Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Seattle Festival of the Gays 2006

So there were three big unavoidable, inescapable, highly anticipated lures to the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival this year:

1) Opening Night Film - SHORTBUS by John Cameron Mitchell, the long-in-the-making sophomore film from the maker of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

2) Midnight Madness with Peaches Christ, featuring Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill, AND special guest Tura Satana (OMG!!!!)

3) Finally, FINALLY getting to see the infamous Loving Annabelle, the Moviepie review of which has gotten Vickie on the shitlist of hundreds of not thousands of lesbians who love the film (many sight-unseen, it seems).

The fest is solidly half over now, so I'll report on what I've seen (while I clutch my Faster, Pussycat! lunchbox in anticipation for this Saturday night).

SHORTBUS (6/8) - Everyone wants to know about the sex. Yes, there are many bits and pieces in this film, in various combinations, or sometimes even solo. The surprise for many viewers is that SHORTBUS, it turns out, is not simply graphic for the sake of being graphic. The film actually had a lot of heart and emotion (which shouldn't really be too surprising if you've seen Mitchell's Hedwig, either as a stage show or in movie form). SHORTBUS was actually quite funny, and if you can get past the opening montage which throws lots of people getting busy right in your face, you will ready to move on to the rest of the film which gradually focuses on three main characters all dealing with their own sexual and intimacy issues. I liked it. I liked it a lot. And so did the audience.

FOR THE LOVE OF DOLLY (6/8) -- This and Camp Michael Jackson reminded me of those shows that you can sometimes catch on VH1, like "Bon Jovi's Craziest Fans Ever". The Dolly doc had an undercurrent of sweetness and charm, probably because with Dolly herself as the object of affection, it is hard to avoid. The fans are hardcore, from a gay couple from Texas who hand makes porcelain dolls in her likeness (and finally get to meet Dolly onscreen!), two women best pals who are a bit over the top, but seem to find a kindred spirit in the country star as though they know her, and a mentally and physically handicapped man who blossoms when talking about his love for her. And Dolly seems nothing but nice. It's hard not to be moved by this doc.

CAMP MICHAEL JACKSON (5/8) -- Then there are the Michael Jackson fans who held court (so to speak) outside the California courthouse where he was on trial for child molestation and conspiracy charges. In some cases, these people QUIT THEIR JOBS to stand outside every day, hoping to get their number picked in the daily lottery for the few seats available to the public. Many of them were there for MONTHS. These fans are just as rabid as the ones in Dolly, yet considering the background of the trail, there is an overall creepiness about the whole thing that takes away from the enjoyment of the whole surrounding freakshow. I'm just saying.

THE GYMNAST (5/8) -- I'll say this: The Gymnast is a gorgeous looking film. There are two beautiful woman doing Cirqe du Soliel-esque stunts hanging from ribbons of fabric from the ceiling. Their physical prowess is impressive and fluid. The love story between the two is a little less convincing. Jane (Dreya Weber) is a 40-something ex-Olympian unhappily married yet trying to get pregnant. Serena (Addie Yungmee) is a beautiful younger modern dancer, a Korean-American who is lesbian, yet has not come out to her adoptive parents. It seems like there are more stories going on, but the film is so subdued, as though entranced by its own visuals, that it never really sparks. Still, pretty good; definitely better than...

LOVING ANNABELLE (3/8) -- I give this infamous movie one more slice than Vickie, mainly because I was (unintentionally?) entertained for most of the duration. I was asked later by someone who did not attend the screening if it was a comedy, considering that I mentioned that people were guffawing through much of the movie. I said that if you took away the audience guffaws, Loving Annabelle would clearly be a drama. It is basically Catholic-schoolgirl-crush porn (with consequences, thank goodness), but a drama nonetheless. And there's a porcupine owned by a girl who pets him with oven mitts. You gotta like that. As the credits rolled, I asked a restless woman sitting near me, "Is it just me, or is there a little bit of an EWWW Factor to this whole movie?" She answered, "A little bit? More like a whole LOT of EWWW Factor!"

More to come...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TIFF 2006 #14: Final Thoughts on the Festival

Yes, I realize this is coming a tad late, what with the fest having rolled up its red carpets a few days ago already. But my on-again/off-again PFS and general weariness got the best of me, so my wrap-up has been slower to arrive than normal…and I suspect it will wind up being underwhelming.


Since fewer and fewer folks are surfing over here, I figure everyone’s pretty much had their fill of TIFF coverage, so I’ll keep this relatively short:

Best Films I Saw: Summercamp!, This is England, 2:37 and Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing

Best Film I Saw That I Didn’t Really Understand: Day on Fire

Films That Bored Me Silly: The Magic Flute and Quelques Jours en Septembre

Biggest Disappointments: Griffin & Phoenix (oh, how I wanted to love it), The Dog Problem (though, I can’t say I was surprised) and I Am the Other Woman (ah well)

Strangest Cinematic Theme Running Through My Picks This Year: eye surgery and random dismemberment (seriously)

The Only Thing Creepier Than Press-Conference Moderator Henri Béhar: the photo accompanying the synopsis for Pan’s Labyrinth in the program book *shudder*

There weren’t really any outstanding or memorable moments at this year’s TIFF. Aside from the Army of the Odiously Obnoxious, there were no extremes of good or bad, and nothing freakishly weird or scary, either.

So, with TIFF 2006 now a fading memory, I’d like to offer my wish list for TIFF 2007:

* I wish that someone somewhere would have a chat with TIFF co-director Noah Cowan about his eyeroll-inducing, thesaurian pre-screening intros. Honestly, Noah, just because you looked up a bunch of multi-syllabic synonyms for “good” or “interesting” doesn’t mean we’re going to be impressed – just sit down and let us watch the film, please. And the impact of your words is lost when you stand there reading them off of note cards but pretending like they’re just coming to you off the top of your head. We can SEE the cards!

* Speaking of pre-screening intros, I wish that every TIFF staffer assigned to intro a film would take the time to memorize the FOUR sponsors of the fest. I mean, how hard is it to remember Bell, Visa, the Government of Ontario and Telefilm Canada? I’m sure half the people who just read that sentence now have them committed to memory.

* I wish that ticket prices would actually drop next year. I know they won’t. I know they’ll go up again. But this is a wish list, so I’m wishing.

* I wish that once, just once, I’ll get all of my picks on the first try, and that whatever box my order lands in next year turns out to be the first box processed. I wonder what it feels like not to have to revise your selections?

* I wish that all the line cutters and line jerks would be punished immediately by attentive theater staff or volunteers and then publicly humiliated (“Hey, you! Are you cutting in line?! In front of all these people?! You should be ashamed of yourself! Who did you think you were going to fool?! Come HERE! All of your tickets are hereby revoked and you are banned from TIFFing for the rest of the fest, now GET OUT!”).

* I wish that TIFF shuttle bus would come back, but with an improved schedule.

* I wish that Michèle Maheux would program ALL the festival’s films. I think she and I share a moviegoing brain. In fact, I also wish that Michèle could somehow intro every movie showing at the festival, because she’s very dry and funny and always entertaining. So there.

And, really, that’s about it. Not much to ask, I don’t think.

Thanks to everyone who followed along with me from home, and I’ll see you back here next September!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wanna Post a Comment? Here's How!

Just a bit of housekeeping, since I've had a few emails from people who said they wanted to post comments on my TIFF blog but couldn't figure out how to do it without having to register with Blogger. So, for those of you itching to throw in your two cents (and I really wish you would! we 'Pie pals love comments!), here's all you need to do:

1. click on the "comments" hyperlink at the bottom of the blog entry on which you'd like to comment

2. type your comment into the text box

3. when asked for your identity, simply select "other" -- this opens two new fields: one for your name (or handle or however you'd like to be identified), and one for your website's URL (if you have one or feel like putting one's not necessary)

4. then click "publish your comment" and presto! you did it! hooray!

It's quick, easy and completely anonymous (i.e., in case you're worried, we can't trace you or anything). So, please, comment away!

TIFF 2006 #13: Insane TIFF Math – The Fest’s Awards Baffle Me Yet Again

I don’t get it.

I don’t understand how the People’s Choice award is decided. Does anyone really know? Because the rules and processes aren’t outlined anywhere, and I’m really curious.

In years past, audience members would fill out a ballot in a quasi-lottery set-up where you were not only casting a vote for the PC award, but also entering yourself into a prize lottery where you could win things like an Air Canada vacation (years ago) or mutual funds (more recently). So, you took ballots, wrote in the name of the movie(s) you liked best along with your contact info, and dropped it/them into a box. Simple. But not totally fair (see math below).

This year, going into every screening, we were handed a ballot with a line on which to write that film’s title (sometimes the title had already been pre-written for you), and then the numbers one to five printed in a large font below. All we had to do was circle the number we felt the film deserved…though, no explanation was ever given that a number “5” meant you thought the film was excellent, and a “1” meant you didn’t like it at all, not the other way around.

This seems like it would be fairly obvious, but director Lucy Walker (Blindsight) told my audience at the second screening of her film that she, herself, voted incorrectly for her own movie at its previous showing…having thought that by voting “1” she was, in fact, giving it the highest rating and voting it the “#1 movie.”

I wonder how many other filmgoers made that same mistake?

Aside from numerical confusion and the lack of a prize incentive
for bothering to vote, I’d like to know: how were the votes tallied? There’s no way this could be at all fair, especially to the smaller films screening in smaller venues. Here’s why…

Given the wide range in venue capacity, where some theaters hold only a couple hundred people while others boast more than 1200 seats, it seems hugely unfair if the award is decided based on the total sum of the numeric votes (i.e., adding up all the numeric votes to reach a total).

Ex. 1

* Movie A screens twice at the Cumberland, and gets 400 votes of 5 (excellent) for a total point value of 2000.
* Movie B screens three times (let’s say, twice at the Paramount and once at the Varsity) and gets 900 votes of 3 (meh) for a total point value of 2700.

