Tiffing Like Crazy

I hardly know how to begin summing up our crazy time at the Toronto International Film Festival. We’re actually only about halfway through our experience, but if I don’t start putting down some thoughts now, I’m going to run out of usable memory space.

Day 1

Demolition: Our first film of the festival is still probably my favourite. Music-obsessed Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) calls this the “most rock-n-roll movie I’ve ever made” and while that’s not the descriptor that immediately came to my mind, I do get where he’s coming from. I would call this movie vigorous. It’s very alive, ironically, since it’s about a man (2015 Toronto International Film Festival - "Demolition" Press ConferenceDavis, played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who’s been numb for the past dozen years or so. It takes the sudden death of his wife for him to realize that he probably didn’t love her. And once that realization is made, his whole life starts to tilt to the left. He becomes obsessed with understanding and improving small, safe things: the leak in his fridge, the squeak in a door, the defective hospital vending machine. A surprisingly confessional letter about the latter connects him to a lonely customer service lady (Naomi Watts) and they stumble together toward truth, just two lost souls helping each other without even meaning to. Gyllenhaal is nothing short of amazing. We see him removed from grief, literally doing whatever he can just to feel – manual labour, loud music, the embracing of pain. Gylllenhaal does disconnection eerily well. But he also has some bracing bonding scenes with a young co-star, the two careening from frank discussions about homosexuality in Home Depot, to the point-blank testing of bullet proof vests. The mourning in this movie is off-kilter to say the least, and jumpcuts and flashbacks keep the loopy momentum going – sometimes quite elegantly, as the editing and cinematography are both superb. Davis busies himself with demolition – he likes taking things apart, methodically, to see how it looks inside, but he can’t quite put it all back together. The physical demolition of his house, of the things surrounding him, serves as an apt metaphor for his sorrow, for his life up until now. It is brutal and quirky and offbeat. Gyllenhaal has been turning in solid performance after solid performance, but this one might be The One. It’s an unconventional movie but also deeply spiritual in its way. Jean-Marc Vallée, when asked after the movie about this theme, responded: “Have you ever smashed the shit out of something? It feels great!”

The Lobster: I realize now, having used words like quirky and offbeat to describe Demolition, that there aren’t words to describe this one. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is a sick man. He has imagined a world not so unlike ours, he thinks, where single people are so ostracized that it’s 40th TIFF- 'The Lobster' - Premierebeen made illegal to be without a spouse. When alone, they’re forced into this hotel where they either find a mate, or get turned into an animal. Many fail. Exotic animals abound.This is how we meet Colin Farrell and John C. Reilly as they desperately attempt to be lucky in love. It’s got the deadpan feel of a Wes Anderson movie, only instead of the warm and fuzzy nostalgia, there’s bleak and panicky hopelessness. This movie won’t appeal to most, or even many, but if you can stomach the brutality, this movie is not without some major laughs. And believe me, you earn them. Sean was having a little post-traumatic shock as he lef the theatre, but a few days a lots of reflection later, he found the movie to be undeniably growing on him. The movie is absurdist and bizarre and unique. It is occasionally shovel-to-the-face brutal. Lanthimos understatedly calls it a movie “about relationships”, and his leading lady, Rachel Weisz called it his most “romantic” yet.

Eye In the Sky: Helen  Mirren and Barkhad Abdi  joined director Gavin Hood in introducing this wonderful film to us – just icing on the cake as the film itself would have been more than enough. Helen Mirren, as you might expect, is completely compelling as a Colonel who’s been tracking radicalized British citizens for 6 years. Just as she’s found them she encounters bureaucratic hell trying to get permission to do her job – that is, to eliminate the threat. What I didn’t realize going in to this movie is that it would not solely be a vehicle for Mirren but a really heleneyestrong ensemble cast who all pull their weight to give this film so many interesting layers. Drone warfare is obviously a pretty timely discussion, but this movie is also an entertaining nail-biter, successfully blending ethical dilemmas with on-the-street action thanks to Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) who ratchets up the tension. The crux: there’s a house full of terrorists. They’re literally arming themselves for an imminent suicide attack. Capturing them is not an option – they must be killed before they kill dozens, or hundreds. But just outside this house is a little girl, selling bread. So government officials debate her fate. Mirren the military tour de force is adamant that the terrorists must be stopped at any cost. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), the guy with the finger on the trigger, is not so sure. You can see the weight of this decision in his eyes, knowing it’s not his to make, yet doing everything in his power to stall. If he’s the heart and Mirren is the head of this operation, there are dozens of politicians muddling up the chain of command in between. The movie is asking us what is acceptable – the sacrifice of one bright little girl to save potentially dozens? The politicians waffle. The girl herself is not the problem, rather it’s the way it would look to the electoral public. How can they spin this? Who will win the propaganda war? Hood does a great job of subtly reminding us that no matter what, not everyone in the kill zone deserves to die. But at the same time, he lets us feel the urgency, lets us count the potential dead bodies if the suicide attack is allowed to continue. And who would be responsible for that? This movie never stops being tense, even when it draws uncomfortable laughter: Alan Rickman, at the head of the table of the dithering politicians, rolls his eyes for all of us as everyone passes the buck. This movie never flinches and it doesn’t take sides. There is an emotional heft to it and I felt it on a visceral level when this sweet little girl is callously referred to as but “one collateral damage issue.” Oof.

