Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Developed At The Film Festival.

I like the Toronto International Film Festival. There's a buzz around town. Some of it are the delirious looky-loos who hunt opportunities to scream at famous people, but I like the communitas of being in a crowd; the feeling of being part of something bigger than one's self.

Also, I love seeing films, and this all springs from the fact that I love to be told a good story.

I even don't mind paying almost twice what I'd pay for a movie in a regular cinema. Of course, for the gala screening, when the director, screenwriter, actors, producers, etc., are there, it costs even more. Sometimes there are Q&As with the creative team.

This year, I saw three films. I saw Ghost Town, Fifty Dead Men Walking, and The Brothers Bloom. I'll discuss them in the order I saw them.

The showing for Ghost Town was a gala, and it was showing at the Elgin, which is the theatre where I saw Avenue Q about two weeks previous. It's cool to see a movie in a proper theatre.

The seating is not assigned at TIFF, so people line up for hours to get first pick of seats. I think this is slightly silly since they guarantee seats until a certain time (at which point they release the seats for rush ticketing), and there are so many good seats saved for industry mucky-mucks, it doesn't make much of a difference.

I went with my housemates to this first showing. It was a little late opening, because the "talent" were late arriving. That was the director and co-writer, the editor, Kristin Wiig, Greg Kinnear, and Ricky Gervais. The director gave a little speech to kick it all off, and then the movie started... with a Beatles song.

(This is a little side subject: it's weird for me to hear original Beatles music in ads and films again. Have the rights been relaxed? Didn't Michael Jackson own a lot of the rights?)

Ghost Town was delightful. It was a good, clean romantic comedy. Gervais impressed me. I know the trailer makes it look like he's just reprising his character from Extras, but he's not. His character is almost agoraphobic. He's anti-social to say the least, but is burdened with helping out a dead dude.

I just thought it was all over a solid, non-saccharine, atypical rom-com. (No zom.) It's out soon and I'd recommend seeing it. The main character was a hero for reasons we don't usually see in a rom-com.



Then, Marianne and I went to the gala of Fifty Dead Men Walking. I can't find a trailer for this one.

This was kinda controversial movie because it is based on a book co-written by an exiled IRA member from the '80s, Martin McGartland, and he wasn't giving his blessing because he said the screen adaption took too many liberties with the truth.

I thought the movie was very good at capturing the fear and panic in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. The streets turned into war zones, and guerrilla tactics were used by neighbours and members of the IRA. Also, the country was occupied by the British Army, ostensibly to keep the peace.

The story was good, but I'm afraid I missed a lot of the dialogue for two reasons. One, although I consider myself to have a great ear for accents, I find it difficult to parse the brogue of Northern Ireland. Also, the dialogue was often overpowered by the score.

Perhaps, since this movie is not meant to be released for another month or so (and that's in the UK), they'll be able to re-edit the audio or do some post cleanup.

Overall, though, I liked Fifty Dead Men. It was moving and brutal. I spent a wakeful night thinking about what it would be like to live in a warzone in the western world. I think I'll wait to give a full-out go see this! to hear if they do any more editing. Keep your ears to the ground.

Oh, and on the gah-lah side of things, Jim Sturgess was there, and he's as flipping adorable in real life as he was in Across the Universe and 21. Good news: he shaved off that wretched mustache. To top that, though, Ben Kingsley was there. I was transfixed, thinking about Ghandi and how much I loved that film. The director was there, too, and I think she's Canadian. She's been going through a lot of BS just to get this film to the screen, with all the legal problems with the author.

Finally, I saw a noon showing of The Brothers Bloom on the Thursday the 11th. I think I saved the best for last.


This film, directed by the same guy who did one of the best films you never saw, Brick, is close of the heels of Wes Anderson for stylized fare. The wardrobe design was especially great. The set dressing was nowhere as OCD as Anderson's, but the characterisation was spot-on.

The story is a pair of brothers who were grifters from boyhood. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) enjoys preparing overly intricate heists, and Bloom is his younger-brother accomplice (Adrien Brody). Bloom has tired of the lies and yearns to make a "real" story of his life. Stephen lures him back for "one more job" on a wealthy heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz). As a mark, she's a little tricky and over-enthusiastic.

Sometimes, the convolutions of Stephen's heist narrative got confused with what was happening in the "un-scripted" storyline and I got a little muddled, but I think when (note: not if) I see it again, it'll be cleared up.

After watching The Brothers Bloom I think I'm going to add Adrien Brody to my Husband List. Yes, this is despite him showing up to the TIFF looking like the Unabomber.

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