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?

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