TIFF update two

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Normally I have a complex about my film count, but this TIFF has been the worst blog count I have done in seven (?) years of coming to this festival. I used to blog every day. But I didn’t have the time, swear to god, like you want to hear the excuses. HIGHLIGHTS FROM TIFF PART 2:

HELL NO WE WON’T PRE-SHOW: At press screenings you used to get the run of crap you get at regular screenings, ie a bunch of ads for sponsors, whatever bullshit exhibit is going on at the Lightbox (last year Grace Kelly, this year Bond), thanks to the volunteers and an anti-piracy screen at which people would yell “Arrr!” like pirates. All that has disappeared this year (except for the pirate screen, and thankfully no one does it at pressers anymore but they screamed it delightfully at the handful of public screenings I attended). So thank you, TIFF, for that.

NUMBERS: The lowest amount of films I saw in a day was 2, today, because my eyes started crossing. The highest was four, which was most days. On Wednesday I left the house at 8am, watched four movies then went to see Madonna, who played till 12:30, which means I had a 15-hour entertainment day. Boo hoo I know.

YES: Hollywood nerds will love Casting By, about the long history of the underappreciated job of casting agents. When I saw Seymour Stein speak at AFF I nearly fell over hearing the people he discovered: Madge, The Ramones, Blondie etc. Same with this woman Marion Dougherty, the first casting agent to hit the boards in New York and pluck people from the theatre, including Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall and Jon Voight. Scorsese announces that 90 percent of directing is casting; Taylor Hackford comes off like a huge douche in his ownership of the word “director,” big talk from the guy who did Ray, I don’t care if you’re married to Helen Mirren. In other doc news, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is the compelling retell of the story of UCLA prof Angela Davis, who went on the run after it was discovered the guns used to kill a judge and three others in a courtroom hostage taking were hers. What is never addressed is why they had her guns, which is kind of a problem, but it’s a good-looking film.

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are riveting in the true-story drama The Sessions, in which Hawkes (Me and You and Everyone We Know) plays a man with polio who can only move his head, but wants to have sex and hires a surrogate. Wasteland is a sharp British crime film I saw completely by accident. Julianne Moore is an utterly convincing fading rock star in What Maisie Knew, a contemporary Henry James adaptation. In 2007, Ramin Bahani brought his beautiful, tiny film Chop Shop to TIFF. It got a lot of praise but not much audience traction, which seems to be of no concern to the producers of At Any Price, a modern-day farm story about a seed kingpin (Dennis Quaid) being brought down and the son (Zac Efron) who won’t join the family business. There are car races, car crashes, expansive farm equipment scenes and on and on—Bahani clearly has a much bigger budget here, which he uses to his advantage until a third-act twist that didn’t work for me. But Efron is the real deal, you guys.

NO: Efron is the real deal, you guys, even in a terrible mess of shit like The Paperboy. The third film from Lee Daniels is as audacious and fucking stupid as everything else he’s ever done—Precious was a casting coup that had nothing to do with his heavy-handed, self-important direction—and follows Efron and Matthew McConaughey as brothers in Florida. The latter is a reporter who thinks a man (John Cusack, going full Cage) has been wrongfully convicted of murder. This film got buzz at Sundance because Nicole Kidman pees on Efron when he is stung by a bunch of jellyfish. Mostly it’s depraved and sweaty and gross, but in Bad Movie Night way, so maybe get drunk and see it I don’t know.

Similarly depraved and gross is Roman Polanski, convicted rapist. Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out is the follow-up to 2008’s Wanted and Desired, covering his surprise arrest in Switzerland and his surely awful three months of house arrest in his chalet. The film posits, a little bit, that America used him as a pawn to get the Swiss government to hand over the names of people who have $50 billion in unpaid taxes owing from those proverbial Swiss bank accounts, but it never proves it, and anyway REMEMBER THAT TIME HE RAPED A CHILD AND RAN? His friends seem to think surviving WWII and his wife being murdered is a free rape pass, so that’s nice.

And furthermore in the gross men department we have Billy Bob Thornton starring in and directing Jayne Mansfield’s Car, a post-WWII drama set in the south. There’s a bunch of big guns doing their best tobacco-chewing accents including Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and Robert Patrick, and of course Billy Bob gives himself a seven-minute monologue, and it’s all fine enough but lacks cohesion and features one too many Duvall-in-undershirt shots.

I find Peaches exhausting but I went to see Peaches Does Herself anyway because it was short. “What is this movie about?” asked the lady next to me. I explained who Peaches was. “The program says it’s a transsexual rock opera.” “Sounds about right.” Yep. Basically it’s all old Peaches songs loosely stitched together the way you think they would be—people climbing out of a giant vagina, a really old drag queen singing about loving dick, exploded boobs and much atonal synth. They had it cranked in the screening and people just streamed out of there.

LAST WORD: I hardly saw any famous people or even people I know. Last year was nearly dismal; this round was quite fantastic, a veritable joy to slog it out during rush hour just to sit down for eight hours. Enjoy the AFF!

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