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Movie City Indie Archive for May, 2009

Indie in a bit…

Side streetMoon above Kensington


Indie returns shortly. Both images, Toronto in Kensington Market neighborhood.

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HotDocs in bloom

Victoria


A fuller bloom coming shortly. Here: the campus of Victoria College, near the Rogers Industry Centre and beside the Isabel Bader Theatre. And: Same view from 90 degrees east.

Seasons

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HotDocs: more to come

hotdocs2009_3064.jpg


More photo coverage, including award winners and awards night, coming in a bit; a final wrap-up with reviews of highlights to be posted mid-week. Watching, running, talking, uploading and posting can get out of balance. Look for a devoted page in next couple of days…

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HotDocs: ABP: Always Be Pitching



In the Industry Centre, there are times when every conversation is about finance and sales. The refrain this year: “we don’t know next year’s slots”; “we aren’t buying right now”; “we’re waiting to find out our budget”; “Do you have a relationship with someone with money?”

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HotDocs: Toronto always under construction



Walking toward the HotDocs industry center, high-rise construction is displacing small bungalows. Such a typically bucolic Toronto home seems ever more calm next to the bite of demolition.

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Getting to Toronto (and Hot Docs) in a hop, skip and jump

Toronto’s not a frustrating city, but getting there can be: from Chicago’s O’Hare to Pearson International to the city proper is a complication of aggravations. Pearson International has some lovely spaces, but it’s huge, takes a lot of time to traverse and customs lines are long. Then there’s the $C50 or so taxi ride into the city center if you’re in a hurry, or a cheaper shuttle service that’s also at the whims of traffic, almost Los Angeles-thick, taking an hour or more. After a weekend that almost canceled my trip to Hot Docs, it was gratifying to have one of the simplest trips of my life. Porter Air serves several cities in Canada and the U.S., flying 70-seat turboprop Bombardier aircraft, including Chicago. Their flights land at Toronto City Centre airport, on Toronto Island in the shadow of the CN Tower at the foot of Bathurst Street. I started with a 40-minute bus ride from my front door in Chicago and a 15-minute Orange Line train to get to Midway. Everyone had checked in early, so the flight took off something like 15 minutes early. Early! And arrived at YTZ half-an-hour early. (New planes, attentive service, lovely in-flight magazine from the same people who publish Monocle magazine. [current issue pdf]) Luggage? Five minutes. Customs? One attendant for one plane landing. Another five minutes. One of the world’s shortest ferry rides, 120 meters, and a shuttle into the business district. A sunny afternoon, and I’m ready for a 10 minute walk to my accommodations before getting my Hot Docs credentials. It’s been a long time since I’ve been cheerful after getting off an airplane. I’m ready for some nonfiction… [I mention this partly because Porter also flies between New York and Toronto… a hint for any New Yorkers heading to Toronto International in September.]

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Little Ashes (2009, no stars)

pattinson-little-ash.jpgCome for the surrealism, stay for the gibberish. Terrible in a dull way that used to be more commonly called “unreleasable,” “shelved” or “deservedly forgotten,” Paul Morrison’s Little Ashes, starring Twilight biter Robert Pattinson, doesn’t rise to the level of dreadful. Pattinson plays a young, sallow, flabby Salvador Dali; Matthew McNulty, who looks absolutely nothing like the cockeyed, boxer-stout filmmaker Luis Bunuel, is a classmate and poet-playwright-activist Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran) becomes the center of the picture, which insists on a sexual obsession between he and Dali. Beltran has sturdy presence, unlike the other actors, but like the other actors, isn’t given a modulated style of performance over the film’s duration. “I’m trying to be constructive here!” a character bellows in a scene that may as well have been played up against construction paper in a high school production. ”Listen! I’m part of this underground movement,” Garcia Lorca explains. The only instant that rises from the doldrums is a scene that draws on the historical fact of Garcia Lorca’s assassination; the reality is touching even when the scene’s shot through blurred frills of field grass in an olive grove to the murmuring in English over the murmuring in Spanish of one of his seriously bloody poems. Also typical of the visual furze is a sunset scene where faces aren’t lit, golden hour replaced with molybdenum. (Call it “day-for-Twilight.”) Seriously, young Pattinson is given help by neither director nor editor, seeming in every other scene like he’s suffering the actor’s equivalent of dreams where you’re naked in a restaurant. To be more charitable, he delivers a rapt portrayal of mild bowel irritation. The gay and/or homoerotic component is negligible, even if you include the carbonated slow-motion scissor kick underwater to suggest twinkly infatuation between Dali and Garcia Lorca as well as a scene where Dali masturbates to the other man fucking a female friend (the fright-coiffed Marina Gatell) in a nearby bed and the composition of two shots centers oddly, even in an unrated film, on the woman’s bared, posturing anus. “We’ll go for breakfast at the Pelican and you’ll paint all afternoon!” A better line might have been “My best friend got executed in an olive grove and all he got was this lousy biopic.” The typing and formatting of the screenplay is credited to Philippa Goslett.

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Approaching Hot Docs….

Arto Halonen


A bit of unexpected, painful misadventure kept me from getting a HotDocs preview together for today. Still, I should be arriving tomorrow afternoon for keen insight and swell weather. [Photo: Finnish director Arto Halonen double-palming at a HotDocs 2008 party.]

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Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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