Does this mean that movie B wins?

Let’s say for argument’s sake that the People’s Choice winner goes to the film that scored the most 5s. That doesn’t work either.

Ex. 2

* Movie A screens twice at the Cumberland and gets 400 votes of 5 (excellent), from a total audience of, say, 600 people…meaning 2/3 of the people who saw it thought it was fantastic.
* Movie B screens once at Roy Thompson Hall and once at the Ryerson, and gets 500 votes of 5, from a total audience of more than 2000…meaning, only ¼ of the people who saw it thought it was great.

Again, does this mean movie B, which technically had less success, wins simply because its sample audience was much, much bigger?

No matter how you slice it, the system is wildly flawed, and that’s without getting into the issue of ballot stuffing or the fact that the People’s Choice prize is being decided before some films have had their final screenings on day 10 of the festival (where do those votes go???). Heck, by the time I got home from my final film on Saturday, TIFF brass had already handed out the awards and held an afternoon press conference to say so!

I’m going to say it once, and I’m going to hope for the love of fairness that the folks at TIFF hear me…

The only fair way (or, perhaps, the least unfair way) for the People’s Choice Award to be decided is to allow each filmgoer to vote only ONCE. Period. Save the voting for the day after the fest is over, and allow each person to vote ONLY for a single, absolute-favourite film. Then count ‘em all up and hand out a trophy. The end.

This concludes the PC Rant of 2006.

Having said all that, here’s a list of the official fest winners:

THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD went to Bella. What the hell? Bella??? Really?? (A quick glance at the schedule reveals that Bella screened three times – 2 Paramounts + a Varsity. Did that help? Probably.) Honourable mentions went to Mon Meilluer Ami and Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing.

SWAROVSKI’s CULTURAL INNOVATION AWARD went to Özer Kýzýltan’s Takva: A Man’s Fear of God. Honourable mention went to Khadak. I can honestly say I have no recollection of either film in the program book, and didn’t hear anyone in any line or theater talking about either.

THE DIESEL DISCOVERY AWARD went to Joachim Trier’s Reprise, a comedy from Norway. Didn’t see it.

THE FIPRESCI PRIZE, awarded by a group of international press, went to the much-ballyhooed Death of a President (D.O.A.P.). All the buzz I heard about this one was that it was highly overrated and unworthy of all the attention, so go figure.

CITYTV AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FIRST FEATURE FILM went to Sur La Trace de’Igor Rizzi. Never heard of it.

TORONTO-CITY AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM went to Manufactured Landscapes, the doc about photographer Peter Mettler. Honourable mention went to Monkey Warfare, which was mightily crapped upon by many. Again, go figure.

SHORT CUTS CANADA AWARD for best Canadian short film went to Les Jours.

I dunno…what do those of you who attended TIFF think about the prizes, either in terms of how they’re handed out or who actually won this year?

As for me, I’m going to take a short breather and return with my take a little later.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

TIFF 2006 #12: Celebrity Doppelgangers and The Wonders of a Full Night’s Sleep

Last night, and for the entire day beforehand, I was felled by PFS. Sore throat, fatigue, general malaise. Blah.

Then I got home yesterday, took a pile of vitamins and had ten hours of sleep.

This morning, PFS is history! Who knew? Sore throat’s gone, energy’s up and (knock on wood) I believe my PFS has departed PDQ. :-D

Going back to yesterday’s films…

I’m pleased to report that it was another fairly decent final day of TIFF for me, movie-wise. It’s always a huge bummer if your last day’s movies suck, but (thankfully) that wasn’t the case for me.

I began with the somewhat curious Day on Fire (6/8), which I didn’t fully understand yet still found totally interesting. Written and directed by Jay Anania, it isn’t so much a film in the standard-narrative sense, but more of a cinematic meditation (if you just gagged or rolled your eyes, I understand) that blends music, images and character…which is to say, it’s kind of weird and trippy. The film, which is visually spectacular, tracks the interactions between five different characters, whose lives intersect briefly and randomly multiple times before a tragic event. The most compelling of these characters, and the ones on whom much of the film’s success relies, are Najia (Carmen Chaplin) and Shira (Alyssa Sutherland), two strangers who strike up a life-changing friendship in a matter of hours. As I watched, I wished that Anania had chosen to focus solely on these two, since I found myself distracted and losing interest whenever any of the other three characters were getting screen time. Again, there was plenty about the film that I didn’t get – like what exactly was up with Martin Donovan’s character whom, for a while, I thought was supposed to be God or the Angel of Death (he’s neither, btw) – but it’s haunting.

And holy hell but is Carmen Chaplin (left) ever brilliant! I’d never heard of her before (and, yes, she comes from that Chaplin lineage), but she’s apparently prolific in French indie cinema. She was riveting – a feat given the film’s rather sparse dialogue. And, is just me, or does she bear a striking resemblance to one of my other film faves, Lena Headey (right)? It was a little uncanny and I remember thinking that they could very easily play sisters.

Next up was Margarethe von Trotta’s I Am the Other Woman (5/8), which was also a little confusing (coulda been my aforementioned fatigue, though). It follows the exploits of a lawyer (Katja Riemann), who’s leading a double life (possibly, a triple life) as a result of multiple-personality disorder. By day, strait-laced professional. At night, saucy sexpot who drops trou in half-a-second. Now, that sounds great and all, but the resulting film didn’t quite measure up to my expectations. I found my mind wandering and my eyelids getting droopy over and over again and, based on the twitters of “what? that’s it?” when the closing credits abruptly started, I wasn’t the only one who was left a tad unfulfilled by film’s end. von Trotta was slated to arrive for a post-film Q&A, but I opted to leave. Perhaps if I’d stayed I would have been able to better grasp whatever it was she was trying to say with the movie.

Movie #3 was the British slasher comedy Severance (6/8), which was being billed as The Office meets Deliverance. Not sure if I agree with that assessment, but the film is nonetheless outrageous and fun. The story centers on a group of arms-company employees (including Danny Dyer, Laura Harris and Toby Stephens) on a “team-building” jaunt to eastern Europe. Problems, and severed body parts, arise when they wind up stranded at a remote lodge where they’re promptly targeted for grisly deaths by…let’s just say some scary people. Unapologetically bloody and hugely entertaining, the film garnered a nice amount of audience participation and cheers, especially for Harris’ (literally) ass-kicking performance.

Last on the docket was Outsourced (6/8), a great little culture-clash comedy about a Seattle call-center manager (Josh Hamilton), whose department is outsourced to India and who must subsequently travel to a small Indian town to train the local replacement staff. While the core of the story – a fish out of water gradually learns to understand, accept and appreciate a vastly different environment – may not be new to movie audiences, the backdrop for the action (filmed on location) is, and the undeniable charm of the cast made the film a super way to close the door on TIFF 2006 for me. I left smiling and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. One woman, who clearly LURRRRRRRVED the movie, stood up to congratulate the director and vowed to tell everyone she knew to go see it. Sadly, the flick doesn’t have a distributor yet, so if it pops up at a film fest near you, by all means check it out!

And then…TIFF 2006 was over. That’s it. The end.

Later today (or tomorrow), I’ll post all my final thoughts, award winners, random questions about this year’s fest and wishes for TIFF 2007.

Celebrity Sightings: Not a chance.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: My day was shameful. Crap from morning until night. Crappiest crap, though, was lunch – a bag of Garden Salsa SunChips + a root beer. Shameful!

Line Buzz: Variations on “I’m tired,” “I’m exhausted,” “this is my last movie” and the like. Most folks could barely remember what they’d seen over the past 10 days, let alone whether any of it was any good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

TIFF 2006 #11 1/2: Yeah, TIFF's Over, It's Late and I'm Germy and Exhausted...

...thus, I am making an executive decision to write my last-day entry tomorrow, after I've had a good, long night's sleep. I'll also be writing my TIFF '06 wrap-up, including the official fest awards along with my own.

In the meantime, feel free to post your own TIFF highlights: favourite films, least-favourite films, best place to get cheap food...whatever. Talk amongst yourselves.

And watch this space for entries #12 and 13. More TIFFing coming soon!

Friday, September 15, 2006

TIFF 2006 #11: Movie Cooties


I think I’m getting PFS (Post-Festival Sickness).

My throat remains scratchy.

I remain zonked.

This is not good.

I hate PFS. And, if it really is PFS, it’s not even waiting until after my final screening to kick in this year. Evil! I am fighting its onset tooth and nail, dosing myself with plenty of vitamin C and zinc and trying my best to include some modicum of healthy eating (along with more than six hours of sleep these last couple of nights) so as to give my immune system some fuel as it goes into this near-annual battle. But I fear my efforts may be futile. At this point in the fest, there are just too many cinema cooties floating around to avoid. Moviegoers have been pushing themselves hard – staying out in the rain, dashing in and out of cold theatres, picking up germs elsewhere and then carting them along to screenings to share with the rest of us. It’s like we’re all going to movies in giant Petri dishes. I’ve heard people coughing up lungs, blowing noses and generally giving aural clues that they are perhaps less than well. If I had a biohazard suit, I might be tempted to wear it on days like this.

[Fest-goers, please feel free to post your own strategies for avoiding germs during TIFF.]

My scratchy throat and I began the day with the Austrian drama Falling (5/8), which follows five former school friends (now thirtysomething adults) as they reconnect while attending the funeral of one of their former teachers. The cast is made up of five actresses, and all are very good/convincing as their characters reveal secrets from the past and open up about the present. But those same characters are never really fleshed out, and I honestly can’t remember which one was which. I think Carmen was the actress. Alex was…the drunk brunette? And, while the action held my interest and the performances were solid, the film’s final five or six minutes were completely baffling. I have no idea what the final two or three scenes are supposed to mean, or why they were tacked on. If anyone knows, by all means say so.

