Thursday, November 16, 2006

Look! It's a thingy!

A few months ago or some such Glenn told me to do this thing. So here we go!

1. Popcorn or candy?

I'm not a big food-buying person at the movies- it's too expensive. If I'm going to take food in I'll usually buy a hot lunch and take it in hidden in a backpack. Shhhh! But if I had to choose, I'd buy Maltesers or something- popcorn makes me too thirsty.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever.

Plan Nine from Outer Space! I rewatched Ed Wood the other week, and have never seen one of the man's films! Worse still, I've owned three of his DVDs for about eight years now or something. It was eight bucks for three of them (Plan Nine and two others, I forget which) so I had to get them.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom?

Man, just one? I'd take back all of Crash's, especially the one it stole from Match Point. And I'll also go back a few years and stop Finding Neverland's dull-as-fuck score from stealing Thomas Newman's fantastic work on Lemony Snicket. I'd probably take away all of Neverland's nominations, actually, because that film shat me.

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Which will it be?

Donnie Darko's Halloween costume is pretty hardcore cool. Not for wearing in day-to-day life, though... Perhaps if I'm feeling formal, I could be a member of Kill Bill Volume One's Crazy 88. Those dudes dress swanky.

Maybe Carrie's prom dress. POST pig's blood.

5. Your favorite film franchise is...

The American Pie franchise was looking a bit dicey, but then Band Camp came along and HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK. And now there's a fifth one coming! HUZZAH!

Only, not really. Seriously, they are doing a fifth one. Why? WHY?

Lord of the Rings is pretty high up there, if only for the fact that it didn't falter; almost every other franchise has at least one dud. They need to release the other two Night Watch movies here, too, so I can see how that stands up. Crazy Russian subtitles are awesome. Is the third one even finished yet, though?

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them?

- Kate Winslet, because of all her awesome. Can someone have more awesome? She's talented, funny, not a famewhore, and she's real purdy. And she delivered some of television's finest ever comedy when she appeared on Extras.

- Paul Thomas Anderson. As well as trying to tap his talent, together we can plot the death of Paul WS Anderson- the EVIL Paul Anderson.

- Charlie Kaufman. I wonder if he's as insane as his scripts suggest he is? We'll find out.

- Joss Whedon, because yes, I'm one of those. I'll die before calling myself a Browncoat, though. Browncoats freak me out. Seriously, they're like "I have my special Serenity with a slipcase cover, and I have the regular version which I'll keep for mint, and I also imported it from America even though that edition has fewer features, and next week the one I ordered from Belgium should be here!" WHY??? But really, Joss is a funny, funny clever man who will take me under his wing or at least give me advice. Or I will destroy him.

- Jon Brion. He can play music to entertain us, if he feels like it. Or if he wants to be fed. Plus PT will have someone else to talk to.

And we're having nachos. I make fantastic nachos.

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater?

They should be punished by all people in the cinema, the manner of punishment depending on how far away the people are sitting from the talker. So the people furthest away, they only get to administer a nipple cripple upon the the talker. Closer to him or her (and let's face it, it's most likely a him) they get to kick the talker in the head. Closer still, the innocent movie patrons are given tasers, to use at their leisure. For those really close, they get to get all Hostel on the fucker.

8. Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days.

The Bride, probably, because she'll fight dirty, AND she's way sassy. Although why not just get Mystique to look like the other four?

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie?

Other than, like, all of An Inconvienient Truth, you mean? I have trouble getting scared in movies. Suspiria freaked me out, but that was because of the absolutely insane soundtrack. There was another movie I saw at Toronto called S&Man. It's a documentary on the nature of horror movies but then it starts to get in your head and the ending really sticks with you. Really, truly. I hope it sees the light of day because people really should see this.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding comedy and drama) is?

Horror! Horror horror horror. Horror? For serious, though, no PG-13 slashers. It's been discussed before, but what's the point? If anything it's also worse because it's inviting eight year olds to see these movies where people get killed, and they get killed violently, we just don't see it! And then they do the fucking double-DVD-dip when they release the film "Unrated". Word of advise- generally we Aussies don't get a choice when a DVD gets released "Unrated". And in general we get the longer version, only it's called "Uncut", and it's got THE SAME RATING as the original release. Fuck that shit, man.

But also, I'm getting tired of gorenography. Gore for gore's sake? No thanks. I like gore but it is NOT a replacement for atmosphere. My favourite horror movies of late are the ones that make me sad. Wolf Creek made me sad. You like the characters getting killed, they aren't just fodder. Shit, even the UK's Severance was sort of upsetting, and that was a horror-comedy! Now that shows talent.

