Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I should be sleeping now. Really. But I could hear my e-mail inbox screaming "TOO MUCH TORONTO!!" and I had to help it out. Check out the fine work being done by our various spies up north right now. Bravo to everyone who's taken the time to write in. Please... keep it up. This stuff is great. Give it up for our first spy, "A Little Love."
I saw my first two films at the Toronto International Film Festival today.
The first film I viewed was "Models" by controversial Austrian director Ulrich Seidl. The film is part of a four-picture spotlight on Seidl's works, the other films being: Animal Love, Loss is To Be Expected, and Dog Days. Models follows three friends (Vivian, Lisa, and Tanja) as they struggle to make it in the hectic world of modeling. When the women are not modeling, they spend most of their time obsessing about their bodies and picking up men in clubs. The three women are so shallow that whenever a serious discussion (about relationships, AIDS, pregnancy) occurs, it is always interrupted by their obsessions with their own bodies.
Vivian is obsessed with getting her career of the ground, and is willing to achieve that goal by any means necessary. Although she has a steady boyfriend, Vivian stumbles from one affair to the next in search of a "real affair". Lisa does not fair much better in the relationship department, she only dates black men and spends her a lot time contemplating on what surgery to have next. Lisa also enjoys mixing cocaine and alcohol on a daily basis. While Tanja is constantly striving to perfect her body through yoga and weekly tarot card readings.
Overall I found "Models" to be an entertaining film, flawed, but oddly enjoyable. Austrian director Ulrich Seidl does a very good job of showing the lives of the three women without passing judgment. Seidl is more concerned with giving the audience a voyeuristic view into the world of the three "wannabe" models. To achieve this, Ulrich Seidl often places his camera where the mirror would be. Which makes the audience feel like they are watching everything through a two-way mirror. The one major problem that I had with the film was the pacing. The film is two hours but feels like three. By the time it ended I felt, just like the characters in the film, shallow and unsatisfied.
The next film I saw was a wonderful Canadian film entitled "Last Wedding" from director Bruce Sweeney (Live Bait, Dirty). The writing in this film is excellent! Sweeney crafts a script that is darkly funny and thought provoking at the same time. The stellar cast, which includes Benjamin Ratner and Molly Parker (Kissed, Center of the World), do an outstanding job in timing the comedic notes perfectly.
Similar in theme to Neil Labute's "Your Friends and Neighbors," Sweeney's comedy follows three couples as they encounter problems in their relationships. The first couple (Noah and Zipporah), decide to get married after six months of dating only to find out that they do not really know each other. Noah's best friends Peter and Shane are not happy about his decision but support him anyways. Just as Noah and Zipporah's relationship starts to fall apart, Noah's pals start to notice problems in their own relationships. Peter, a professor, toys with the idea of having and affair; while Shane must come to terms with his girlfriends succeeding where he failed. To giveaway anything more away would be a crime.
Bruce Sweeney and the entire cast showed up for the screening and provided a Q & A session afterwards. Judging by the audience's response and questions, it quickly became evident that almost everyone there loved this film. This is definitely one Canadian film to look out for this year! I know I have already placed the film on my festival top ten list (and I still have 24 more films to go).
Tomorrow: Hearts in Atlantis, Training Day, and The Navigators
Next up is a quickie from Senor Scopa, a brief look at NOVOCAINE...
I was in early tonight to get a good seat for the gala and I lucked out. I also met Ebert tonight before he ran off into a cab though I didn't have my camera ready. So tonights gala was packed again with everyone arriving early. The photos for tonight are RIGHT HERE ....please forgive me for any spelling grammar errors :)
Frank Sangster (Steve Martin) is a dentist who enjoys life. He has a successful practice and a steady girlfriend. When a new patient (Helena Bonham Carter) comes to his practice for a routine root canal job his life begins to change. Drugs are stolen from his clinic, he becomes involved with his patient and he could lose his license.
This film contained the most surprises of the fest so far. It has a strong cast, good writing and good direction. Martin seems equally at ease doing the comedic elements of this film as well as turning in a strong dramatic performance. Carter is great as the drug addict who cons Martin. First time director David Atkins uses a unique mix of subtle humor and film noir to tell the story in a way that is both suspenseful and humorous.
