The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

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 »

“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire