Film Musings

Image Courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival

By David Baldwin

While the pandemic is far from over, one of the few wonderful things that has happened is the ease of access some film festivals have created for online audiences watching from home. We no longer need to physically be in certain cities in order to see great films — we just simply need to point and click. While some festivals demand the sacred in-person experience not be destroyed under any circumstance, others have pivoted to a welcome hybrid model of in-person screenings and online on-demand screenings. The Whistler Film Festival, running December 1-31, 2021, is one such festival and is available to online audiences across Canada (an in-person portion of the festival concluded this past Sunday in Whistler). Films are available daily and can be viewed at any time before December 31, which will certain make festival planning alongside family holiday events a whole lot easier.

I was given the opportunity to sample three films prior to their online screening date, and have included a few of my thoughts on these films that could not be any more different below:

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Image Courtesy of Reel Asian

By David Baldwin

Today is the last day of the 25th Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. You are likely SOL by the time you read this if you wanted to see the encore theatrical screening of the award winning Opening Night film Islands, but it is still available to view on the Digital portal.

That film centres on Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas). He is about to turn 50, still lives with his parents and works as a janitor in Toronto despite being a dentist in the Philippines. He has never really taken care of himself, and prays nightly for God to bless him with a wife and children. When his mother dies suddenly, Joshua must start taking care of his ailing father alongside his visiting cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco), and begin to learn how to survive on his own. While that certainly does not sound like a wonderfully uplifting romp, Writer/Director Martin Edralin influses Islands with a raw emotional core that feels deeply personal and authentic. The film is paced slowly yet methodically, which allows for Edralin to hone in on the wonderful, naturalistic performances from Balagtas and Lotuaco — who you would never guess are both first-time actors! There are laughs, there is tragedy, and there is a whole lot of humanity coursing through Islands veins. It is moving and beautiful, and while you may not be on board initially, you will definitely come around to it all as the film progresses. Just watch out for Esteban Comilang as Joshua’s father Reynaldo. His very physical, very lived-in work is utterly devastating.

If that does not sound your speed, here are two more recommendations to watch before the festival ends:

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Image Courtesy of Reel Asian

By David Baldwin

The 25th annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival kicks off today and runs until November 19. This year’s festival offers a diverse slate of 19 feature films, short films, conferences, panels and more. All are available digitally, alongside an in-person screening of tonight’s Opening Night Film Islands at the Hot Docs Cinema. This is my first year being accredited for the festival, and what a banner year to be a part of. There are so many great titles from other festivals appearing here, many available to Toronto audiences for the first time. Here are just a few of the films you should be keeping on your radar.

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Image Courtesy of FOFS

By David Baldwin

Though I have always gravitated towards watching feature-length films, I have found over the past decade that I have increasingly become more interested in experimental short films. The breadth of ideas in these films is staggering and the way filmmakers compose and tell their stories in such a short time is simply miraculous. Some of these films work and look slick, while others fail and look incredibly amateur. But the passion radiating from these films is second to none. You can tell from every frame just how much love went into their creation. I worked on a few short films with my brother over the years, and the camaraderie and collaboration that went into those productions gave me a deep appreciation and admiration for the format.

I say all of this because I am excited to see what the 8th Annual Future of Film Showcase has to offer this July. I only knew about the festival showcase in passing previously, and this is the second year in a row where the work of 11 filmmakers will be available for all Canadians to watch for free on CBC Gem from July 9-22. I had the opportunity to screen four of the films in advance and if this is what we have to look forward to, I cannot wait to see what the rest of the festival will have in store.

Here’s a little preview of what to expect:

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Another year, another TIFF. It was my ninth year in a row of going to the festival, and my second time covering as Press — but first time where I actually used the pass as it was meant to be used. The less said about the last time, the better.

I watched 5 films before the festival, 44 films during (my own personal record!), attended 2 Press Conferences, 1 Jason Reitman Live Read (for The Breakfast Club no less), and even had some time leftover to skip a whole day to attend the wedding of a dear friend. Through all the smoking and deep, depressing films, I had a total blast and cannot wait for next year. Perhaps I’ll budget my sleeping better so I don’t doze through a good portion of a movie like The Old Man & The Gun? Probably not, but I can at least pretend that I’ll try.

I wrote quite a few words for Mr. Will Wong on a number of the films I had the opportunity to see, so here are the individual links to those reviews and the links to the Press Conferences I covered:

CAPSULE REVIEWS
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Fahrenheit 11/9
First Man
The Front Runner
Halloween
High Life
Hold the Dark
The Kindergarten Teacher
Kingsway
Let Me Fall [Lof mer ad falla]
Life Itself
Mid90s
Monsters and Men
Nekrotronic
The Predator
A Private War
The Public
ROMA
Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin [Les salopes ou le sucre naturel de la peau]
A Star is Born [2018]
Wildlife

FULL REVIEW

White Boy Rick

PRESS CONFERENCES

First Man
The Front Runner

So it’s the day after TIFF, and I’m exhausted. I got a lot of sleep yesterday since I decided against seeing the People’s Choice Award winner — Room. I had already watched it on Tuesday at the Toronto premiere and after watching the trailer today and getting choked up just watching fragments of the film, I think I made the right choice.

And yes, it is just as terrific as you have heard. I will have a more comprehensive capsule review for it later this week. So in the meantime, here’s a few smaller reviews (along with links to the films’ synopses), along with a picture of the special guest from the Midnight Madness screening of Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse. It’s best you don’t ask what it is, because I am still not sure.

yakuzaapocalypse

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So there was a really big learning curve this year taking the whole week off for TIFF: do I see as many movies as I possibly can, or do I only see a select few and spend the rest of the week writing? As you can probably tell, I picked seeing the movies. I have 3 scheduled for today, but the first does not start until 6:45 tonight — and tickets are still available, so I am not anticipating a crowd.

I’ve been running behind on posting photos as well, so here’s a taste of the main cast from Spotlight on stage after the premiere on Monday, along with the real journalists they were portraying:

spotlightcast

So here are a few more things I learned, or have confirmed over the past few days:

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suicidesquadtrailerstill1

As a film fan in Toronto, I can say I am very excited to see Suicide Squad when it is finally unleashed next August. And I can say I was even more excited to finally see some legit footage from the movie yesterday.

I have been following it intently, and even went to a few of the outdoor shoots throughout May. I was there the first night when Will Smith and apparently, Ben Affleck, were on set. I saw a bit of the digital effects work going into scenes with Smith and Margot Robbie outside of Bay Station (made up to look like a subway station from Metro City).

And I even got to see the friggin’ Batmobile one night alongside well over 500 other people cramming onto a long block of Yonge Street. It was so crazy that night that filming was delayed for 4 hours, and the on-duty police told people they had to go home before shooting would commence again. This, after they escorted the Batmobile up and down the street in all its glory.

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Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters II came out in the summer of 1989. I was 2-years-old, but remember seeing it in a hotel room during a family trip at some point around then. I distinctly remember the pink slime in the sewers, and the guys riding on the Statue of Liberty. I watched the original Ghostbusters religiously before and after that time (on a taped VHS no less), but did not see that movie again for many years after that. From what I can tell and surmise, it continues to not hold up very well at all. Yet I clamoured for more adventures from Venkman, Egon, Spengler and Winston beyond the Saturday morning cartoons, but the years and rumours came and went, and Ghostbusters III never arrived.

In 2009, the flawed but really enjoyable Ghostbusters: The Video Game was released with the majority of the original cast intact, along with a story taking place very shortly after the second film. It was not the sequel we all had been hoping for, but it was as close as we ever got.

I say this all because what I really want to see, and what I will bet just about every film fan alive in the 1980’s and early 1990’s wants to see, is Ghostbusters III. But with Harold Ramis passing away, and the remaining cast not getting any younger, this pipe dream seems like a virtual impossibility.

But fear not – because Sony confirmed yesterday that on top of Paul Feig’s female-lead spiritual sequel/reboot/reinvention/whatever coming next July, they also have a Channing Tatum-lead follow-up planned, another follow-up involving an Avengers-style team-up between both of the new Ghostbuster teams, and some form of a prequel. Whether this is a full-fledged remake of the first film or not remains to be seen. So more or less, Sony is creating another enchanted cinematic universe. Continue Reading