Saturday, September 15, 2007

The End of TIFF

Ali reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

The closing of TIFF each year brings an assortment of mixed feelings. Many festival goers wish the festival could barrel on for weeks and weeks, but there is a thing as too much stimulation. One can only survive on a diet of movies and caffeine for so long (haven't you heard? There's no time to actually eat solids or sleep during the nine days, silly.) I've certainly reached my limit in the last few days, even if some TIFF regulars would scoff at my paltry twenty-film count. All I know is, I've been falling asleep practically everywhere: on the bus, during films, in the middle of conversations... so it's been nice to have some regularity back in my life since Saturday. Things I will certainly miss: early morning screenings, seeing the Oscar bait early, eavesdropping on conversations in lineups, and the joy of "discovering" an obscure film every now and then. Things I will not: commuting stress, lack of sleep, bad movies, leg cramps from walking/standing all day, people kicking my chair, and having to accommodate classes in between screenings.

So... I know that I have a lot of work cut out for me, not only trying to cram four days' worth of coverage into one post, but also providing some final thoughts on the end of the festival. But I'm not going to try and write a review or capsule on every film I've watched since Monday, because we'd be here forever.

Ask me about them if you need more:

Just Buried (Thorne) - Clearly indebted to "Six Feet Under", this dark comedy tries too hard; Jay Baruchel flounders, Rose Byrne shines. C

Sleuth (Branagh) - Haven't seen the original, but this version is lots of fun with Caine and Law better than they've been in years. Perhaps it doesn't leave you with much, but those eighty-six minutes pass like fifteen. B

Margot at the Wedding (Baumbach) - Kidman and Leigh fantastic, biting one-liners galore; but feels overly familiar, with an awful climax/ending on top of it all. C+

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel) - Lookatme fussy direction, but still kind of impressive on that count. The first third is most valuable, unfolding solely through the perspective of Jean-Dominique Bauby, but becomes overly sentimental and dependent on flashbacks as it goes on. C+

Reservation Road (George) - Ghastly tragedy-mourning-revenge picture in the tradition of Todd Field's infinitely better In the Bedroom, there's nothing to discover here if you've already seen the trailer or know about the plot. Joaquin Pheonix is unwatchable, Mira Sorvino gets no scope. D

I'm Not There (Haynes) - I know nothing about Dylan and was still enthralled, start to finish. Blanchett, Bale and Whishaw are especially good (along with their respective threads), while Ledger and Gere are the most shaky. B+

The Last Lear (Ghosh) - Known as Amitabh Bachchan's first-ever English-speaking role, the revered Indian actor overcompensates and is too rehearsed. The film's pleasures then are restricted to a chamber piece segment involving Preity Zinta, Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta. Monsoon Wedding's Shah is the stand-out here as a jealous, cooped-up housewife. B

Celebrity sightings over the past few days: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Cooper (passed by him walking up Bay St.), Alan Alda (promoting his new book at Indigo), and Todd Haynes.

... goes to Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. Each year, the results of the PCA never cease to astound me, and this time is no different. First of all, it's baffling as to how they tally up these results and declare a winner; if a film screens at a tiny venue like the Cumberland twice (a couple of hundred seats), how could it ever compete with another that screens at Roy Thompson Hall or the Elgin (2500+ seats)? And secondly, since when did Eastern Promises emerge as some sort of crowd pleaser? When I saw Jason Reitman's Juno in the runner-up slot, things made a lot more sense... even if it makes me a little dead inside. People have been talking about this one non-stop ever since its first showing on Saturday, and I'm sure Fox Searchlight is going to do a fantastic job releasing it (see trailer here).

I've been following the Oscar discussion re: Cate's chances with a lot of interest, and thought I'd comment on it here. First, I did not see The Golden Age at TIFF, but I can tell you that she is definitely in for the Todd Haynes film. It's all people could talk about before the screening, during the screening and after the screening. When she made her first appearance, the auditorium went abuzz with whispering ("Is that her?") and laughed appreciatively at all the right parts. Even if the picture as a whole went over their heads, all I could hear was variations on "Cate Blanchett was amaaaaaaazing" in the lobby afterwards. She certainly has all the ingredients: a dash of stunt casting, a sprinkle of real-life personality and a generous helping of (inevitable) critical raves/prizes. I don't know if the Oscar is a definite thing (yet), but having won only three years before certainly won't hurt her. When the Academy loves you (see Sally Field, Jodie Foster, Dianne Wiest, Hilary Swank), they really love you.