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?

Whole lotta horror. BUT there are conditions. As mentioned above, no PG-13 shit, unless it's a ghost story that doesn't need blood or sex or swears. And also nothing that replaces atmosphere with blood, because atmosphere is always better. Lucky McKee will get a movie actually distributed to cinemas. Although Angela Bettis has to feature heavily, because those two work fantastically together.

I'd also be greenlighting some (many!) indie comedies, because I'm a sucker for those things. Also one or two mainstream ones, preferably directed by Judd Apatow. Nothing by any dickhead who has ever directed an Adam Sandler movie, or that Wedding Crashers wanker, he can go away. And I'm not going to ban members of the Frat Pack, exactly, but they're not allowed to do anything self indulgent. Which is pretty much as effective as a ban, I guess. Those guys are capable of being funny but it seems they'd much rather just appear on camera having a good time that no member of the audience is allowed in on.

Finally, I'd greenlight a bunch of Australian genre flicks. And I'd give them a decent budget. Not a stupid amount, but enough. The horror rules above still apply.

12. Bonnie or Clyde?

I've never seen it! I know that's awful. I'll say Bonnie, because Faye Dunaway was pretty great in Chinatown. Although it should be noted that Warren Beatty has this hilariously full of shit thread at the IMDb. Check poster's history, she just posts at the pages of Beatty and his movies and costars. The best part is, I don't think she's just bored and making it up, I think she's a legitimately crazy person. That's always more fun.

13. Who are you tagging to answer this survey?

If anyone read this thing who hasn't been tagged already then I'd be putting their names here. But that doesn't happen!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wherein Simon Invites Goths and Emos to Beat Him Up

The Nightmare Before Christmas... I have to say...

...I don't get it.

Last night, when I should have been finishing my two essays, I saw the movie in 3D. If you're wondering, one of the essays is now finished, the other one contains a wholly answered question but falls short of the word limit by a few hundred of the little bastards, so I have to wank them in there somehow. So there was guilt involved, while seeing the movie. Quickly replaced by a sense of "huh?"

It's not AWFUL. It's cute. It's got spirit- you can feel the hard work that went in there by all the members of production who wholly believed in what they were doing. I appreciate that they've really gone pretty dark for a film that only just deserves its PG rating. The animation, obviously painstakingly done, is pretty gorgeous, especially when Oogie Boogie's underground lair goes all glowy.

But why is Jack Skellington on t-shirts and backpacks and hats and keyrings and everything else that'll fit a Disney logo on it? Why is it a sign of pride amongst so many of the young folk, asks this twenty one year old? One dickhead from Fallout Boy says "YAY NIGHTMARE!" and BOOM, it happens? I thought the Nightmare phenomenon predated that group's (unexplainable) popularity.

I know picking apart the romance plot of a kid's film is sort of stupid, but hopefully admitting that now will save embarrassment later. It's from 1993, so I'm not going to get all worried about spoilers, plus you know it'll end happy even if it is xCoRe DARK. So, Sally, we're led to believe, is pretty much held prisoner by wheelchair dude all her life, but loves Jack from afar. And then she escapes! And she gives him a flower or something! And then somehow he knows her name later on but just speaks to her like any girl from town... and then later he realises he loves her and they kiss on that curly hill thing. I... the... wha? Could there have been a scene where they... talk? Where wheelchair guy says "Okay, you can be free" maybe, and then Sally says "Hey Jack! I gave you those roses earlier?" There are scenes missing here!

The Corpse Bride, that worked. Not a complicated romance, but one that flowed. Jack and Sally, that didn't flow. At least throw in some conflict, more than just "hey, I didn't really notice you all that much before, but come to think of it, I want to spend the rest of my life with you!"

The Christmas stuff, the misunderstanding about the holiday, that was cute. Not hilarious, not jawdropping, but cute. Cute I can deal with here. The songs, on the whole, pretty unspectacular. This came out at around the same time as Aladdin and The Lion King, and the songs there were on the whole much catchier.

And yes, this was the first time I had seen it, and I should add that I do normally like Burton's stuff. Ed Wood's pretty genius, and the Corpse Bride was fun, and Sleepy Hollow is an old favourite, and so on and so on and so on. I even really enjoy Mars Attacks!

I don't know, I guess the comparison to The Corpse Bride didn't serve the film well. I know that people generally seem to prefer Nightmare, but The Corpse Bride felt, to me, like a classic story being told pretty well. Nightmare was, on the whole, sort of messy.

