For the next week, I’ll be on vacation. Mrs. Z and I will be traveling to Toronto to visit friends and to attend the Toronto International Film Festival. This may result in some disruptions to our normal blog posting schedule here at The Bonus View. More importantly, I’ll be seeing a bunch of new movies. So I figured that would make a good Roundtable topic. What should I see at the festival?
First, some business. I’ve prepared a few posts for next week in advance, and will have a laptop with me. My plan is to post a few updates from the festival with summaries of what I’ve seen and what looks interesting. However, this is to be a vacation for the Mrs. and I, so I will most likely only be able to do limited blogging. I will also have limited time to do post editing or scheduling for others. This may result in a lighter than normal post schedule over the course of the week. We’ll all do our best to keep things as on-track as possible, but don’t be alarmed if posts are fewer and further between. There’s nothing going wrong here at the site. Things should return to normal the following week.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the festival. Technically, it already started yesterday, the 9th, and will run until Sunday the 19th. We won’t be getting to Toronto until this Sunday the 12th. We may or may not have time to catch any movies that day. Most likely, we plan to start our festival-going in earnest on Monday. We will be leaving on the 19th and not seeing any movies the final day of the festival.
From our experience last year, we found that the best way to experience the festival was simply to play things by ear. We’ve bought no tickets in advance, because we don’t want to lock ourselves into anything, only to find ourselves missing better opportunities as they come along. Also, we don’t want to waste money on tickets for movies we wind up not being able to attend. When we did this last year, we had very little problems seeing pretty much anything we wanted, so long as we remained flexible in our scheduling. I expect the same this year. As such, each morning we’re going to look over the screening schedule, go to the ticket office, and see what we can get seats for.
We have a few titles that we’re going to try to make time for, if possible. We’re both intrigued by ‘Never Let Me Go‘, the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s very delicate novel about… well, frankly, the less you know going into the story, the better its very unusual plot turns can be slowly and methodically rolled out. You can find plenty of plot spoilers online if you’re determined to know. Even though it’s often pigeon-holed as a science-fiction story, it’s really much more similar in tone to Ishiguro’s other most famous work, ‘The Remains of the Day’. Director Mark Romanek (‘One Hour Photo’) seems well suited to the material. Also of interest is Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan‘. The thriller is set at a ballet troupe and stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. The trailer is very freakily surreal. Beyond that, we’re open to anything.
Here are some of the suggestions I’ve gotten so far:
- ‘The Ward‘ (John Carpenter) – There are a shit-ton of awesome-sounding movies headed to Toronto this year. And that’s not just some number chosen willy-nilly. That’s a quantifiable mass, confirmed by multiple scientists. And they all agree: a shit-ton. But the one movie that has me booking imaginary plane tickets in the middle of the night has got to be John Carpenter’s long-awaited (by me, at least) return to the big screen, ‘The Ward’. His last theatrical outing was 2001’s dissolve-heavy ‘Ghosts of Mars‘, which – had it been his last film – would have formed an odd kind of career symmetry with his equally goofy (intentionally so) sci-fi opus ‘Dark Star’. But no. After a couple of above-average ‘Masters of Horror’ episodes (‘Pro-Life’ was killer), he returns with an independently financed ghost story about a young woman (Amber Heard, from the still-unreleased ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’) in a spooky institution. I think I read somewhere that it’s a period movie, but then again I’ve been huffing a lot of paint fumes recently. I do know that Jared Harris, the Pryce in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, plays a doctor at the sanitarium. Even when Carpenter is bad, he’s still a visual knockout, with impressively lush wide-screen compositions that rival John Ford. (You heard me.) So, yes, as much as I want to see ‘Black Swan’ and ‘127 Hours’, I know that I’ll be seeing those very soon. Last year, Joe Dante premiered his 3-D horror flick ‘The Hole’, which is still awaiting domestic distribution. (Dave Kehr made an impassioned plea in a recent issue of ‘Film Comment’ for someone to release the damn thing.) By all accounts, that signaled a very fun return from a genre master. So the mystery of what will happen to ‘The Ward’ is just as tantalizing as the movie itself – i.e. VERY.
