I’m back….


Just a quick hello from my blog to update you on this year’s TIFF experience. I can’t commit to daily posts but I thought I’d capture my impressions for the kind people who’ve told me they miss my blog.  You know who you are and I love you for it.

First the movies – my edited impressions, no spoilers…

Watermark – Beautiful, disturbing, bleak and a little slow in the final half hour.  Edward Burtynsky said something interesting in the Q&A after the movie.  He said that once he’s chosen his theme, he looks for the largest scale examples of the theme that he can find.  Big they are, so hold on to your seats, especially for the Xiluodu Dam in China.

12 Years a Slave – This movie is really very good, it’s not hype. I’m convinced that only a Brit could have been this sophisticated in finding a way into slavery and avoiding the violence porn of Django.  But be warned, it’s still inhumanely cruel, and sad beyond belief.  The fact that this is a true story makes it all the more haunting.  It won the People’s Choice Award…no surprise.  Also, if you haven’t seen Hunger, Steve McQueen’s first movie, do so now.

Like Father, Like Son – A thoughtful and well made film, but the cultural gap made it hard to personally connect to this story of two families who discover that their 6 year old sons were switched at birth in the hospital.  I could never have responded to this moral dilemma the way the central characters did – the fathers seem to make all the important decisions.  It had surprisingly funny moments in the middle of serious story telling and incredible child performances.

Mandela – Idris Alba in this Nelson Mandela bio-pic.  They had a lot of ground to cover in two hours and did an admirable job.  It’s hard to get over Idris Alba being all tall and gorgeous.  He stands about 12 inches above everyone else in the film.  The first two acts were better than third but the last part does give you insight into what happened to he and Winnie.  She definitely took a different course while he was in prison.  If you remember that time, her name was associated with some pretty violent acts.  Worth watching but not as good as I was hoping for.

The Unknown Known – Errol Morris does to Rumsfeld what he did to McNamara in The Fog of War, except that Rumsfeld has no conscience, is oblivious to his own blatant contradictions, and is so caught up in his clever wordplay that he overlooks gross errors in his own content.  It’s a very good movie, but you’ll feel sick.  I couldn’t help thinking, the whole time I was watching the movie, and in the days since, ‘who the hell is running things?’

The Lunchbox – tech problems with 20 minutes to go, argh! They didn’t finish the screening, it’s  really unforgivable.  I was at the second screening, but they messed up the first one too and showed the film with no subtitles (half of it is in Hindi).  The Director did 30 minutes of funny, heart warming Q&A while the audience waited, both times.  Also, it was in Bell Lightbox, with its state of the art projection.  Bad form!

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – A marriage in trouble told from both his and her points of view. Produced as two full length features that run back to back, I thought it was a noble experiment, that they didn’t quite pull off.  The two versions aren’t different enough to warrant this very long telling of their story.  “Him” was pretty good and quite involving, “Her” started well but grew repetitious and could have been half as long.  James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain were both quite good and were very moving in the Q&A.  She started crying because of how long it has taken them to get the project to this point and how much she loved the process, he was a little drunk but surprisingly eloquent on the subject of love and relationships.  Two adults telling a grown up story.  The just needed to get out the scissors.

The Invisible Woman – I love Ralph Feines. He directed and played Charles Dickens with all his faults.  And there he was on stage, all humility and awkwardness and it was very good.  I don’t know if anyone will go to see it outside of literate Brits and a some North American public radio fans.  It’s about Charles Dickens and his not so secret, but much younger, mistress and there isn’t a sensationalized second in it.  If it shows up in the theatres go fast because it won’t last.   It’s a visually beautiful, shot on film, with a good story and great acting.  It gives us some real insights into the lives of women in that age, pretty sad in that regard.

Tracks – True story about Robyn Davidson who crossed the Outback with a few camels and her dog.  It fit with my theme this summer… I read Wild (Cheryl Strayed) and relistened to A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson).  I loved every minute of this movie – maybe I need to plan a wee trek? My film buds found it unsatisfying because it didn’t explain her motivation very overtly.  I thought it was there in the subtext.  Let me know what you think.

Felony – Interesting ethical and moral dilemma for three Aussie cops but it missed.  It had a good script and great actors but I thought the Director shot it as a one dimensional thriller so instead of a nuanced morality play, it just felt like a predictable police procedural.  It’s too bad, it had lots of potential.