After a quick hop to Tim Horton’s for a very pathetic lunch, my scratchy throat and I returned to the Paramount for film number two, the documentary American Hardcore (5/8), which examines the hardcore punk movement in America during the early 1980s. It features tons of rare archival footage and dozens of interviews with influential figures from the era but, not knowing much about hardcore punk rock beforehand, I was only seeing the film as a way to educate myself (as opposed to the hardcore hardcore fans in attendance). As such, it didn’t work for me on the same level it did for them. Sad when the only people you recognize out of the huge bunch of interviewees are Henry Rollins, Flea and Christine McCarthy (formerly Elise), who used to be on China Beach and 90210. The theater was barely half-full, and the audience demo was overwhelmingly male. I felt a smidge out of place.

My scratchy throat and I had just under two hours to kill, so we opted for an immune-boost smoothie from Jugo Juice + a bagel. Then we popped into TGH to check email before making our way to the last film for today, True North (6/8), a rather unsettling but well-done drama about a group of Scottish fishermen (including the always wonderful Peter Mullan), who decide to smuggle a group of Chinese immigrants into the country aboard their trawler. Not surprisingly, all does not go well. Aside from its hugely impressive on-location shooting (i.e., on a real trawler, on the real ocean, with really big waves and real actors trying not to fall overboard), the film’s plot is perfectly compact and finite, which I loved. It’s a small story about a big issue, and its intimacy made its point much more effective than if it had been a massive epic featuring a cast of thousands. It’s just a crew of four guys, one stowaway girl and cargo hold full of terrified human cargo.

I was a little out-of-sorts thereafter, not because of the scratchy throat or the movie’s content but because I was finished a TIFF day at 7 p.m. I came home and felt a little lost. Shouldn’t I be running back out the door for my next screening, I thought, or popping into some random fast-food outlet for a calorie-laden between-film snack? Is there a line I should be standing in? Something?


So, as TIFF begins its official wind-down, so did I. It was nice to be able to sit down, read NOW, have dinner and watch some press conferences (Emilio Estevez actually started to cry during the PC for Bobby! Sharon Stone was typically Sharon Stone-y! The Dixie Chicks were plucky and fun!).

I also had a stern talk with my scratchy throat and requested that it vacate my premises by morning. We’ll see if it listens.

Celebrity Sightings: French actress Isild Le Besco, who was leaving the Paramount solo as I was arriving. And (this is how truly sad celeb sightings are at this point), Toronto’s own Marilyn Denis strolling in Yorkville! Yeah, baby! It’s all about the A-listers!

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: A Tim Horton’s Iced Capp + a leaden croissant.

Line Buzz: Only one film required standing in line today, but both the person in front of me and the person behind me opted to read books. In-theatre chatting was also non-existent, since I had empty seats beside me at all three screenings. Yep, it’s getting quiet and empty ‘round here.

Weather for Tomorrow: Mainly cloudy. High near 23C.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

TIFF 2006 #10: Viggo…Is That You? Plus, I Want to Hug Shane Meadows and Amanda Peet (Together or Separately, I’m Not Fussy)

I must begin this entry by posing a question to anyone out there who’s been reading along here while TIFFing: did anybody attend the screening of Alatriste this afternoon at the Paramount? If you did, please post a comment and let me know if I saw whom I thought I saw exiting the venue earlier today: Viggo Mortensen.

Yes, that’s right Jennifer, I think I might have seen your Viggo. From behind, and from about 25 feet away (hence my uncertainty), but who else would be leaving the theater with a full camera crew – complete with lights and a sound guy – in tow? I was stuck in the heart of a serpentine line of people waiting for the next screening, so I was unable to scramble out for a better look. The subject of the crew’s attention seemed to be a man, about Viggo height and build, with Viggo-esque hair, walking briskly out past the concession stand. Was it him? I don’t know. I want to believe it was. If anyone knows for sure, please let us know!

Onwards to the movies…

My first screening of the day was Shane Meadows’ This is England (7/8…and it might still get a full pie because I’m not completely set on my rating and very tempted to bump it up a slice). I’ve seen every Shane Meadows film but one (Dead Man’s Shoes, simply because it didn’t fit in my sked when it played at TIFF) and have followed his career since his Romeo Brass and twentyfourseven days. So, his was one of my must-sees this fest and I’m delighted to say that I was not disappointed. Plenty of folks have been trumpeting the film’s merit, so allow me to chime in to say that this is not only my new favourite among his works, but I also think it’s his best film to date. It’s gorgeous to look at, brilliantly written and insanely compelling to watch. It tells the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a bullied 11-year-old boy, who falls in with a gang of skinheads in 1983. Initially a goofy group united through music and mischief, the boys (and girls) soon splinter with the return of the menacing and seriously militant Combo (Stephen Graham in a positively terrifying performance). I’ll save the details for my eventual review, but the film had me riveted from start to finish…which is not something I can say about most of the movies I’ve taken in this year.

And, seriously, how huggable is Shane Meadows? He’s so cuddly and adorable, and I lurrrrrve that accent. I just want him to read me bedtime stories while we eat cookies and milk. I was sitting in the fairly empty (considering) lobby of the Ryerson this morning before the start of the screening, eating my breakfast muffin and watching people stream in. As the crowds thinned, I heard Shane’s distinct voice chatting someone up and there he was. In the lobby, hanging out before heading in. It was all I could do not to be a squirrelly fangirl, but I did give it some serious thought. I refrained.

Next up was Breaking & Entering (5/8), the latest epic from Anthony Minghella. There’s a lot going on in this film, so here’s the shopping list: Jude Law is an architect named Will, whose firm is repeatedly targeted by young acrobatic thieves. One of those thieves is Miro (Rafi Gavron), a teenage refugee from Bosnia. Miro’s mother is Amira (Juliette Binoche), who’s befriended (and later bedded) by Will after he follows Miro home one night post-thwarted robbery. A whole bunch of relationships get really complicated. While all this is going on, the luminous Robin Wright Penn tries to carve out her own character (Will’s wife), but winds up underused, in my opinion. The movie was long and could have been about 15 minutes shorter, but it was fine overall. Not amazing, not terrible. Just fine.

I’m going to preface this next blurb by saying that I adore Amanda Peet. I think she’s a supremely underrated actress whose career is practically screaming out for a meaty dramatic role…one through which she could totally knock the socks off the moviegoing public (see also: Elizabeth Banks). Perhaps her gig on the new TV series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will do that, but I suspect not.

Her newest film, the teeny indie Griffin & Phoenix (4/8), was my third film of the day and, sadly, it was disappointing. Peet co-stars with Dermot Mulroney as a pair of terminally ill people who fall in love. Now, revealing their illnesses to you is not a spoiler, since it’s obvious from about minute seven of the movie that both characters aren’t long for this world. So, with the cosmic clock ticking, the pair set out to do fun things like hop on freight trains or paint water towers…but so what? The movie didn’t connect with me at all, and I found myself much more annoyed than engaged. It’s too bad, too, because Peet does some nicely nuanced work here, being more vulnerable and sweet and, yes, huggable than she’s ever been in a film before. At least she managed to rise above the material.

I treated myself to a deeeeeelicious Jugo Juice smoothie (Copa Banana, in case you’re curious) + some less-delicious take-out spaghetti for dinner, then headed to the Cumberland for my last film, White Palms (5/8). The story is based on actual events, and follows a young Hungarian gymnast from his childhood training at the hands of a ruthless coach, to his own coaching job guiding a Canadian champion (Canadian Olympic gold medalist Kyle Shewfelt) decades later. The film jumps back and forth in time, but the sequences in the past (when the main character is a boy) were far more interesting than those featuring him as an adult. And the final 15 minutes seemed to drag on needlessly in order to show off creative editing. Perhaps I would have enjoyed that more had it not been the end of my filmgoing day. Perhaps not.

I am mildly alarmed because my throat is kind of scratchy tonight. Scratchy in that “hey everybody! I feel a cold coming on!” way. I do NOT want to get sick. No PFS for me, please! At least, not until Sunday. I have taken extra vitamin C tonight just in case, but I’m sure the past two days of rain + my poor diet + cooties everywhere + total lack of rest will = PFS shortly.

Celebrity Sightings: As is usually the case at this point, the pickings are getting slim. Today it was only Shane Meadows and Kyle Shewfeldt.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: The aforementioned breakfast muffin – triple chocolate – which was not only bad for me, but extremely messy.

Line Buzz: Lots of so-so rumblings about the much-ballyhooed D.O.A.P. and the non-ballyhooed The Last Winter; good buzz on Black Book.

Weather for Tomorrow: Partly cloudy. High near 22C.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

TIFF 2006 #9: Is There a Doc in the House?

Before I begin: an announcement!

The official TIFF page at the 'Pie has now been updated to include most of the entries previously posted on this blog, so if you wanna wander over (but make sure you come back here!) to see Linda's phancy formatting and photo selections, please do!


Today’s film selections were mostly documentaries, and today’s weather was mostly rainy. Line-ups at outdoor theaters were on the damp side, and filmgoers learned that a seemingly innocuous steady mist can gradually result in rather effective soakage.

I started the day with Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (7/8), Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s multi-year doc that follows the Chicks from their infamous Shepherd’s Bush concert and anti-Bush statement, through the sometimes scary/sometimes frustrating/sometimes infuriating repercussions thereof that took place in the three and a half years since. It’s also a really great examination of female solidarity and the power of friendship, as Natalie, Martie and Emily weather the political storm, ridiculous protests and almost-constant media attention. An absolute must-see for fans, who will no doubt love love love it, the film is nonetheless totally accessible to all audiences regardless of their level of Chicks fandom. I’ve always liked the group, but don’t own any of their albums and have never seen one of their live shows. After seeing the film and witnessing their unflappable pluck, though, I plan to get to shopping.

It was also nice to have Kopple and Peck intro the movie. They explained that their schedule wouldn’t permit them to return for a Q&A, but they both gave lovely little speeches before the film started.

