Blogging Live from Toronto '09: Part 1 - Off to a Slow Start
by Alex Billington
September 12, 2009
If it weren't for two films I saw in the last two days, I would've been unhappy with the start of this year's Toronto Film Festival. The first two I saw on Thursday, the first day of the fest, were two films I was looking forward to seeing, and yet both of them were huge let downs. Not a good start for a festival that lasts 10 days and boasts a line-up of over 250 international features. I'm glad to see that they've kept their slogan "For the Love of Film" this year, though I'm not seeing it up on display as much as last year. Maybe that's why it's off to a slow start? Or (more likely), maybe it's just a coincidence that they switched their signs?
Then again, I did just spend an entire day on planes flying straight from Telluride to Toronto. It's a huge change of pace and I'm still trying to catch up on sleep from that changeover. Case in point, three of the five films I've seen so far I haven't really enjoyed, and when I start off with those kind of films, it really sets the mood for the rest of the fest. I'm hoping things turn around quickly today, as I'd love to discover some great gems and see some other big hits while up here in Toronto (and before I head down to Austin). I'm trying to catch Up in the Air for a second time later today, and I've got a few good films lined up on Sunday, too.
Of the films I didn't like, both Creation and The Men Who Stare at Goats were the biggest let downs. Creation was just boring and convoluted, a mess that had so much beauty to offer but never delivered. The score, by Christopher Young, was the best part, but the rest of the film didn't hold up at all. Similarly, Men Who Stare at Goats struggled to balance its humor and emotion and felt more like it was trying to convince the audience that everything was real rather than entertain them. Unfortunately that didn't work either. The two films that have been the best so far are Jennifer's Body and the Coen's A Serious Man; glad I saw both.
My hope is that it might all turn around in the next few days. I'm going to catch a screening of a Canadian comedy called The Trotsky on Saturday after an interview with Steven Soderbergh (I already saw The Informant early in LA and loved it). On Sunday I'm hoping to see another indie comedy called Get Low as well as the sci-fi drama Mr. Nobody, that I was hoping to see at Cannes, but it never showed up. Let's hope none of those are let downs either. There's a lot of excitement ahead, so bare with me and stay tuned, as I'm doing my very best to bring you the most unique coverage of the 2009 Toronto Film Festival that I can!
Note: From now until October 1st I will be keeping a running tally on all the films I've seen across all three of the film festivals. You can find this list below updated in every new blog post, with links to any reviews.
Telluride Film Festival:
1. Red Riding: 1974 (dir. Julian Jarrold)
2. Farewell (dir. Christian Carion)
3. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold)
4. Un Prophete (dir. Jacques Audiard)
5. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman)
6. Waking Sleeping Beauty (dir. Don Hahn)
7. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat)
8. Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli)
9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (dir. Werner Herzog)
10. Life During Wartime (dir. Todd Solondz)
Toronto Film Festival:
11. Creation (dir. Jon Amiel)
12. Men Who Stare at Goats (dir. Grant Heslov)
13. Jennifer's Body (dir. Karyn Kusama)
14. Valhalla Rising (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
15. A Serious Man (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)