Buzzed

As is often the case, it’s not whatcha know as much as it’s whoya know… and, in this case, it means I was invited, again, to participate in The Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell‘s annual pre-TIFF feature called Chasing The Buzz, wherein li’l film-loving bloggers like me get to throw our 2¢ into the pot along with the pocket change from professional film columnists and reviewers, critics and professors, festival programmers and assorted muckety-mucks (Hello, Piers). What’s in the pot, you ask? Well, Pete wants us to explain–in a single sentence (although a garrulous few get away with more)–which three films we are most excited about seeing at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Take Shelter, dir. Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed one of my happiest discoveries of the past year, Shotgun Stories (2007), which also features the star of Take Shelter, the estimable Michael Shannon. (Okay, full disclosure: I have an extreme case of the h-h-hots for Mr. Shannon. Fair ’nuff?  In fact, Shotgun Stories may have been the Shannon performance that hooked me. You might know him best as Agent Van Alden Awesome in HBO‘s “Boardwalk Empire”.)  It is a quiet but devastating little film about a feuding family that I highly recommend–the writing and performances are beautiful.

It is on the basis of Shotgun Stories that I am keen to see Take Shelter.  Again written by Nichols, it is the story of Curtis–a young husband and father and a crew chief for a mining company in the American Midwest–who may or may not be taking a frightening trip around the proverbial bend.  I expect it will be up to the viewer to decide which is the case… as Curtis struggles to understand the same thing onscreen.   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