How I live now – From the director who gave us The Last King of Scotland (personal top 10).  Yikes, he’s gone young adult, uber commercial, melodramatic, and predictable.  And so has  Saoirse Ronan.  Disappointing

The Railway Man – A moving, and sad story about a quirky railway enthusiast who was a WWII POW and torture survivor.  He was captured during the fall of Singapore and sent to the railway camps in Thailand (think Bridge Over the River Kwai).  It was very good but this true story was softened for public consumption. The director admitted leaving out the worst bits and I think he should have included them, not graphically, but in the narrative.  Colin Firth was excellent as the grown up hero, Nicole Kidman’s face didn’t move, and some torture techniques are older than you thought.

Blind Detective – laugh out loud Hong Kong flying fighting movie from Johnnie To.  Over acted, over wrought, over the the top entertainment.

The Sea – Charlotte Rampling and Ciaran Hinds in an Irish, sad (is that redundant) adaptation of  the John Banville novel.  The Irish seashore never looked so gloomy.  It didn’t make a lot of sense.  The book is much better.

Unforgiven – Sang-il Lee’s remake of the Clint Eastwood classic, set on the furthest north island of Japan, in Japanese, with Samurai swordplay instead of wild west guns.   Ken Watanabe in the Clint role.  As you would expect – awesome!
Beyond the Edge – A gripping documentary, with reenactments, of Sir Edmond Hilary’s and Tenzing Norgay’s Everest climb.  It’s very suspenseful and has you on the edge of your seat, even though you know the outcome.   Good casting and wicked good location shooting put you in their shoes.  Go for the 3-D version.  As Director Leanne Pooley said, you’re not likely to see this view for yourself so she’s made it as real as she can for you.
Bright Days Ahead – An attractive Dentist of a certain age retires after a conflict with a patient.  She loses her patience or something like that (can’t imagine).  With nothing else to do, she goes to a community centre offering activities and courses for retirees people.  She meets a stunning young computer instructor and has a May-December affair.  I’m not going to say any more.  It’s French, the dentist is played by Fanny Ardant – we should all age like she has.
Gravity – This should have been my favourite.  Alphonso Cuoron (Children of Men, another top 10) directing a movie in space. The  first act was really good… very suspenseful and artfully shot.  But it is followed by an incredibly bad 30 minutes of the worst that Hollywood implausibility and melodrama, with an embarassing score.  Sandra Bullock, who I actually like, delivers a one dimensional performance.   2001 a space Oddessy meets Speed!
Pioneer. A Norwegian thriller based on a true story about laying the deepest pipeline in history in the North Sea and what happened to the divers who set depth records to do the work.  The first experimental dive goes horribly wrong but is covered up to protect the incredible financial opportunity of getting the pipeline laid.  Norway didn’t become one of the richest countries in the world on fish exports.  Tense movie in tight spaces. A little predictable but well made.  I saw it with two claustrophobes, that’s not recommended.

Those are all of the movies I saw.  Overall, it was a good but not great festival.  I didn’t have as many pleasant surprises as I usually have and it was a little more mainstream than I usually aim for (although the programme book was so weighted to English speaking films it was hard to balance it).

TIFF has changed every year, but this year it felt like it crossed a line and will never come back.  It is no longer about enthusiastic audiences who love film, follow directors, and look for the little gems (some of those people are still there, but they’re frustrated and with good reason).  It has become a celebrity festival.  All of the logistics were organized to accommodate more and larger red carpets.  Boo.  Meanwhile, the logistics for the film goers were a mess, there were technical screw-ups, and the staff were neither as friendly or knowledgeable as they used to be and should have been.  I was regularly given wrong or contradicting information and they didn’t seem to care.  Disappointing compared to the amazing sense of community I grew accustomed to each year.

I will write a letter.  I do that every year, although I’ve never had a reply or an acknowledgement, so I don’t know if anyone reads them. However, I like to let them know what I loved and didn’t love so I’ll do that again.  And now, you know too.

Suspended – Too much stuff to write about

April 19

Today I’m giving away, a great many things…

Hi all, I have decided to move so I’m getting rid of too much stuff to post about.  I am afraid I won’t have time to take a picture of it all and post it over the next several months, I have to move too fast to be ready in time.  I’ve found some great recipients for my stuff though,

My family – of course…the sisters get first dibs on everything

My friends – I’ve reached out and although there aren’t that many who want my old junk, I’m trying to match supply with some specific demands there – I might get a few hits

My friends’ kids – I have a few offspring “new apartment” donations happening that I’m really happy about, I set up my first apartment at University with cast offs and vintage and loved that place as much as I’ve loved any home since

My cleaning lady’s church – they have a giant garage sale that funds a breakfast program for kids in their neighbourhood, pretty hard to do better than that

Goodwill – they help you unload your car and I like that they provide employment and are self funding

Garbage – I’ll try and limit the landfill but there is some stuff that no one wants, and I have some toxic waste (paint cans etc.)

