Last night helped build the wall of fatigue I’ve been suffering through today.
TIFF has started this cool thing where each journalist gets five public screening tickets, which maybe I’ve mentioned but maybe not. You go stand in a line and hope for the best; as a for instance I did not get a ticket to the first Brave One screening but scored the second, less star-filled screening, which I then skipped to breathe the same air as Jodie Foster. (The movie I can see this Friday, and I’d rather contribute to box office anyway.)
My first-ever public screening is at some random auditorium at the ROM (yeah yeah glass and points and redesign and I don’t care) and it’s for Operation Filmmaker. The back story is that while in prep for his debut feature Everything is Illuminated (which I saw here last year and which meh), Liev Schreiber saw an MTV special on this aspiring filmmaker from Baghdad, Muthana. His school was bombed and so what limited resources he had to make a film were now rubble.
Schreiber was inspired by his story and decided to bring him to the Czech Republic to be an intern on the film. Nina Davenport was hired to film Muthana’s experience, which is this documentary.
So Schrieber extends his hand then promptly hands the whole thing off, which is typical of these celebrity outreach programs as far as I’ve seen – get the good press for helping out some kid, then let some low-tier schmuck deal with said kid.
It doesn’t help that Muthana is a douchebag. He says early on that his mother has done everything for him his whole life (he’s 25), and while it’s true he’s just dropped into this world without a tether, it’s also true that he can’t do a thing for himself and doesn’t seem interested in trying. He continually asks Davenport for money (amazingly she continues to give it to him, probably, I suspect, to keep her film going), leans on producers to help him get extensions on his Czech visa, makes up shit about how his life will be in danger for working with Jewish Americans if he goes back to Iraq and asks the fucking Rock to pay for a year of film school in London, which The Rock does.
All of this would be acceptable if Muthana’s filmmaking talents were in any way evident. As far as I can tell, no one in the film ever sees anything he’s worked on, his favourite movie is The Sixth Sense and all he does filmwise is bitch about what is and isn’t his job as an on-set intern. There’s nothing about stories that inspire him, or what he loves about it. He clearly just wants to be famous, and it’s also clear when Davenport turns against him.
She is there at the screening – it’s the first public one – and is hilariously self-deprecating, saying she only took the job initially because “Maybe Liev would date me.” Pause for hair-twirl. “This was before Naomi .”
My last screening of the day is a choice. Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling, starts at 10:30. Across the Universe, Julie Taymor’s Beatles musical, starts at 11:15. (SERIOUSLY.) It’s two hours long. I do the math – ok, 1:15 departure plus 20 minutes to get home assuming the subway runs this late on Sunday makes that almost 2 and so Lars it is.
The screening is packed. The guy beside me comes in about 10 minutes late and falls asleep almost immediately. I try not to let his deep, rhythmic breathing lull me into a nap.
This is one of the more fucked-up films I’ve seen in awhile. Gosling is the insular Lars, who lives in a garage and has major social issues. His brother and sister-in-law are played by the lovely Paul Schneider (All the Real Girls) and Emily Mortimer (last seen cracking my shit up as Jack’s fiancée on 30 Rock). “I love her!” a man behind me exclaims when her credit comes up.
Lars can’t connect with people so he orders an anatomically correct girlfriend on the internet. He names her Bianca and creates a backstory for her (half-Brazilian, nurse, in a wheelchair). What’s fucked up is that though there’s some initial WTFing on the part of Lars’ family, especially Gus, eventually the whole small town plays along, getting Bianca a job, electing her to school board and so on.
It’s unrelentingly bizarre, and I think the punch-drunk audience laughed in places maybe filmmaker Craig Gillispie wasn’t hoping for, but you gotta give it to Gosling, as always, who just commits to this crazy and manages to de-hot himself somehow. (My colleague Carsten Knox has a story about Gosling’s Method approach that you should get him to tell you if you see him round the AFF.)
My TIFF day started late today because I made an appearance on Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC show Q (download the podcast at itunes right damn now). What I didn’t know until the producer picked me up at security was that motherfucking Stars was in the house all show long, playing and interacting. (“And Wyclef Jean might show up,” the producer added. He did not. Brendan Canning did though, and his lady friend left some white pants for Amy Millan. Oh, Torontopia.)
When I walk in I say “Hi Stars!” and they all respond individually, with Torquil Campbell adding that he likes my In-Flight Safety shirt. My headphones aren’t working and we are live on the air, so they fill in with a hasty backing track while it gets sorted.
“This is the band I take around with me to cover awkward moments in my life,” I try to quip. (I realize on the train back that an even funnier line would’ve been “They’re very tired.”)
Before I left they played one of my favourite songs from the new In Our Bedroom After the War, called “Personal.” What an unexpected, non-film-related pocket of awesome.
I just came from Paranoid Park, and I am officially done with Gus Van Sant’s minimalist meanderings. Cast, the rumour goes, through MySpace, it’s another sexy skate boy film draped loosely but barely over a murder mystery. It’s pretty and all, but quite pointless. I am not in the mood.
Tonight I’m headed back on the public side of the rope for The Savages, the first film I saw at Sundance this year, apparently in its unfinished digital form. Drop by tomorrow for a report and hopefully photos from that.