MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Toronto 08 Preview, Pt 1

I am now working my way through the TIFF list… here is the first part of what I am finding that I think might be particularly interesting…
Appaloosa – Ed Harris takes on the western… fingers crossed.
Blindness – Fernando Meirelles took a beating in Cannes… but I trust him more than I trust “them.”
The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson’s first, Brick, was a cult phenom… and little seen by mainstream movie lovers. Here, he has indie beloved Ruffalo and Brody as brothers/con artists, working Rachel Weisz. Fingers crossed.
Burn After Reading – A Coen Bros comedy. ‘Nuff said.
Burning Plain – The soul of the dramas with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo Arriaga gets behind the camera for the first time with Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger on board in lustful, ripe roles. The only question is whether it will entertain as much as it punches you in the face.
Che’ – I can’t wait to see it. Again, I trust few critics, especially when impatience was the leading theme of most slams. Maybe it really does need to be cut… maybe not. We’ll see.
Disgrace – A remarkably quiet production, given that it adapts a very popular J.M. Coetzee book and stars John Malkovich as the professor whose disgrace starts the story rolling. It could be the fact that the filmmakers, the Aussie husband and wife directing/writing team Steve Jacobs and Anna Maria Monticelli, are little known commodities. But this one smells of being one of those that surprises at the fest.
The Duchess – More pretty dresses, on and off.
Easy Virtue – Stephen Elliot, the man who put Guy Pearce, Terrance Stamp, and Mr. Smith in drag, is back at the movies with a Noel Coward romp. Finding the right speed for movies of this tone is very difficult.
Flash Of Genius – Universal is quite serious about their variation on Tucker: A Man & His Dream with Greg Kinnear in the Jeff Bridges role.
Girl From Monaco – I have become an Anne Fontaine fan, mostly from exposure at TIFF. Once again, she works in the arena of people who don’t belong together, but just can’t help but to be drawn into trouble.
The Good, The Bad & The Weird – Billed as “the first kimchi western,” it comes on the heels of Takshi Miike’s Sukiyaki Wastern Django. Word of mouth is good on this one.
Il Divo – A political film with passionately mixed response at Cannes, at least as far as whether it will play in North America.
Inju, The Beast In the Shadow – A Barbet Schroeder thriller, he is usually a sure bet for a good time in this mode, if the not the most subtle experience.
The Lucky Ones – Veterans cross America on way home… it’s been in the can a while…
Miracle at St Anna – Spike Lee’s black Saving Private Ryan. Hopeful.
Nothing But The Truth – Rod Lurie’s recently delayed tale based on the Valerie Plame scandal, from the POV of the reporter who was jailed for not giving up her source. Lurie risked casting Kate Beckinsale, who has been known for her vinyl pants instead of her acting in recent years, looking to score some serious points, along with Vera Farmiga as the glam CIA agent and Lurie regular Alan Alda in a showy role.
Other Man – Richard Eyre’s follow-up to the very successful and underrated Notes on a Scandal, this is another intrigue with Liam Neeson seeking out the truth about his wife’s secret relationship. Sounds a little like one of my beloveds, Damage.
Pride & Glory – Gavin O’Conner tries not to fall into cliché with the story of NY police family tested by… blah blah blah. The thing is, when those clichés are overcome, the results can be very exciting.
Public Enemy No. 1 – The French version of a familiar tale stars the always fun to watch Vincent Cassel and Depardieu. I’m willing to give this one a chance with hopes for great fun.
Rachel Getting Married – Jon Demme’s tribute to Altman adds in Demme’s love of music with the daring choice to tell a real, human story and not to rely on easy Hollywood answers to every dramatic question. A festival film that will cause fights between friends.
Rocknrolla – Guy Ritchie doesn’t suck… a key theme when his last film was the career-horror Revolver. But this time out, the film works and has a cult star turning bigger and bigger in Gerard Butler.
The Wrestler – Darren Aronofsky has gotten the CG ambitions out of the way and is back to hard core, personal storytelling with style. Mickey Rourke has a shot at being a big story at this year’s fest.
Zack & Miri Make A Porno – As raunchy as this one sounds, word is that it has a degree of sweetness more like Chasing Amy than Clerks, with skills that Kevin Smith has built over the years.
(Director mistake corrected, 8:45p)

One Response to “Toronto 08 Preview, Pt 1”

  1. doobiedoo says:

    Stephan Elliot. Not Stephen.

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin