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 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 5 Film Friday – 1993 Festival of Festivals Program

Apr 5 - Film Friday

Today I’m giving away the program for TIFF 1993.  This year was also very rich. It has been almost twenty years since I saw these movies but I still have vivid memories of most.  Also, three of my top picks were Canadian, that doesn’t happen very often.

Short descriptions because there were so many good ones, and a favourite…

Love and Human Remains – Denys Arcand’s well told story of three young people trying to start their lives successfully in Montreal.  I remember thinking the script was as cutting as Thomas Gibson’s cheekbones (I also remember Janet and I passed him on Bloor street the day after seeing the movie and he’s really tall).  I also remember the line that got the greatest laughs in the movie was a withering insult to Toronto.

The Piano – I loved this movie.  I love Jane Campion and Holly Hunter, I wish they both did more.  I loved the music – although I know it was polarizing and a musician friend hated it.  This movie changed how I saw Harvey Keitel (honestly, had you ever thought of him as sexy before that seen in his hut?).

Belle Epoque – Maybe not as artful as Almodovar, but funny, lush, beautiful film-making.  One of Penelope Cruz’s first movies and it came out the same year as Jamon Jamon which wasn’t in the festival but was funny and sexy and was the first time she worked with Javier Bardem.

Trois Coleurs – Bleu – I wrote last week about Kieslowski.  This was my favourite of the Trois Couleurs, his trilogy based on the French flag colours and the representation of liberty, equality, and fraternity.  Bleu is about freedom, kind of.  Juliette Binoche plays a woman coping with a shattering loss and finding a path away from it.  Beautiful.

The Wedding Banquet – It’s probably obvious to you now that I have some favourite directors.  Ang Lee is one of them.  This movie was very funny, and like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, found clever laughs in the foibles of family, generations and tradition vs. progress.

The Hawk – This movie has stayed with me.  Helen Mirren plays a wife and mother of two in an unhappy marriage to a bit of a rotter.  What transpires as the story is unveiled is very haunting.  She is so ordinary and believable in this role, it will deck you.  No spoilers though, hopefully it will come to Netflixand you’ll get a chance to see it.

Temptation of a Monk – To be honest, I don’t have that strong a memory of this movie but I love the director, Clara Law, and I remember that I thought it was pretty racy for a Hong Kong festival movie.

Mustard Bath – A great story about a young Canadian man who grew up in colonial Guyana and is now studying to be a Doctor in Toronto.  He returns home to Guyana following the death of his mother.   Michael Riley played the lead and told a funny story at the Q&A about having to take a prosthetic penis in his suitcase for a scene in the movie (I won’t say what happens there), and getting caught up in security having to explain things.

Cold Comfort – A Canadian movie from 1989 but featured in a special series on Canada in this festival.  Ten programmers each chose a Canadian movie they thought was under-appreciated and deserved another look. Cameron Bailey was the programmer who chose Cold Comfort.  It’s a very oddball story, made believable because of Maury Chaykin.

My favourite –

Naked by Mike Leigh.  This movie was raw and sharp.  The amazing David Thewlis makes the film.  His eyes and physical presence do a lot of the work but he also gives monologues that kind of rip your heart out.  It’s also funny and empathetic that is unique to Mike Leigh movies.  He has a very signature approach to film making.  He’s a realist, his characters are very flawed, not very attractive, and often very cranky.  He’s an experimental director too and I’ve read that he often works without a script or other conventional things like that.  This is a great example of why you go to a film festival.  Naked probably didn’t last long in distribution, assuming that it got a deal at all, but everyone who did see it loved it.

March 29 – Film Friday – TIFF program 1994

Mar 29 - Film Friday

Today I’m giving away the TIFF 1994 program.  What a year.  I have to change the format of my post because there are way too many movies to talk about.  I’ve done more of a list with shorter descriptions and followed the programming themes to make it easier.  There were many more movies that year that didn’t even make this list??

I will say I saw most of these movies in the festival but I know of two that I saw later on that year when they got distribution.


Whale Music – For me, one of the many great soundtracks from a Canadian movie, and the first time I understood what an incredible actor Maury Chaykin was.

Eat Drink Man Woman – From Ang Lee.  Beautiful insights into the universal themes that emerge as families age – generation gaps, fears for your children’s future, the absence of a lost parent.  And the dinner table!  A masterful storyteller on only his third feature.

Vanya on 42nd Street – I never saw My dinner with Andre so I didn’t know what Wallace Shawn and Louis Malle could do when I walked into this movie.

Muriel’s Wedding – Has anyone had this much fun in a movie theatre since?  It also made me not hate Abba.

The Burning Season – There are a lot of great movies about South American uprisings and political battles.  They make for some heroic characters and big scale drama. This one is right up there.  Also, it starred Raul Julia.

Bullets Over Broadway – Everyone thinks John Cusack should have had a better career, including Woody Allen.  He was great in this.  Remember, “don’t speak…don’t speak”.  I sat a couple of rows behind John Cusack for this screening.  He’s really tall and blocked the screen a bit, but I didn’t mind because he was so cute.

Special Presentations

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle – I don’t know if this is as good a movie as it should have been but I’m obsessed with Dorothy Parker and I loved that someone wanted to make a movie about her.

Three Colours:Red or Trois Couleurs: Rouge.  I love Kieslowski and should probably have dedicated this entire post to him and his movies.  This was the last instalment in the Three Colours movies, Blanc and Blu came first.   He also made The Double Life of Veronique and the Decalogue, of which you cannot say enough.  Always say yes if you get a chance to see one of his movies, especially if you love movies, he’s the master’s master.

Perspective Canada

Dance Me Outside – My introduction to Bruce McDonald and I saw it kind of by accident.  It fit an empty time slot and in those days you could do that spontaneously.  Drama and tension on the Rez – also, I just noticed that Mychael Danna contributed the score.  (He just won the Oscar for Life of Pi)

Exotica – Atom Egoyan doing some unsettling story telling…for a change?  I love Bruce Greenwood in this movie.  He’s tense and uncomfortable, so watching him, you are too .  I saw this movie after the festival.  I think when I read about it in the program I was dubious, but the buzz and press compelled me after the fact.  Even now when I look at the program, I don’t know if I want to know this story.

Double Happiness – How great is Sandra Oh when she has something interesting to do.  I don’t know how good the movie was, but she was great.

World Cinema

Heavenly Creatures – Australian girl goes a little crazy.  My first time seeing Kate Winslet and the first Peter Jackson movie I saw.  Still a haunting and unsettling story about what young minds are capable of.

Moving the Mountain – Michael Apted makes amazing documentaries, not just the 7 up series (although I have seen all of those).  This one follows a brave young man during the Tiananmen Square uprising and massacre.  Remember how heartbreaking that ending was after a few months of hope and tension.

Il Postino – What a beautiful movie and I love Philippe Noiret.  I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it was this movie that introduced me to the poet Pablo Neruda.  A story well told.

First Cinema

The Buddy Factor, better known as Swimming with Sharks.  I loved this movie.  I loved to hate Kevin Spacey and have always kind of hated him in every role I’ve seen him in since.  I loved the insider view of the movie industry.  I loved the revenge factor.  I won’t say what else I loved because I don’t want to be a spoiler.  If you haven’t seen it, do.

Hoop Dreams – I always try to see documentaries about sports, they’re so emotional and suspenseful and you get to live vicariously through an athletes commitment and sacrifice, victory and defeat.  This one is no exception.  It’s a great movie, and if you liked it, you should also see Undefeated which is on Rogers on Demand right now.

Once Were Warriors – So many themes going on in this completely engrossing film about a troubled Maori family living in Auckland.  It will make your family feel pretty calm and healthy by comparison.  A really impressive first feature.

Clerks. – Natural, unaware, funny, and ground breaking, Kevin Smith’s first movie, and maybe his best (or tied with Chasing Amy).  This may be the movie with the biggest “cult” following of all time, it’s probably more of a demographic cohort.

And my favourite

The Shawshank Redemption – can you believe this was a first feature?  Frank Darabont went on to make the Green Mile and The Walking Dead among many other things.  Who hasn’t loved this movie?  It was perfectly paced, emotional, redemptive and believable.  I don’t think I saw it during the actual festival – I’m pretty sure I jumped on the bandwagon later with everyone else.




March 22 – Film Friday – TIFF program 2002

Mar 22 - film friday

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.

March 17 – Film Sunday – 1990 TIFF Program

March 17 - Film Sunday

Today I’m giving away the 1990 program from The Festival of Festivals (TIFF).  Another good year, although, I have to admit that my memory is not as strong as later years.  Funny, what I do remember is less the movie itself, more how I reacted to it.  That old adage, people don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel, is true here.

So, here are my pics…

Cyrano de Bergerac – Not the Steve Martin version, the beautiful french film with Gerard Depardieu (before he lost the plot).  The director introduced the movie and told us that the subtitles had been written by Anthony Burgess. It would have been an incredibly difficult thing to do because the original dialogue was all in verse.  I remember being frustrated that my French wasn’t good enough to understand the original, but I loved the movie anyway, and thought he did an amazing job.  GD won best actor at Cannes for it.

Trust – The second installment in my devotion to Hal Hartley – I don’t have the program for 1989, my discovery year with The Unbelievable Truth, so I will fawn here.  He is a real festival circuit, indie kind of film maker.  His movies are low budget, intimate and specific.  He develops layered characters who communicate in deadpan, staccato and odd dialogue that can only come from one of his movies.  His earlier films had more conventional narratives, and Trust is in that camp.  He casts great combinations of people too.  Trust featured Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, and Edie Falco – that’s a typical representation of a Hartley ensemble.  Every TIFF year, I look for something from him.  I know a lot of people who feel the same.

Metropolitan – Another great indie director, Whit Stillman.  This was his first feature.  More deadpan, funny, story telling from a really unique voice.  He later directed The Last Days of Disco and Barcelona, also favourites for me.  This is a movie about the people you thought you wanted to be until you were old enough to know better.

Eight Taels of Gold – I picked this one mainly because I love Sylvia Chang, a fantastic Taiwanese actress, director and writer.  She was in a number of movies in the festival that year, but I chose to see this one.  I remember being struck by her, and by another story of China trying to reconcile its traditions with its future.

And my favourites (a tie)

The Grifters – This might be a top 10 movie for me.  I loved everything about it, the story was gutting, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, and John Cusack gave the best performances of their lives, and Stephen Frears made it flawlessly.  This is about as good as it gets.

An Angle At My Table – Directed by Jane Campion, this is the story of Janet Frame, an Australian writer and the most unusual, quirky, confounding and human character.  This was the first time I saw Kerry Fox, who played the lead.  She went on to star in Shallow Grave among other things, Danny Boyle’s first and awesome movie.  She does a lot of Australian TV now so we don’t see much of her anymore, too bad.  Jane Campion went on to direct The Piano and later, Bright Star.  Two more favourites.

To have two movies of this caliber in the festival was what struck me looking back.  I was really wowed by both of them.

March 8 – Film Friday – TIFF Programme 2006

Film Friday March 8

Today I’m giving away the 2006 TIFF Programme.  Another excellent year for the festival and a couple of great discoveries for me.  I have a slightly longer list than previous years because it was so good.

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing – directed by Barbara Kopple who already had a big name in documentaries.  She was at the screening and did one of the best, most enthusiastic Q&A’s I’ve ever attended.  She told us that when they  started this project they thought they were going to make a movie about the Dixie Chicks’ worldwide tour, to show an insider’s view of the machinery that makes a huge star juggernaut act happen. Then, on the first or second night of the tour, Natalie Maines said to a UK audience they were ashamed that George W. Bush came from Texas.  Their world exploded and the movie follows them over the next 12 months through all of the protests, and the making of their follow up album.  I loved the music, but even if you can’t get into it, it’s a great movie and an amazing story about the right wing machinery that makes a different kind of juggernaut act happen.

After the Wedding – This was the film and the year that Mads Mikkelsen entered my life.  It’s a great movie in any case but, if you have only ever seen Mads as the poker player who sheds blood tears in Casino Royale, you have no idea what this man can do.  Denmark has an amazing film community, they are at least half of the guys who gave us Dogma, but more importantly they gave us Mads.  See anything he is in, especially in Danish.  He will grip you from the first frame to the last.  FYI – especially true of this year’s The Hunt

Fay Grim – Another instalment in my fangirl appreciation of writer and director Hal Hartley.  I think Jeff Goldblum was miscast, he’s acts too big, but Parker Posey carries the movie.  She’s the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The Postmodern Life of My Aunt – This was a winding story about a woman of a certain age trying to live in and embrace the new China but she gets duped and swindled and ends up back in her old impoverished and small life.  At the time I thought it was too long and her naive decisions frustrated me, but it was a haunting story and a really moving performance.  It stayed with me and became a parable for the transformation that is happening in that country.  It also stars Chow Yun-fat in a great turn as a sneaky Lothario.

