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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Toronto 08 Preview, Pt 2

The 35 other titles I am quite interested in seeing… which makes a total of 59… and a lot of stuff that I will be looking for advice on.
The titles…
American Swing – Another swinging doc… but this time, chronicling the specific ups and downs (and ins and outs) of Plato’s Retreat, a club whose daily existence, I must admit, I still can’t get my brain around.
Beaches of Agnes – Agnes Varda’s autobiodoc. Yeah.
Biggest Chinese Restaurant In the World – A 5000 seat restaurant with 1000 in staff… this has got to be fascinating. (And in China, I guess it’s just “the biggest restaurant in the world.)
Blind Sunflowers – Another Spanish civil War drama, but the cast is compelling enough to get me in the door (Maribel Verdu and Javier Camara).
Dead Girl – Stand By Me meets a naked dead girl that comes back to life. Eeeewwww….
Examined Life – How can this navel gazer skip a doc about Big Time navel gazing?
$5 A Day – Chris Walken goes road tripping again… it must be better than Around The Bend right?
Fear Me Not – Kristian Levring is a talent. The Intended kinda crashed on take-off, but Levring is always reaching for something interesting. Here, he co-writes with Anders Thomas Jensen, who wrote and directed the terrific The Green Butchers, and wrote on terrific films like Mifune, Open Hearts, Brothers, After The Wedding and even The Duchess, which also screens at TIFF.
Food, Inc. – Yeah, Fast Food Nation kinda sucked… hopefully, it will work a lot better as a doc.
Gigantic – I’m taking a flier on this one… not completely sure… but hopeful. Could be a cloying car wreck.
Goodbye Solo – Ramin Bahrani is the young and the building… we have to watch each step and hope for some growth every time. Here, he has another cast of unknowns and a very personal idea.
Happy-Go-Lucky – Mike Leigh in one of his happier efforts. You know it will be compelling and very, very human.
Hunger – The Irish Hunger Strike of 1981. I don’t have a lot of info on the film, but it won the Camera d’Or in Cannes for a work from a first-time director this year. IFC picked it up, but no release date yet.
Hurt Locker – Is this FINALLY the Kathryn Bigalow movie we’ve been waiting for her to make, merging drama and action with al of her skills as a movie visualist? The film is written by Mark Boal, who was the original writing on In The Valley of Elah… a red flag for American studios, which have still not picked up the film.
Is There Anybody There? – John Crowley is among the best international directors whose name is probably not all that familiar to many of you. Intermission and the recently-barely-released Boy A are really good movies. So, give him Michael Caine, Rosemary Harris, and Sylvia Sims, amongst others to populate an old age home and to change the life of a 10 year old boy… and I’m there.
JCVD – You guessed it… Jean-Claude Van Damme IS Jean-Claude Van Damne in a Jean-Claude Van Damne action movie.
Lovely, Still – A romance between Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau… I’m willing to try it. Hopefully, a true charmer. Could be something special.
Lymelife – The amazingly self-promotional Derick Martini is back at TIFF with a follow-up with, again, all kinds of talent involved and a story that sounds a little hackneyed. We’ll see. But even if it isn’t great, expect to hear a lot from journalists dragged to cocktail parties.
Me and Orson Welles – I am intrigued by Richard Linklater making the film… and scared to death of Zac Efron trying to act. On the other hand, Linklater has gotten some of the best career performances out of good looking, not very good actors. Sounds kinda like An Awfully Big Adventure.
Middle of Nowhere – John Stockwell’s stock rises and falls, but you never really know which way any of the films is going to go… so I continue to be happy to give him the shot each time around. This time, it’s pot selling teens and 20somethings. We’ll see…
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Is this Michael Cera/Kat Dennings comedy the Juno of TIFF 08? Sony sure hopes so.
Not Quite Hollywood – A doc about the Aussie genre push of the 70s and 80s and how it influenced then-young Hollywood.
Paris, Not France – I know… but if this doc about the phenom of Paris Hilton has more to say than Ms Hilton herself, it could be truly worth the time.
Real Time – A Slamdance hit, Randy Quaid is the hitman and Jay Baruchel is his target… a real time hour before the fateful moment.
Religulous – Bill Maher and Larry Charles take aim at organized religion in what seems to be an elaborate episode of Penn & Teller’s Showtime series, Bullshit. Hoping it’s great.
Sexykiller – Kind of a perfect double feature with Paris, Not Hilton, this is the story of a fashion model who is also a psychotic killer… but things really get fun when her victims start coming back to life. Hee Hee.
Skin – Anthony Fabian is a UCLA-trained filmmaker doing his first feature, the true story of a dark skinned daughter of white parents in 1955 South Africa. I am a fan of Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill and Alice Krige as her parents should be interesting.
Sky Crawlers – Oshii anime… sounds truly bizarre and adult… the story of a culture that watches war as a TV sport and the people who fight that war.
Slumdog Millionaire- Didn’t Danny Boyle see Millions? Oh… he MADE Millions. But this one is in India!
Synedoche, NY – Charlie Kaufman at the helm of his own script. The most easily noted piece of inspiration? Casting Emily Watson as Samantha Morton, since so many people can’t really tell them apart. Some big ideas here, but it still comes back to classic Kaufman… why can’t I clear my mind and my heart and allow myself to love? Believe it or not, this one is more complex than any of the other scripts. But if you ignore much of the first act, figuring it out becomes much easier. Follow the metaphors.
Tony Manero – How can you think twice about seeing a Brazilian movie about a guy obsessed with Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero? I mean… it could be horrible and the kitsch value is through the roof?
Uncertainty – From The Deep End writer/directors Scott McGehee & David Siegel, two of the hottest young actors – Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Olivia Thirlby – as a couple that gets pregnant… there are two choices of what to do… and the movie follows them through both possibilities.
Wendy & Lucy – I’m trying really hard to get onto the Kelly Reichardt train… really. People LOVE Old Joy so intensely. I was fine with it, but not bit. Maybe this, slightly bigger film with the ever-watchable Michelle Williams at the center (Lucy is her dog), will be the one.
What Doesn’t Kill You (aka Real Men Cry) – Southie battles with a top notch cast (Ruffalo/Hawke/Peet). The cliché fairies are circling, but let’s hope it is above and beyond.
Witch Hunt – 25 years of false sexual abuse charges, with innocent parents going to jail, make this doc about the tragic situation in Bakersfield, CA a must see.

