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Shoot Day

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Well, I guess I can call myself a filmmaker now. Should get my passport updated? The Super-8 experience went pretty well, largely due to my great actors, Anthony Black, Ann-Marie Kerr and Jerry West. Listen to me, it sounds like I'm prepping my Oscar speech. It was a lot of fun, a real collaborative experience, but hard work too, trying to be as clear and consistent with the narrative as possible, all the while navigating the mysteries of light metres, apertures, focus and zoom rings. Note To Self: avoid close-ups of very reflective surfaces. I have a funny feeling you'll see me and thecamera in the convex side of a shiny kettle…

So, what's next? It looks like tomorrow afternoon I'll be interviewing Sarah Polley. I'm excited because I really liked her feature, but I'm also trying to come up with interesting questions. Someone like her, she's been through the press machine so often, and especially after the Toronto Film Festival, I guess I don't want to just present her with the boilerplate standard new director questions: “Uh, so, what was Gordon Pinsent like to work with?” You know, that stuff. I also have my show to prepare, the Love & Hate Movie Show on CKDU 88.1 FM, 11 AM every Sunday. Yeah, it is a shameless plug, waddaya gonna do about it? Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to talk about. Most of the films I've seen have reviewer restrictions on them, and I haven't taken in any commercial releases. Maybe I'll just play some music from the local artists on the complementary AFF CD…

The Frame x Frame Program I hosted a very full house at Park Lane. The lights went down to the now-familiar strains of In-Flight Safety (a coup for them, no doubt) and the AFF official card. The guy sitting next to me seemed fascinated that I was taking notes and kept checking me out. Weird. There was plenty to enjoy in the animated shorts. I recognized Mirco Chen's Wintersleep video, Fog, from the Marquee screening awhile back. It's cute. Something called Monkey and Deer didn't make much sense, a surreal stop-motion collection of old Saskatchewan barns, churches and hockey games and a friendship between a ladder-climbing stag and chimp. At its end, note-fascination boy said to his friend, “WTF?” I hate email slang. The two best animations had creative reps in the audience, which was cool: Mary Lewis's The Sparky Book, about a St. John's girl with a bad heart and her dog, and how they took care of each other until the end of the dog's days. How do you go wrong with a dying dog NFB film, especially with Gordon Pinsent as the storytelling fish? Sometimes sap is good. Also really liked Alex Weil's One Rat Short, easily the best computer animated rats-in-love vs. killer lab robot cartoon I've seen this year. Notably good were the Dutch short Where Birds Fly, which had some lovely city- in-the-clouds imagery, and a recent work from animaniac legend Bill Plympton, called Guide Dog. Typically sick and hilarious.

The Snow Cake Q & A went late, so Quinceanera started half hour past the posted time. No worries, it was a lovely evening to be outside the Oxford, and I made my first celeb spot: Andrea Martin (and perhaps her sister?) were also checking out the movie. Had a few moments to chat with blog queen Sue Carter Flinn. She and husband Sean had just come out of Snow Cake, which they raved about (see her post below). Now I know I must see the movie, as I have heard totally polar opposite reactions to the Sigourney Weaver-Alan Rickman drama.

I've read that Quinceanera is based on the “kitchen sink dramas” from British cinema of the early 60s, movies like This Sporting Life and A Taste of Honey. Though I've heard of the films, this is genre that remains unseen by me, so I can't make much of that, though it's interesting to know this story set in a very recognizably modern setting (the Latino-American neighbourhood of Echo Park, Los Angeles) was inspired across cultures and eras. The title comes from a Bat Mitzva of sorts that Latino girls are expected to go through when they turn 15. Looks like a big deal. The film begins with Magdalena attending her female cousin's event, where her male cousin, Carlos, crashes the party. He's a tough-looking hombre, and, it turns out, gay, so is an outcast to his father. Also in play is a great uncle, Thomas, and various others in the extended family. Magdalena has a boyfriend, she gets pregnant, even though she hasn't officially ever had sex. Bad luck with the skeet, (yeah, yeah, it's a great expression, look it up on the urban dictionary) evidently. Her preacher father is livid, so she winds up living with Carlos and Thomas. The plot's twists and turns take some well-trodden paths, but the performances are spot-on and I found the cultural stuff fascinating. Simple things, like how they jump in and out of Spanish and English, depending on the occasion or mood. A heartfelt family drama, full of pathos, believable characters and situational humour that avoids schmaltz, for the most part, is a welcome thing.

Also welcome: my being able to go on a bit about a movie at this festival without worrying that I'm overstepping the review gag. Now, off to think of things to ask Sarah Polley. Should I steer clear of Dawn of the Dead?

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