One doc followed another, so the second film today was Blindsight (6/8), in which director Lucy Walker – who, by the way, is absolutely STUNNING – embarks on a Mount Everest climb alongside a group of blind Tibetan youths, school teacher Sabriye Tenberken and blind U.S. climber Erik Weihenmayer, along with a support team made up of other climbers and a team doctor. While the documentary itself seemed kind of choppy and could have used an extra half-hour or so, the story it tells is a fantastic one. It’s extremely moving (the woman sitting next to me was sobbing in that gasping-for-air kind of way almost throughout) and inspirational (which sounds cheesy, but it’s true). Walker, Tenberken and one of the blind students were all in attendance, and their genuine joy at being in Toronto and having the film shown was infectious. Unsurprisingly, they were given a standing ovation.

There was a quick trip home to have a snack before heading to my final film (yes, thank goodness, only three today!), Starter For Ten (5/8), which I was very excited about seeing – hello, James MacAvoy! – but which turned out to be kind of a letdown. The story follows a sort-of-geeky university student (MacAvoy) in his quest to be “clever.” More specifically, it follows him onto his school’s “University Challenge” team (think: quiz show), and tracks his rocky courtships of two of his classmates. I don’t know why the film didn’t really do it for me. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe my fatigue prevented me from being fully engaged. Or maybe it was just kind of a meh movie. I can’t be certain, but it was nice to see James MacAvoy in person once again.

Then I dashed to meet my friend from Washington for a coffee and some fest chat before heading home for the night…and, once again proving the effects of lack of sleep, MISSING MY SUBWAY STOP completely. I was so dopey as I rode home that I actually went right past my stop and had to walk back. I really need more than five hours a night it seems. Perhaps tonight I’ll aim for 6 ½…

Oh, and as I posted in the comments section of last night’s entry: yet ANOTHER scutigera scurried across my wall tonight! RIGHT in front of my face, as if to taunt me. It’s the damned humid weather and constant rain. I wish the bugs, and the weather, would go away.

And I hope that scutigera is the one from last night and not a SECOND one. Eep!

Celebrity Sightings: Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck, James MacAvoy.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: Alas, I did not have a single piece of fruit today. Instead, I had a leaden muffin and mint-cip ice cream. Not together.

Line Buzz: Everyone and their cousin is raving about Sarah Polley’s directorial debut, Away From Her…except one woman I met who didn’t like it at all and said it romanticized Alzheimer’s disease. So there you go.

Weather for Tomorrow: Rain? Again? Really? Crap. High near 18C.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

TIFF 2006 #8: Walkout #2, Jessica Lange…and It Wasn’t the Same Movie!

I am sitting on an ice pack as I type this. Why? Because today was five-movie day, and my ass is sore. More specifically, the joint between my thigh bone and my pelvis is sore. (My chiropractor is welcome to chime in with the name of that joint at any time.) This is what I get for sitting my bony behind down on the unevenly padded Ryerson seats for three of those movies today, and planting it on their cement walls in between.

I was hoping to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight (i.e., before 1 a.m.) but it’s just not gonna happen. Why? Because of the sore joint and because one of THESE (Angela, do not click this link!) scurried out from under my couch and behind my radiator a short while ago. My heart rate is still slowly creeping back down to normal. For the uninitiated, that’s what my friend Angela and I call a “scutigera” and, quite frankly, they’re terrifying. Totally harmless but terrifying. They’re usually about an inch and a bit long (in the body) with suuuuper-long, hair-like legs (as shown) that make them look like giant running hairballs. They come out when it’s humid (or, like today, when it’s pouring rain and very damp) and they ALWAYS do it at night. Usually just before I head to bed. I have hermetically sealed my apartment with all manner of protective sealants, but I live in an old building that houses these scutigeras and lord knows what else in its walls, so my efforts are futile. They keep finding their way in. I actually think they do it to taunt me.

Anyway, normally I kill the scutigeras (scutigeri?), but this one slipped past me. And then d*i*s*a*p*p*e*a*r*e*d. omg! I have no idea where it went, but I am praying with all my might that it somehow regretted its decision to promenade around my abode and retreated back through the crack through which it came. But my failed killshot means an anxiety-ridden sleep as I try my best not to imagine it crawling up into my bed and onto my pillow in the middle of the night.

Or, worse, lying in bed and worrying about accidentally stepping on it in bare feet if I have to pee in the dark.

In addition to the sore bum, the physical effects of my lack of sleep are starting to manifest themselves. Aside from being perpetually drowsy, this maddening movie pace is starting to screw with my brain. Today, as I approached the entrance for my 8:45 a.m. movie (yes, that was the start time!), instead of reaching for my ticket to hand to the ushers, I actually reached for my Metropass as though I were boarding a subway or bus. I’m floating in and out of coherency, and find myself desperately trying to stay awake in movies that are anything but fascinating.

Given my profound weariness tonight, and the fact that I simply don’t have the stamina to write at length about the five movies I saw today, I’m going to borrow a page from the Five Word Movie Review philosophy. Here, then, with another tip of the hat to the Margaret Cho Blog Brevity Law ™is a rundown of mes filmes d’aujourd’hui:

Movie #1: Summer ’04 (5/8)
Sex on a family holiday. (German film about the blossoming sexuality of a 12-year-old, and the repercussions for her boyfriend’s randy mum…who decides to have some fun with a new stranger in the area. It was okay, but I was sleepy.)

Movie #2: Bonneville (4/8)
Old boys on the side. (Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen embark on a cross-country road trip that’s laden with clichés and lameness. I actually groaned out loud at one point because it was being so over-the-top melodramatic.)

Movie #3: Catch a Fire (6/8)
From coal mines to anti-apartheid. (Great film from director Phillip Noyce about Patrick Chamusso, played by Derek Luke – a South African coal-mine worker whose brutal treatment by the police leads him to become a member of the ANC. Huge standing ovation, and tears, at the end when Noyce and his actors brought the real Patrick Chamusso onstage for the Q&A.)

Movie #4: Quelques jours en septembre
Vickie gets bored and leaves. (Seriously, what was this film about? No idea. I know it had Juliette Binoche in it, and that she was doing some serious overacting but, 55 minutes in, I still had no clue what was going on so I high-tailed it outta there. And, evidently, I wasn’t the first.)

Movie #5: The Half Life of Timofey Berezin (6/8)
Scientist gets bad radiation poisoning. (Paddy Considine stars as a Soviet nuclear-reactor staffer who’s accidentally exposed to a MASSIVE dose of radiation and who subsequently tries to sell 100g of uranium on the black market in order to provide for his family before he literally decomposes.)

Man, I am wiped. Thank goodness tomorrow is a comparably empty three-movie day.

And still no sign of that freakin’ scutigera. Dammit!

Celebrity Sightings: Derek Luke, Phillip Noyce, Patrick Chamusso, Juliette Binoche, Paddy Considine and Jason Flemyng.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: Every single thing I ate today was crap. All of it. A day filled with crap from start to finish. McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch, a Tim Horton’s Iced Capp and cookies for an afternoon snack and a maple frappucino from Starbucks for dinner. I am ashamed. Tomorrow, I will eat a piece of fruit at some point, I promise.

Line Buzz: Good buzz for The Last King of Scotland, True North and Outsourced.

Weather for Tomorrow: Rain AGAIN. (Come ON, Mother Nature!) High near 19C.

Monday, September 11, 2006

TIFF 2006 #7: Where Has the Rogers Cable 10 Festival Coverage Gone???

I’d like to begin today’s entry by asking the above question. Seriously, what happened? Used to be, Rogers would air wall-to-wall, 24-hour coverage of the fest for its entire duration. You could turn on cable 10 at any hour of the night or day and be treated to a press conference, symposium session, random interviews or tons of red-carpet shenanigans. It was all TIFF, all the time, for ten days straight. And it was FABULOUS.

But this year, not so much.

This year, the coverage has been scaled back to near non-existent status. They’ve gone from airing just about every press conference available to airing two per day and then repeating those two, like, six times in four hours. And I know it’s about four hours because they’ve also cut down on Rushes, Reel to Real and all extraneous happenings. No more symposiums. This year, TIFF coverage has been relegated to a few hours per day, and the programming in those hours is a repetitive loop. Last night, over the course of maybe 2 ½ hours, they ran the press conference for Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show three times! This morning I turned it on, hoping for something new, and it was an episode of Goldhawk Live! What the hell?!

So I ask: why? Who made that call? Who thought it would be a great idea to take one of the greatest television resources during TIFF and trim it down to nothing? Apparently, press conferences are now available through Rogers’ “on-demand” service, but guess what? Plenty of people don’t have that service. I know I don’t. Do hotels here get it? I dunno. but if they don’t then Rogers is also giving the finger to a ton of visiting press and industry folks…many of whom have complimented the coverage in years past. And that kind of sucks.

But onto movies…

First up today was Werner Herzog’s new drama Rescue Dawn (6/8), which stars Christian Bale as real-life PoW Dieter Dengler, an American navy pilot captured and tortured in Laos during the Vietnam War. The film co-stars Steve Zahn (in a wonderfully strong non-Steve Zahnian role) and Jeremy Davies as two of Dengler’s fellow prisoners, who conspire with him to escape. Like Bale’s last TIFF flick, The Machinist, this one required him and his fellow cast members to lose a dramatic amount of weight. Davies, for one, looks frighteningly emaciated. The movie was pretty good, sticking to the standard PoW format (capture, torture, adjustment to camp life, etc.), and the fact that the story is based on true events makes it strangely effective and unbelievable.

Before the film started, the random TIFF staffer assigned to intro the film said very clearly that there would not be any Q&A, since no one from the film was in attendance. Cut to the end of the film, as the closing credits begin, when a voice came over the P.A. system to say that there would be a Q&A if we wanted to stick around. So many of us did, and were treated (?) to Jeremy Davies being dragged onstage after his presence must have been detected in the theater. He looked like answering questions was the last thing he wanted to be doing, and he spoke so softly and mumbly that it was sometimes hard to understand what he was saying. It felt very thrown-together, and I kind of felt bad that he was being forced to stand up there when it seemed like he’d much rather have been napping somewhere else.

