Sunday, September 18, 2005

TIFF Entry #13: Phoning It In…And the Rigging of the Audience Award!

As predicted, today was a somewhat melancholy and lethargic day. It’s like everyone’s stopped trying – the fest organizers and the audiences. Screenings were marginally full, introductions were half-hearted and in-line chatter was minimal. People are just going through the motions and everybody looks kind of dazed and confused. We’re all phoning it in at this point.

Another interesting note: none of the screenings I attended today featured the Audience Award ballots. Apparently, none of the films showing today had them, either. That seems kind of unfair and suspicious – there were a good 50+ films showing today, so…what? Those films aren’t eligible for voting? What if the whole audience at Mrs. Harris (or any other film) LOVED the movie and wanted to vote for it? Has the Audience Award winner already been pre-selected? Are today’s films somehow unworthy of winning? It just seems a little strange, and kind of short shrifts the filmmakers unfortunate enough to have their films’ repeat screenings on the last day of the fest. (I won’t even get into the fact that films with three screenings will have a much better shot at winning, just based on the increased audience size and potential for votes.)

I’m pleased to report that my final day of fest-going featured a good selection of films. First up was Winter Passing (6/8), a quasi-drama starring Zooey Deschanel as a struggling NYC stage actress and daughter of two famous writers, who uncovers secrets from her family’s past when she goes home to visit her increasingly unstable father (Ed Harris, in a very bad wig and cursed with some very over-the-top acting). It’s a nice little character study, and features Will Ferrell in what can, I think, be called his first official “dramatic” role…even though he’s still kind of funny. I referred to the film as being like a “nice warm cup of cocoa” when describing it afterwards.

A special treat was the woman who came into the movie just as it was starting, sat down next to my friend Heather, and promptly slumped over and went to sleep. For, literally, the entire film.

I followed that up with Mrs. Harris (6/8), Annette Bening’s official Oscar Bait 2005 offering, wherein she stars as real-life husband killer Jean Harris, who shot Dr. Herman Tarnower (Ben Kingsley) in March of 1980. She says it was an accident, the prosecution said it was premeditated murder…and the film – which revels in its early-‘80s art direction – presents a darkly comic account of what happened from both points of view. Bening and Kingsley are very strong, and the movie has a sort of Drop Dead Gorgeous tone to it – “interviews” with various parties (played by the likes of Cloris Leachman, Frances Fisher, Mary McDonnell, Philip Baker Hall and Brett Butler!) related to the story are interspersed with its retelling. It’s cheeky.

Movie #3 was unexpectedly good. Runaway (7/8) is a dark and sombre tale of a mentally unstable young man (Aaron Stanford, Tadpole), who’s on the run from the law after a violent act forces him to flee an abusive home. He changes his name, hides out in a hotel and befriends a convenience store worker (Robin Tunney), who becomes his confidante. I went into the film with no expectations – I just figured it would be a decent drama and something to fill the afternoon-movie slot. But the performances were riveting, the storytelling sharp, and the story itself thoroughly engrossing. Even better, the director, Tim McCann, was in attendance and stayed for a lengthy post-film Q&A. He explained that the film will likely have a difficult time finding distribution, due to its subject matter, so if you see it playing at a festival near you…check it out! You may have a long wait to see it otherwise.

Last up, a late-night screening (okay, 9pm, but that’s late!) of the documentary Pick Up the Mic (6/8), which examines the world of gay hip-hop artists. (Or, as my friend Heather misheard, “gay hippopotamuses.”) Lively, funny and spirited, the film turns the spotlight on an as-yet untapped (by mainstream media, anyway) culture of gay men and women stepping up and speaking out through “homohop” music. I expect this one to be a hit on the film festival circuit, and the filmmakers should probably monitor the websites of the artists featured to see if their hit count spikes after each screening.

And that, friends, is all there is. The festival has ended, let us go in peace.

Tomorrow, some final thoughts on TIFF 2005, plus the festival’s official award winners.

Celebrity Sightings: On day ten? Surely you jest.

Roger Ebert Sightings: I’m weeping copious tears for back-to-back Ebert-free festivals. :-(

Line Buzz: You know, I honestly wish I could remember what the one or two people I talked to today had to say. But everything is a blur.


Mathew Englander said...

The awards were announced on Saturday (at some brunch, I believe), so it wouldn’t have been possible to include votes from people seeing films on the final day.

The voting procedure does not seem particularly ‘scientific’ anyway. It isn’t really a ‘ballot’ that you cast, just a rating of the film from one to five. How do they determine the winner? I can’t find the procedure anywhere. Do they take the average rating from all the ballots cast for each film? If so, then it wouldn’t really matter that some films only played once, or that few people saw it when it did play. But I think that form of vote-tallying would be too labour-intensive. Or do they ignore ratings of 1 through 4, and just tally the number of 5s each film receives. Maybe if they did that, they could divide through by the number of people seeing the film. But then what would even be the point of offering the chance to rate a film 1, 2, 3, or 4?

Considering that Totsi won, which I had never heard of until I read something about it on Friday in Eye, it seems that the selection procedure is not biased in favour of films that play in big auditoriums and get a lot of attendees.

Vickie said...

But it makes no sense, then. The Audience Award is supposed to go to the most popular film, the one audiences love the most...and I hadn't heard anything about Tsotsi until yesterday, either. How could so many people love it and then not talk about it??

It can't be an average of the ratings cast, because what about those films that show in half-full theaters? If only 100 people see a movie, but they all give it a 5, does that mean it wins over a movie that played to 700 audience members and got an average of 4.5?

It's all very suspect, IMO. And you're right -- it's not explained anywhere.

the_voice said...

Last year and previous years it worked. Hotel Rwanda and Zatoichi were MOST deserving of the award.

I wanted to give a 5 to Wallace & Gromit on Saturday, but alas, could not. It was one of my 3 fave films of the festival :(