a virtually empty AMC 24 theatre and I was mostly impressed. Though I've kind of cooled on Asian horror of late, I'm always game for a solid remake, and Alexadre Aja delivered in ways that the makers of One Missed Call and Shutter utterly failed to do. I was stunned at just how extreme the violence was, and how it pushed so many of my nightmare buttons.

Anyway, back to the TIFF. More announcements this week, including Genova which is a Special Presentation after all so I won't be going to the premiere screening. I called the festival office to inquire about pricing for the subsequent screenings and was told they hadn't gotten all the details yet. Assuming that the second and maybe third screenings of Genova will be in theatres other than the Elgin I'll still add it to my choices. Discovery, Vanguard and Visions programs were also announced, with several maybes: Gigantic, Lymelife and Afterwards are high on the possibles list.

Two days til the whole film list goes live

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Looking back: thumbnail sketches of my past TIFF experiences

Killing time…killing time…one week until the full film list is up and a week more after that until Program Book Day so I figured some self-indulgent autobiography is in order. Not my own life history, which is boring enough, but my history of the TIFF. I moved to Toronto permanently in late summer of 2000 after four+ years off and on in L.A. My only previous film festival experience was mostly the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and occasional one-off screenings at other local L.A. fests, of which there are dozens if not hundreds. So now, a year-by-year rundown of how I became such a TIFF junkie.

2000: Didn’t go. I’d just moved to Toronto a couple of weeks before and was barely eking out a living at the nameless video store. This was, however, my first experience with movie actors setting up accounts for a couple of days so they could rent movies then run off to California with them.

2001: The year everyone would like to forget, in which the 9/11 attacks happened at the midpoint of the festival. I actually wasn’t in town; I was taking a week off work around by birthday (which is on 9/11) and was in Ottawa visiting my folks for most of the fest. That day I went to a sparsely-attended matinee of Peter Hyams’ The Musketeer and the next day took a road trip to Montreal in a daze.

2002: Didn’t go. I was working on the set of The In-Laws at the time, though, and many of the cast went to galas and parties. For several days in a row the press person for the shoot would drop off stacks of party invites to my boss and would tell me very pointedly: “And remember, these are non-transferable.” Yeah, yeah, I get it. Didn't want to go to Jewison's barbecue anyway (pout).

2003: Finally took my first tentative steps. Went up to the box office after work the day individual tickets went on sale and stood in line for two hours as more and more screenings got crossed off the big board. I didn’t have a program book, so I borrowed the one of the guy standing in front of me. Picked three more or less at random based on the photos. Opening night I saw the brilliant documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip and was made painfully nostalgic for L.A.; the film even opened with footage of an X concert that I had attended. Met Rodney Bingenheimer and director George Hickenlooper after the show; got to tell the latter that I’d been at the Dogtown premiere at the LAIFF back in 1997. Saw four more movies at the fest: PTU, Prey For Rock ‘n Roll, Elephant and Cremaster 3, which nearly put me to sleep. One was a particularly good score; I was walking past the Uptown when somebody in the crowd said “Does anybody need a ticket for Elephant?” I said yes and was reaching for my wallet when he pressed the ticket into my hand and walked off. Van Sant was there for a Q&A after the screening with his cast; little did I know at the time what a rare occurrence that would be for a third-fest-screening of a movie.

2004: Planned ahead, but still wasn’t plunking yet down for a ticket package. I lined up on FanExpo Saturday for a gala ticket to Clean, then arrived at College Park at 4 in the morning for a handful of individual tickets. Some memorable moments: the gala was a “never again” experience. Forty-odd dollars for nosebleed-section seats at Roy Thompson Hall, Maggie Cheung could have been Jacky Cheung onstage for all I could see. It was pretty funny when a staggering Nick Nolte slurred into the mic that his favorite city is Montreal. Also, in memory of the time Wim Wenders had let me buy him a glass of wine at a Harry Dean Stanton concert, I gave him a bottle of Ontario cabernet after the Land of Plenty screening. Saw about six movies, the best was Johnny To’s Throw Down.