I'm serious, though, someone explain what I missed. Because I must have missed something.

That wasn't written like a review, but I'm going to give it a score anyway.


On the 3D size of things, it was... decent. Impressive, considering it's not a film originally designed for 3D, althought I think I would have preferred to see a film that as designed for it, because that could have utilized the medium more.

Seventeen dollars, though.

Seventeen dollars!

Movies are too expensive in this country as it is. As a student I normally pay around eleven bucks. An adult will pay around fourteen. I know our dollar isn't worth that much but we're still paying through the nose. If you want to see a 3D movie, though, and you want to see it with those glasses that break really, really easily, you've got to empty out your wallet something shocking. Seventeen dollars is the adult price, which is what I paid because they don't offer student tickets to 3D movies. Why? Because they're fuckwits.

Apparently only children want to see 3D films, so they get their discounted tickets, and then they have to take their parents with them. Which, you know... the kids aren't paying anyway, why do they deserve a discount? I don't get the time to earn much money because I'm out BEING A STUDENT so give me my damn concession rate! No parent is paying for my tickets! Especially since I'm studying to, hopefully, make the cinematic world a better one. Maybe, maybe maybe, I hope. That's the aim. Right now. If I'm lucky. If God exists, and likes me. (Which, for the record, He probably doesn't, and if He did, He probably wouldn't.)

The point is, though, 3D is a novelty that's not worth paying that much for. It's half a ticket more, pretty much, and I'd rather just be able to see more movies.

Now to finish off, I'm going to depress you, using my good friends at Flixster, a site I keep returning to for reasons I can't for the life of me explain.

Basically what we have here is the Flixster movie quiz, where people can ask their own questions and then you answer and get points. Maybe there will be a picture of Johnny Depp. Next to it is the question "Who is this acter from Pirats of the Caribeen and Pirats of the Carribeen 2?" And then you've got to choose from a list. There used to be questions where you actually had to type in an answer; I guess that got too difficult.

The upshot of these pictures is, more people know the name of Nicholas Cage's fucking car in fucking Gone in 60 Seconds But It Feels More Like 18 Hours than who starred in Some Like It Hot. More than that, a significant number of people believe that Paris Hilton starred in Some Like It Hot.

To quote Sarah Silverman, WHAT THE COCK IS THAT SHIT?

For the record, I guessed the Gone in 60 Seconds answer, that's the only reason it's correct.

Anyway, I'm going to go suicide now, because really, there's no more point, is there?

Friday, November 03, 2006

University is the Devil

The university year is this close to being over, I can feel it. Just two more essays to hand in and an exam and it's all done. Yesterday I had sixty percent of my film subject due, including but not limited to: a short film script adapted from a short story (I did Chuck Palahniuk's "Obsolete", if you're wondering), this shitty sound design piece, and a group pitch of a short film where a couple of the group members I had complained about a whole bunch made a surprisingly good, if thematically iffy, poster, with a big giant spelling error on it. Fantastic. So many stories about that group assignment, so little time to tell them.

One of the essays is a sociology one, and the question I chose involved choosing a paranormal movie or TV show and explaining what it says about female power. So, I chose Carrie. Because Carrie is fantastic. I've watched the prom scene about five times this week; it's insane and it gets sadder every single time.

So I meet with my tutor about the essay, and I tell her, I'm doing Carrie. So she goes to get out her materials for the Sex and the City question. Easy mistake to make, I guess, considering how much that show has been talked about in this class: far too much. Then it turns out that she hasn't the fuck HEARD of Carrie. My first thought was "who hasn't heard of Carrie?" I know it's not famous like, say, Casablanca or something, but I thought it was on par with maybe The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in terms of recognition. "You know, the one with the girl, and she's got telekinetic powers, and they pour pig's blood on her at the prom...?"


And Carrie is even MENTIONED in one of the readings, and this tutor is supposed to be a feminist, and I can't think of a horror movie a feminist could find more to talk about in! It's effing madness.

Also effing madness is The Core, which I just half-saw half of (while I was essaying away) as it was on TV. I don't understand why this movie isn't way more of a cult comedy. Some scientists travel to the Earth's core in some crazy heat resistant drill-car-thing because the core stopped rotating. So they go to make it rotate. And then (OMG SPOILER!!!!) they get rescued by whales in the end. Really, really fake CG whales. And Aaron Eckhart and Aaron Eckhart's chin overracts a bunch when one of the token ethnics bites it. And yells at Hilary Swank.