Next on the card was 10 Items or Less (7/8), the newest film from writer-director Brad Silberling, whose Moonlight Mile was my absolute favourite film of TIFF 2002. While this one didn’t quite live up to the festivial magnificence of its predecessor (and, really, how could it?), it was still really, really good. It’s essentially a two-person character study about the day-long friendship that develops between a big-time movie star (Morgan Freeman) and the spirited grocery store clerk (Paz Vega) he meets while researching a project. Both Freeman and Vega were excellent, and the movie – like MM -- was quietly affecting. It was funny and touching, and it had a sublimely perfect ending. Since it was the film’s world premiere, and the first time the actors were seeing it (as per Brad’s introductory speech), both Freeman and Vega were there, which was nice for a 3:30 afternoon screening.

In line beforehand, I also chatted with two TIFF first-timers, who were there for their very first TIFF film ever. I congratulated them on this new adventure.

My last film of the day was also the one I was looking forward to least. I picked it only because I didn’t get a ticket to Little Children. So, instead, I went to see Scott Caan’s sophomore directorial effort The Dog Problem (4/8).

The screening experience didn’t get off to a great start because, even though I arrived almost an hour before the scheduled start time and had foolishly assumed the film wouldn’t be much of a draw, the line already stretched around the corner onto Church Street. I was shocked! There was also a rush line, which was even more amazing. Who knew? I thought this one would be poorly attended, but no. There was actually a CROWD.

The movie was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m. When I looked at my watch and saw that it was 8:25 p.m. and there was no sign of us being let in, I knew we’d be very late. And we were. They finally let us in just before 9, and the movie didn’t start until around 9:15. Sadly, it was just as meh as Caan’s first film, Dallas 362. After the world’s longest and most needlessly elaborate opening-credits sequence (seriously, it just went on and on and ONNNNN), the film unfolded to tell the story of Solo (Giovanni Ribisi) on a quest to do…something. Find meaning in his life. Get money. Get a girl. Get a dog. The latter provides the impetus for the action, and the dog was actually the best thing about the whole film. Supporting players included Caan, as Solo’s best friend, and Lynn Collins, as the stripper who winds up entangled in Solo’s life. Not much happens in the film, but holy hell is it ever WORDY. Characters take pages and pages to say anything, and after a while the relentless banter (much of it empty and repetitive) got annoying.

But that Scott Caan is one likable fellow, I tell you. Because, once again, he held court for a highly entertaining Q&A alongside Ribisi and co-star Mena Suvari (who plays a very Paris Hilton-esque rich girl turned dog trainer). They were funny and self-deprecating, and they made it worth my while to stick around.

The day’s done and now I am supremely sleeeeee-PEEEEEEE. Tomorrow is my five-movie day and I am afeared that I won’t make it. Five movies, back to back, starting at 8:45 a.m. and ending just before 11 p.m.

Oh, and just because Mother Nature sometimes likes to make me cry, the forecast for tomorrow is rain, and four of those five movies will feature outdoor line-ups.


Celebrity Sightings: Jeremy Davies, Paz Vega, Morgan Freeman, Brad Silberling, Scott Caan, Giovanni Ribisi, Mena Suvari.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: While not technically “crap” because of its nutritional value, my breakfast of a GeniSoy protein bar was decidedly disappointing.

Line Buzz: Still more good word on Babel.

Weather for Tomorrow: RAIN. Boo! High near 18C.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

TIFF 2006 #6: An In-Line Examination of Human Behaviour at TIFF – Forget Obnoxious Man, Meet the Army of the Odiously Obnoxious

Several entries ago, I commented on juxtaposition at TIFF, and today I had the most blindingly perfect example of it, courtesy of the line-ups before my second and third films of the day. One was horrible; the other was delightful. One was mean and malicious and ugly; the other was fun and relaxed and had free snacks.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I regret to post that I skipped my first film of the day today. I had a ticket for the 9 a.m. screening of The Ugly Duckling and Me, a computer-animated kids’ movie that had an adorable program-book picture, but I was so tired this morning that I opted for an extra hour of sleep + a nutritious breakfast instead. I was kind of bummed to skip a film so early in the fest, but was nonetheless grateful for the comparably less-hectic morning.

So, after my mango-pineapple-strawberry smoothie + big bowl of Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch cereal (with extra pecans, cashews and dried cranberries added in by me), I headed to the Bader for my first actual screening of the day: the action-adventure movie Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (5/8), which is based on the popular book series. The movie itself – about a British teen (Alex Pettyfer) who becomes an agent for MI-6 – was okay, if a little heavy on the endless chase sequences, but the pre-screening entertainment was unprecedented.

This year, it seems like screenings are becoming events. Earlier in the festival, Sacha Baron Cohen made a Vegas-worthy spectacle of his entrance to the world premiere of Borat, arriving in character on a giant wooden horse being pulled by several women.

Well, before Alex Rider, everyone outside the theater was treated to a stunt show, complete with a multitude of red lights, a smoke machine, thumping music and about a dozen youths staging fake fight sequences, climbing on buildings and leaping wherever there was space to leap. It was pretty cool! (Special thanks to my friend Heather for the accompanying photo, which she snapped as we walked into the theater.)

Next up would be Paris, je t’aime (6/8), a series of 18 (?) shorts about love in Paris, directed by 21 well-known directors. When I arrived at the Ryerson, the rush line was surprisingly long – I guess the draw of so many filmmakers dramatically increased its appeal. Anyway, I queued up alongside Lee sister #3, who’d arrived early and who was third in line.

Unfortunately for us both, the group of six people behind us were the Army of the Odiously Obnoxious. Here’s why:

Given the length of the rush line, several people without tickets decided to be proactive about getting some. One young woman in a red hooded sweatshirt fashioned a sign that read “Need 1 or 2 tickets” and began walking along the ticket-holders line to see if anyone had an extra ticket they wanted to sell. When she made her way past us, one of the lieutenants in the Army of the Odiously Obnoxious – an über-slick (in a lame way) Euro-trashy ass in his late-20s – said, “I’ll sell you one.” He took her aside and, based on the fact that she left shortly thereafter empty handed, must have asked for a seriously marked-up price. She, in turn, must have given him a lecture about scalping, because he returned to his fellow Army brats and started mocking her, saying that someone without a ticket shouldn’t be so picky about having to pay extra. Then he went on and on, and his friends (all of whom were in their late-20s or early-30s) laughed uproariously, chimed in and then they started making fun of the young woman. They made fun of her sign, her desire to see the movie, her efforts…and then they called her back over.

In my head, I was silently telling her not to come back, because I just knew this wouldn’t end well.

So the repellent lieutenant kept calling her until she slowly wandered back. “Come on, I’ll sell it to you for $5,” he said to her as his friends snickered. (Seriously, these idiots were behaving like high-school bullies picking on a outsider to such a degree that I thought I must have somehow landed in the middle of a co-ed version of Mean Girls). So, the young woman came over and asked him, “Are you serious?”

He assured her he was and, because she was wisely skeptical, she said, “Are you really serious?”

And he looked at her, scoffed and said, “$5? Do you think I’m serious? I’ll sell it to you for $80.” And then started laughing at her as she walked away. His friends laughed, too. The young woman, rightfully pissed, walked off…and these ASSHOLES just kept laughing at her! Loudly, so that she – and everyone else – could hear them. I was tempted to just turn around, call the young woman back and GIVE her my ticket for free for having to put up with these jerks’ obnoxious assholery. What is WRONG with people?! But, like a cowardly twit, I did nothing because I knew we’d still have to stand with these people for another 20 minutes, but I still feel awful about it. It was like I was suddenly ten years old and afraid of the bigger kids. Sometimes, you know when the universe is testing your mettle. I know mine was being tested there…and I failed. I spent much of the film wishing I’d said something to shut the asses up and feeling totally ashamed of being a passive observer. The only thing that made me feel better was knowing that the same universe that was testing me and sighing would likely punish the Army in some karmically glorious way.

Despite being emotionally distracted, I managed to enjoy Paris…, which featured a whole whack of great little vignettes and only one that was truly confounding (from director Christopher Doyle). Among the standouts were the Coen brothers’ look at love in transit starring Steve Buscemi; Gurinder Chadha’s cross-cultural romance between a British boy and a Muslim girl; Tom Tykwer’s uniquely stylized and circular love story involving an aspiring actress (Natalie Portman) and her blind boyfriend; and Alexander Payne’s sweetly poignant district 14 travelogue, narrated by an American tourist (Margo Martindale) on her first Paris holiday.

I stuck around the Ryerson after the screening to witness the fandemonium preceding the world premiere of The Last Kiss. I didn’t have a ticket to the movie, and had some time to kill before my next screening, so I stood behind the throngs of photographers, fans and hugely overzealous stalkers to watch the cast arrive. Everyone was there – Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, Jacinda Barrett, Schuyler Fisk and director Tony Goldwyn, along with Fisher Stevens, director Paul Haggis and actor Gabriel Macht – and the crowd went nuts for Zach and Rachel. So nuts, in fact, that I got my first glimpse of what psychotic adult fanboys look like at full throttle. There were several of them, all doughy oafs in their 20s or 30s (a few were older…which made them even creepier), and they were SCREAMING for Rachel Bilson as if their lives depended on her acknowledging them. I mean SCREAMING her name.


They were running back and forth around the crowd, trying to squeeze through to get her to autograph photos that they will either: 1) sell on eBay, or 2) keep and use for fantasy purposes. *shudder* These guys were scary in their pursuit of her, and I suddenly felt glad that there were steel gates and security guards keeping folks at a distance. Zach signed a ton of autographs, posed for pictures and was extremely generous with his eager fans, which was nice.