- ‘The Town‘ (Ben Affleck) – As much as I want to throw out ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’ and give myself a little indie cred by name-dropping Werner Herzog – It works out; I did it anyway! – I have to personally insist that you see ‘The Town.’ Why? Ben Affleck. Don’t get me wrong, I love bagging on the guy. I hold ‘Daredevil‘ as one of the worst comic book movies of the 2000s, and ‘Pearl Harbor‘ isn’t much better. That doesn’t mean Ben is bad. He’s just ended up in some bad movies. The guy can write, act, and he lights up a commentary track. ‘The Town’ is his second screenplay since ‘Good Will Hunting,’ and his second directorial effort. I can’t say whether it’s going to be good or bad, but I’d really like it to be good. Ben needs to be a star again, and get those high profile flicks like ‘Armageddon.’ He just needs to choose a little more carefully from now on.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘The Illusionist‘ (Sylvain Chomet) – I cannot resist the allure of seeing traditional, hand-drawn animation theatrically. There’s a certain magic to it that never ceases to entrance me, that brings out a sort of wide-eyed, childlike awe as few other types of films can. I’ve never been able to fully replicate that same experience at home. This is why ‘The Illusionist’ would top the list of films I’d make it a point to see at TIFF. What little footage I’ve seen from Sylvain Chomet’s feature-length follow-up to the ‘The Triplets of Belleville‘ has been breathtaking: the marvelous fluidity of the animation, a palette straight out of a storybook, and the expressiveness of both the film’s characters and its lovingly rendered backdrops. Adding further to its intrigue is that ‘The Illusionist’ is adapted from an unproduced screenplay by Jacques Tati, the filmmaker behind ‘Mon Oncle and ‘Playtime‘. I’m also somewhat fascinated by the collision of the medium and the story here. The film is about an aging stage magician who’s looked on helplessly as his audience has faded away over the years, drawn instead towards louder, glitzier distractions. To have his story told through the underappreciated art of traditional animation seems wonderfully appropriate. The magician in ‘The Illusionist’ is reinvigorated when his work mesmerizes a young woman who’s quickly convinced that he wields very real magical powers. Here’s hoping the magic of Chomet’s skilled craftsmanship has much the same effect on audiences in Toronto.
- ‘Amigo‘ (John Sayles) – The first of my picks is from John Sayles, a director who used to have an interesting film out every year or so, but has largely been off the radar since 2007’s ‘Honeydripper.’ The film looks to have the most in common with Sayle’s 1997 film ‘Men with Guns’ (‘Hombres Armadas’), which wasn’t my favorite of his projects (that’s a tie between ‘Lone Star’ and ‘Silver City’), but the man’s work is never dull and always fascinating. (Except perhaps for some of his uncredited script doctoring projects.) So I’m eager to hear more about this one.
- ‘Away From Her‘ (Sarah Polley) – This 2006 film is actually out on DVD, and if you haven’t seen it, you must. I’d like to see it get a little more coverage and gain a much wider audience. Even four years after first viewing it, scenes from this movie come to mind constantly. One of the most insightful, honest films about marriage that I have ever seen.
- ‘Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer‘ (Alex Gibney) – I never cease to be amazed by the acts of self-righteous politicians and public figures, especially when so many of them wind up going down in flames – often flames ignited by their own wild indiscretions. Eliot Spitzer was perhaps the most blatantly hypocritical and shockingly self-destructive of such figures to come along in a long, long time. The fact that he is now poised to make a very mainstream comeback makes this documentary pure catnip for political junkies. I gotta hear more about it!
- ‘The Conspirator‘ (Robert Redford) – It’s been a while since Redford directed a film that came from his heart. His hired gun tour of duty on Tom Cruise’s talky attempt to play studio head at United Artists doesn’t really count in my book. At a time when the country seems mind-bogglingly divided, this sounds like it could offer a fascinating look at a different time when the same country was tragically split.
- ‘Attenberg‘ (Athina Rachel Tsangari) – There’s only one reason I want to know more about this one – it sounds like one of the endless manglings of my own last name. For some reason no one can pronounce ATTEBERY. I’ve been called Attlebery, Addlebery, Atteberg, Attelbery, and so on. But the pronunciation that always leaves me utterly flummoxed is ATTENBERG. Do you see an N or a G anywhere in Attebery? Where does this come from? I had no idea this was an actual last name. Now I must know more! Plus, the movie apparently involves an architect and two attractive women French kissing. Sign me up!
Which festival movies have caught your interest?