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.

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