Oh, and en route to the Varsity from the Ryerson (a route which took me through College Park), I saw Chantal Kreviazuk and a chapeau'd Raine Maida, who were trying to find their way through CP to Yonge Street and the red-carpet entrance to the One X One gala, which taking place upstairs at the Carlu. So that’s the second time in less than 48 hours that I’ve seen them. Freaky.

Also nice was my line-up experience for my final film of the day. This time, instead of the Army of the Odiously Obnoxious, I wound up behind a trio of lovely individuals, who were not only friendly and chatty, but who brought me a bag of free popcorn from the bookstore downstairs (which had been handing out the wee bags to customers and store visitors)! Free snacks, just delivered without me even asking! I told them about the Army, and then thanked them for being at the other end of the line-up spectrum, citing the snack gesture as the source for some inevitable good karma coming their way.

The movie was The Pleasure of Your Company (7/8), a wonderfully sharp romantic-comedy written and directed by Michael Ian Black. Given MIB’s aridly dry sense of humour, it was no surprise that the movie was brilliantly written and funny. It stars Jason Biggs as a guy whose girlfriend drops dead the moment after he makes the world’s most embarrassing marriage proposal. So, after a year of idealized mourning and the relentless pleading of his best friend to get on with his life, he makes a spur of the moment decision at a diner to propose to his waitress (Isla Fisher). All that happens within the first 10 minutes or so, and the remainder of the film follows the duo and their assorted friends and family as they cope with the repercussions of her actually saying “yes” to his on-the-spot marriage offer. The leads were great, the supporting cast was wonderful and the whole movie was refreshingly smart.

The post-film Q&A was just as good, with Michael Ian Black and several cast members fielding questions and answering in their signature style (i.e., funny!).

And that concludes day four for me. Good grief, it's 12:30 a.m. AGAIN! Thank goodness it's a bit of a later start tomorrow, with my first film not scheduled util 10:15.

Celebrity Sightings: Alex Pettyfer, Alexander Payne, Margo Martindale, Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, Jacinda Barrett, Tony Goldwyn, Schuyler Fisk, Fisher Stevens, Gabriel Macht, Paul Haggis, Jason Biggs, Michael Ian Black and Michael Weston.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: Three (two fresh, one very stale) Tim Horton’s triple-chocolate cookies.

Line Buzz: It was hard to get any buzz around the Army, but I did hear from a couple of people later on that Babel was excellent.

Weather for Tomorrow: Partly cloudy. High near 17C.

A Warm Welcome to Our TIFF-ly Visitors!

Just wanted to take a moment to welcome all the web surfers and fellow bloggers who have been swinging by this blog during TIFF this year. I'm sure some traffic is flowing here from the TIFF Blogs page at the festival's official website, but a glance at the site meter reveals all sorts of wild referrals, so feel free to stay a spell or post a comment as you roll on through. Enjoy your stay!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TIFF 2006 #5: Women Who Rock (or Don't)...and Zombies!

TIFF #5: Women and Zombies

You know what’s worse than standing outside in line during a heavy downpour?

Sitting in a cold theater, soaking wet, with hundreds of other wet people in wet clothes, after the downpour.


That’s how my day began. Literally the SECOND I stepped off the streetcar to walk to the Ryerson, it started to rain. And then it started to rain heavily. And then it poured. About 15 minutes later, they let us into the theater. I’d like to point out that, throughout my time in line, I didn’t see a single volunteer. No one patrolling the line or making themselves available to answer questions. I’m sure it’s because they were all huddled in the covered area near the main entrance (which is where they were all standing as we filed in). Babies! This would also be a good time for a brief chat about line etiquette – namely, have some. The forecast is calling for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, so this plight of the damp filmgoer is likely to resurface mid-week, and it might be nice to remember:

* If it’s pouring, and you have a giant golf umbrella, and the people in front of you or behind you have nothing, offer to share. I tried sharing my average-sized umbrella with the Wisconsin couple in front of me, but it just wound up getting us all wet and keeping none of us dry.

* In a line-up full of umbrellas, try to give your neighbours appropriate umbrella clearance (in terms of space) so as to avoid constantly knocking into one another and knocking more water on those around you. Now is not the time for shoulder-to-shoulder positioning. This particular point is something that needed to be shared with the petite woman who was behind me in line this morning, and who kept tilting her umbrella down so that the water that had collected on top trickled down onto my pants. Thanks.

* And one for TIFF: hey! If it’s pouring rain and it’s the first show of the day – i.e., there’s nothing happening inside the theater because it’s, you know, 8 a.m., LET US IN.

My first film today was Volver* (6/8), the new film from Pedro Almodóvar. The story centers on a family of women, led by Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), who cope with things like death, murder, incest and old secrets that reveal new truths. I have to admit that, despite the quality of the film and Cruz’s fantastic performance, I was having a really hard time staying awake. I suspect it has a lot to do with my (very late) bedtime and (very early) morning rise today, but I found my eyelids getting heavy throughout the film and I kind of wished it was about 15 minutes shorter. I know I missed a few key pieces of dialogue because I was snapped out of my pre-full-on-snooze haze by laughter several times.

[If, like I did, you’re wondering how to properly pronounce Volver, allow me to tell you: it’s pronounced vol-VEHR. Preferably with a rolling R. A plea: if anyone went to see Babel, please feel free to inform me how that titled if meant to be said. So far, in watching TV coverage, I’ve heard it pronounced BAY-bul, BAH-bul and, my favourite, buh-BELLE.]

Immediately thereafter, I got back in line – sans precipitation this time, thank goodness! – at the same theater for another female-driven film called Penelope (6/8). It was a surprisingly delightful and brilliantly colorful fable about the titular character (Christina Ricci), who was born with the nose and ears of a pig as a result of a centuries-old family curse, and who embarks on a quest to find love and acceptance. Along with a nicely understated performance from Ricci, the film featured a stellar list of supporting players (including James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Dawn French and Reese Witherspoon) who, not surprisingly, also turned in great work.

The audience, who clearly loved the movie, were thrilled when four of the actors – Ricci, McAvoy, Peter Dinklage (yay!) and Simon Woods – turned up for the post-film Q&A. It’s rare for gala participants to attend the repeat screenings of their films (which this was), so someone in the crowd stood up at one point and thanked them for coming. It was a nice midday treat.

A quick (or not-so quick) dash to the Paramount, and then the third film of the day, Fido** (6/8), a Canadian comedy that I heard one fest-goer describe as Far From Heaven meets Shaun of the Dead. It’s actually a fairly accurate assessment. The movie presents a fictional suburban 1950s society where zombies have been turned into servants and pets, and it follows one such zombie (Billy Connolly, in a dialogue-free role) as he joins a family (which includes parents Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker). It’s very dry but it wasn’t quite as amazing as I’d been led to believe based on line buzz.

[**By the way, on the topic of pronunciation once again, I’ve been calling the above film FEE-do, as if it were a French art film. Just because it’s fun.]

Last up was the Brittany Murphy romantic comedy Love and Other Disasters (4/8), which I found somewhat disappointing. Directed by Alek Keshishian (remember him? he directed Madonna’s Truth or Dare doc back in 1991), the film centers on Jacks (Murphy), who works in Vogue’s London office and tries to find love for herself and her gay best friend (Matthew Rhys). Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I’d hoped. They decided to have Brittany’s character purposely speak in a half-American/half-English accent…which was written into the movie but which felt suspiciously like a way to cover for a flopsy accent from its lead actress. Dunno. But the situations and the characters felt completely staged and kind of forced to me – the movie didn’t flow as much as it lurched from one predetermined cliché to the next. Only a scene in its final 10 minutes – which was unexpected and wildly funny – redeemed it somewhat. Somewhat.

And, really, that was my day. There wasn’t a huge amount of running around (mainly because three of my four films were at the same location) or dramatic incidents, so there’s not too much to write about. I could go into more detail about the films, but I’m going to opt for a pre-midnight bedtime today instead.

Celebrity Sightings: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Brittany Murphy, Alek Keshishian, Matthew Rhys and Santiago Cabrera.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: A McDonald’s blueberry muffin.

Line Buzz: Not much buzzing today, mainly because one of my films had no line (I went straight in upon arrival), one line was in the pouring rain so chatter was nonexistent, and the other two had people I knew, so we chatted about other stuff instead.

Weather for Tomorrow: Mainly sunny. High near 17C.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TIFF 2006 #4: Cuts

Okay, so it’s after 1 a.m., I’m just sitting down to write this blog entry, and I’m beyond pooped. It was a day of mad running around, poor nutrition and very warm weather. So, in order to maintain the level of quality of the TIFF diary, I’m making an executive decision and invoking the Margaret Cho Blog Brevity Law ™ which, as per last year’s creation of the law, states that I may drastically shorten my rambling if it’s really late. I will, however, try to revise and expand upon today’s goings-on tomorrow night, when I should be home by 9pm. So, check back later tomorrow night for the full scoop.

For now, may I present: highlights!

First off, karma did, indeed, lay the smackdown on Obnoxious Man last night – 25 minutes into the film, the projector at the Borat screening broke! You should have seen my face when my friend Lee Sister #3 (or #1, depending on which way you’re counting) informed me of this news today. UTTER GLEE! I mean, I feel bad for the hundreds of other patrons who suffered as a result of Obnoxious Man’s heinous faux-pas, but so goes karma. For more, check out the comments section from two entries ago, where Matt has very kindly offered a link to a recap of the night’s technical glitches.

The haircut this morning was lovely. I went to the Aveda Institute downtown and had a lovely young woman named Laura snipping away. I’d been warned in advance that the process could be quite slow, and that the cut itself could take two hours (since the cuts are done by students who must, in turn, run everything past an advisor before beginning), but it took less time than I thought – I was in and out in under two hours. Plus, a free relaxing massage, and all for only $14!