Eric Lurio, spy at large, weighed in with a huge batch of stuff. This guy's busy...
Well, here we is at the Toronto film festival! The official press screenings began on Tuesday, and I've been averaging four screenings a day. You get up at five in the morning and get some coffee before getting on the street car for the Variety multiplex on Bloor street by eight o'clock in the morning at the latest, as the first screenings of the day begin at eight-thirty in the morning. Then we get out of that, take a short break and then back to the theater, and then lunch, then another screening....you can do five or six in a day!
Some people do more, but they tend to see only ten minutes and walk out. I don't do that, even if it's the French version of "Absolutely Fabulous" which is a true dog.
Oh, by the Way, The Worldwide Citibank ATM grid crashed the second day I was here for five hours. I don't appreciate things like that, Moriorty.....
Now here's a selection of some of the flicks I've been seeing, in no particular order....
Hearts In Atlantis
Directed by Scott Hicks
Steven King is best when he lays it on thinly. That's why the less surreal his stories are the better they translate into film. That's why stuff like "Stand by Me" and "The Shawshank Redemption" are so much better than "Carrie" or "The Dead Zone."
As this is King , there's a bit of magic, but although it's central to the plot, that's mostly in the background. This is about the problems of growing up and of friendship, and when it stays on that level, it' s brilliant.
Oscar winner William Goldman's screenplay begins sometime in the late 20th century, the '80s or '90s we can't tell. Robert Garfield(David Morse) has just received a baseball glove in the mail. Apparently hit has been willed to him by his old friend Sully, who was in the military and was killed somehow in an accident. At the funeral, our hero discovers that his other best friend of his youth is also gone, so he decides to go visit the old neighborhood. We then flashback to 1960, when Bobby(Anton Yelchin) and his friends were 11.
Bobby's mother(Hope Davis) is an embittered widow who would much prefer he not be there. She's got some money, but spends it on herself. Bobby gets a library card when he wants a bicycle.
But they really are hard up for money, and so she rents the upper floor of their house to a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan(Anthony Hopkins). He's a very nice fellow, but his eyes aren't that great, and hires Bobby to do two things, read him the newspaper in the afternoons, and look out for "low men" who, it seems are out to get him. He tells Bobby what clues to look for, but as one might expect, the kid doesn't believe a word of it.
So we get back to the normal issues of prepubescent life, as Bobby, Sully (Will Rothhaar) and Carol(Mika Booram) go about the business of lolling around in the summertime and trying to avoid the neighborhood bully (Timothy Reifsnyder). It's reminiscent of many a tale of latest childhood, and every now and then, it soars.
The main reason why is that Hopkins and young Yelchin have great chemistry together. The kid has some really subdue moves and clearly has a future ahead of him. Hopkins himself has given a great performance which will probably give him another Oscar nomination.
This is definitely a keeper. See it.
Written and Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Many years ago, the playwright Eugene Ionesco wrote a play called "Rhinoceros." In it, everybody but the protagonist turns into a rhino. This is something similar but more sinister. Here everyone commits suicide or turns into a stain on the floor.
The beginning of the film is set in a Tokyo flower shop. Apparently somebody was supposed to do some accounting on a computer and he hasn't shown up, so one his coworkers decides to go to his apartment and find out what's happening. He's there alright, but he's acting strange. He then commits suicide and turns into a splotch on the wall.
The disc with the spreadsheets has more on it than that, there's copies of strange photos from a mysterious website that shows people disappearing in front of weird signs or shooting themselves, and something about how to construct a "forbidden room."
Then some student decides to install a Japanese competitor to AOL and he gets connected to a website which asks "Do you want to meet a ghost?" It's the same one the poor fellow from the flower shop was connected to. Will everybody in the world connected wind up as a splotch on the wall, or will the beast be stopped in the nick of time?
This is one creepy movie. The Japanese have dealt with ghosts from the internet before, most recently with the animated TV shows "Lain" and "Digimon" but this is slightly different. There's a feeling of dread here as more and more people just give up and turn into grease stains. Why are the two main characters still there? Are the people constructing the "forbidden room" kits doing so to bring on the monster or keep it away? Just who are the monsters, anyway?
Some of these questions are answered and some aren't, but the ending isn't all that satisfying. But in this film, the journey is the destination, and some of the zigs and zags along the way are pretty cool. The acting is okay, with many of the people have well done nervous breakdowns. The special effects are really good, especially since the film looks rather cheaply made otherwise.
It's almost worth the trip to the art house, and will be worth a look if and when it comes out on video or cable.
Directed by Sturla Gunnarsson
Dave Purcell (William Hurt) is a restaurateur living in Newfoundland. His tiny bistro with a view of the ocean is about to go out of business, and his wife is working as a diplomat in Washington, DC. But all is not lost....
His best friend Phonse (Andy Jones) has an idea: [besides, that is, selling all that cocaine he found beachcombing] He'll let it be known that an extremely rare species of duck has been sighted right next to the restaurant, and all the bird watchers in North America will come to find it and have lunch at our hero's restaurant.
The ploy works, and not only that, Phonse's sister-in-law Alice (Molly Parker) is in town and Dave is in love, soon she's waitressing in his now thriving business and everything is just hunkey dory, except for Phonse's projects, which include a personal submarine, which he thinks that the Winnibago company wants to steal, and new type of electric light, which someone does....
While Hurt and Parker are the main characters and are supposed to be our main interest, the real star of the show is Jones. Why Dave would be friends with Phonse is a mystery. We're talking comic relief that basically overwhelms the rest of the film. True this is a comedy, but it seems that Hurt's basically a glorified straight man and the relationship between he and Jones just doesn't ring true. Jones, however is a real hoot and is almost reason enough on his own to see this otherwise mediocre romp. The climax is delightfully ludicrous.
This is a moderately funny film, which considering the competition, is far and away heads above most of the other so-called comedies that have been coming out in recent months. If it comes out on cable give it a looksee.....
One Last Kiss
Written And Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Imagine, if you will, "American Pie 5." Everybody is in their late twenties and are either married or have given up on the proposition, and is either still looking for love or a way out of their current releationships.
That, without the fart jokes or the pie, is what this thing is.
Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) and Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) have been living together for a few years and are about to turn thirty. Everything is going hunky dory and they're starting a family, this, both brings joy and worry to Giulia's mother(Stefania Sandrelli) who's sick to death of her boring husband.
We meet Carlo and Guilia's friends at another friend's wedding, where we discover that they're having problems with the women in their lives, and it goes on from there. Will a marrage survive?, or will the guys head off in an old van accross the Sahara desert like some of them dream of? Will Carlo and Guillia stay together or will Carlo go off with 18 year-old beauty Francesca (Martina Stella)?
Gabriele Muccino basically has gotten together a fine cast who has managed to get a pretty tired story and breathed life into it.
Directed by Allen and Albert Hughes
Jack the Ripper wasn't the first serial killer, not by a long shot. But he was the first one to become a media darling, and his legend lives on even to this day. The Hughes brothers, who did "Menace 2 Society" and "Dead Presidents." had made yet another version, based on Alan Moore's comic book.
At least it isn't Batman 5....
The story is well known. A serial killer stalked the Whitechapel district of London for several weeks in 1888 killing five prostitutes and carefully butchering them, and driving the people of England's capitol to distraction. He was never found.
So we have a real case, which means that Moore had to stick by the famous facts in the case, but he could still make up some others to fit the popular theory of the case, which since the early 1970s has involved the royal family.
We start with the first murder, or rather an abduction, for one of the prostitutes, Annie, is married, or so she thinks, to a fellow named Albert, who claims to be a painter but is actually Prince Eddy, second in line to the throne. Then her friends begin to go one by one as the mysterious Jack gets to work....
On the case is Inspector Frederick Abberline(Johnny Depp), seer and opium addict, who's psychic powers are vital clues to the case. He's aided by faithful sergeant Peter Godley(Robbie Coltrane), and the two of them lead an army of cops through the mean streets of London's worst slum to find the fiend.
On the one hand, there are the prostitutes. The Hughes brothers have been making inner city movies for years, and this is yet another one. The squalor that was Whitechapel a over a century and a decade ago is lovingly recreated as the ladies in question(Katrin Cartlidge, Susan Lynch, Heather Graham, Lesley Sharp and Joanna Page), eke out an extremely meager living giving the unworthy poor a roll in the hay while trying to earn food, shelter, and payments to the local protection racket. Mary Kelly (Graham) knows this well.
This film has a romantic angle. Abberline and Kelly have a bit of a romance as the latter fights the powers that be, ranging from the Royals to his boss(Ian Richardson), who's apparently a bigoted fool, and the Freemasons, who have been a darling of conspiracy theorists for centuries. One person on the upper levels of society who is apparently willing to help is Sir William Gull(Ian Holm), who knows more than he will let on.
The film itself is very stylish, the production designers and art director have put in overtime to create a London that has since been paved over by urban renewal many times over. This is really a creepy film, as one would expect a mystery about the first superstar serial killer to be. The acting is top rate, especially Coltrane and Graham, who manages to do a great Irish accent.
Definitely worth a trip to the local bijou.
Directed by Christine Jeffs
One thing about film festivals is that you get a lot of depressing films about adolescence. There's lots of implied sex, but not much else, just people being unhappy. Wow.
This thing starts in New Zealand where thirteen year-old Janey(Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) has been forced to go to the beach house with her paren ts(Alistair Browning and Sarah Peirse) and younger brother Jimmy(Aaron Murphy). They're bored as hell as until a guy named Cady(Marton Csokas) shows up.
He's a photographer with a large boat, and takes the family on a fishing trip, this leads to some sexual tension...
Mom flirts with Cady, Janey has the hots for him and Dad is getting totally depressed. Young feels left out and will eventually commit suicide. This is something that isn't going to get into the theaters down in the states, so you don't have to worry about it.
However, Fulford-Wierzbick, who plays the lead has real presence and may
actually get her fanny out of New Zealand and come do some major acting under
a shorter name in the future.
And finally, we've got Noah with his look at the new film from the director of CLOCKWATCHERS...
I was at a screening of Jill Sprecher's new film, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, last night at the Toronto Festival.
After waiting an hour-and-a-half in the rush line (some people were there a lot longer), we were shuffled in to the theatre as the star introductions were finishing.
I haven't seen Sprecher's Clockwatchers, so I didn't know what to expect. The movie reminded me a lot of Amorres Perros, except without the violence, intrigue and length. This is not to say it was bad. On the contrary...
The films starts out slowly, introducing the main characters of the film in small vignettes. John Tuturro plays a college professor disenchanted with his routine life and wife (Amy Irving), Matthew McConaughey is a lawyer on top of his game, Alan Arkin is an insurance claims inspector who is jealous of the happiness of others, and Clea DuVall is a maid with a mysterious aura. I think that about covers it.
I'm not really going to get into the story, because I think you can probably get the idea. We've all seen these movies with interconnected characters, so I will say this: Sprecher does a great job of building the complicated story into something very entertaining. Arkin and the object of his jealousy, William Wise, are standouts on screen together. Tuturro plays his usual neurotic self, DuVall is heartbreaking as Beatrice, and McConaughey, who doesn't usually do this kind of film, should look into doing off-beat fare more often.
The really dramatic moment in the film, however, was when somebody had some sort of medical emergency when the movie was 4/5 over. Somebody started shouting "Is there a doctor in the house!" which was followed by "911's been called!" and then the paramedics in the hallway screaming "There's a fucking medical emergency in the fucking theatre and nobody shut the fucking film off! That's my fucking problem!" Complete madness.
All in a all, a very entertaining night. And I met Clea DuVall. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is a very art-housey film, I'd say if you liked Happiness, you'll like this.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm seeing Prozac Nation, and then later in the week Waking Life and Brotherhood of the Wolf. I'll keep you up to date...
Met Clea Duvall, eh? She's a total sweetie, and it sounds like everyone's having a great time in Toronto. Damn... wish I was there.