TIFF 2007 - My Personal Awards
Best Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (runner-up: I'm Not There)
Best Director: Todd Haynes, I'm Not There (runner-up: Cristi Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
Best Actress: Anamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (runner-up: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding)
Best Actor: Michael Caine, Sleuth (runner-up: Jude Law, Sleuth)
Best Screenplay: Cristian Nemescu and Tudor Voican, California Dreamin' (Endless) (runner-up: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton)
Best Cinematography: Fred Keleman, The Man from London (runner-up: Edward Lachman, I'm Not There)

Worst Film: Nothing is Private
Most Overrated Film: Juno
Worst Director: Alan Ball, Nothing is Private
Worst Performance
: Joaquin Pheonix, Reservation Road
Most Overrated Performance: Ellen Page, Juno

Thanks for putting up with my erratic posting over the last week and a bit, folks! And thanks to Nathaniel for his generosity and understanding - it was a pleasure writing for The Film Experience.

/goes back to sleep.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the reports!

Another bad review for Reservation Road... I think this movie may prove to be the disappointment of the year, along with The Golden Age.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the helpful reports Ali!

Good to see that Jennifer Jason Leigh is your Best Actress runner-up for Margot at the Wedding. She is being heavily predicted as a Supporting nominee, but some think the film's dark, cold nature and lack of likable characters could scare off AMPAS. I really hope JJL isn't snubbed again because of that. But I've heard that even though her character Pauline is insecure, neurotic and bitchy, she is at least a bit warmer and softer than the others, in that she genuinely loves her fiancé, she feels protective of her nephew, and she still wants to be friends with her estranged sister despite the tension between them.

Do you think the film not being too Oscar-friendly could hurt her chances of at least a nom... or is it enough of a baity, emotive actress showcase that they'll go for it? Was JJL generating much Oscar talk after the Margot screenings? I will be so sad if she doesn't at least get a nom this year! (* keeps fingers crossed *)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reviews, especially Slueth. I am looking forward to seeing this move. also Law and Caine are my favorite for best actor.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to Sleuth the most. Caine and Law, doing Pinter. WOW.

I suspect Eastern Promises got picked as People's Choice because Cronenberg is Canadian. They got to root for one of their own you know.

Anonymous said...

something tells me the oscar is blanchetts maybe she is the new teresa wright!!! rr is out and what a shock i felt sure phoenix,ruffalo and sorvino were in.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't shocked about RR, I kind of felt that it was going to be a bust.

Anonymous said...

I am loving what I have been reading about MATW. Love the fact that it is so divisive (Baumbach just removed himself from the list of critics' darlings and nothing can be better than that, now he can go make ANY movie he likes without being held to ransom by people who write about 1000 words on a page and think they know what kind of director/writer he is!). Glad to see JJL being buzzed about. Apparently, Kidman's career was over last month because of Invasion but this month it is another story, lol. I hear she gives another "no holds barred" performance, well done Nicole.

Thanks for the recap!


Ali, thanks for the reports. And (of course) i love reading your personal best of choices. I'm so excited to see Margot... and am intrigued that there's no consensus, though I'm not sure what you mean about the fall from critics darling being a good thing anon 3:38... filmmakers like Noah Baumbach who make films for and about adults most definitely need the critics on their side. Since the audience that likes serious cinema also reads reviews.

but anyway, not sure a divisive movie makes you fall from the darling spot either. ;)

also just walked out of Eastern Promises --an appreciative audience here in NYC, too. But then, it's NYC. not sure what other places will make of it.

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear good things about Whishaw in I'm Not There. He was so great in Perfume (he pulled off a lot of crazy shit) and I've been itching to know how his segment goes.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I'm becoming more and more excited about I'm Not There - to the point that I'm even starting to look forward to seeing Cate freaking Blanchett squinting her way through it. And it's always great to see praise for 4 Months, 3 Weeks-etc. (as well as its astonishing lead).

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, what I meant is that a director who is a critic darling will most often than not make a type of movie that he is known for or apparently known for and won't shift his vision from that. There are a lot of critics who went into MATW with the idea of TSATW and are pretty disappointed that MATW is too dark and uncomfortable. I've read a few critics who wrote that he'd lost his way with MATW. Directors as well as actors/actresses can be put in critical boxes that they find difficult to leave.

I don't feel ANY filmmaker needs a critic on his side, you either like his work as a director, his current work or you don't. It stops critic apologising or starting their reviews with the lazy "I really wanted to like this movie but.....", like it is an apology to the filmmaker and this always happens with "darlings".

I think with the divisive nature of MATW, Baumbach just gave himself a free pass to go to any extreme.

Amy said...
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