Three movies today. Without further adieu:

Time (4/8), a Korean drama/thriller about a young woman (Park Ji-yun) who believes her boyfriend has grown tired of her looks. So, she takes off, dramatically alters her face through radical plastic surgery so that she’s now played by a different actress (Sung Hyun-ah), poses as a different person, returns to re-woo her devastated boyfriend…only to discover he’s mourning the loss of her original self (whom he believes is missing). It was okay, but it started getting really repetitive about 45 minutes in. Oh, and it was also repetitive.

Next was a heavy but terrific little drama about teen suicide from New Zealand. It was called 2:37 (7/8), it featured some amazing performances from its young cast and was written and directed by a 19-year-old, who explained – in surprising detail – the fact that he wrote the film after his own unsuccessful suicide attempt. The story follows a half dozen high schoolers through the course of a day, which ends with one student’s on-campus suicide. We see their assorted problems, ranging from incontinence to closeted homosexuality to an unexpected pregnancy, and watch as they all melt down. It was cleverly laid out, so that – despite the film’s opening dealing with the discovery of the body – the identity of the student who dies isn’t revealed until the very end. All in all, very well done…though my friend Lee Sister #3 felt the director was overly self-involved and needlessly rambly during his Q&A.

Oh, and before this film began, I also heard the funniest exchange between a woman climbing the dark stairs inside the theater, and her friend, who was trying to direct her.


“Over here.”

“I can’t see you.”

“I know.”

“Am I close?”

The third movie of the day will likely wind up being my favourite at TIFF 2006. Much in the same way that I saw Imagine Me & You on the first Friday night of TIFF 2005, and knew that it would be my fave of that fest, this one had me at hello. It was the documentary Summercamp! (8/8 – a full pie!), which follows a bunch of Illinois kids to sleep-away camp for three weeks. It was FANTASTIC! It was simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking – I laughed for much of the film, sniffled at other times, and was near bawling at one particularly poignant and completely unexpected moment. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you have it scheduled for later in the week (Angela, I’m looking at you ;-)), bring Kleenex. (Look for Angela’s comments on the film later in the week! ;-))

The screening also had the BEST introduction I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing at any of the 16 (17?) TIFFs I’ve attending. The co-directors were there, along with a number of the counselors from the featured camp, all dressed in wild and crazy camp-esque gear (funny hats, bright colored and mismatched clothes, necklaces that had blinking lights, etc.), and they had us all stand up for a SING-ALONG! Plus pre-song stretching! It was great! And the post-film Q&A was just as good. They all trucked back onstage and, just like when I went to see Spellbound several fests ago, the directors revealed that a couple of the young campers (Holly and Cameron…whose names will only mean something to you after you see the movie) WERE THERE! OMG! Huge, huge applause from the audience.

Then it was time for the big Star! Schmooze party. In short, special thanks to my friend Greg, who was my “date” for the night and who made sure I was never alone. We got there just after 9pm, wandered a lot, ran into a few people we knew, I ate a bunch of really great food (they had tons of delicious food stations…which was good since I hadn’t eaten since my power bar around 2:30 p.m.), and then found an ideal spot for celeb sighting! Amid the plethora of less-interesting Canadian talent who wandered past (look everyone! it’s Gordonn Pinsent and the overly Botoxed stylist guy from Canada’s Next Top Model!), we came within inches of Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Connolly, Eugene Levy, Dylan Baker (oddly, MUCH less creepy in person!), Tom Sizemore (we were hoping for a meltdown, but alas no), Paulo Costanzo (yawn), Chantal Kreviazuk and husband Raine Maida, Sarah Polley, Julie Christie, John Abraham (the Bollywood star) and…drumroll please…Brittany Snow.

For those of you who just said, “Who?”, I say: for shame!

As many of you know, and many of you will now learn, I loved the show American Dreams. LOVED IT. It was heartwarming and comforting and sweet and moving and brilliantly written. I wanted to take the whole Pryor family and put them in my cupboard so that I could spend time with them whenever I wanted. It was an amazing television drama cancelled well before its time.

Well, Brittany Snow played the show’s cute-as-a-button young heroine, Meg Pryor. (She was also recently in John Tucker Must Die, but I’m not holding that against her.) I tell you, it was all I could do not to run over and hug her and ask her whether Vanessa Lengies tagged along for old time's sake. Needless to say, I refrained, and opted to internalize my fangurl tendencies. (Seriously, though, of everyone we saw, I was most excited about seeing her. Greg can attest to that.)

Then, as predicted in yesterday’s forecast, a massive thunderstorm hit , rain poured down, people fled for tent coverage and tried not to step into the ever-growing puddles of water that were forming everywhere. We left just before 11:30 p.m. feeling pretty satisfied at the star wattage we encountered, considering we didn’t have access to the V.I.P. area where everyone of note had been herded.

Okay, it’s after 1:30 a.m. now and I need to sleep. Gotta be up early for Volver first thing tomorrow. *yawn*

Celebrity Sightings: See above for the surprisingly beefy who’s-who list! Sam Jackson, people! Right there!

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: Almost everything. A stale blueberry danish for breakfast, a power bar for lunch and two mini Smores chocolate bars for dinner (until arrival at the Schmooze).

Line Buzz: Lots of good buzz for 12:08 East of Bucharest, Fido and Penelope, which I have on deck tomorrow.

Weather for Tomorrow: Showers in the morning. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. High near 18C.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

TIFF 2006 #3: Day One… And a New TIFF Record!

It’s movie time!

It’s new TIFF record time!

And it’s “Vickie Discovers Something New About Herself” time!

To begin…

Today was the official start of the film festival, when line-ups move from the box offices at College Park and the Manulife Centre to the actual theaters, and when the city’s movie-mad population magically increases several times over.

I noticed this morning that music seems to be the prevailing theme among the programmed films this year and, more specifically, among the ones I’ve selected to see myself. Along with the Dixie Chicks doc, Shut Up & Sing, I have tickets for The Magic Flute (Kenneth Branagh’s version of the Mozart opera…see post-mortem below), American Hardcore (which is about punk, not porn), and La Tourneuse de pages (a thriller about a piano player and her page turner…again, mini-review below). TIFF, meanwhile, is also featuring a couple of music-themed documentaries (the ones I’ve already listed + The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Kurt Cobain: About a Son), along with a half-dozen international productions celebrating, in theme or content, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Toronto is also hosting the world premiere of El Cantante, the Jennifer Lopez/Marc Anthony biography of singer Hector Lavoe, which promises to wind up more of a media maelstrom than anything else. And those are just the ones that immediately spring to mind. I’m sure there are others featuring musician protagonists or storylines involving music in some way, like the Bollywood offering, Never Say Goodbye.

But, in what’s been the most unexpected TIFF musical coincidence, it’s been announced that Beyoncé and John Mayer will both be performing live, for free, in downtown Toronto on the last two days of the fest. Whaaa…? I mean, the performances have nothing to do with the film festival, but the timing of the gigs – put on to celebrate the opening of a downtown music store – couldn’t be more perfect.

To continue…

Today, I simultaneously set a new TIFF record AND learned something new about myself.

My first film of TIFF 2006 was the aforementioned The Magic Flute, which fell into the category of movies I selected simply because there was nothing else screening at that time. It was screening at the Elgin at 2pm and, since today was plenty sunny, I decided to arrive just before 1:30pm so as to minimize my baking time. Besides, I reasoned, the Elgin is a massive theater and the screening isn’t sold out, so even if the line is huge I’ll still get in and get a decent seat.

Well, the ticket-holders line was huge, but I took my place. And then waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. For no clear reason, they held the line outside until almost 1:55pm, so I was melting by the time we started to shuffle into the theater.

[I’d like to use this moment to add an item to my list of festival DOs and DON’Ts: if it’s sunny and you know you’re going to be waiting in line for any length of time, bring sunscreen.]

Thankfully, the theater is still massive and there were PLENTY of good seats. So, I sat down and started cooling my core body temperature down to normal. This screening marked a TIFF first for me, because the world premiere of the film was happening simultaneously in Toronto and Venice…so we were treated to a lengthy videotaped message from director Kenneth Branagh, who clearly got “Italy” in the continental coin toss between the two fests. He encouraged us, repeatedly, to have a fantastic time.

I’m sorry to say that I did not. I tried. I really did. For almost 45 minutes I sat there, slowly turning to stone (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it felt like that’s what was happening), trying my best to get into the movie in some way while seat back after seat back flipped up as other audience members walked out. But I couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t. I was bored silly. My mind was wandering. I started thinking about all the other things I could be doing, and better ways in which my time could be spent. I thought about snacks, or watching TV or writing this blog entry. And then I realized that I should probably just get up and leave after 45 minutes because, really, the film still had another 90 minutes to go and there was no way I was going to stay to the end anyway.

And that’s when I learned something new about myself: I don’t like watching operas on film. Not that I’m particularly fond of them in person, either, but there you go. By leaving my first film of the festival well before its halfway mark, I also set a new TIFF record (for myself) for Earliest Walkout of the Festival. I consider it a “glass is half full” way of looking at the situation.

I had a few hours to kill so I came home to relax and have a proper meal before heading out to my second film of the day, La Tourneuse de pages. Once again, though, we were kept outside in line until four minutes (?!) before the scheduled start time…which, of course, meant the movie started almost 20 minutes late. As an added treat, I’m fairly certain that I had Parents of Obnoxious Man standing behind me in line. They were about the right age, THEY SPOKE ALL IN CAPS JUST LIKE OBNOXIOUS MAN DID and they rambled on and on and on and on (loudly) about NOTHING. Sadly, there was no refuge to be had in front of me, since there stood Questionable Hygiene Man, whose aromatic majesty did not in any way delight my senses. *sigh*

But Tourneuse (6/8) turned out to be worth the wait! It was a fantastic little gem! A taut and tidy psychological thriller and revenge yarn, about a young woman named Mélanie (Déborah François), who decides to totally screw over the renowned pianist (Catherine Frot), who ruined her dreams as a girl. The movie was filled with wonderfully tense moments and a terrific performance from François, who has very little dialogue but a face that says “I am *so* going to f**k with your life in a very bad way!” almost constantly. (And it never hurts to throw a little HoYay! into the picture, which was an unexpected treat.) Bouncy and adorable director Denis Dercourt was in attendance and was just as engaging as his film, making for a fine end to an otherwise less-than-fine first day of moviegoing.

