TIFF 2015 – Day 2

Although I always consider cramming in three movies a day while at TIFF it might be the equivalent of cinematic bulimia.  For each movie you have to stand in line for about 60-90 minutes to get into the theatre.  This is never as bad as it sounds as there are always interesting people to chat with and talk about what other movies and celebrities they have seen. Then you always hope for a question and answer after the film which extends the time. The screenings are at different venues around downtown Toronto so it takes time to get from one showing to the next.  Some of the movies are emotionally draining or take some time to properly digest.   So I passed on my initial impulse to add a 9 pm film to my schedule today and am glad that I did.

This afternoon I saw The Martian, a space science fiction film starring Matt Damon. It was a “big” picture. And in 3D to boot.  It will, no doubt, be a box office favorite.  There were some incredibly beautiful visuals of space and the surface of Mars accompanied by swelling French horns and violins. Oh, yes, and synthesized choir voices.   Matt Damon is always easy to watch and there were lots of gratuitous moments where he took off his shirt and one scene ( what was the point?) with his bum in it.  Within the first fifteen minutes we were subjected to the mother of all storms on Mars – in 3D – Matt’s assumed death, desertion and resurrection and then him doing surgery on himself.   At any point was I really worried that he would get home, despite the overwhelming odds?  What screenwriter would kill off Matt Damon and leave him to desiccate on Mars?  I could appreciate the visual effects but not the continuous flow of brilliant ideas from one character or another to solve the insurmountable odds.  I am too pragmatic to do preposterous, I am afraid.  3 stars out of 5 and this was for the visuals.

Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano at a TIFF 2015 screening of Youth

This evening’s movie was Youth.  An exquisite film written and directed by Pablo Sorrentino and shot in Italy. It stars Michael Caine (who at 82 put in an Oscar nomination performance for sure), Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weiss and Jane Fonda (who also had only about ten minutes in the film but they were incredibly well done.)  And bonus, the stars were all at the screening and stayed for a question and answer time after the film. 

It is really hard to describe this film.  It takes place at a holiday spa in the Italian Alps where to old men reflect on their aging, their past and their future.  There is an intergenerational contribution and interaction that is quite wonderful.  Every shot is set up impeccably.  The sound track is phenomenal and integral to the story – Caine’s character is a composer and conductor.  It is beautiful to watch. I was mesmerized.  

The cast and director got a long standing ovation after the film. Not sure that I have seen that in other TIFF screenings.  I will definitely see it again when it is released.  There were a lot of vignettes that ended in a statement that I wanted to think about more before it went on to the next.

There was a lot of bare skin, many very close up shots of faces, old and young.  I would advise you to see it on a big screen, the bigger the better, as it would be underserviced on Netflix.  The final musical scene also needs to be experienced with big sound.  I loved this film.  My only 5 star film so far.

TIFF 2015 – Day 1

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.)


Michael Moore at his people’s TIFF party.

 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

Read more about the Moore and this film in today’s Globe and Mail.

  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.