Toronto 2008 Day 7 - Day 10: Final Wrap-Up and Recap!
by Alex Billington
September 16, 2008
It was a rainy day on Saturday as I made my way to Ryerson University for a screening of What Doesn't Kill You, the last film that I had planned to see in Toronto. A full 10 days had come and gone and the Toronto Film Festival was wrapping up. As I sat waiting for the film to begin and listened to the snippet from Patrick Watson's song "Luscious Life" that's part of the intro to every movie, I tried to think back over the last few weeks. What were the highlights? Was it a great fest or was it full of boring indie films? A smile came across my face as I recalled the great times and great movies, like Darren Aronofsky's The Wreslter, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and even JCVD and the stop animated film Leo and Edison from my first day. Another great fest had come to an end.
Give or take of few of the films that I mentioned above, there wasn't that much that really surprised me this year. I usually find one or two hidden gems at every film fest but this year there weren't really any, which was quite sad to see. The Wrestler is an exception only because I knew it was coming, but if I had to name one that surpassed all my expectations, that would definitely be it. On the other hand, I really didn't see as many movies as I had wanted. By the middle of the fest, so many tips were coming at me from everywhere, that I really didn't know what to choose, what to skip, or what to still see. It's hard to balance scheduling when you've got big films like Zack and Miri and Che that I really need to see, and suggestions like Goodbye Solo and Gigantic that I'd really like to see, all overlapping with each other.
The key films that I did miss as I look back over my pre-fest choices are The Burning Plain, The Hurt Locker, Is There Anybody There?, New York I Love You, Nothing But the Truth, and Religulous. I'm still crossing my fingers and hoping that I'll be able to catch all of these at some point in the future, as they're films I'm really anxious to see much sooner than later. I saw a total of 20 films, excluding those I saw early, at this year's fest, which is a good number, but far below the number that I could have seen. For some odd reason, I always run into problems with sleep and problems with time and can never see as many movies as I want in Toronto. Sundance is a different story and I usually average about three films per day while here in Toronto it's only two. It's not really a huge problem, I just wish I could've seen so many more!
As a final wrap up to the fest, I wanted to mention my thoughts on a number of the films that I saw. These range between my fondest memories of particular films to highlights of the entire fest. And if you're looking for little tidbits to use in judging whether certain films are worth seeing or not, this should be a start.
Leo and Edison - I never actually reviewed this, but as I look back, it was one of the best stop animated films I've ever seen. The story was hilarious and the experience overall was quite fulfilling for a film made entirely with clay. Definitely suggested!
JCVD - It gets better the more I think about, it, a cult classic no doubt, but still not that great of a film - too many quirky scenes, like JCVD's mid-film personal monologue. (Review)
Me and Orson Welles - That performance by Christian McKay as Orson Welles is career-defining. No wait, it's more than career defining, it's what he'll be known for, and he deserves an Oscar for it, if not so much more. (Review)
Burn After Reading - John Malkovich hasn't been this good since he played himself in Being John Malkovich. Another great film, but not exactly the best comedy or the best drama of the year. (Review)
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - I think I liked this so much because it had so much heart on top of so much comedy. I didn't laugh as much as I smiled, and to me that's important. (Review)
Deadgirl - One of the most fucked up movies I've ever seen, but refreshingly original and impressively grotesque. My regards to the directors, Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, for some great work here. (Review)
The Wrestler - This had one of the best ending scenes all year. I'm really anxious to see it again because it was so damn good. Definitely suggested! (Review)
The Brothers Bloom - Adrien Brody's performance in this is still my favorite of the entire fest, right below Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. I'm even claiming this was better than his Oscar winning role in The Pianist - it reallly was that good! (Review)
The Burrowers - Remarkably this had some of the best cinematography of any film at the festival, which says a lot, but I also didn't love it. I'll definitely be watching it quite a few times over, but for some odd reason I don't feel like it's the next creature classic. Maybe I'm wrong on this one? (Review)
Synecdoche, New York - I can't write a review because I'm so confused by what I saw. I don't know what happened, I don't understand any of the themes, and I'm still trying to process the entire thing while attempting to figure out what actually took place. Charlie Kaufman might be called brilliant but also complex.
Gigantic - I expected so much more from Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel, but alas, this did not deliver in the slightest. Better luck next time I suppose?
Lymelife – The Culkin Brothers natural chemistry and impressive performances from both really took me by surprise. This is also Emma Roberts first role where really prove that she's on her way to becoming an amazing actor, in addition to remaining ridiculously cute. (Review)
Goodbye Solo - I should have loved this a lot more than I did. I do expect to like it a lot more when I see it again, but my first viewing didn't leave me as emotional affected as it should have. Definitely suggested! (Review)
Che - This deserves a lot more credit than it's getting. Steven Soderbergh is actually a great director and Benicio Del Toro does an amazing job, but just because it's a very long movie doesn't mean either of those two should be discredited. (Review)
What Doesn't Kill You - The best score out of any film I saw at the festival, hands down. If only it were part of a better movie, I probably would be calling this the biggest surprise gem. (Review)
Now I've got to name my favorite film of the fest? It looks like The Wrestler takes the crown this year, being the one film that I truly remember enjoying the most. It's followed by (in no particular order): Lymelife, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and The Brothers Bloom. Other films that I definitely suggest are Leo and Edison, The Burrowers, Goodbye Solo, and Slumdog Millionaire (although I actually saw that film at Telluride). At the end of the day, I decided to catch the screening of the Cadillac People's Choice Award, which was Slumdog Millionarie this year. I absolutely frickin' love that movie and enjoyed it just as much a second time. Maybe I was wrong - there are some true gems coming out of Toronto this year!
I'm currently off to Austin, Texas where we'll be starting our coverage of Fantastic Fest fairly soon. This immense film festival tour still isn't over yet which means there's still a chance to discover more great movies. When I look back at Toronto, it's definitely The Wrestler that I remember the most and will be revisiting in the next few months. Toronto is not my favorite festival nor is it the best, but I always look forward to attending every year because it has so much to offer and it's an enjoyable 10 day escape into the world of great independent cinema. I'll definitely be back next year and will be planning more extensive coverage. Until then, we've got Fantastic Fest kicking into gear this week and Sundance in January.