2005: Another crack-of-dawn lineup experience, this time up at Manulife. First time going to a Dialogues presentation (Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream) and my first Midnight Madness screening, albeit in the afternoon (The Great Yokai War on the final Saturday). Some pretty terrific films (Wah Wah stands out, partly for the fantastic Q&A) and I got to chat with Robin Tunney for the first time since The In-Laws wrapped after her screening of Runaway. This year’s Nick Nolte moment was David Boreanaz using the phrase “we were all in agreeance” during the These Girls Q&A. But the year felt like a bit of a letdown; unlike the previous two years, there was no one movie I saw that was a transformative experience. I went home after TGYW and thence to the Beach Cinema to see Lord of War, which was more powerful than anything I’d caught at the fest that year.

2006: The year I finally got it right. Booked a week off of work and bought a ten-pack of tickets. Had a fun moment with Saffron Burrows after the Fay Grim screening; I’d driven her around on her first American movie as she didn’t have a driver’s license (in clear violation of favored-nations clauses in the actors’ contracts) and when I said hi to her from the crowd on the way to the limo she recognized me and came over to chat, leaving a confused Jeff Goldblum stewing in the car wondering what the holdup was. Fave movies of the fest: Severance and Snow Cake. Least favorite: Dans Les Villes.

2007: I knew I should have booked an extra day off; The Mother of Tears opens Midnight Madness and I can’t go ‘cause I’ve got work the next morning. Fricking frick. Lou Reed concert movie on my birthday, Peter Greenaway in the Elgin theatre, Bill Maher at Ryerson and a Roger Ebert book signing. A pretty perfect week if you ask me. Except, I suppose for that lousy Austrian science fiction movie that I walked out of halfway through. Son of Rambow was my last screening of the fest and became my favorite movie of the year. I saw fifteen movies in total and can’t remember a better time.

2008…gonna be a great one, I can feel it…

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pineapple Express and the worst remake idea EVER

Just saw Pineapple Express and I gotta admit it was a lot of fun. Normally not a fan of the stoner movie, largely due to a bad previous job at which it seemed half my co-workers rocked the ganj far too much, but the "Have you ever really LOOKED at your hand?"-type humour was kept to a minimum and it's always great to see the ever-gorgeous Nora Dunn onscreen, especially when she's cursing up a storm. Quite the lovely contempo ultraviolence as well; I remember the disparaging tone commentators used to take about action movies from the early eighties, especially the ones from the Joel Silver factory, but seriously? Commando is practically a children's movie compared to the flying viscera that seems to get flung around in the name of ironic yucks these days.

Okay, so I'm settling back with my kiddie combo (what? if I get a full bag of popcorn I'm going to eat the whole thing and nobody wants that) and the pre-show promo reel is unspooling and in "Casting Notes" it's mentioned that Eva Mendes and Nicolas Cage are going to be headlining a remake of Bad Lieutenant.

Go ahead, read that back to yourself, I'll pause for a moment to let it sink in.

Can you think, scouring your memories, for a film LESS needing a remake? The mind positively boggles. So I look it up on imdb as soon as I get home, and, get this, Werner Herzog is directing, it also stars Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk (pause for a second while I swoon over knockout nutty goth girls....okay, I'm back) and the full title is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. The discussion boards seem to express some well-deserved it a remake? re-imagining? sequel? Is it some in-name only franchise cash-in in the vein of Carlito's Way: Rise To Power or U.S. Marshals: Like The Fugitive Only It Blows? While I enjoy the synchronicity that Abel Ferrara did pursue Nicolas Cage to star in The Funeral (for the role Christopher Walken ultimately played), and the fact that Herzog is getting some Hollywood cred only forty-odd years into his directing career, I'm up-and-down, back-to-front flabberbaffled at this whole state of affairs. Seriously, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Say it ain't so...the dwindling state of the theatre-going experience in Toronto

It's one of several paragraph-long newsblips in the "Up Front" section of this week's Now magazine, rumblings that the Cumberland cinema may be the next movie theatre in this film-lovin' town to face the wrecking ball. Heartbreaking, but I suppose inevitable. I'd been meaning to write something on the first-run movie houses of Tee-Oh, and there's one more reminder that everything in this entry may well be rendered obsolete in a year or two. If you're a Toronto filmgoer reading this, there's probably nothing new here save my own personal reminiscences; if you're reading this from elsewhere, I suspect some nods of recognition are a'comin'.

Hogtown's suffered the fate of most other big North American cities, by which I mean the consolidation into plexes and the slow decimation of the standalone and independent arthouse theatres. Still, there are a handful of decent venues, many of which are taken over by the Festival Group in early September. The best, in my opinion, first-run theatre in the city closed almost four years ago. Any other Uptown fans here? Right, I thought so. The Uptown had the biggest, most cavernous main theatre in my Toronto experience, as well as two decent-sized basement rooms. Barely a bad seat in the house and the perfect spot to see genre work that calls for a big screen like the first two Matrix flicks, both of which I caught there opening day. The fate of the Uptown is well-known, and no doubt nationally common save for the fatal twist: the owners were unwilling or unable to pony up and cave to activist group pressure and retrofit the front entrance (an admittedly steep escalator) to make it wheelchair-accessible, and it was shuttered for good shortly after the cutain closed on TIFF 2003. The following summer, as the building was being demolished, a wall collapsed onto a nearby language school, killing (if memory serves) a South American exchange student.

As well, not long after I moved back to TO, the threeplex at the Hudson's Bay Centre was sealed up, and the Eaton Centre theatres closed; the latter wasn't exactly a palace, with its lousy projection and a labyrinthine hallway to get to the theatres, but it was the only remaining half-price second-run place downtown.

So what does this leave? The Paramount, which to me and everyone I've talked to about it, will always be the Paramount and not the freaking Scotiabank Theatre (sigh...) with its four huge front rooms, IMAX screen and nine back rooms, not a single one of which is a shoebox. It's right downtown and for a multiplex makes a surprisingly good location for fest screenings. There's also the Varsity for your slightly upscale flicks (Persepolis, inevitably the latest Coen brothers, In Bruges) as well as a decent cross section of the H'wood product of the day. Plus about half the Varsity rooms are turned over to the festival, and I'll always love the place for the proximity it allowed me to Lou Reed last year. I don't think the Beaches quite counts as downtown (no idea what the census calls the dividing line but I figure the Don River is the cutoff point) but I can't let this go without mentioning the Beach Cinemas because, as they're four blocks from my apartment, I'm there most weekends, especially during the summer. It's a multi, but it's part of the Alliance chain so the programming is a decent mix of slightly-left-of-centre and mainstream, the ticket prices are the cheapest in town with a membership, all the theatres are sizeable and have great sound and projection and the snack bar is above average.

The less said about the new AMC (Yonge & Dundas) the better; I think I need to see a movie with more than eight people in the auditorium to really form an opinion on the place. But that's my fault, I guess, for going there to see War Inc. and American Teen instead of the stellar studio product that clogs 90% of the AMC screens on a given weekend.

Which leaves us with the first-run arthouses. There's the possibly soon-to-be-gone Cumberland, which is sensibly totally taken over come festival time. Why not, since you can hit the Four Seasons with a rock from the snack bar, so the stars don't have far to walk for their premieres. And then (shudder) there's the Carlton. Whenever I see that a movie I've been looking forward to is opening there I can't help but wince and weigh just how much I really want to see it. Partly it's the atmosphere: I don't think I've ever seen a movie at the Carlton with more than twenty people in the auditorium (you can almost see the tumbleweeds rolling across the lobby), whether the movie was great (Tristram Shandy, Bee Season, Don't Come Knocking), middling (Angel A) or crap on toast (She Hate Me). Not that you can realistically squeeze all that many more people into screening halls that are about the size of my living room with tiny screens way up high that leave you with a crick in your neck the rest of the day.

