Blogging Live from Toronto '09: Part 3 - Final Fest Wrap-Up
by Alex Billington
September 20, 2009
To end the Toronto Film Festival, I caught a 9:30PM screening of The Disappearance of Alice Creed at the Ryerson Theater late last night. We arrived just on time, as I had just finished a big dinner with some friends, and decided to sit on the balcony. I'd never set foot up there before (in three years) and thought, why not check it out? The seats were fine, although they were far away, but as is usual when sitting below the projection booth, I could see the light shining in the air from the window all the way to the screen. What a way to end this fest, I thought, getting that true feeling of sitting in a cinema (think Cinema Paradiso).
That kind of experience is just one of many that I will never forget from TIFF this year. Another favorite part of this fest is the music they use in the opening title video. Before every single film we see at least 10 minutes of sponsor ads and brief fest intro videos, including the official TIFF intro. This year's intro video featured a portion of the song "Light You Up" by Pilot Speed (iTunes), a really great track. Last year it was "Lucious Life" by Patrick Watson (iTunes) and the year before that (my very first year at TIFF) it was "I Feel It All" by Feist (iTunes). I admit that I scoured the web to find out what these songs were, as they're hard to identify.
You're probably wondering why the heck I'm talking about music in my final Toronto Film Festival blog. Well, when you go to a fest like this, and watch some 22 films, you start to notice these kinds of things. I watched that TIFF intro at least 22 times and heard that same song some 22 times as well. You either love it or hate it and TIFF has a knack for picking great songs that I seem to fall in love with, this year being no exception. For me it kind of becomes the "theme song" for Toronto that I always play to remind myself of the festival (as I'm doing right now while writing this). Anyway, I just had to mention that before it was over.
Inspired by this Esquire feature titled 25 Movie Reviews from Toronto in 25 Sentences, I thought I'd do a quick rundown of the 22 movies I saw and provide my own quick one-sentence reaction to each. I really wanted to write a full review for every movie, but that was a little challenging this year considering I had to keep the site up-to-date and there was just so much going on all the time. Anyway, let's get right into it!
Creation - Paul Bettany does a great job, but director Jon Amiel does not, which means that this is nothing more than an impressively boring period piece.
Men Who Stare at Goats - First-time director Grant Heslov couldn't decide whether this was a comedy, a drama, or if he was just trying to make us believe it was all real.
Jennifer's Body - A sexy, incredibly fun, 80's horror throwback without enough blood in it, but with plenty of boobs instead.
Valhalla Rising - Absolutely awful waste of time, completely lifeless, needed a budget, and most importantly, needed a frickin' screenwriter.
A Serious Man - Never thought I would be so amused by Rabbis, but that may be because this is the Coen Brothers and they're just plain brilliant.
The Trotsky - Who would've thought that a Canadian film about a high school student who think he's a Russian revolutionary would actually be good?
Up in the Air - Fell in love with everyone involved this, from George Clooney to Anna Kendrick to Jason Reitman, and it's even better the second time around.
The Informant - Matt Damon made me laugh more than most comedies this year and Steven Soderbergh is back at the top of his game with this one.
Defendor - Woody Harrelson kicks some serious ass as a wannabe superhero, but it's not entirely a genre game changer given its low budget limitations... but it is fun.
Capitalism: A Love Story - I hate to call a Michael Moore documentary a slow burner, but it was, though once it got going it came to a roaring boil.
Mr. Nobody - It was like if Charlie Kaufman and Terry Gilliam together made a French film about love, family, and making the right decisions in life (which is kind of a good thing).
Whip It - Ellen Page never looked cuter on roller skates and I dug it, despite its rather predictable story and use of stereotypical rock songs.
Youth in Revolt - Worst dialogue I've seen in years, but I'm not sure whether to blame Michael Cera and his co-star Portia Doubleday, or screenwriter Gustin Nash?
Leslie, My Name is Evil - Okay, first, what the hell did I just watch, secondly, it probably would've been better to see this off-Broadway on stage, not on the big screen.
Leaves of Grass - A double dose of Edward Norton, a semi-stoner flick set in Oklahoma, some big twists, plenty of laughs, this is a hell of a great film from Tim Blake Nelson.
Get Low - Beautifully shot, a complicated mix of both comedy and emotion, and an amazing performance from Robert Duvall make this an incredible film all-around.
Excited - A Canadian comedy about premature ejaculation that's not really that good nor really that bad, just somewhere in the middle, oddly enough.
