Cover image from the TIFF website


This past weekend was a très Toronto weekend. First there was a Jays game on Friday (a loss, boo) with Joe, bookended by drinks at the Boxcar Social on Harbourfront and the Boxcar Social on Temperance.

Lindsay got home from a work trip in the wee hours of Saturday, so we slooooowly got up and about and had brunch at Lil’ Baci, followed by our first TIFF screening of the year. It was Louis CK’s stealth movie (he made it outside of the studio system, so no one but the cast and crew knew what it was about) I Love You, Daddy (tiff). It was written like a modern film but shot like a classic (35mm black & white), which made it pretty fun. I don’t want to give away much, but like all LCK work it was funny and insightful and difficult. Outstanding cast, though, and fun Q&A. [UPDATE 10 Nov 2017: this movie takes on a pretty gross veneer in light of recent allegations against Louis C.K.] Afterward we had a slightly disappointing dinner at my old local Mercatto.

Sunday we doubled up, getting in a very long (two movie) line at the Elgin to see The Square (tiff) which had won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It was funny, sharp, contained not one but two bizarre primate-related scenes, and — best of all — completely took the piss out of marketing pitches. A little too long, but well worth watching. Afterward we rushed (our film started very late) over to the Lightbox and had a deliriously marked-up glass of mediocre wine at O&B Canteen.

Our final film of TIFF — seven short films, really, part of the Wavelengths program — was Figures In A Landscape (tiff). I’d never ventured into Wavelengths before, but hey…when dating an art curator, right? It was a mixed bag, some really interesting (Mr. Yellow Sweatshirt, (100ft), Rose Gold), some meh (Yeti, Heart Of A Mountain), one beautiful (Flores) and one just fucking weird one involving giant cartoon fruit gamboling through the Vietnam war (Division Movement to Vungtau), but I guess that’s always going to be the case with the festival’s showcase for the avant-garde.

After we tried going to King Taps but it was rammed, as was Carisma. We ended up trying Ardo for the first time (in this incarnation; I visited Toba several times) and sheeeeiiiiit was it a good call. We shared a damn fine burrata and had a salsiccia pasta (me) and funghi pasta (her) and cannoli and a lovely bottle of 2013 Nebbiolo Passeggiando from Langhe. Top meal all around, and actually cheaper than the subpar dinner at Marcatto the night before. I can’t wait to go back.


Cover image from the TIFF website

#TIFF16 Film 5: City of Tiny Lights

This year’s TIFF wrap-up was City Of Tiny Lights (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff), a rather disappointing closer. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either. In fact, without Riz Ahmed, this would have been entirely unremarkable — except that he succeeded in making London look unlike London ever looks in films.

It didn’t help that some…off dude sitting next to us made it impossible to concentrate during the screening. Yo guy, just…just sit still.


#TIFF16 Film 4: Prevenge

There are times, reading through the TIFF program book, when you don’t even have to finish reading the description for a film before adding it to your shortlist. This was the first paragraph in the description of Prevenge (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff):

Alice Lowe (Sightseers) is a triple threat as the writer, director and star of this pitch-black comedy about a pregnant woman whose unborn child psychically spurs her on to murder.

Sold, to the man with the dark sense of humour. Sightseers was a perfectly weird black comedy, so I was excited about this one too. It didn’t disappoint: it was so funny and weird, with these bursts of horrific violence set in tacky British locales (a la Sightseers), and Alice Lowe was just so good. That she acted in and directed this nearly eight months pregnant was remarkable, and (this sounds weird to say) put to such good use. She was hilarious and sweet and weird in her Q&A after, so it’s safe to say she’s a sure bet for any of my future TIFF shortlists.


#TIFF16 Film 2: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Screening number two was at the Bloor Hot Docs theatre yesterday, and my vantage point was way the hell up in the balcony. From there I watched I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (imdb | tiff), a slightly weird and fairly chilling little ghost story. Ruth Wilson plays the main role quirky, which helps offset the creep factor and overall made it more interesting. Not great, but entertaining. Solid add to your Netflix scary movie queue when it comes out.


#TIFF16 Film 1: Birth Of A Nation

Last night was our kickoff to this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. After a hurried bite at Hawthorne we got ourselves in line for Birth Of A Nation (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) at the Winter Garden theatre.

