Today I’m giving away the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival program. This was an interesting year, especially looking back 10 years later. For those of you who don’t go to the festival, there are several programmes that make up the list of films. Galas are the big red carpet events that feature more mainstream, big name movies, cost extra to attend, and almost always get distribution in Toronto within a year. Programmes like Special Presentations and Masters are for the higher profile international films, made by highly respected directors with a following and a body of work. Contemporary World Cinema is a cross section of the best of what’s out there from film communities around the world, Discoveries are the first time directors, Real to Reel the documentaries etc.. This year got better towards the back of the program, the further you got from the money. It also had some really great docs.
The two best Galas were Far from Heaven from the awesome Todd Haynes and his muse Julianne Moore and featuring the best performance we’ve ever seen from Dennis Quaid, and In America by Jim Sheridan, a beautifully told and poignant story with Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine. Neither were big money movies.
The rest of my list goes as follows
Dirty Pretty Things – From Stephen Frears who I talked about last week with The Grifters. He makes incredible movies and I loved this one about an illegal immigrant in London. It was the second time we saw Audrey Tautou (remember Amelie?) and the first time I saw Chiwetel Ejiofor, a great actor.
Gerry – from Gus Van Sant. This is not a movie for everyone. It’s about two guys who get hopelessly lost in the desert (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck), there is little dialogue and it’s extremely uncomfortable to see people suffer a slow and horrible decline under these conditions. It’s based on a true story though and felt so much like the male friendships I grew up with, all inside jokes and mockery and the put downs that substitute for affection. I thought the slow drift from buddy banter into an awakening grasp of their dangerous situation was masterful and I loved watching how that reality impacted the roles they played with each other. The Q&A was almost as intriguing as the movie. Gus Van Sant has a way of communicating that is all his own. As I recall, they were improvising through the whole thing and shot the movie in sequence, probably why the arc felt so real.
8 mile – Curtis Hanson made this movie (he of LA Confidential and Wonder Boys), but the real joy was Eminem. I’m a fan and I loved the movie.
Punch Drunk Love – from Paul Thomas Anderson, a much better example of Adam Sandler’s acting capability than Funny People. It makes me sad that he doesn’t work with better directors and better material. I don’t like any of his comedies.
The Magdalene Sisters – Written and directed by Peter Mullan, who is himself a great actor, this is based on a true story about an Irish Catholic girl’s asylum and convent. It was used the way we use youth detention centres now, and run with military and abusive relish by some pretty mean nuns. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating and has stayed with me for years.
Whale Rider – Wasn’t this fun? In the early ’80’s at the very first film festival I attended, I was struck by a movie from New Zealand. I can’t remember the name of it so I’ve never been able to find the people who were responsible, but this was a great reminder. Beautiful story telling from a beautiful place.
Lost in La Mancha – This is the story of Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. For a movie lover, it gives you great insight into the fragility of the creative process, agonizing financing struggles and the joy and challenge of big talents coming together to share and realize a vision. I like Terry Gilliam and wish the movie got made, I can imagine it would have been an incredible viewer experience.
Spellbound – Pure love for a movie that created drama, cheers and gripping tension around an annual spelling bee. A good film maker can take the mundane in life and make it epic. That’s what they did here.
And my pick for the year…
Bowling for Columbine – Michael Moore’s best movie and a brave essay on fear culture in America. Whatever you think of his tactics, the guy made us understand the gun appetite that just seems so foreign and unfathomable in Canada. I only wish it had a bigger effect. This movie may have been preaching to the choir but it gave us a better vocabulary for the issue and, amazingly, found a way to entertain us in the process.