Ondine - A charming fairytale set in the dreary part of Ireland that's actually quite wonderful, I was impressed by Colin Farrell again and disarmed by newcomer Alicja Bachleda.
Cleanflix - A good documentary about Mormons editing movies illegally in Utah, presenting all sides fairly, but with some interesting twists that you won't see coming.
Symbol - Like Cube, but if it were Japanese, comedic, on acid, starring one man, and completely insane.
Perrier's Bounty - Some great performances from Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent, and Jodie Whittaker, but nothing original, too much of what we've seen before.
Tanner Hall - Four teenage girls in a boarding school all on the verge of exploring sexuality... but it's actually not that good, which is a shame.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed - The concept in this is fantastic, it plays out great as well (with some big twists), plus the three-person cast does a fine job.
So another 12 days have passed in this epic 28-day trip. I'm traveling back into the US today and heading straight down to Austin where I'll get four days of rest and relaxation before starting up again with Fantastic Fest. I've got to say, the Toronto Film Festival really is a wonderful festival. Every year I come it gets better and better. I finally got a press badge this year (seen to the right - it took my three years to get one!) and things went a lot more smoothly than past years. It's a very mainstream festival, the crowds all around the city come out in droves, most of their screening venues are regular movie theaters, but it's a fest that I love being at, for the people, for the films, everything.
I have to say thanks to all of my friends that made this such a great fest. First and foremost, my good friend Gregory Smith, who brought me to the best parties and introduced me to a whole bunch of new friends. Secondly, my film fest buddy Eric Lavallee of IONCinema.com, who was my roommate during Cannes, and is my favorite indie critic no matter what fest I'm at (even if we don't always agree). Other web friends up here included Steve Weintraub of Collider, Peter Sciretta of SlashFilm, Ed Douglas of ComingSoon, James Rocchi of MSN, Brad Miska of Bloody-Disgusting, and Weston Green of Making Of. I'm sure I'm missing others, as there were so many great people I met!
While this fest may be over, there is still plenty more come. Not only on this 28 day journey, but catching up on everything I missed. A few of those films I sadly didn't see include: Harry Brown, Lebanon, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Micmacs, and A Single Man. Hopefully I'll have the chance to catch them sometime in the near future (at another upcoming festival?). Thanks for all the great memories, TIFF! I'll certainly be back next year, that goes without saying. Although, admittedly, right now I'm getting very excited for Sundance. I can't wait to return to Park City in only four more months. From one fest to another!
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) - Hated It
2. Farewell (dir. Christian Carion) - Just Okay
3. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold) - Loved It
4. Un Prophete (dir. Jacques Audiard) - Loved It
5. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman) - Loved It
6. Waking Sleeping Beauty (dir. Don Hahn) - Loved It
7. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat) - Loved It
8. Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli) - Loved It
9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (dir. Werner Herzog) - Liked It
10. Life During Wartime (dir. Todd Solondz) - Just Okay
Toronto Film Festival:
11. Creation (dir. Jon Amiel) - Hated It
12. Men Who Stare at Goats (dir. Grant Heslov) - Just Okay
13. Jennifer's Body (dir. Karyn Kusama) - Liked It
14. Valhalla Rising (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) - Hated It
15. A Serious Man (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) - Loved It
16. The Trotsky (dir. Jacob Tierney) - Liked it
17. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman) - Loved It
18. The Informant (dir. Steven Soderbergh) - Loved It
19. Defendor (dir. Peter Stebbings) - Liked It
20. Capitalism: A Love Story (dir. Michael Moore) - Liked It
21. Mr. Nobody (dir. Jaco van Dormael) - Liked It
22. Whip It (dir. Drew Barrymore) - Liked It
23. Youth in Revolt (dir. Miguel Arteta) - Hated It
24. Leslie, My Name is Evil (dir. Reginald Harkema) - Just Okay
25. Leaves of Grass (dir. Tim Blake Nelson) - Liked It
26. Get Low (dir. Aaron Schneider) - Loved It
27. Excited (dir. Bruce Sweeney) - Liked It
28. Ondine (dir. Neil Jordan) - Liked It
29. Cleanflix (dir. Andrew James & Joshua Ligairi) - Just Okay
30. Symbol (dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto) - Liked It
31. Perrier's Bounty (dir. Ian Fitzgibbon) - Liked It
32. Tanner Hall (dir. Francesca Gregorini & Tatiana von Furstenberg) - Just Okay
33. The Disappearance of Alice Creed (dir. J Blakeson) - Liked It