It won all the buzz at Sundance (and has gathered a fair amount of bad attention since, aimed at its director) and got a big ovation last night, but I admit I didn’t love it. It was deeply important subject matter, obviously incredibly relevant to American social issues of the day, and an interesting story. But there were some technical flaws, and the story dragged where it should have sped and sped where it should have lingered.

Certainly not a bad film, but I expect some of the strong reviews it’s getting have less to do with it being a great, skillfully-made movie than with the important message it carries. That may be enough to win it best picture at Oscar time; if that means thousands or millions more eyes and minds learn the story of Nat Turner, then the Academy may still have gotten it right, flawed or not.


TIFF #4: Corbo

Today was the end of our stunted TIFF14 adventure: a subtitled film from Quebec called Corbo (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff). Turns out I actually know very little about the early days of the FLQ, so I found it fascinating. And beautifully shot too — it had a texture to it and evoked the 60s so well. Uh, at least, what I imagine the 60s looked like. It didn’t always move quickly, but it never seemed to drag either.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

TIFF #3: The Drop

I don’t know what we were thinking, really. One of the TIFF picks we made this year was for a screening of The Drop (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) on the day it went into wide release around North America. At least it was in the Princess of Wales theatre (our first time there) so it felt like a big deal.

And hey, the movie was really good. James Gandolfini was terrific, but Tom Hardy — as usual — stole the movie. He’s the new Marlon Brando.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

TIFF #2: Ned Rifle

A week-long hiatus in the middle of TIFF has made it feel like the festival s barely happening. I’d almost have forgotten if my news feeds hadn’t been filled with exact details of celebrities ambling down carpeted sidewalks.

Last night we kicked off our lone festival-y weekend by seeing Hal Hartley’s closer to the Henry FoolFay Grim trilogy, Ned Rifle (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff). We saw Fay Grim at the festival eight years ago and expected more of the same. While it lacked the off-kilter camera shots it certainly had the same wry humour and subtle film-long wink to the audience. Parker Posey played a much smaller role here than in her character’s namesake movie, but she was replaced by a equally-if-differently disturbed Aubrey Plaza. Who I’m slowly becoming infatuated with, by the way.

The only things which marred the experience were outside of the movie itself: first, we picked some odd seats at the Winter Garden, such that I sat on a slope which became weirdly uncomfortable after a while. Second, the two women sitting behind us were the kind of people who feel the need to “OH!” loudly at every other scene, or simply say aloud whatever is happening on the screen. “Oh, she’s going to follow him.” “Oh, there’s no more bullets.” “Oh, that’s his uncle.” Ladies, some advice: stay home and watch movies where no one cares about your soundtrack. Or just shut the fucking fuck up. Either way.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

Cover photo by Juha Uitto, used under Creative Commons license

TIFF #1: Ruth & Alex

Despite our light TIFF lineup this year, we did manage a first on Friday night: attending a gala presentation. We were the guests of one of the festival’s main sponsors, so we assembled in the near-tropical heat of Friday evening for drinks, dinner, and Ruth & Alex (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff).

Dinner was very good, but we felt bad for everyone trapped outside on King Street during the sudden massive thunderstorm which rolled through. People huddled under whatever cover they could find, including a doorway right next to our table. We felt a little guilty eating our steak and drinking our wine while families huddled outside and fended off blowing debris. I guess if we’d been outside we’d have been the ones wringing wet, so it was all just down to lucky timing.

The film itself was just okay. I love Morgan Freeman but Diane Keaton has settled into Jack Nicholson mode, playing the same character (herself) over and over again. The film seemed a little precious, I guess, kind of like it had been written in the 50s with that kind of stage-ish, stilted dialogue, and simply updated for modern-day trends like terrorist scares and real estate frenzies.

There was no Q&A after the film, and it was a very different kind of crowd in attendance (mostly corporate sponsors and industry people) so it felt very different than any TIFF event we were used to. But it was fun to try once, and at least made us feel like we were part of TIFF in the early, buzzy days of the festival. Our next screening isn’t until Friday.

When we left the rain was still pounding down, so we walked underground through the PATH as far as we could, but still got soaked during the two minutes of uncovered walk home.


Cover photo by Juha Uitto, used under Creative Commons license