Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day Two: Legend of the Married Super Guest Thief

Given my limited internet time and the general suckiness of Toronto open wi-fi, this will be brief.  I hope to later fill this stuff in with better thoughts, but here's my quick takes:


Action "sequel" to the classic Bruce Lee film, FIST OF FURY picks up whenever Donnie Yen starts kicking Japanese ass (or German, as in the instant classic opening sequence), but drags in the middle, where it becomes LUST, CAUTION with ass-kicking fights.  Also, I know it's unavoidable given the subject matter, but does every new Chinese film have to be quite so wildly nationalistic?  It's not as egregious (or frankly disturbing) as CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, but it's pretty thick. 



Terrific documentary about a middle-class couple in 1960's Toronto coming apart at the seams.  Some amazing footage here.


THE LIGHT THIEF (Aktan Abdykalykov)

Sweet, earnest and seriously bland, this is a Sony Pictures Classics trailer blown up to feature length.   Meh.


GUEST (Jose Luis Guerin)

Beautiful, poetic rumination on life beyond cinema, literally  (Guerin filmed it at various film festivals).  Some of the segments drag a bit, but it's worth a look, definitely.


SUPER (James Gunn)

I'm personally pretty tired of superhero films and the notion of a superhero as psychotic maniac is no longer novel, but this was still pretty fun.  Worth it for Ellen Page's crackling performance as the slightly more unhinged sidekick of Rainn Wilson.  She nails the film's peculiar tone better than everyone else in the cast--shame she's not in it much.


Tomorrow...was yesterday, so I'll forgo the whole preview.   More to come...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day One: Inside Film Job Socialism

I'm writing this on day two of TIFF, due to the erratic, half-assed nature of Toronto wi-fi.  Thank god there's a Second Cup every block in this city, otherwise, I'd never get anything written.

On to the movies:

FILM SOCIALISM (Jean-Luc Godard)

I toyed with ratings this year--scale of 1-10?  Letter grades?  1-100?  Thumbs-up, thumbs-down?  Well, I haven't the slightest idea what I can possibly grade Godard's latest film.   As a product of a broken American public-school system, I speak one language:  English.  And, like most Americans, I don't even speak that one terribly well most of the time.  So when Godard's film unspooled (digitally), and it became increasingly obvious that it would have no subtitles (not even the fractured Navajo English that graced the Cannes screenings), I knew this was going to be a tough slog.

Strangely enough, I found myself enjoying the opening scenes, all of which are set aboard a particularly garish  cruise ship.   Perhaps it's because I find cruise ships to basically be floating circles of Hell, but I felt the experience of being unmoored from the dialogue while bombarded with the sounds and images of cruise ships to be a pretty accurate rendering of my own cruise experiences.  It's clearly a metaphor for modern existence:  history experienced in snippets;  the intellectual and the anti-intellectual forced to roam the same hellish environments that make real human connection impossible.  And also, cat videos.

So yeah, it's modern life and I really liked it.  Then the action switches to a family working a rural gas station, who are apparently having financial woes and being harassed by a news reporter who mugs ferociously.  At least I think that's what was happening.   Without a better grasp on French, I was left to flounder in the images and they just weren't as memorable in this part of the film (apart from the llama, who I liked).   Godard then wraps it all up with a re-take on the cities visited only tangentially in the first part of the film, but with added commentary on their political meaning.

It's all very heady and maybe if I spoke French, I'd have a stronger opinion on it (or an opinion, period), but I just can't say.  Maybe Godard wants me to feel alienated, maybe he doesn't care if I understand his film, or maybe it's some sort of perverse experiment.  Whatever his intentions, the end result is still the same for me:  I have no idea what to make of it.

1st 3rd:  B+ /  Rest of the film:   No Comment

INSIDE JOB (Charles Ferguson)

 I'm not a fan of talking head, information-heavy documentaries.  I usually prefer the fly-on-the-wall approach preferred by Allan King or Frederick Wiseman, or the personality-driven ones like those of Herzog or Errol Morris (funny, I'm seeing a doc by each one of them this year).  But as far as talking head documentaries go, this one's pretty good.  It's a little over-emphatic at times (the score, especially early on, is overbearing) and it moves perhaps a little too fast for its own good, but it's still a perfectly fine muckraking look at the horrible financial disaster we're all living in these days.  There's nothing here that isn't in the various books and NPR podcasts that have come out recently, but it's still something that more people in the world should be outraged about, especially Americans. 


