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.

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

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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…

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?”

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.

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.]

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.

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.]

Movie City Indie

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“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho