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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Man From Plains

cool retro poster for Man From Plains

Coming out of this film, I again wondered why so many Americans look down their noses at their 39th president. Jimmy Carter was well-regarded by the rest of the world, after all. He has always had the persona of a humble, gracious, honest humanitarian and I don’t think it’s just a facade. The seemingly indefatigable Nobel Peace Prize winner is in almost every frame of Jonathan Demme’s film. And he seems quite comfortable there; he has nothing to hide.   Continue reading

TIFF decisions

Okay, well, once the TIFF schedule came out, I took some time to go through it and figure out when would be the best time for me to go… It’s a much more expensive venture than going to Hot Docs (which I attended in its entirety), so I figured I’d look for the two- or three-day span that contained the highest number of screenings of the films at the top of my wish list.

I settled on September 10-12, inclusive.

Booked the same hotel I stayed in last year–the inconvenient and somewhat dumpy Days Inn in The Beaches–because it was too late to get anything downtown without offering up an arm or a leg for whatever handful of rooms might still be available. And I will need both arms and both legs for the upcoming half-marathon, so… The Beaches it is.

Happily, I was able to buy tickets to a bunch of screenings online at the TIFF website. So I have tickets for Diary of the Dead (George Romero’s new zombie film–and I can just hear your moans of jealousy all the way up here, ZombieKillah!),
This one's just eating your heart out, isn't it, Zeke?

as well as Stuck (Stuart Gordon), Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog), Lou Reed’s Berlin (Julian Schnabel), and Man From Plains (Jonathan Demme). I do have time to see some others but I will play that by ear because I’d also like to see some friends while I’m in town.

It’s a drag, but neither of the Joy Division films are screening over those days. So I will miss out on them. *update* Pete Howell has a good interview with Control‘s director Anton Corbijn and star Sam Riley here.

Now, I’m going to try to update this thing as I go along, but I can’t make any promises. If I can nip into some internet cafés between screenings like I did last year, I will.

BTW, that “Chasing the Buzz” feature at the Star got referenced at the TIFF site in the very cool Midnight Madness blog. The Romero and Gordon films I’m seeing are part of the MM programme, but Stuck is the only actual midnight screening I’m attending. The Diary of the Dead midnight screening is tonight. I’m seeing it Monday afternoon.

And, thanks to the MM blog, here’s the first glimpse of a new documentary about The Master!

→ originally published 2007-09-08

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