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.


ThisWatch said...

Love Almodóvar. Don't catch a cold!

Kay Richardson said...

Bloody rain. Anyway, Cruz's knockers are enough to warm away the chill.

AlmostFamous said...

Case you're still curious, having just come in from this morning's screening...BABEL is pronounced BAH-bull (or "babble"). I think the title is a refernce to the bible story of The Tower of Babel.

Case you're curious, it's pretty good...but a tad dark. I think it's meant for people who found 21 GRAMS too warm and fuzzy.

Vickie said...

Thanks, almostfamous. And thank you, as well, for citing this blog as the source for your blog's final-four thoughts. We appreciate the credit!

kay, all I can say is: how very true. ;-)

Lou, I made sure to eat extra-healthy food today, plus take my multivitamin, so as to boost the immune system and stave off cooties...which, sadly, are all over the damn place this fest.

the_voice said...

I did the same dash from Penelope (which I very much enjoyed) to Fido (which I also very muched enjoyed... but then I love them Zombies). Seats weren't so bad in Fido having missed the line.

Actually, I haven't arrived for a film earlier than an hour before and have been getting great seats, even if my group was 4 or more. Heck, after years of lining up for up to 3 hours (first in line for the Coffee & Cigarettes special presentation showing at the Uptown, hollah!) I think I'm just showing up an hour or later before the film from now on.

Oh, you know who I am in a theatre if I'm critizing the volunteers (who, let me tell you, aren't doing volunteering for the sake of volunteering: they're getting tickets, the ability to sign off on required hours for high school, and getting to hob-knob (albeit briefly) with celebs), for not knowing how to do their jobs: the ONLY times a flashlight is even needed in a theatre: the film has started and it's dark; someone has very poor eyesight; some lost something under a seat. And the flash light NEVER points above waist level.

Matt said...

If you have a concern about a TIFF volunteer, you should direct it to a staff member at that venue. (They're the ones with headsets.)

Your assumptions about volunteers' motivations fit a few volunteers, but certainly not all.

Vickie said...

Though I have criticized some volunteers in the past (Dora the Dope, for example) myself, I have to agree with matt -- plenty of them are great. Friendly, helpful and fun. I remember one guy at the Elgin (who's now been promoted to paid staff, I believe) who would actually *entertain* people waiting in line. He even had us do the wave one year.

And speaking of people with headsets, there's a VERY tense young woman (perhaps a FOHA?) working the Varsity. She looks like she's perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I have no idea why. And I get the sense that some of the volunteers at that venue don't like her much.

The_Voice said...

Ok, maybe the motivations don't fit ALL of them... but I still stand by my, "they should be trained better" statement. I've volunteered for events like these and it's great when they say, "go do crowd control" and volunteers REALLY don't know what the heck that means. Simple example: two women seeing a gap in the Penelope line as it entered the theatre on the Saturday show and cutting in instead of walking to the end... I semi-called them out on it... but regret not doing more and kind of upset that volunteers won't do anything about that sort of thing.

At $20 / ticket, I think they can hire a LOT more full time staff.