The horrific events of September 11th, 2001 were possibly my earliest memory of seeing news on television. I was very young, but I recall standing in front of our old, square-shaped television, the crackling sounds of which woke me up at night. Even after 20 years of pain, overwhelming grief, and gradual healing, I think of the people whose lives were cut short and who will never be able to say goodbye. Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11, directed by David Belton and Bjorn Johnson, is a documentary that provides a unique insight into the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City, struck the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and killed people on board Flight 93 flying over Pennsylvania. The film is a riveting and emotional testimony of people who survived, lost loved ones, and witnessed the event that changed America.
The 2011 Toronto Film Festival comes to a close today, and the fest has announced their annual wards, including three Audience Award winners to keep an eye on. TIFF has a few jury awards, but mostly focuses on the Audience Awards winners, with a few FIPRESCI Prizes' thrown in, too. This year's biggest winner is Where Do We Go Now?, directed by Nadine Labaki, which won the Cadillac People's Choice Award, the top prize that has ended up going to Oscar winners past like The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and Precious. But will this year's winner be a Best Picture pick? More info and the full TIFF 2011 awards below!
In the indie world, films often rely on character dynamic alone to tell a good story, and it doesn't always work. But with Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, her follow-up to mumblecore comedy Humpday, the chemistry and performances are so damn good it makes the film even better. Starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as sisters, and Mark Duplass as the one man in the mix, the film explores a unique relationship dynamic, a sort of unconventional mixup of love and sex that provides plenty of humor, but also has heart. It's sweet, amusing, and most importantly enjoyable to watch, one of my late fest favorites.
Holy crap the Midnight Madness line-up this year at the Toronto Film Festival is incredible (for the most part)! The other midnight film, besides The Raid, that I caught without knowing what I was about to even see and ended up loving is a French action-thriller called Sleepless Night (or Nuit Blanche in French). It's directed by a filmmaker named Frédéric Jardin and stars up-and-coming actor Tomer Sisley as a cop, but it's one of those surprising "that was AMAZING" discoveries that I cannot wait to tell everyone about. It's an intense, edge-of-your-seat film that mostly takes place inside/around one massive Parisian nightclub.
As I continue seeing films at the Toronto Film Festival, it's always hard to keep up with written reviews of everything, since I usually see three or four films per day. Instead, I met up with my good friends Jordan Raup of The Film Stage and Peter Sciretta of SlashFilm to record a video blog, right on the street, talking about two films we saw in the last few days. This video includes our thoughts on Nacho Vigalondo's new sci-fi drama Extraterrestre (aka Extraterrestrial) and Jennifer Westfeldt's new indie dramedy Friends with Kids, which is basically an indie version of Friends with Benefits, but with Kids, too. Watch below!
I'm a die-hard Comic-Con devotee. Its the convention I've been attending the longest and I unconditionally love it. Premiering at the Toronto Film Fest is Morgan Spurlock's second full documentary of 2011, about the San Diego Comic-Con (aka Comic-Con International), the annual comics/movies/games/pop culture convention in Southern California that attracts upwards of 200,000 people every July. It's a nerd mecca that brings in devoted fans from all over the world. Spurlock's doc was shot at the Con in 2010 and follows five particular people attending, one an exhibitor, one a costume designer, others various comic artists/geeks.
Did you see Signs? Good, because if you didn't, you won't get this film at all. That's not entirely true, but it's that context that frames this comedy, and damn is it hilarious. Jeff Who Lives at Home is the latest film from the Duplass Brothers (of The Puffy Chair, Baghead, Cyrus) that, in its simplest description, is a stoner comedy about a 30-something guy who lives in his mom's basement and the adventure he goes when leaving to buy wood glue. But it's actually all about destiny. Does any of this make sense? No? Good, because that's how wacky yet funny this is, especially with Jason Segel leading the way as Jeff, who lives at home.
There are lots of black comedies, which are usually quite edgy, then there are really, really black comedies, and Bobcat Goldthwait (of Sleeping Dogs Lie, World's Greatest Dad) is one of the kings of those very black comedies. God Bless America is his newest film and it makes quite a bit of fun of America, as if it were Bobcat's rant against the endless idiocy found there, but it's also hilarious in dark—very dark—ways. My first thought is that it's this year's Super (from James Gunn), in terms of the violence and craziness, and its light, amusing tone throughout, but I laughed quite a bit more during this film that I did in that comedy.
Holy shit I haven't seen an action movie this good in years! I felt that way only 30 minutes in, but after the full 100 minutes, I still felt the same and had to exclaim that here, right upfront, because it deserves that much praise. I saw the Indonesian film The Raid at the Toronto Film Fest, it's the opening night Midnight Madness film, and it's crazy, with insanely awesome action non-stop throughout. Written and directed by Gareth Evans, the film takes place entirely in one big drug lord-controlled building, where the police raid is occurring, but things don't turn out as planned and the tides are completely turned just halfway through.
I'm a sucker for inspirational sports films. As soon as our team starts winning, that's when I start grinning. Moneyball, adapted from Michael Lewis' book, isn't your conventional sports film. Not only does it have Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian credited for the script, but it's directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), and focuses on Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who built a team based on statistical strengths. The film, which had revisions after Steven Soderbergh left the project, has remnants of his semi-documentary concept, but also has a compelling story centered on Brad Pitt as Beane that builds throughout the film.
Something for everyone as love stories, psychological chillers, political thrillers, comedies and more join the festival's line-up. The Toronto International Film Festival has announced another huge batch of titles for TIFF 2011 this year, putting their total well over 100. While there was plenty in the original line-ups announced, there's even more in these selections of films that I'm very excited to see this year, including Nacho Vigalondo's new sci-fi film Extraterrestrial, which we've teased before (though I'm surprised it's not a Midnight Madness film). You can check out a full list of the latest TIFF films announced just below.
The 36th Toronto International Film Festival has just announced an additional 44 films as part of their 2011 line-up. Early last week they unveiled their Gala and Special Presentation selection, today they've revealed their Vanguard International Films, World Premiere Documentaries and Midnight Madness line-ups. Among the highlights are Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con doc, Wim Wenders' highly acclaimed Pina doc, Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss, cult fave Kill List (trailer), Aussie film Snowtown (review) and many more. It looks like Toronto will be a strong year with lots to discover. Read on for the full list of new titles.