New CDs

  • Frankenixon . Depth Perception: I’d never heard of them either. They’re an indie band from, like, Wisconsin or something, but I downloaded a song called “Posers” that blew me away. It’s almost prog in a way, and sounds like it’s about to wank, but pull back from the edge just long enough to produce something fairly fresh.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club . Take Them On, On Your Own: It’s like part II of their debut album. Not a bad thing, obviously, but I was hoping for a little progression. Still, twice as much of a good thing is an even gooder thing.
  • Spiritualized . Amazing Grace: Stripped down (well, relatively speaking) and raw, Jason Pierce seems to be taking note of the new punk/blues/garage movement and applying it to his stuff. “This Little Life Of Mine” and “Let It Rain Down” kick ass. I wonder if the arm on the front of the cd case is a challenge to critics, or just another blank canvas for his habits…

Johnny Cash, R.I.P.

“My name is Wyclef, my freestyle is homicide
I shot a man in Reno, like Johnny Cash, just to watch him die
Flee to sicily, get a call from my agency, said
They want me to do the Johnny Cash show, you gotta be kiddin’ me
Rick Rubin pick me up in a Bentley, not a El Dorado
Dressed in black, lookin’ like Zorro, Johnny Cash, chewin’ tobacco
Country’s legend fusin’ with the hop-hop
Mom said don’t play with guns, so Johnny Cash, here, you hold my glock.”
“Delia’s Gone”, Wyclef Jean

TIFF, day 6

  • Intermission: 10 out of 10. Funny, aggressive, violent, surprising, mocking, original, well acted…this was the perfect movie to end the festival with. I thought it was going to be a Colin Farrell vehicle, but he’s barely recognizable in this. There’re about a dozen story lines that all tie together and cross over, about crime and marriage and loneliness and violence and greed…there’s even a high-speed chase set to Clannad. Awesome, awesome, awesome. “Fuckin’ delish”, even.

TIFF, day 4

  • Young Adam: 5 out of 10. Copious amounts of nudity, water, coal, sex and the colour gray. Welcome to Scotland. Not a terrible movie, but two days from now I won’t remember anything but the custard. And it’s better that you don’t ask what I’m talking about.
  • Underworld: 8 out of 10. Cold. Late. Loud. Cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool.

TIFF, day 3

  • Dogville: 8 out of 10. Lars von Trier’s become one of the big names at Film Festivals worldwide the last few years with Breaking The Waves and Dancer In The Dark, so there was a big crowd on hand at the Elgin Theatre today for his newest, Dogville. Of course, a good portion of the crowd was there to see Nicole Kidman (and, possibly, Chloe Sevigny). There was enough celebrity worship to make us squirm a bit. The film was 3 hours long, and von Trier’s really taken the Dogme 95 Manifesto to heart; no music, no visual effects, no nothing…not even real sets. The entire movie was shot on a single stage, with only tape outlines marking where walls and buildings (and plants, and animals) would be. There were a few props…chairs, desks, tables, beds…but nothing that didn’t figure into the movie in some way. It was dangerously close to being incredibly pretentious, but got away with it because of the sincerity of the writing and acting. This won’t come to many theatres, and it won’t be for everyone, but it was bold and different, and you can’t fault anyone who at least tries something like that.
  • Casa de los Babys: 6 out of 10. John Sayles, as always, makes a story out of nothing. However, unlike Lone Star or Sunshine State, this one just wasn’t all that interesting. Good performances by Lili Taylor, who’s hilarious, and Marcia Gay Harden, who does sociopath very well, but other than that, unremarkable. Maybe it’s just because Dogville had gotten me used to a long movie, but this film seemed abbreviated, like I needed to know more about what happened to each person. He introduced all these characters, got them about half way into the audience’s minds and then rolled the credits. Too bad.
  • Stander: 7 out of 10. By this point we’re tired, propelled only by iced coffee drinks and kickass spots in line. We were wary of this film, since we knew nothing about it (we picked it as a backup just because there was no other real choice in that time slot), but it worked out quite well. It was a story about a South African cop turned bank robber, a story I’d never heard before. It started off being rather cheesy, became very entertaining, degraded into a bit of a chase movie for a while, and began to drag near the end, but it did what it set out to do: told the story of André Stander, if a bit heavy on the glamour of it all. Nothing new or groundbreaking here, just a good story well told. We stay for Q & A, then leave, dog tired. 7 movies in about 53 hours is a lot to handle. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m for bed.