So I looked it up, of course, and the DVD has a director's commentary, so now I have to hire it out, because what the fuck can he say about this movie? "Oh, DJ Qualls really owned this scene. Those tears? Those tears are real. Jesus Christ, he does have a big nose, doesn't he? It's bigger on camera, you don't notice it quite so much in real life."

"Oh, on this day we had a little trouble because Swank wouldn't come out of her trailer. Apparently she was in there quietly weeping and stroking her Oscar, saying something about it not being as easy as Halle Berry had told her. But I sent a runner in to remind her about her paycheck and she came out and she fricking gave it her all."

But them the folks at my local Blockbuster might think I'm hiring it for non-ironic purposes. It's a dilemma.

Anyway earlier I mentioned that I wrote an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's "Obsolete" from his novel "Haunted". Here's someone else's try at it, or, as I like to call it, How to Overuse a Narration. Seriously, dude, show, don't tell.

Although I also found a pretty fantastic short called Still Life, so the world of student-made messed up shit is still alive and kicking and it has some skill.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The Departed was, like, crazy amounts of good.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Toronto Round-up At Last!!!!!

Whoa! It arrives less than a month after I got back. It could have been worse. Hey, I've been busy. Don't you judge.

You may have gathered, I kind of dug on the Toronto International Film Festival. And it wasn’t just the thing of seeing nearly thirty movies in ten days (although that was neat) but the whole experience- the city, meeting new people, the atmosphere, the industry involvement- all were fantastic.

I guess mostly it was the movies, though.

Favourite Movie

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

I had an unashamed love of this movie, even if it wasn’t the most high-brow of the festival. It was the third Midnight Madness screening, but the first completely normal one for me- one that, you know, didn’t fuck up the projector (I’m looking at you, BORAT) and was at the regular location- the pretty great Ryerson theatre. BUT MORE ON THAT PLACE LATER.

As a horror fan, Mandy Lane threw me for a loop. It takes an audience familiar with the (usually rather rigid) conventions of a slasher film, and throws their expectations out the window. It’s admittedly not the most terrifying movie, but it’s slick and stylish and goes for the jugular. I likes.

Honourable Mentions


For Your Consideration

I feel sort of bad having a slasher movie (even though it’s awesome) taking top honours, which is why it says “favourite movie” and not “best movie”. So I’ve got another category, for the film of the highest actual quality. Y’know, so I don’t seem like just a gorehound.

Best Movie

Little Children

The more I think about this one, the more I like it, and want to see it again. This one I missed the start of, so wasn’t quite as engrossed in it as I should have been. In a movie with such a relatively low key plot (the A-story is basically about an adulterous couple) there’s such a huge feeling of dread that builds. It’s a great achievement on behalf of Todd Field- he did similarly well on his last film In The Bedroom. Kate Winslet, too, goes from strength to strength, and should appear in every movie ever, if possible.

Honourable Mentions

Paris Je T’aime

Day Night Day Night

Worst Movie

The Abandoned

And this should say worst movie I got to the end of, because As The Shadow was far worse, but I didn’t get to the end of it. The Abandoned, however, was a failure, if a sort of noble one. I’m glad it’s a horror movie that’s not a Japanese remake, or a PG-13 bloodless slasher flick, later to be released on DVD “unrated”, with a few extra f-bombs thrown in and a drop or two of claret. Co-writer/director did try, I’ll give him that. But then he failed. This was a dreary, dull affair with a dull protagonist who is alone on screen for as much as two thirds of the thing, leading me to want to scream “die, already!” so the damn thing could end. An interesting concept, two, with the two leads encountering zombie doppelgangers, but as a whole it just didn’t work. Maybe if it were a short, rather than a far-too-long.

About an hour into The Abandoned the walkouts really began to pick up, with maybe a fifth of the audience gone before the end, and I think very few staying for the Q&A. You could really feel the apathy of the audience. I felt bad for the movie even as I wasn’t enjoying the thing. It was this odd clash of emotions: “Give it a chance!” with “PLEASE END NOW I’M BORED.” Oh well: they can’t all be winners.

Best Audience

Midnight Madness

That is to say, the Midnight Madness audience when the film is a good one. When the film is a bad one, you feel it, because everyone in the room, everyone, was anticipating something to get the blood pumping, so a movie really falls flat.

When it’s good, though, it’s electric.

