I had hoped that when I came to the Toronto International Film Festival this year that I would actually appear on one of the big screens. But this is not to be. The Guillermo del Toro film, Crimson Peak, that is scheduled for release in October surprisingly does not appear on the TIFF schedule. I had hoped to be in the audience of an early screening to catch my Where’s Waldo appearance as a background performer in one of two scenes from the movie shot in Kingston in April 2014. My TIFF debut will have to wait.
Nevertheless I am back in Toronto this weekend to take in some of the vital atmosphere that pervades during the festival and see a few movies and get a glimpse of some “stars”. (I am hoping for Julianne Moore at a Monday noon screening of Freehold. Wish me luck.)
My 2015 TIFF adventure started today with another Moore, Michael not Julianne. The movie was a premiere showing of his latest documentary, Where to Invade Next. And Moore was there as big as life. He eagerly engaged with the audience both before and after the movie and wander down to sit in the fourth row with some other patrons to watch the film with the rest of us. It almost felt like seeing Santa Claus and believing that he was indeed real. He even invited everyone in the theater to a “people’s TIFF party” as a bar down the street. Free food and a drink ticket for everyone. So my 2015 TIFF started with Michael Moore buying me a beer! Pretty cool.
I was in his other documentaries, Moore looks critically about American society. He explores how other nations deal with many of the problems that are plaguing America now. In this movie, he goes to several European countries and that each one looks at the way they deal with different aspects of their society. He talks about holidays and nutrition and education and treatment of prisoners and the death penalty. He plants American flag in several countries, claiming that he has invaded them to steal their ideas. The movie ends in a fairly optimistic note – he referred to it as his happy film. He points out that change, indeed, it is possible. He gives the example of how three or four years ago same-sex marriage was rejected in many parts of the United States but now it is sanctioned in a federal law. There was lots to think about in this film. Life lessons to be learned. It made me feel a bit sad for the U.S. This Canadian audience seemed to embrace the message but I really wondered if much of America is really interested in learning from Portugal, Iceland or Tunesia.
The theatre officials wanted us to stay in our seats while security hustled Moore out but he wandered down into the audience to chat, saying he didn’t fear getting killed in Canada. 4 Stars/5
The second film was called Our Brand is Crisis. This was produced by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and I could tell from the screams rising from the hundreds gathered in front of the theatre from my place in line around the corner that they had arrived. The film tells a story of how spin doctors manipulate and present a candidate in an election in Bolivia. Apparently this is based on true events around the Bolivian 2002 election. We see the development of message tracks that the politicians present, their negative ads and their manipulation and empty promises. The people beings the scenes making the decisions about how to sell their candidate, not really caring about the issues, but doing this as a game and money-maker for themselves. Cooney said that this film had been several years in the making. I think it is no accident that it will be released in the year prior to an American federal election. I also couldn’t help but think about our own federal election campaigns as I watch the movie.
I much preferred Sandra Bullock in this role as compared to her astronaut appearance in Gravity last year. I think she has great comedic timing and despite the serious subject of this film, there were lots of humorous moments. Like the Moore film, this film allows us to reflect on how things work in our society. I think Bullock’s performance is solid and partly because of her star-power in addition to her obvious talent, it will draw some acclaim come Oscar time. I will give it 3.5/5. It was good but didn’t grab me.