TIFF, day 2

  • The Fog Of War: 9 out of 10. Errol Morris, one of the great documentary film makers, made a film featuring conversations with Robert McNamara. McNamara was Secretary of Defense under JFK and Lyndon Johnson for 7 years, head of the world bank for more than a decade, and president of Ford Motors for about as long as a cup of coffee. As Piers Handling said when introducing Morris, he doesn’t make judgments about his subjects, instead putting everything out there and letting the audience decide. It was fascinating to see this man who was instrumental in the fire-bombings of Tokyo, in the Vietnam war, in the Cuban missile crisis and the cold war in general, to see him explain these decisions and directions not with remorse, but with the questioning nature that wisdom and distance has brought him. He criticizes Curtis LeMay and praises him (or, rather, parts of his nature) in the same breath. He cries when he talks about JFK. He defends Lyndon Johnson furiously, even though audio tapes show that he disagreed with Johnson over Vietnam and tried hard to keep them out (and later withdraw). He refuses to talk about some topics, but then speaks of them anyway. He talks about the use of power and how it should have been applied differently in Vietnam, about the dangers of empire, when you suddenly realize he’s really talking about the current US administration. And I’m blown away by how similar his early footage is to how Donald Rumsfeld acts at the podium now, as if Rumsfeld modelled himself after McNamara; I found myself wondering if, in 35 years, we’ll see Rumsfeld in a documentary.
  • Alien: 10 out of 10, obviously. It’s the quintessential sci-fi thriller/horror/tension movie, so there was no question of that. What made it extra-special cool was that Sir Ridley Scott sat 20 feet away from us and watched it with us. Yaphet Kotto was there too, and he’s huge…I had no idea how huge the man was. People still jumped during the scary parts, even though everyone’s seen it god knows how many times. And it was weird to watch Bilbo spew white fluid and attack Sigourney Weaver sans head. Anyway, Ridley Scott spoke before the movie started about the making of it, and both he and Yaphet Kotto answered questions after. We only stayed for a few, as they were either a) specific to the craft of directing, or b) seriously sci-fi/film geek questions (e.g., “there was a real mother/martyr theme throughout the 4 movies…can you speak to that?”). But it was just super-cool to watch a classic film in a cramped theatre with the be-knighted director sitting a few rows away. I love the film festival.

TIFF, day 1

  • I Love Your Work: 8 out of 10. Adam Goldberg’s second movie, with Giovanni Ribisi playing a character who seemed to be modelled on Goldberg himself. Kind of a twisting story, and a couple of times I felt smart because I was sure I’d figured out what was really happening, but it didn’t actually go that way, so it kept me guessing and admiring the shots and cuts that got increasingly manic along with the main character. Most of the cast showed up: Goldberg, Ribisi, Franka Potente, Christina Ricci (who’s h-o-t-t hot), etc. They held a Q & A afterward; some guy in the audience asked a really bizarre, long-winded, non-sensical question that had everyone in the audience laughing at him. After, we headed to movie #2.
  • The Event: 6 out of 10. I still haven’t seen Thom Fitzgerald’s first movie, The Hanging Garden, or his second, Beefcake, but they won him acclaim in Canada. This was a bigger budget movie for him, and included a good cast — Sarah Polley, Parker Posie, Olympia Dukakis, Don McKellar and Jane Leeves (who, unfortunately, never made me think of anyone but Daphne) — most of whom showed up and answered questions after the film. I thought it was a good idea done clumsily. Parker Posie and Sarah Polley who are usually infallible, in my opinion, seemed wooden, or appeared to be reaching. Olympia Dukakis is always solid, and Don McKellar’s a very underrated actor, so I was expecting more. So it was good, but didn’t live up to how great the cast could’ve been. Interesting note, too: this was the first movie filmed in Manhattan after the terrorist attacks, and it works its way into the movie in subtle shades, and I was glad for that. It would’ve been easy to make a ham-handed attempt to draw the stories together, and I was relieved that they didn’t. Why use one tragedy to batter another out of our heads?

Bring on the TIFF

We just finished the time-honoured tradition of standing in line for two hours to wait for our tickets. Turns out that, even though we were box #8 and box #30 was selected, we got all the movies we asked for (4 #1 choices and 6 #2 choices). Here’s what we’re seeing:

There were a bunch that we didn’t get, like Lost In Translation, Elephant, The Human Stain, 21 Grams, Coffee & Cigarettes, Wonderland and The Agronomist, but most of those will come to theatres anyway. I’m really looking forward to I Love Your Work and The Fog Of War. I’ll post reviews here, so have an eye. Posts’ll start on the 5th.