To conclude…flutes and opera? No. Revenge and HoYay? Yay!

Tomorrow, the Schmooze party and, even scarier, a new haircut. ==:-o

Celebrity Sightings: None yet.

Crappiest Crap I Consumed Today: Shockingly, none yet! The unexpected break after Flute is likely the reason, since I had time to eat actual food.

Line Buzz: Everyone and their cousin seems to want to see Borat. Plus, some early, non-line good buzz on Little Children, Summer ‘04 and, not surprisingly, Volver.

Weather for Tomorrow: Partly cloudy w/ a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. High of 26C, w/ a humidex of 32C. Yikes!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

TIFF 2006 #2: Nightmares in the TIFFverse

Today I encountered one of my TIFF nightmares live and in person.

Anyone who’s read my diaries in either of the past two years knows how I feel about frequent TIFF press-conference moderator Henri Béhar. You know that I find him beeeeYOND creepy, extremely pompous and more than a little obnoxious. (He’s probably more obnoxious than yesterday’s Obnoxious Man when you factor in consistent obnoxiousness spread out over time.) He wields his moderation powers with little flair but plenty of haughtiness, and he often seems like he wants the press corps to bow at his feet (which many do). At the same time, he’s quite the sycophant when given the right celebrity panel member.


Today, at the Varsity Cinema, I saw him. In the flesh. Out in the open. Out in the daytime. LIVE. And, for a moment before I recognized him, I thought, “That little old woman has a rather unique sense of style.”

Then it hit me. OMG. That’s Henri Béhar! AND HE HAS A PAGEBOY HAIRCUT!

Words cannot accurately convey what a sight he was to behold, so you may behold him yourself – FINALLY! after two years of image searches!


You’ll note the hair, and his uncanny resemblance to someone’s grandmother.

I did not approach him. I did not make direct eye contact. I feared that I might turn into a pillar of salt or, worse, that he’d somehow know that I write snarky things about him every September and kill me with the sheer force of his self-importance. I ran away.

In other news, I neglected to mention yesterday that, for the first time ever, I have been invited to the CHUM/City Star! Schmooze Party. For the non-Toronto readers, this is an annual TIFF shindig that’s grown in scope in recent years. It’s a big, fat party held at the CHUM/City HQ, a great old building that houses MuchMusic, Bravo!, Space and other specialty networks. The party is televised, live, on the first Friday night of each festival. And, this year, I’ll be lost somewhere in that sea of industry types, hangers-on, poseurs and assorted Canadian talent.

Aside from my inherent anxiety about going solo (ticket admits one only, alas) to an event of this size, and my fear that it’s going to be like a giant school dance where I wind up weeping alone in a corner while all the cool kids live it up, I’m greatly afeared that it will turn out to be a big waste of time and energy. Past experience tells me it’s a distinct possibility.

For years, the annual TIFF BBQ at Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre was THE party to attend. Celebs crowded the property, security was insanely tight and you actually had to be bused in from the city. So, many of us TIFF regulars would sigh and wonder how or when we might be able to participate in its picnic-like magnificence. It was like a movie-fan’s utopia, where you could chat nonchalantly with Whoopi Goldberg or Sharon Stone or various members of the Sutherland clan while you ate your gourmet hamburger or corn-on-the-cob.

Then, one year, I won tickets to the BBQ. This was IT! I’d finally managed access to the inner fest circle! Oh, what a time I would have!

Sadly, the whole thing was hugely underwhelming. There was nary a celeb to be seen, the place was jam-packed with people, long lines abounded at every cramped food station, it was hot and humid, and I felt like I was wearing a big sign that read “INTERLOPER,” given the decidedly chilly reception I received from most people I met. Not only that, but attending the BBQ meant I had to skip three movies that day, so lost out on the tickets I’d paid for AND had a crappy time to boot.

Given that, I’m wary of the Schmooze. I’ve been promised a good time by my publicist pals, so I’m hoping it delivers. If nothing else, it’s spurred me to get a much-needed haircut. So, you know, that’s cool.

I realized I also neglected to list some of the films I have on deck, which range from the highly anticipated to the “yeah, I just picked this just because it fit.” Among the ones I’m excited about: Volver, Griffin & Phoenix (because I ♥ Amanda Peet!), Severance, Summer ’04, Fido, This is England, Starter For Ten, Blindsight and the Dixie Chicks documentary. I couldn’t snag tickets to a number of films I wanted to see, like Little Children or the now must-have film, D.O.A.P. Among my “fit” movies, which I’m not terribly excited about but which I hope prove to be delightful surprises, are The Dog Problem**, Falling and 2:37.

Though, I know that by time the festival winds down, all the films will melt into a blur anyway, so there you go.

** The Dog Problem is the new film directed by Scott Caan. If you recall, back on day eight of TIFF 2003, I went to see his first film, Dallas 362, which was meh…but the post-film Q&A was fantastic and redeemed the whole evening. So, even if this one blows, perhaps Caan will attend and entertain the audience after the closing credits.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TIFF 2006 #1: So Cute...So Rude...

I’m getting things underway a little late this year because, really, how many times can you be expected to read about the splendor of the program book, the inane ticket lottery and the flurry of box numbers before you actually slip into unconsciousness out of sheer boredom? (If you desperately need a fix, you can always revisit the diaries from previous festivals, links to which can be found here. Or just check out the blog archives from September 2005.) So, my apologies if you were somehow anxiously anticipating details of where my order landed (box 2 of 40) or which box was drawn first (#22) or how many tickets I scored as a result (33 of my 35 picks). Scintillating though those details might have been, I’ve decided less is more where needless pre-fest rambling is concerned.

That said, here’s some needless pre-fest rambling…

[Note: Starting in a day or so, this diary also appears, in its entirety and with plenty of pretty pictures!, over at Moviepie’s TIFF Diary main page. Updates appear here first, every night, though.]

Today was ticket-exchange day, but this entry has less to do with exchanging tickets than it does with the fascinating juxtapositions that occur frequently during the festival. Sometimes it means seeing a horrible movie right before a cinematic masterpiece; sometimes it means winding up in a seat between someone who smells horrible and someone who’s fresh as a daisy; and sometimes, like today, it means seeing The Cutest Thing EVER within 90 minutes of seeing The Rudest Thing EVER.

First, the cute. So ridiculously cute that it was physically painful. In line this morning, a few people behind me, was a young woman with a tiny, flopsy black lab puppy on a big red leash. (AWWWWWWW!) But, even cuter was the fact that the puppy was wearing a green smock that read “Future Guide Dog in Training” on it! (Seriously, AWWWWWWW!) [The dog at left, though adorable, is not the dog I saw...the puppy in line was much smaller, and its smock was much bigger.] I told her that the wee dog was, hands down, the absolute cutest thing I have ever seen in a film festival line-up. And I meant it.

About an hour-and-a-half later came the monumentally rude. To preface this short tale: in line, right in front of the cute puppy and its handler, stood a guy I’m going to call Obnoxious Man, because he was so odious that he took obnoxiousness to a practically superhuman level. He was a doughy businessman-looking guy in his late-20s or early-30s, and everything he said was ALL IN CAPS BECAUSE HE’S IMPORTANT. Well, Obnoxious Man was lined up because he desperately, DESPERATELY wanted a ticket to the Borat movie. He was sweating, he wanted a ticket that badly. And he made sure we all knew how much he wanted one.

So, while waiting for the box office to open, Obnoxious Man struck up a conversation with the TIFF volunteer assigned to Line Patrol this morning – a pleasant and unassuming older woman, perhaps in her 60s?, with a France-French (as opposed to Québecois-French) accent. Obnoxious Man told her about his all-consuming desire for the Borat ticket, and she shared with him that she, too, really wants to see that film, but (since both screenings are sold out) that she kept checking all day yesterday to see if anyone had returned any. They hadn’t, there were no Borat tickets in the system and she thought Obnoxious Man’s chances might be slim.

Cut to 90 minutes later, about 15 minutes after the box office opened and the moment Obnoxious Man emerged from his ticket-exchange experience. I was standing outside waiting for a festbuddy to finish his order, and Obnoxious Man – clearly pleased with himself – strode out gleefully and headed directly over to the TIFF volunteer with whom he’d been chatting. I kid you not, this is what he did: he took a ticket, held it up in front of her face and said, “Read it and WEEP!”

It was a ticket to the Borat movie.

In that instant, with that dumb-ass (not to mention offensive) move, Obnoxious Man guaranteed himself a festival’s worth of seriously bad TIFF karma. I mean, who does that? Who GLOATS??? And who gloats over Borat??? To a volunteer, who’s friendly and doing a good job and working for free, of all people??? You’re just asking for a karmic bitchslap! The ticket-procuring process is hard enough on everyone as it is, so getting a ticket to a film that you know someone else desperately wants is usually a time for modesty, humility, apology and encouragement (“Oh, really? You wanted this one? Oh. Wow, I guess I just got lucky or something. That’s weird because that never happens to me. You can always try the rush line, though. Or try same-day! Someone might return a ticket tomorrow, so don’t give up!”). It is not a time for schoolyard taunting. Dumbass.

So, if anything goes awry at either of the Borat screenings, now you’ll know why. If the film breaks or the print doesn’t show up or Sacha Baron Cohen gets food poisoning or a plague of locusts descends on the theater, blame Obnoxious Man and his big, fat thumbing of the nose to festival courtesy and good manners. The universe frowns on the unapologetically impolite, and may just crap all over Obnoxious Man in the coming days. Stand clear.