Monday, September 11, 2006

TIFF Day Two

The Bothersome Man *** out of ****

Starts out excellent, takes a dive midway, then rallies strongly for an enigmatic finale. It's about a man who arrives in a mysterious city where everything of necessity is provided for him and there are no wants. However, food has no taste, love has no passion and life is dry and dull. The problem is that the film, in depicting the dullness of this world, actually starts to seem sort of dull. The last third makes up for this by introducing an element of hope to this world, however fleeting. It's an intriguing puzzle of a film, regardless, and is recommended for fans of the unusual.

The Fall *1/2 out of ****

Visually gorgeous, narratively atrocious, Tarsem Singh's latest got huge raves from several festivalgoers, but it's such a mess. A simple narrative core (man tells little girl stories in hospital) gives way to fantasy sequences that consistently look pretty, but lack any sense of joy or inspiration. For all his visual brio, Tarsem makes movies like someone who has never seen an actual movie--he gets the notes right, but he can't make them sing.

Rescue Dawn **1/2 out of ****

(AKA Hey! You Got Your Crappy Hollywood Movie In My Herzog Film!) About half brilliant and half daft, Herzog's latest is a somewhat bizarre action adventure film. Think 'classic Herzog' bookended by standard Hollywood bullshit, then imagine it played even more ineptly than that sounds. Good to great performances throughout, but a disappointment, especially considering Herzog's closeness to the story. Still worth it, though, for that tense, exciting Herzog film that dominates the mid-section.

Day One: Friday, September 8 (Blurb Version)

Our first day was hectic as hell, so much so that we ended up going full-speed for nearly twenty-four hours straight. Note to future TIFF-goers: Do everything in your power to show up before the festival begins. Trust me on this. It's day freaking four and I still haven't recovered.

Anyway, here's my inital impressions. It was a tough day, but the movies made it entirely worthwhile:

Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin) (**** out of ****)

Easily the oddest, most amazing thing Maddin's ever done (and yes, I'd say the same without the orchestra, castrati, narration and live sound effects). A bizarre mix of children's detective fiction, oedipal drama, and 1930's genre filmmaking, tied together in a silent film package. If you're a Maddin fan, you definitely need to seek this out.

The Host (Bong Joon-Ho) (**** out of ****)

The hype has been deafening ever since this premiered out-of-competition at the Cannes film festival. And, for once, with good cause. It's a close-to-perfect monster movie that hits again and again with some of the best set-pieces I've seen in one of these films (especially that opening attack). Some have complained about the length, but even though I was exhausted from a super-long day, it never seemed too long to me. An absolute must-see when it opens later this year.

Keep watching this spot for more...

Quick Update

Yes, I'm still here. Currently, I'm sitting at the Ryerson Theatre, waiting to go in for the 6:00 showing of Fay Grim. I promise a slew of quickie reviews in the hours to come, followed (hopefully) by actual, full-blooded reviews.

And the podcast thing? Due to a mix-up, it didn't happen. Still, I recommend checking out the Mamo! podcast, as it's excellent.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ready for the Fest

And so it begins...well, for everyone else. I'm still here in Tennessee today and won't get into Toronto until tomorrow afternoon. But I'm packed and all my travel's arranged, so, barring weird, unforeseen circumstances (e.g., leprechauns), the festival's a go. I'll do my best to keep the site reasonably updated during TIFF, but I have to admit this might be difficult. My schedule's fairly tight for the next nine days, so breathless blurbs and cries for help will probably be the norm.

I should mention that, barring further unforeseen circumstances (most likely the leprechauns again), I will be participating in a podcast to be recorded Sunday night outside the Ryerson. I don't know when it's scheduled to air, but when it does, it'll go up on this site. It's a movie-oriented podcast named Mamo! and it's based in Toronto. After sampling a few of their broadcasts, I have to say I like it--nicely informal with a deep love of film. Sunday's podcast will be a roundtable with at least a few other people, so it should be entertaining. Check it out, especially if you want to know what I sound like while nervously attempting to not make a fool of myself. (Hint: Sort of like the love-child of Dick Cheney and Pee Wee Herman, trapped inside a slurpee machine).

That's it for now. Tomorrow, I'll board the plane for Toronto, prepared for another amazing week or so of movie-going and discovery. As usual, leave any and all suggestions, recommendations and strange requests in the comments or my e-mail.

Unless you're a leprechaun. I don't want to hear anything you crazy lot have to say...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Delays for Rescue Dawn?

Just a quick post on a potentially distressing subject: It's been rumored that Herzog's Rescue Dawn might not make its scheduled premiere this Saturday. It seems Herzog attended last weekend's Telluride Festival empty-handed, though he had intended to present Rescue Dawn. The problem? Not enough money to pay the labs for the print. This is just one more setback in a pile of setbacks for this film. Production woes, the firing of Herzog's key personnel, actors and crew members not getting paid, and now this--this film has been a world of trouble for everyone involved.

I'd say there's little chance it won't make it to Toronto, but I've never had much skill in parsing the Hollywood rumor mill, so it's anyone's guess. Question for those in the know: If the film doesn't show up, how does that work? Will we find out in enough time or does this tend to drag to the last minute? Curious minds would like to know...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Final List and Miscellaneous

Sorry for the delay. I don't usually celebrate holidays, but I attend a convention every labor day weekend with friends and didn't have time to update.

Anyway, on with the TIFF. By some happy twist of fate, my wife and I managed to get all of our choices this year. Here's the list:

Friday, September 8
Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin)
The Host (Bong Joon-Ho)

Saturday, September 9
The Bothersome Man (Jens Lien)
The Fall (Tarsem Singh)
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog)

Sunday, September 10
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt (Ann Hui)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
Waiter (Alex van Warmerdam)
Black Sheep (Jonathan King)

Monday, September 11
Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-Soo)
Khadak (Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth)
Fay Grim (Hal Hartley)

Tuesday, September 12
Kurt Cobain About a Son (A.J. Schnack)
Offside (Jafar Panahi)
D.O.A.P. (Gabriel Range)
Renaissance (Christian Volckman)

Wednesday, September 13
Mon Colonel (Laurent Herbiet)
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-Liang)
Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weersethakul)
Bugmaster (Katsuhiro Otomo)

Thursday, September 14
Alatriste (Agustin Diaz Yanes)
Invisible Waves (Pen-ek Ratanaruang)
This Filthy World (Jeff Garlin)
Severance (Christopher Smith)

Friday, September 15
Time (Kim Ki-Duk)
Hana (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal)

Saturday, September 16
Exiled (Johnnie To)
The Banquet (Feng Xiaogang)
Big Bang Love Juvenile A (Takashi Miike)

Despite all my blather about systems, tiers and 'core choices', I found scheduling to be monstrously difficult this year. After much weeping, gnashing of teeth, and consulting of the ancient scrolls, I finally settled on a surefire method for this year--choose some damn movies and move on. It was surprisingly effective and I've since come around to being very happy with the list.

On a side note, I was honored to be one of twenty-four film enthusiasts quoted in this article at the Toronto Star, one of those attempts to guage the buzz at the festival. I'm not sure I'm the go-to guy for that kind of thing, but it's flattering regardless. It's very minor, but being quoted alongside some professionals I respect is still a thrill. Thanks to Ray at tiffreviews (who's also in the article) for the heads up.