TIFF 2011 shortlist

Every year, in the runup to the Toronto International Film Festival, I poke through the (typically logy) website, looking through the 300 or so programmed films for a few I think I’d like to see.  So, in addition to the 3 films I chose for this year’s Chasing the Buzz, here’s my shortlist for TIFF ’11 (TIFF synopses in italics and my reasons for choosing follows)…

 

Starting a few months after Hurricane Katrina, Jonathan Demme follows a strong matriarch from the Lower Ninth Ward named Carolyn Parker as she struggles to rebuild her home over several years.
It is the Demme name that draws me. He’s made quite a number of films I admire, including documentaries such as Man From Plains.

This shocking investigation into the world’s water crisis, draws upon the work of scientists and activists including the real Erin Brockovich, from Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu and the producer’s of “Food, Inc.”
Yu’s Protagonist was one of the most interesting films (form-wise and content-wise) that I saw at Hot Docs ’07.

Exploring the rough and tumble world of hockey, Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) looks at the world of the NHL enforcers and specifically the career of Chris “Knuckles” Nilan who helped the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
On May 13/11, Derek Boogaard died of an accidental lethal mix of alcohol and oxycodone. On Aug. 14/11, Rick Rypien committed suicide. And last week, on Aug. 31/11, Wade Belak did, too. All of these guys were so-called “enforcers” in the NHL–guys whose role it is to enforce what Don Cherry refers to as “The Code”–and at least two of them (Rypien and Belak) admitted to suffering from clinical depression. Don’t know if Boogaard did, too, but he did have substance abuse problems for which he had sought treatment. I am not sure I’d want to link these personal issues to the role these guys played on their teams, but it is, certainly, a discomforting coincidence. Here, director Gibney looks at Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, who managed to make the transition from “NHL enforcer” to “retiree” that these three did not.

Acclaimed maverick Michael Dowse (FUBAR, FUBAR 2, It’s All Gone Pete Tong) returns to the Festival with his latest, Goon, a raucous, hilarious take on Canada’s one true national obsession — hockey — and the divisive topic of violence in the game. Co-written by and starring Jay Baruchel (The Trotsky, Tropic Thunder) and boasting a truly great cast including Seann William Scott, Nicholas Campbell, Liev Schrieber, Alison Pill, Kim Coates, Eugene Levy, and Marc-Andre Grondin — Goon is the Canadian comedy counterpart to Jimi Hendrix’s version of the “The Star Spangled Banner”: sacreligious, twisted and, somehow, perversely patriotic.
Not sure how funny this is going to seem, what with recent events… but I’m curious not just because it’s a movie about hockey but also because I loved Dowse’s It’s All Gone Pete Tong (which you can watch here).

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Chasing the buzz

Clearly illustrating how true it is that it ain’t whatcha know but, rather, whoya know, I was invited to take part in a survey of what we most wanna see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. What was the criteria for being invited to participate? Something about being buff. Or mebbe it was something about being a film buff. Or someat like that. But the rules! Oy, the rules! They were cruel: I could name only three films and I could justify each choice with only one sentence. Ye gods.

But, hereabouts, my rules rule. So here’s a little further elucidation…

Stuck, dir. Stuart Gordon

I haven’t seen all of Stuart Gordon’s films but I have really liked every one I have seen (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, Castle Freak, King of the Ants, and Edmond).

Stuck is based on a true story that I can remember being all over the news a few years ago. In Texas, an intoxicated woman struck a man with her car and he flew up over the hood and lodged in her windshield. Did she call 911? No. Did she drive to the hospital? No. Instead, she drove all the way home with him like that, pulled into her garage and closed the door and then went in the house and left the poor guy to die a slow painful death overnight—ignoring his cries for help that she could hear from inside her house. Then she dumped the body. Isn’t that sweet? A girl you’d like to take home to meet Mom, eh?

Anyhow, throughout his filmmography, you will find that Stuart Gordon has a deft hand when it comes to finding the blacker-than-black comic side of a gruesome story. His films are what you could call transgressive–just a step beyond where other filmmakers might draw the line, y’know?

Making a smartass remark about head would be too easy, don't you think?
(Like, oh, say, a sex scene between a nubile young thang and Dr. Hill’s re-animated decapitated head.)

That approach and tone is what I like best about his work. I don’t know if he takes that kind of off-kilter funny/weird/awful tack with this film, but I am sure anxious to see!   Continue reading

7 Dumpsters, A Corpse, 4 Protagonists, and a Typeface

Helvetica

My interest in semiotics–or the study of signs and their meanings–is what drew me to Helvetica.

It is interesting to me to learn just what I am conveying (consciously or not) when I choose to use the typeface Helvetica. Which I’m doing right now, in case you didn’t realize (your fugbox may not be set up to display it that way but, hey, I’ve done my part)…

But there seems to be some disagreement about just what meaning is couched in Helvetica’s firm verticals, smooth curves, and the white spaces between them.


Many of the world’s top graphic designers are interviewed by American director Gary Hustwit on the subject and opinions about this particular sans serif typeface run the gamut from giddy love to sneering hate. Some suggest that its simplicity and clean lines suggest universality, unity, openness, and humanity while others turn up their noses and declare it utterly bereft of meaning because of that same simplicity and clean lines. Lots of opinions are expressed–some with considerable emotion–but none takes precedence. What is notable about this film to me is how fascinating, articulate, and witty these designers are. Their enthusiasm is palpable and I have to marvel at how entertaining this little film about a font is.

And I’ll bet that if you look up from your computer screen right now and gaze around you, you’ll find Helvetica all over the place.   Continue reading