I pledge that I will give away at least 256 more things.  That’s how many days there are left in the year.  I plan to give away at least that many things between now and next weekend.

I want to say thanks for all the encouragement, I’ve had such a great time hearing from some of you and plotting my weekly batch of stuff to get rid of.  It was partly this process that helped me finally reach a decision to move and I’m now really excited about it.  Ironically, I want to downsize and simplify on a bigger scale.  It was very interesting and satisfying to start getting rid of stuff and I’m impatient now to just get it all gone.

To that end, I’m looking for a condo with an excellent view, lots of natural light, low maintenance fees and good closets (I still like my shoes, what can I say!).  If you know of such a place, please contact me directly.

April 18 – Kilim cushion cover

April 18


Today I’m giving away a beautiful kilim cushion cover (it’s folded in half vertically in this picture).  I got this from my Mom after one of her many exotic adventures, possibly Turkey?  I love it, but it really doesn’t have a natural place in any room in my house.  My sister has two and really wanted a third so I’m giving it to her.  I’d rather see it out, being used and treasured, so there it is. Bye bye cushion cover, I’ll be visiting you.


April 17 – Candle shades

April 17

Today I’m giving away these shades that go over a lit candle.  There are little frames that they sit on but unfortunately, I can’t find them.  A long time ago, when we still said things like “shabby chic”, these were in fashion.  I love orange so mine were orange (even though they look red in the picture, which they aren’t).

I stuffed them in a dining room storage cupboard many years ago and forgot all about them.  I know the little frames will turn up eventually but in the meantime, they’re going in the Looney Tooney sale box for my nephew’s school.

April 16 – Jeans, brand new

Apr 16


Today i’m giving away a brand new pair of jeans that I bought in a closing sale from Cassis.  I liked their jeans and thought I’d get a couple of pairs before they were gone forever.  These are boot cut and for some reason way too big for me.  They’re my size but the two pairs I bought at that sale are not wearable.  Maybe that’s why they went out of business,  they couldn’t keep their sizes sorted.  I know that clothing month is over so apologies to those of you who were bored out of your gourd with my clothing cast offs but I had to get rid of these.

They are literally brand new, still with tags.  I’m putting it in the new circles box.

April 12 – Film Friday – TIFF program 2010

Today I’m giving away the programme from TIFF 2010.  I picked the wrong year to write a post in a hurry.  This was the kind of year you hope for when you crack open the guide (which still feels like Christmas morning to me, these many years later).

I will only write descriptions about the movies you’re not likely to know because there were so many incredibly good films that year.  Also, please note, in addition to the ones I list here there were also lots of good movies that I didn’t see in the festival that year.  It really was one of the best in recent memory.

Off the top

The King’s Speech – The Q&A brought the house down.  I remember Tom Hooper’s reaction to the audience, they had kid excitement, they were all so thrilled that we loved it so much.

Little White Lies – A wonderful French movie.  Kind of The Big Chill made modern and made in French.  From Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard’s husband.  She is also in the movie.  Very funny, moving, and tres French.  It will make you long for a summer holiday in the South of France and your closest friends to share a summer house with.

The Town – I liked this movie although Ben Affleck didn’t do a Q&A – boo

West is West– remember East is East?  This one isn’t quite as good, but who can resist revisiting that wonderful family.

Black Swan – I think Darren Aronofsky must have a warped imagination, but aren’t we glad he does and that he makes movies.

Rabbit Hole – proof that Nicole Kidman can act when she lays off the freezing.  Please stop messing with your face and make good movies.  Also, I will never get enough of Aaron Eckhart, I wish he made more movies like this.

Another Year – my favourite Mike Leigh movie.  Real people having real relationships with real joy and disappointment.

Blue Valentine – I couldn’t get a ticket to this during the festival but saw it afterwards.  I just couldn’t leave it off the list.

Beginners – in which Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer teach the world how to tell a story

Incendies – One of the best Canadian movies I’ve ever seen.  I loved this movie, had no idea where it was going and was taken in by the story, the performances, and thoughtful pacing.  Beautifully done.