The Last King of Scotland – directed by Kevin Macdonald.  Yowsa, that scene in the airport towards the end of the movie is still vivid in my memory after 6 years.  What a cast, Forest Whitaker was Idi Amin and won the Oscar, but it also included James McAvoy, Kerry Washington and Gillian Anderson.  BTW – Kevin Macdonald also directed one of my favourite docs, Touching the Void – it  will keep you on the edge of your seat too.

Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro had already made a few really good movies but this was my introduction to him.   He’s done a lot of weird stuff since (Hellboy II and The Incredible Hulk TV show??) so I don’t know, maybe this was his peak for me.  I thought the mysterious and dangerous world he created underground and the pressing, claustrophic sense of personal threat above ground were incredible.  The movie made me squirm and I loved it.  I also gave big trees a wide berth for a while afterwards.

Jindabyne – This story killed me.  It’s about a bunch of guys in Australia who go on a fishing trip.  As they head up river on their first day, they discover a corpse but make a decision to leave it agreeing to deal with it on the way back.  The corpse, however, is a young, naked, aboriginal woman.  The way the movie handles the fallout and aftermath got a little melodramatic in parts but the rest of it was fantastic. Gabriel Byrne is amazing and the story itself is confounding and will stay with you.

Red Road – To be honest, I saw this movie in London a few weeks after the festival but it was so great, I want to include it.  It was written and directed by Andrea Arnold who went on to make another amazing movie Fishtank, a few years later (she also directed Wuthering Heights but I didn’t see it).  This woman tells really tough stories and has written some of the most complicated and interesting female characters of the last several years.  I don’t want to tell you anything about the story of Red Road because I don’t want to give anything away, but see it if you get a chance, it’s gritty, emotional and surprising.  So is Fishtank.  See either.

And my favourite…

The Lives of Others – Also one of the best Q&A’s I’ve ever attended.  It was a first feature written and directed by Florian Heckel von Donnersmarck (!), and told a gripping, edge of your seat, crackling story. We follow a Stasi agent who, for personal reasons, targets a young attractive couple in the arts, bugs their home, infiltrates their lives and starts listening in to everything.  It’s a thriller, an intimate and complex character study, an examination of loyalty, and a frightening look inside the operations of East German intelligence gathering in the early ’80s.  The lead actor, Ulrich Muhe, was a famous actor in Germany with some influence and was very instrumental in getting the film financed. It turns out that he had been the subject of some harrowing Stasi investigations himself years earlier so he wanted the story told.  It ended up winning the best Foreign Language Oscar. If it had been made in English it would have been a top grosser that year.  See it.  It’s a great movie.

March 1 – Film Friday TIFF Programme 1992

Today I’m giving away the 1992 Program Guide for the Toronto International Film Festival of Festivals (that’s what it was called then).

It was an incredible year.  So many great discoveries for me.  I can’t actually include all the movies that stand out in my mind and I still remember vividly.  The ones that I think would stand up 20 years later or who’s participants have gone on to do interesting things

Bob Roberts The satirical political semi-musical engaging story that was Tim Robbins directing debut.  He also wrote the script.  He’s not prolific but I think he was a good director.  He’s been directing TV for the last ten years.  This was a funny movie, and he got all his big actor friends to play walk-on roles which was a fun part of watching the movie.

Glengarry Glen Ross What a wicked good cast.  My clearest memory is of Alec Baldwin eviscerating Jack Lemon.  I know everyone else was terrific, but that’s what has stuck with me.

The Crying Game This was a huge discovery for me and everyone else.  In those days, you didn’t have to choose your movies in advance, you’d just listen to the chatter and pick up the buzz movies in the lineups.  You’d keep changing your schedule to accommodate the movies you were hearing about.  By the end of the week my calendar looked like a pen had exploded on it.  That year, all anyone talked about was The Crying Game.  Amazingly, no one gave away the ending.  I loved that old festival-going community, they would never allow spoilers.

Strictly Ballroom We all found out what a whacky exaggerated sense of style, affection, and environment Baz Luhrmann brings to his story telling.  He just kept getting better (well, until Australia, what??).