That's about it for today.  Tomorrow (which is actually today) I'll return with LEGEND OF THE FIST, A MARRIED COUPLE, THE LIGHT THIEF, GUEST, and SUPER.   Bye for now.

Fake celeb of the day:  Paul Giamati, if he was a 1970's roadie.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Current TIFF Schedule, etc.

Thought I'd drop in with a small update.  I sent in my order and got 29/30 of my first picks.   The only casualty, weirdly enough, is the Swedish giallo BAD FAITH, which I only chose as a slot-filler in the first place.  Oh well.  I'll either try for it again, or replace it with something else.  Anyhow, here's my schedule, which will almost certainly change once the festival kicks in:

September 9th

FILM SOCIALISM (intimidated by recent Godard, but feeling adventurous)

September 10th


September 11th

WAVELENGTHS 3: RUHR (dipping my toes in the Wavelengths;  mesmerizing trailer)

September 12th


September 13th


September 14th


September 15th


That's that.  I'm toying with some changes here and there, depending on availability, but that's it for now.  I may write some more stuff before the festival, but since I've got limited internet capabilities and a daughter who I won't see for a little over a week, my priorities may be slightly skewed.   So this will probably be it until the festival itself.    See you there! Unless you're not going, of course.  In that case, disregard that statement...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The New Reality and Other Things

So in my last post I said that lots of things were happening in my life.  Well, this is sort of what I meant by that:

That portly gentleman on the left would be me.   And that lovely young lady on the right just happens to be my daughter, Lyra.   She was born March 10th and she's sort of dominated my life since then, as you can probably guess.  No movies, very little sleep, not a lot of getting out and doing the things that most people do.  That might sound horrible to some, but it's been pretty amazing so far.  I mean, look at that kid.  How could you not want to spend time with that kid?

Anyway, I'll try to keep the gushing about my kid to a minimum, since I rolled my eyes at that stuff before I became a dad and can hear the eyes rolling right now (FYI, they sound like warm gummi bears rolling around in a plastic bag).  But the experience is so overwhelming, so completely a part of my life now that I can't ignore that little 14 lb. bundle of awesome.    So expect to read some really lovey-dovey stuff from here on out.  It's just fair warning, folks.

So on to TIFF.  I suppose there's not much to say, since they've only bothered to announce one movie so far:  Score: A Hockey Musical, which looks like "Glee" as re-imagined by a bored Canadian teenager.  It's not my sort of thing, but eh...  Still, my thing or not, it's sort of sad that the first film announcement from North America's biggest film festival (in size, if not influence) is of something this nakedly commercial.   On the other hand, they have already announced the Future Projections selections, which sound much more interesting.

Or I could just be cranky because I miss poring over the announced films and pre-planning for the festival.  Since I have no interest in Score, I'm reduced to reading lists of potential TIFF entries, which is kind of fun, but not nearly as fun as savoring the films that will be there.  In a future post, I intend to look at some of those possibilities, many of which look flat-out amazing. 

That's about it for now.  I have a new reality to contend with down here in Tennessee and a festival to prepare for in the coming months.  I hope you'll join me on the way.

Oh yeah.  I never finished my TIFF '09 wrap-up.  Well, no one gives a damn about that, much less me, so here are my brief, brief, brief thoughts on the remaining films I never got around to.

  • I Am Love - Swoony melodrama, with a modernist kick.  Not a masterpiece, but gotta love Tilda Swinton.
  • Face - Grows better in my mind every single day.  Breathtaking set-pieces and surprisingly funny at times.
  • Enter the Void - Can a movie be amazing and deeply stupid at the exact same time?  Oh god, yes.
  • The Time That Remains - Favorite film of the festival.  I'm a sucker for filmmakers who traffic in heavily stylized tableaux, for some reason.
  • Valhalla Rising - Weird drone-metal science fictiony mythological awakening arthouse awesomeness.
  • Lourdes - Magnetically slow film about faith and miracles and whether either one really exist.  
  • Some other stuff I can't remember right now...
That's it.  If I've forgotten something important I'll write it up later.  For now, I'm just gonna let that stuff go and start thinking about TIFF '10 and all the exciting, exhausting things that await me there.  Bye for now!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Alive!!

Hi!   I don't know if anybody cares or not, but the blog's back and so am I.  Lots of things are happening in my life this year and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it this year, but I definitely am.  More to come later.... (this time I mean that).