Client 9 – Great doc about the taking down of Eliot Spitzer.  Damn you Mr Spitzer for not being able to keep it in your pants.  We needed you to keep those greedy Wall St hoodlums under control and look what happened when you gave them the ammo to take you down.

Inside Job – an appropriate partner film to Client 9.  Every grown up should see this movie and vote.  Full stop.

Meek’s Cutoff – Kelly Reichardt’s poetic pioneer painting.  A westward ho 1845 “road movie,” only there were no roads and the women wore bonnets.  This is an intimate movie, made with great actors, and deeply suspenseful even within its dry and quiet pace.  Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton (who is so good), Paul Dano, and more.

How I Ended This Summer – a great Russian movie (I don’t say that very often) about a young university student interning for a summer at a meteorological station in Siberia with an old school technician.  It starts with a standard generational clash, precision instruments vs. digital technology, musical differences and no common ground.  It starts to change when one of them gets some alarming news from home.  This movie had us on the edge of our seats and the arctic scenery is as stunning a backdrop as you can imagine.  A really memorable telling of a gripping tale.

The Piano in a Factory – A Chinese movie that told of a divorced Dad, his travelling musical band, his struggles with his girlfriend and moving attempt to keep custody of his daughter and other rambling idiosyncratic rabbit holes.  It was kind of a crazy movie that was a little bit all over the place, but it was so surprising and visually interesting that all of us who saw it loved it.  The program said 119 minutes.  I think it lies, I’m pretty sure it was about 30 minutes longer.

My pick – (King’s Speech was my actual favourite but everyone already knows about it so I’m picking this one…)

Never Let Me Go – A great film from a great book and so beautifully acted.  I loved everything about this.  If you haven’t read the book do, and if you haven’t seen the movie, see it.  Carey Mulligan is subtle and commanding.  She and this glimpse into a future based on medical possibilities and ethical failure will take you by surprise.

April 11,13,14,15 – Toiletries Bags

Apr 11Apr 11B


Today (and for the next few days, except Friday), I’m giving away these toiletries bags.  I know it’s kind of cheating to do this.  I’m not really cleaning out my junk with these, and I’m doing four days all at once, and they are all the same object but I’m really stuck for time today and I’m going away for the weekend and won’t be able to post anything until I’m back.  I will do a TIFF program tomorrow but that’s it until Tuesday.

I made these, it’s part of my make your gifts pledge, and re-learning to sew adventure, that I posted about Tuesday.  In order from top to bottom, these have gone to my sister, my mom, a friend (mother of the Tuesday recipients), another friend (who also got the syrup jug).  I got the fabric on sale at The Workroom and Fabricland.  The ones I posted Tuesday were a little funkier, I know, but I’m dependent on what’s in the sale piles.  I don’t want to pay full price until I know what I’m doing.

Have a good weekend, I hope this weather doesn’t follow you or me.



April 9 – candle and candle holder…smelly

Apr 9


Today I’m giving away a scented candle and candle holder.  The candle smells a bit like cinnamon.  I don’t know how I came to have this, it must have been a gift.  The only scented candles I like are these.  They smelled like rich people houses and the proceeds went to an excellent cause.   I hope whoever gave it to me either doesn’t mind me giving it away or doesn’t see this and will never know.

It’s going in the Looney Tooney sale bin.


April 9 – Makeup bags

Apr 9 A Apr 9 B

Today I am giving away these makeup bags.  I made them for the daughters of a friend of mine.  I have to confess I’m a closet crafter and I’m re-learning how to sew in my free time.  I had a wicked and evil home economics teacher in Junior High.  She was bitter and mean in so many ways but she knew what she was doing with a sewing machine so I and all of my sisters have some competence.  Her techniques have come flooding back these many decades later. I’ve been trying to make all my presents this year so to that end, I bought this fun fabric half price at The Workroom and Fabricland and have been playing with small scale projects.  I made others, I’ll post them later this week.

There are almost no fabric stores left in Toronto, if you like to sew, go buy fabric and support the few who are left.  It’s really not the same online, no hand and the colour is wacky.



April 8 – Syrup dispenser

Apr 7


Today I’m giving away this Wedgewood syrup dispenser.  I got it at an antiques fair the year I bought the cottage and thought I would use it all the time, but we always just put the syrup on the table (heathens right?).  Maybe it would be different if we had a dishwasher.  Anyway, I have a friend who sets a beautiful table and has a great farmhouse where she feeds large groups of friends and family, I gave it to her as part of her birthday present.  I’m continuing my pledge to give something old, handmade, or an experience.

Happy Birthday Anne.


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