It’s the Ryerson theatre, although this is apparently the first year it’s been there. It’s a theatre in a college, so it doesn’t really feel like a cinema, although it still works. It’s also helpful that while it seats 1200 people, it’s difficult to get a bad seat. Even right up the back and right up the front aren’t as bad as cinemas I’ve been in that hold half that many people. Mandy Lane got a standing ovation. Severance director Christopher Smith had his movie Creep screened at Midnight Madness in 2004, so when his name came up in the opening credits, the crowd went off. That happened for nudity and key moments of gore in a few movies too. At the end of Black Sheep, everyone yelled out “baaaa!” in unison.

Although it wasn’t a stupid audience. It wasn’t a Scream 2 opening scene audience. When I saw The Hills Have Eyes at the beginning of the year, there were these four guys at the front who would just shout out “YEAH!!! KILL HIM!!!” and so forth every time something loud of violent happened. It didn’t strike me as something they were necessarily that into, as much as they were just putting a show on for each other, as in, “look how macho I am”. Then they’d probably go home with Metallica blaring out their car stereos while they deny to themselves their sexual feelings for one another. That’s the impression I got. With Midnight Madness, it wasn’t that loud and moronic, and it felt a lot more real. And it turns out to be one of the best possible ways to see a movie.

Best Q&A

For Your Consideration

Pretty much the whole Christopher Guest crew appeared here- Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Catherine O’Hara, and the rest, for half an hour- longer than most other sessions- and the only downside was that it couldn’t go for longer. These guys are the kind of funny that makes you jealous, and they play off each other as well as a group of comedians who have been together for a decade for some, a quarter of a century for others.

Here they are:

Kids: if you’re going to anywhere where there will be a lot of Q&A sessions, GET A CAMERA WITH A ZOOM LENS. Here’s the Mandy Lane crew:

Bobcat Goldthwaite, director of Sleeping Dogs Lie. You can't tell, but he's holding up a Degrassi shirt:

Here’s the CN Tower, the largest free standing structure in the world:

…that one actually turned out okay. I got far too many of that damn building, and then forgot my camera for the infamous Borat screening. I deserve to be shot.

The one director photo that did turn out okay was one of Guillarmo Del Toro after Pan’s Labyrinth, a movie I couldn’t enjoy because I was far, far too close to the screen.

Festival lady: giving me the finger, picking her nose, or both?

Get ready for it, but here’s Kate Winslet. Kate with Patrick Wilson (from Angels in America and Hard Candy), Todd Field, and someone else from Little Children. With Kate. Kate Winslet.

Get ready.

It’s pretty spectacular, so I hope you’re sitting.

Get a zoom lens. Really, truly, get a zoom lens.

Although I got some okay (comparitively) shots of Laura Linney, coming out of Jindabyne just before I saw S&MAN.

Work it, Linney!

Best Canadians

Canadians: nice lot! I like them.You can be lining up for as much as two hours for a movie, so a willingness to talk to strangers helps past the time. Helpfully, everyone else in line also has this willingness. Waiting for Mandy Lane, a girl named Anna introduced herself to me by saying “hey, wanna play rock paper scissors?” which is just a great way to introduce yourself to a stranger, it turns out. I talked to a girl from York university and a guy who played Aladdin at Niagara falls, and we bonded over love for The Colbert Report and hatred for King of the Hill. Every time that damn theme song starts to play, you just leap for the remote.

I definitely plan on staying longer if I ever get back there, getting to know some people more, and, you know… getting very drunk with strangers, something that is difficult when you’re on holiday with your dad. (A holiday I am eternally, unspeakably grateful for.)

I also developed a minor obsession with a lady from the “Show Our Volunteers Some Love” ad that played before every film. She clapped way, way too much; extras who overact are pretty hilarious, and if you see the same one do it three, four, five times a day, it’s really difficult to look away.

Even the homeless are friendly! One guy said “What’s the best nation in the world?” “What?” “A DO-nation!” He was only after a quarter; he got a dollar.

The only bad Canadian I really encountered was the dude from the photo place. As well as just giving shitty customer service, he couldn’t spell my last name. After I spelt it for him! He thought I said “i” instead of “r”, and then I corrected him and he changed the “k” to an “r”! He will die, if I ever return to Toronto. His blood will be spilled all over the lower ground floor of the College Park centre.

Biggest Disappointments (Because I missed them)


The Lives of Others

Babel I wanted to see but couldn’t fit it on the schedule, and figured it would be getting a wide release anyway. The Lives of Others I heard about at the festival, and it sounds fantastic, and is being compared to The Conversation. …not that I’ve seen The Conversation. But I really want to! And Babel I think we’ve all heard the awesomeness of. And despite not really enjoying 21 Grams all that much (why’d they drop that film into a blender? It could have worked chronologically, or at least quite as seemingly randomly out of order! Crazy Mexicans…) Babel really appeals.

