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:
So here are a few more things I learned, or have confirmed over the past few days:
- These so-called autograph hounds are really destroying the unique red carpet, fan experience that TIFF is so well known for. They find whatever stock photo they can, and shove it in the face of any star — hoping to get a signature they can later sell on eBay. It’s one thing to be a fan and get something of your own signed, but these guys take it to another level. I’m impressed with their speed, and how many items they can possibly juggle all at once. But we need to be serious. How many people genuinely still buy autographs? Or even still want them? I figured the selfie had become the commodity of choice, so why are these guys still running around and getting Salma Hayek to sign 5 different pictures at 2-3 different times?
- These celebrities are genuinely scared of the crowds. Sandra Bullock kept at least an arms length distance away from all the fans that came to see her on the Our Brand is Crisis red carpet, and I heard of other celebrities doing the same thing. Some like Jason Bateman outright refused selfies, and Natalie Portman is apparently totally adverse to doing more than just waving at fans. The fest has had a very odd vibe, but seeing and hearing these things is disconcerning. Toronto was known for being friendly and very welcoming to stars. Now it seems like we’re in for a rude awakening when stars stop doing anything for fans (not like they are obliged to in the first place).
- Time is not an issue. People wait around to see stars for mere seconds. People wait in lines to get the best possible spot they can in a theatre, and then need to hold off hordes of people running behind them. People wait in endless rush lines, hoping to score a ticket to something that’s off sale. I was going to try and rush this year for the sheer thrill of it, but all the movies I intended to rush were never off-sale. But then you hear someone waited 9.5 hours in the rush line to see Tom Hiddleston and High-Rise and was not successful — and suddenly you have no intention of trying again.
- When they tell you to be on the website to check for tickets at 7am, they are not kidding. They are sold out within seconds and may not even show up at all. I was unsuccessful trying to get another ticket for the Jason Reitman Live Read, but grabbed Spotlight premiere tickets that were gone 2 minutes after I got them. It’s a total gamble, but at least has more certainty than a rush line.
I’ll have a few more thoughts after the festival, but here are a few short non-capsule reviews for some of the titles I’ve watched (along with a link to the synopsis on the TIFF website):
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)
Not at all what I expected. It is an interesting watch, but is ridiculously slow moving. We learn so much about the kids involved in the “bang gangs” (games of Spin the Bottle and Truth or Dare amped up) before hand, but we never really care about any of them. The ever changing perspective does not help. You wait the whole movie for some sort of consequence to happen, but it comes so close to the end that it all gets wrapped up and resolved within the span of 10 minutes — which feels like a cop-out more than anything, and a betrayal of the entire coming-of-age genre.
This is a film that could have done with better direction. All the elements seem in place and moments are genuinely thrilling (including a goofy crowd pleasing ending that is somehow more unrealistic than Argo‘s), but the film lacks any form of real substance. We only get hints of the genuine atrocities taking place, but the film seems keen on never really going into any form of depth about any of them. Daniel Brühl shines, but he deserves a lot better work than this.
The Family Fang
I was hoping this sophomore effort by Jason Bateman would be a lot better. He gets terrific performances from Nicole Kidman (who actually shows real emotion!) and Christopher Walken, but the film seems all over the place. The frank message of parents screwing up their kids is loud and evident, but the mix of footage from various timelines never seems to gel, and the film can never reconcile whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. Any edge it has is lost part way into the second act. I really dug Bad Words when I saw it at TIFF in 2013, but this was just disappointing.
I Smile Back
Sarah Silverman has never wowed me as a comic, but she is absolutely extraordinary here as a mother and wife bent on self destruction. She is the focus of nearly every single scene, and she practically burns a hole through the screen with her performance. We have seen actresses go dark before, but Silverman’s practically lives in the gutter. It is horrifying to watch just as much as it is mesmerizing. Her character is the only one that gets developed sadly, but she makes up for that in spades. Expect Oscar to come calling.
I missed the first five-ten minutes of this one (waited in line for a photo with Salma Hayek that never came), but I was surprised by it not being nearly as bad as people had said. It’s really short (just a hair over 90-minutes) and genuinely pops. Sure it is a bit confusing with the three timelines, Jai Courtney’s stunted acting (no surprise there), and Kate Mara and Gary Oldman somehow getting saddled with being glorified plot devices, but Shia LeBoeuf has not put this much effort into a performance in ages. He still has a long way to go as an actor, but it was a genuine change of pace to see and something I can only hope he continues to pursue.
Men & Chicken
I laughed quite a bit at Anders Thomas Jensen’s genuinely deranged family dramedy, but anything interesting about it quickly devolves into a monotonous bore. It slows down too hard in the middle after all of the main characters are brought together, and never recovers. Points for an unrecognizable Mads Mikkelsen playing a compulsive masterbator clad in awful hair and a mustache. The visuals are great, but the content is not.
Not sure what to make of this one yet. Happy to see such a strong female character like Diane Kruger’s Romy, but the film is a bit too slow moving for me. So much happens, but at the same time, barely anything happens. It is a very quiet mediation on life and love, and is populated by a number of recognizable faces like Lena Dunham, Joshua Jackson and a fleeting cameo by Lou Diamond Phillips. Norman Reedus is really good, but the film never lets him explore his character.
With 2.5 days to go, there’s still more to come so stay tuned!