Les Amants du Pont-Neuf An incredibly difficult story about young drifters who fall in love and live on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris.  It was the first time I saw Juliette Binoche in a movie and I’ve tried to see most of what she’s done since.  Paris is beautiful in this movie, especially that old bridge, and I think of that story whenever I’m lucky enough to be there.

Reservoir Dogs  I didn’t see this in the festival but I’d be leaving a gaping hole if I didn’t mention it for 1992.  Every guy I know with even has a passing interest in film has this movie on their top ten list.  Sorry, it’s not on mine but I’ve loved other things that Tarantino has done.

Simple Men I may be Toronto’s biggest Hal Hartley fan.  Every year, the first thing I do when I get the program is look up the director index to see if Hal is there (I call him Hal, we’ve never met). His first movie, The Unbelievable Truth, bowled me over.  I loved his second movie Trust.  Simple Men was his third and I loved it too.  Sadly, he hasn’t had a film in the festival for a long time.  He is a bit twisted and about as dry and deadpan as it’s possible to be, I love his dialogue.  Also, he casts incredibly good looking guys in his movies.

And my favourite

Orlando This was like 4 movies in an hour and a half with the chameleon Tilda Swinton playing a soul who is reincarnated through the ages, changing gender, gaining and losing love, moving through war, royal houses, and across continents.  The program said it was based on Virginia Wolf’s novel of the same name but I haven’t read it.  When I look back now, it was a precursor to Cloud Atlas.  Though, less makeup and a quieter approach made this epic story feel much more intimate.  Sally Potter directed it and Billy Zane was beautiful (making him likeable again after the frightening creepfest Dead Calm) but for me, the big aha was Swinton.


February 22 – Film Friday – TIFF program – 2000

Feb 21 Film Friday

Today I’m giving away the 2000 TIFF program guide and introducing a new feature – Film Fridays.  I have about 20 program guides dating back to 1990 (I must have pitched the ones from the 80’s). They’re quite large and I don’t want to hang on to them any longer so every Friday for the next many weeks I’m going to highlight one of the programs and my favourite movies/discoveries from that year’s Festival.

The 2000 festival was pretty rich.  It was their 25th anniversary, according to the cover, and they had a tribute to Stephen Frears who made many of my all-time favourite movies including The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons.  But the new movies screened were amazing and had a lot of great aha moments for festival goers.  My best impressions and strongest memories were of…

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon a flying fighting movie of no compare from the impressively versatile Ang Lee

Sexy Beast, where we saw Ben Kingsley un-Gandhi himself and we fell in love with Ray Winstone

The Dish another quirky funny movie from Australian Rob Sitch who also directed the quirky funny The Castle

You Can Count on Me revealing Kenneth Lonergan and, even better, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, all of whom I didn’t know up to that point.  I think they all had a following for great stage work but I’m a movie person and didn’t know them.

Memento Christopher Nolan’s writing feat, which I think I didn’t see in the festival but watched later after all the buzz.  Remember how much we all loved Guy Pearce?  People watched that movie backwards and forwards.

Billy Elliott the first feature of Stephen Daldry who went on to make The Hours and created the stage version of Billy Elliott with Elton John – just a little bit of talent there.

Requiem for a Dream an in-your-face horrifying slippery slope drug story.  Darren Aronofsky did more in two hours than 8 years of Just Say No.  Again, I don’t think I saw this in the festival but later on the advice of my filmy friend David.

And my favourite…

Before Night Falls  It was directed by Julian Schnabel, whose first feature was the incredible Basquiat, and it starred Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp (in drag) and Sean Penn.  Javier owned every inch of that movie and haunted you aftwards.  He played Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban poet and writer, who was jailed by the government and had a crazy persecuted life until he was able to leave Cuba and move to New York.  It was programmed by Kay Armatage, one of my favourite programmers while she was at the festival, and she described his performance as “a stunning combination of flash, nuance and intelligence.”  He was smokin’

I’m giving the programs to the Toronto Film School who seemed really excited to get them.

January 26 – Travel postcards

Jan 26

Today I’m giving away these travel postcards.  They’re nice looking travel themed photos and images printed on cool postcards.  They were a birthday present several years ago.  The trouble is, I only send postcards to my niece and nephew, and I send them from the places I’m visiting, usually with cheesy photos of some landmark tourist site.  So these have sat on my shelf for years.

I’m giving them to my sister the artist.  If she can’t use any of the images in a collage or something, she can either regift them, or pass them on to one of her other artist friends to use.




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