However, the Carlton can at times seem like the Varsity compared to the most unpleasant theatre experience in town, the Canada Square. Up at Yonge & Eglinton, a block south of the Scotia's sister multi, is a bizarre little indoor mall with a ten-or-so-rooms theatre at the south end. Finding a gotta-see listed at the Square is worth two winces and a couple of out-loud curses. I mainly go to matinees on weekends and the mall, the kind of retail hallway built as an afterthought on the ground floor (or lower) of an office block, is 90% closed for business as I trek from the subway to the box office, so I can't help feeling like a trespasser, like I've missed the KEEP OUT sign on an abandoned building slated for renovation. Often there'll be one little boutique open for shits and giggles and the clerk at said salon or newsstand will sit there looking forlorn and depressed in the near-dark as what little foot traffic there is on a Sunday passes by. I've seen a few decent movies at the Canada Square, but for some reason virtually everything I catch there is a disappointment in some way, not to mention a downer as a movie, and I walk out pummeled by dreariness. I've got to be imagining this, but somehow almost every movie I see there had a myopic DP and a set dresser on Prozac; that's the only way to explain such mopey, murky offerings as the Strangers With Candy movie, the execrable Art School Confidential, and Walk All Over Me, the Canadian domme-com that begs the question "How can a movie featuring Tricia Helfer and Leelee Sobieski in fetish gear for most of the running time be so deathly dull to watch?" I'm convinced that the venue has tons to do with it.

Okay, this went on a lot longer than I'd planned it to. I did mean this to be a generally informative survey, but the imminent demise of the Cumberland drives home once again the sad fact...we're losing the great non-rep screens in town one at a time. If we're not careful, Toronto will turn into (ick) Ottawa, with its one arthouse, its one second-run house, its zero single-screen houses and its half dozen multiplexes being the only option for seeing any kind of flick that the distributors deign to drop on the capital.

Attica! Attica!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

29 days and counting; going live

The festival announced thirteen Asian titles today...that's a very odd sentence for some reason, reading it back. Hmmm. Plenty more good stuff, though. With twenty tickets I'm hoping to hit a few more countries cinematically this year; 2007 had me dipping my toes into Macedonia and Mongolia for the first time, albeit, reading back last year's blog entries, without thrilling success. I had really hoped to see The Voyeurs last year but couldn't work it into my schedule and in 2006 Never Say Goodbye was sold out by the time I tried to score tix, and that was probably my biggest missed-flick regret of the festival along with Grbavica. So this year, I have the goal of definitely seeing something from India, and Firaaq looks like the one. There's a new Takeshi Kitano as well, but the writeup on the TIFF site says it's the third part of a trilogy and I haven't seen the first two, nor am I even quite sure what they are. As well, I have to admit I may have passed through my Takeshi phase; Fireworks (Hana-Bi) blew me away when I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen in Ottawa, and I think Brother is a grossly underrated part of his oeuvre, but I find myself struggling with his other recent work. Maybe. I don't know. The Sky Crawlers sounds pretty sweet, and who knows, maybe I'll finally crack that anime mental block I've got with something by a master.

So the list is filling up. Thirteen days 'til the film list goes online and twenty days until that glorious day, what for me is like Christmas I guess that's the only holiday that comes with presents, so Christmas and mumblemumble rolled into one, the day the program book is released and I can freak out over a spreadsheet for three hours trying to figure out a program of first and second picks. Good times. And I really mean that without irony, that's one of my favorite nights of the year.

Also sent the link to this new journal into the TIFF site for hopeful inclusion in the "Your Blogs" section. The past couple of years I was working off my MySpace page but that's generally sort of falling into disrepair anyway, so a clean start seemed in order. Hopefully my Paul Gross snark of a couple of weeks back hasn't disqualified me from inclusion this year, but anyhow if you're reading this linked from the TIFF site, hi there, good to see you, and I'll be updating more and more frequently. It'll be mainly about the fest, but also the summer's-nearly-over blockbuster roundup is on deck, as are planned posts (in rough form currently) about the Toronto moviegoing experience in general, not to mention the other current countdown of the late summer, FanExpo, which is a mere sixteen days off.

Rain tomorrow, they say. I really hope so.