Most Surreal Moments

I’ve told the story. The projector breaks down twenty minutes into Borat, and then Michael Moore can’t fix the projector. Michael Moore was trying to fix the projector. And Larry Charles is with him looking like a Rabbi! I don’t understand how that shit wasn’t planned.

Also of note was the world premiere of Black Sheep. It’s a midnight screening, but there’s still a red carpet, because it is an event. As a small Kiwi horror comedy, the cast isn’t all star, nor can the lot of them really be flown to the other side of the world. The director is there, though, with one cast member. Also:

Sheep on the red carpet. Everyone’s seen the shot of Borat with his donkey, but it wasn’t the only crazy opening.

While waiting for Paris Je T’aime, an flying for Darryl’s Hard Liquor and Porn Film Festival got handed to me. The best part was that it was handed out by a woman pushing a stroller that, yes, did contain a baby. Awesome.

Also these two things made me laugh. Nothing to do with the festival, just Toronto being crazy wacky.

That's right, kids. Present your student ID, get ten percent off at a sex shop! You can do this before or after your quickie divorce.

And that’s it. I've just got a couple more shots to finish up with.

The biggest stars, obviously, don’t mingle with the audience after a screening, but for the more independent movies, it does happen. And if you ask, you can get a photo with them!

Black Sheep: actor Oliver Driver and director Jonathan King.

Please try to ignore the thumbs up. I’m not usually that much of a dickhead.

Suburban Mayhem: star Emily Barclay and director Paul Goldman.

Also, those two happened on the same day. I didn't wear the same thing the whole time I was in Canada.

And that’s it. Hope you enjoyed the show, I did. Get to the film festival if you can; get to any film festival near you. You won’t just see films in advance, you’ll meet like minded people, and you’ll swim in love of cinema. Only try to think of it worded in a less wanky way.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I've been neglectful...

Sorry about that. I've just had a week of uni spent mostly doing uni work and being sick. And working on my vampires-and-Hillsong screenplay that I'm working on just so I can say I've written something feature length. And... uh... seeing movies. Whoops. I am nearly done on my Toronto round-up thingo, not that it's that exciting, but I thought I should finish it off. This delay almost makes it seem like it should be something halfway impressive. Don't worry: it's not. Really.

I've just watched the Australian modern-day adaptation of Macbeth and the spiritual sequel to Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Neither satisfied.

Meanwhile, TV is either satisfying me, or getting me very excited. IE:


I have trouble with the fact that such good TV and such bad TV can exist within the same universe. And that the makers of bad TV get paid to make more of said bad TV. It's kind of depressing. I just saw an episode of that Mandy Patinkin show Criminal Minds. It's about FBI agents who solve murders. Startlingly original, I know. The most striking thing about it was how heavy-handed the direction was. Music screams "OOOH!!! TENSION!!!". Lingering camera shots drop anvils on the heads of viewers saying "THIS GUY MIGHT BE EEEEVIL".


There was even some superimposition of this shot in a Satanic cult lair of a red mask or some shit, the camera at a dutch angle, it was painful. It felt I'd been transported back to the early nineties, except I was a child then so might have found the whole thing to be minorly scary, which was not the case here. It made me appreciate the Law and Order franchise more, for fuck's sake, because even those shows aren't that tacky. Poor Mandy. I hope they're paying him a whole lot. And not just because he has to work with Greg, from Dharma and Greg, although that on its own must be a huge kick in the teeth.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Film: This is the end

Here are the final five review from the Toronto Experience. This second last day began later than usual, at midday, as opposed to nine thirty or so, like most others. Sleep in!

The whole day also took place at the Ryerson theatre, which was my favourite venue. It was just at a university in downtown Toronto (funnily enough called Ryerson University) so there wasn't a candy bar, but it had a nine number of seats- a little over twelve hundred- but it even at the furthest back you got a decent view. The best place to sit was either right at the front of the verandah area, ot halfway down the lower part, if you actually want to get decent photos of the Q and A sessions.

Something I learnt far too late.

Black Book

You know those films where you have a protagonist is a really nice soul, and they just want to survive and do good in this world, and then they get kicked, and then kicked again, and then just when you want to walk out of the cinema almost just so you don’t have to see this person suffer anymore and then they get kicked once more? Black Book is one of those!

Carice Van Houten plays Rachel Steinn, a Jewish woman from Nazi-occupied Denmark at the end of the Second World War, who loses her family in a failed escape attempt. She disguises her Jewish heritage with bleaches hair, then joins a group of freedom fighters, and seduces a high ranking Gestapo officer for the cause.

