It’s been far too long. Last November is when I updated this blog, and that was about the trip to Britain rather than strictly cinematic ponderings (gotta say, I was surprised when Harry Brown finally came out theatrically here and was greeted with critical dislike-up-to-indifference and commercial meh), and as I guess is appropriate for someone who’d essentially thrown in the towel when it comes to pursuing writing as a career, I’m worried about the “use it or lose it” mental muscle atrophy. So, with a bit over six weeks to go before TIFF, a whack of titles for the Galas and Special Presentations have been released and the slow rev up into pants-wetting celeb worship as practiced by our supposedly savvy and jaded local media can begin in earnest.
There’s also, on my part, a bit of an emotional reticence to dive right in to festival raves. As both my faithful readers know, last year was my first time at the Toronto International Film Festival where I sorta, well, had a lousy time. Of my fourteen presentations, only one was an unqualified knock-my-socks-off rave, and that was a Q&A rather than a screening (In conversation with...Michael Caine). I did see a couple of terrific films that I’d unhesitatingly recommend: the awesome Aussie horror flick The Loved Ones and the Israeli thriller Kirot which, oddly enough, the distributor of apparently read this blog and emailed to ask if a line of my rave could be quoted on the domestic release DVD case, which blew my mind, but after assenting, I never heard another word..but nothing that just set my brain afire the way some previous years’ screenings had. I also saw a whole lot of “well, okay, I guess...” and even one that I actively hated, another Australian movie, the screen adaptation of the musical Bran Nue Dae, which to me rang of minstrelry. Add to that a gap-filled schedule, insomnia, scorching weather and far too many screenings in the loathed AMC Yonge-Dundas Square googolplex, and I was actively pissed off by the end of the week.
At any rate, my co-workers know that I always book off six days, Friday to Friday, for the fest in September, and since I don’t ask for much when it comes to holidays they cut me the slack. One approached me in January this year with some news...she’s gotta go to a wedding in Russia the first week or so of September. Which pooched at least some of my planned days off. And the thing is , I didn’t respond with a “well, I might just have to quit” terror like I might have in previous years but a sigh of acquiescence...which should really tell you how bummed I was after TIFF ’09. As it worked out, she’s coming back during the first weekend of the festival, so I would only be kept from late screenings on opening night or daytime shows on the Friday, but even still...this year I’m only taking three days off, Monday through Wednesday. I mean, by that point all the stars have gone home anyway, and once you’re past the mid-point, there’s a lazy coasting vibe that settles in and the lack of urgency makes for a certain sadness in the screening lines.
So I’m approaching this year with a different attitude. I’m changing my game plan a bit: probably limiting myself to twelve shows but we’ll see for sure once the entire schedule is posted on August 24th; going to try and focus on screenings that look like fun rather than “I really oughta...”; might even try and spot a genuine movie star or two instead of gooning over Antipodean directors who are more starstruck at their surroundings than I am. I’ll maybe dive back into Midnight Madness: in 2008 I saw six screenings in Geddes’ program and am still reeling over Martyrs (last time I mention it! promise!) so I dialled it back last year and only batted .500 in my picks (but still? Jennifer’s Body as the opening night MM flick? I know the festival has a strong Juno connection, but seriously, dude...).
Enough out of me for now. The Gala/SP lists went up, plus some of the Masters program, and even though I don’t go to galas and I skip Special Presentations if they’re the upper-tier priced ones at the Visa Screening Room (that price hike, dating back to TIFF ’08, still smarts as that’s by far my favourite place in Canada to watch a movie), but I still might try and catch a few Winter Garden SP screenings and it’s always worth previewing my autumn viewing plans.
So of the Galas, there are a few I know fer shurr I’ll be catching when they hit theatres later one: the new Aronofsky, Black Swan; Barney’s Version because was there ever anyone more needed to star in a Mordechai Richler adaptation than Dustin Hoffman?; Casino Jack, starring Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff...is it just me or are film biographies being churned out far too close to the events portrayed these days? Maybe Oliver Stone started it with W., but we’ve also got Fincher’s upcoming Mark Zuckerman biopic which was announced even before the latest round of privacy indignation. Look for the G20 docudrama Rubber Bullet starring Ellen Page as Kelly Pflug-Back and John Travolta in a grey wig as David Miller, as the opening night gala film for TIFF ’11. Right, sorry...The King’s Speech and The Town are also must-sees.
As for the SP’s, there are a few I’m really hoping are Winter Garden bound. Winterbottom (appropriately enough) is back, and while I didn’t think Genova was his greatest work, he’s re-teamed with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for The Trip and that’s one I’ll pay scalper prices to see if the three of them are onstage together for a Q&A. Mike Leigh is (inevitably, one might say) coming with his latest, and considering how much I loved Happy Go Lucky from a couple of years back, it would be great to hear a true master present his work. This is the year, I promise (and I know this is violating my “I’m not going to see a movie because I really should see it” rule) that I check out a genuine Indian film, and Dhobi Ghat sounds pretty sweet for that exploration. Made In Dagenham, Never Let Me Go, Outside The Law, the new one from John Cameron Mitchell (from Shortbus to Nicole Kidman in one movie? Right on, dude.), Tamara Drewe from Stephen Frears...shit, there’s A LOT that I want to see this year, and they haven’t even announced anything for Canada First! or Contemporary World Cinema yet.
So this could be a good year, the kind of redemption I need from the festival. As long as this bloody heat wave breaks before then...