'Sicario'+Stars+Stunned+by+Ovation+Sicario: Matt was ultimately disappointed with the film but was still lucky enough to be at the premiere where Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro were both on hand to answer questions along with Canadian director Denis Villeneuve.

We Monsters: A German film by Sebastian Ko about a mother and father who follow their most primal instinct to protect their teenaged daughter even as she commits an unspeakable crime. It’s weirdly relatable and abhorrent at the same time, and keeps asking us what we would do even as it pushes the envelope to deeper and darker places. Many shots are obstructed, Ulrike-C-Tscharre-Sebastian-Ko-175x197keeping shady characters exactly that, a little out of focus, a little blurred, a little on the sly. The cinematographer cultivates a sense of dread expertly, boxing those characters in, keeping the shots almost claustrophobic. There’s a real sense of panic, of increasing alarm and desperation, and it’s not easy to watch. But it is kind of fascinating. Afterward, Ko was on hand to answer questions, and when someone asked him about the recurrent shots of a butterfly eventually emerging from its cocoon, he confessed that at first it was just meant as a metaphor for adolescence, but in the end he was struck that what emerged was a “pretty ugly creature” and made for a pretty fitting parallel.

 

 

 

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35 thoughts on “Tiffing Like Crazy

  1. Carrie Rubin

    I was reading something about TIFF in the paper this morning and thought of you guys. How exciting to see all these films. I look forward to Demolition and Sicario (even though it sounds like it might not live up to its hype). Hadn’t heard about Eye in the Sky, but it sounds great. I’m a big Helen Mirren fan. But I think I’ll pass on The Lobster. Sounds like something my highbrow son would like…

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, it may just be low- brow enough to attract high-brow attention. Eye in the Sky is very smart. Sometimes movies take as much as a year to go from TIFF to theatres and this one didn’t even have a trailer yet, but when it does appear I imagine you’ll like it.

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  2. Amy Reese

    How cool you get to see all this excellent films. I’m so jealous. I really want to see “Demolition Man.” Based on your review, that sounds like my kind of movie. I’ve always like Aaron Paul. He’s so good in “Breaking Bad.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything else. Great reviews!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Be sure to watch for Demolition, not Demolition Man – that one’s a Wesley Snipes\Sly Stallone movie that I am not particularly recommending. Aaron Paul must find it hard after Breaking Bad, which was star-making for him, but probably also a type-casting nightmare. I saw him in Need For Speed which isn’t a great movie but he’s the star so you get a fair dose. He’s also in Exodus God and Kings which I don’t recommend at all, and he’s not in much anyway. He also does voice work on Bojack Horseman on Netflix.

      I imagine after this movie, he’s going to get cast a whole lot more.

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      1. Amy Reese

        Oh, oops! Oh, yeah. I remember Demolition Man. Is that what I said? Okay. Thanks for setting me straight, Jay. True, I bet it would be hard to do anything after that show. He’s Jesse Pinkman, yo! Bojack Horseman, you say? Haven’t heard of that one. Well, I think he’s really talented so I hope things work in his favor.

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      2. Jay Post author

        Yeah, Bojack is an animated show – Will Arnett does the voice of Bojack, who actually is a horse who happened to star in a cheesy 90s family sitcom and now he’s kind of a has-been, and Aaron Paul is just a guy who lives on his couch. It’s weird and funny. Not to everyone’s taste but if you have Netflix, watch an episode and you’ll see what I mean.

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  3. reocochran

    I like Jake G. He was great as a detective in a movie, little known at the time. We feel this is a great actor in yhe making. So glad you think this one, even with weird parts, may be interesting. I tend to go to the artsy movie section of the library. I like many from different festivals (Sundance, New York Tribeca, now I need to pay attention to the TIFF!)
    Was that Emily Blunt with Benicio and Josh Brolin?
    I liked her in “Salmon Fishing in Yemen.” Of course, she has been popular in many films.

    I will still watch The Lobster because i like Rachel Weisz. She was so good in the “Constant Gardener.” I will try the Helen Mirren one but sounds kind of militant. She can be a really good killer, as evidenced in a mainstream film. Thanks to all of you for being there!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, that’s right, it’s Emily Blunt!

      Rachel Weisz is great but she doesn’t get into the movie until at least half way through. This is definitely a different kind of movie for her!

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  4. Chris

    I’ve noticed diverse reactions for Demolition(has 8 positive and 8 negative reviews on RT) I’m curious to check it out for myself. Jake Gyllenhaal has been on a good run lately with Enemy and Nightcrawler. I can well imagine The Lobster is not for everyone!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Demolition is not a straight-forward movie. It’s for people who actually appreciate things that happen outside the typical Hollywood box. It’s brilliant and maybe a little uneven but you cannot make a case for it being bad.

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  5. ruth

    Great recap here! Glad to hear you’re enjoying TIFF and seeing some great films. Man, I want to see ALL of these, esp. Demolition, The Lobster and Eye in the Sky (I adore Dame Mirren)! I also love Rachel Weisz who’s just so classy.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Thank you so much for following along and giving your support. it means a lot. Some of these I can’t wait to see AGAIN so I’m right there with you. Seeing Helen Mirren was so much fun. And Weisz WAS classy – she fielded questions about what kind of animal she’d be like a pro, and even changed outfits!

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  12. Billy

    Just recently watched the Lobster and loved it. CRazy for sure, but loved it. And Farrell’s “the last thing I want to do right now is kiss a stupid little girl… etc etc” just had me in fits 🙂

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