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What do you make of the criticism directed at the film that the biopic genre or format is intrinsically bourgeois? That’s the most crazy criticism. That’s an excuse for not engaging with the content of the movie. Film critics sometimes, you know, can be very lazy.

Come on, formal criticism is valuable too. But I’m amazed when this is the thing they put in front of the discourse. My situation is that I’m dealing with a highly explosive subject, a taboo subject that nobody wants to deal with.

Karl Marx? Yes, this is the first film ever in the Western world about Marx. And I managed to make an almost mainstream film out of it. You want me at the same time to play the artist and do a risky film about the way my camera moves and the way I edit? No, it’s complicated enough! The artistic challenge — and it took me ten years with Pascal to write this story — was the writing. That was the most difficult part. We were making a film about the evolution of an idea, which is impossible. To be able to have political discourse in a scene, and you can follow it, and it’s not simplified, and it’s historically true. This is the accomplishment. So when someone criticizes the formal aspects without seeing that first, for me, it’s laziness or ignorance. There’s an incapacity to deal with what’s on the table. I make political films about today, I’m not making a biopic to make a biopic. I don’t believe in being an artist just to be an artist. And by the way, this film cost $9 million. I dare anyone in the United States to make this film for $9 million.
Raoul Peck on The Young Karl Marx

“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948