Director Paul Verhoven is known for the sex and violence in his films, and Black Book is no exception. But this is a spy movie, and a thriller, and a tragic drama. It’s also pretty good, if occasionally melodramatic. Van Houten gives a pretty great performance, and the plot goes to many unpredictable places. In fact, almost a little too much- it becomes sort of difficult to keep track of exactly who is double crossing who. On top of this, it does too go on a little too long.

And despite these flaws, it is wholly absorbing. You do really feel the sadness, especially towards Rachel’s final challenges. It’s also at times pretty thrilling. The war genre too is one I don’t often like, so Black Book really does stand out and suck you in.


The Fountain

To be honest, really, I have no idea.

I’ve missed Darren Aronofsky’s first film Pi- it’s difficult to come by in this country- but adore Requiem for a Dream. I understand that Pi has some similarities to Requiem, but The Fountain shares pretty much nothing with that film, beyond being weird. I haven’t seen Requiem in a while, so maybe there were some that I didn’t notice.

Anyway, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz married couple Tom and Izzi. Respectively, obviously. Izzi is an author dying of cancer, and Tom is a doctor or researcher or something trying to find her a cure. We also see two other timeframes: Jackman as a Spanish conquistador searching for the tree of life, with Weisz his queen, and Jackman as a space traveller travelling to save a dying tree in a bubble-like spaceship, who frequently gets visions of the modern-day Weisz. Yeah, I know.

The easy stuff out of the way first. The film is gorgeous to look at. Really, obscenely pretty, in lighting, design and composition. If nothing else, The Fountain has this. The music too is great; Aronofsky has brought back Clint Mansell for this. Jackman and Weisz both serve the film well, although Jackman gets a little melodramatic towards the end, although he’s supposed to.

So, technically, very good. Film is story, though, and I’m not sure about the story here. I don’t mean I’m not sure as in it’s a bad story, I just really don’t know. The past-story is pretty much, in the film, supposed to be the book Izzi is trying to finish. The future-story may be part of this book too, or in the imagination of Tom, or it may just exist on a purely symbolic level, or it may be a combination of all of these things. On occasion I even doubted the reality of the present story. This movie is almost pure symbolism. It’s so arty it could be a museum installation, although those generally don’t contain A-list stars and budgets of this size. The symbolism will help in repeat viewings, although I don’t know that the rest of the story will. The overt artistry of this film was certainly distancing, and the story of a man grieving for his dying wife was never for me as sad as it should be. And Aronofsky, that man can do sad.

But it’s pretty impossibly to judge this film on a first viewing. I’d definitely recommend seeing it to all people open to non-mainstream cinema, and it’s a sad fact that this doesn’t mean everyone. Even then I think this will cause frustration for many people, although there will also be many people who immediately adore it. It is a film I’ll need to see again, and I do want to see it again, which is something in its favour. Although I don’t know if Aronofsky has sacrificed character for art and meaning. Give it a few more viewings. For now, though, I really don’t think I can give this one anything. See it.



The final night of Midnight Madness did not in any way disappoint. Severance has been described as “The Office meets Deliverance” and that’s not far off. A mostly British team of workers for a huge American defence corporation are in the Hungarian countryside for a team building getaway. A fallen tree blocks the road, leading the team down the wrong path, without their bus or its angry driver. They are soon at what is clearly at the wrong lodge, and are soon set upon by its tenant: a survivalist with many weapons and booby-traps and the skills to use them.

And it’s funny. Really funny, and impressively suspenseful. This is another horror film with characters you like who could, for the most part, die in any order. We have the bored and possibly anorexic Maggie, played by the ever-reliable Canadian actress Laura Harris (who was fantastic in Dead Like Me and delivered the finest moment of 24 in the entire run of that series), the hilarious drugfucked Steve, played by Danny Dyer, and the boss’s pet Gordon, played by Andy Nyman, who’s very Nick Frost-esque, among others. All characters have something to like about them, even the useless team leader played by Tim McInnerny.

The blend of comedy and horror here is near-perfect. It’s been compared to Shaun of the Dead, a comparison it deserves, despite not quite reaching those heights -if only because I hold Shaun is such high regard, considering it to be not only hilarious but heartbreaking and one of the most perfectly paced films I’ve ever seen. There is certainly a bigger focus on horror here, though, managing to be scarier than Shaun of the Dead on many occasions.

Really, the only thing I didn’t like about this film is its over-reliance of loud sound effects to produce scares. It’s something that really annoys me in a lot of films, but here I could look past it; for whatever reason it didn’t feel as cheap, I guess because the horror actually feels like a threat. Severance is good at being scary, and good at being funny, and I pray for cult status, because it’s deserved.


And then the last day arrives at last, with just two movies. I know, but the plane was at give, so we had to leave. And interesting choice of movies, both pretty slow movies, but both in their own unique ways.

Day Night Day Night

This was possibly the most intriguing movie I saw at the festival, and it’s not clear why it didn’t get more attention. The lead character here is never named, but she’s played brilliantly by Luisa Williams. The time we spend with her is a day, a night, a day, and a night.

This movie is a very slow moving one, but it’s captivating from the start. The woman arrives at a bus station and then is taken to a hotel. It is there she waits, for what we don’t know. All we do know is that at the opening of the movie, the woman whispers to herself that she has chosen exactly when and how she will die. The second half of the movie takes place in Times Square, and it becomes some very suspenseful cinema. It’s a strange experience which almost borders of being numbing.

Day Night Day Night takes who could have been a faceless plot device in another film and places her front and centre. We have no idea what her purposes are at the start, but as they become clearer, we are continue to be fascinated by her both despite and because of her actions. They whole movie rests on Luisa’s performance, which is fantastic, especially for a first time actress, but director Julia Loktev should also be commended for the engaging subtlety of her film. Also remarkable are the Times Square scenes, apparently filmed with real people rather than hired extras walking around a closed off section pretending to be real. This adds a heightened realism which makes these scenes even more intense. I don’t know what the market for this film will be, if it will be seen in many theatres, but it certainly deserves to be, if only to expose Loktev and Williams to the world.


As The Shadow

As the Shadow is an Italian film about a woman who works as a travel agent by day and studies Russian by night. She doesn’t have much in her life, until she grows closer with her teacher and eventually forms a relationship with him. He then asks her to let his distant cousin from Ukraine stay with her for a few days, which she reluctantly agrees to.

Thrilling, huh? That above paragraph is a little more than half an hour of screen time. What an ordinary film could have done in perhaps fifteen minutes, or less, is padded out with scenes of our protagonist washing her hands and walking around, and then shots of the Ukrainian cousin walking around, and then the woman and the cousin sitting having dinner and practising Russian. It’s sort of a slow film.

And slow can be good, I know. It can be dreamlike or surreal or just slowly pull you into the film. You can gently get to know a character in a slow film, learning their quirks and growing to love them. Or maybe the film is just plain pretty, and a joy to look at. But As the Shadow is just dull. Painfully, alarmingly, stunningly, irredeemably fucking boring.

There’s nothing here to make you like any of these characters. They’re not awful people, there’s just absolutely nothing interesting about them. The story isn’t a hugely interesting one. Claudia, the lead, begins to grow suspicious of Olga, the cousin. Is she really a cousin, or is she more? But there’s no intrigue for the viewer because you don’t care because you don’t like any of these people and you just want to be away from their depressing little lives. And the film is no joy to look at. The Italy presented here is sort of ugly, but not in any sort of gritty way. Just, once again, boring. Characters are occasionally shot through glass, with a reflection in front of them. That might have been director Marina Spada trying to be deep or symbolic or something. I was minorly impressed that there was no camera reflected in the glass, but that’s about all. Kudos for that. Spada didn’t write the pointless script, Daniele Maggioni did, but Spada willingly shot the thing, so she deserves punishment too.

After about forty minutes the prospect of dealing with any of this for an hour or so more was too much, and so my final film of the festival was also my first walkout. So who knows, the movie might have picked up, but its first half was unforgivably dull. Maybe there was some huge character revelations or twists or some sort of thrilling car chase followed by a lesbian orgy. Maybe there was a cream pie fight, that might have been vaguely amusing. I don’t know, nor do I really care. And since it was a walkout, feel free to disregard my rating. But if you do ever get the chance to see this, and then you take that chance, and then you are awake for the duration of the film, assuming you didn’t give up partway through because you are clearly stronger than me, don’t say you weren’t warned, because you were. Skip it.


So, certainly an anticlimactic end to the festival, but a great festival it was nonetheless. Mext up will be the festival round up, with photos and my picks of the fest and all that shit. I'm currently watching Sheitan, which was the final Midnight Madness film, which was missed at the festival, but is already on DVD here. Weird.

It's also shaping up to be one of the most fucked up movies of all of Toronto! Always a bonus. I think I'm going to have to watch a festival of entirely G-rated films just to clense my soul after all of these.