Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

Woman Walks Ahead

In the 1880s, widow Catherine Weldon travels alone to North Dakota to paint the portrait of Chief Sitting Bull. The Lakota aren’t thrilled by her arrival (at least not until she brings the rain) but it’s the US Army that’s the real problem. Officer Groves and his men are stationed at Standing Rock in order to undermine the Native American’s land claim. Any friend of the Lakota is an enemy of theirs, which basically means that the soldiers will literally spit in her eye.

Catherine (Jessica Chastain) is “just here to paint a painting” but as she befriends the Lakota, and Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes) in particular, the government provides a tighter and tighter squeeze. Catherine and Sitting Bull share a common goal in freedom, and independence, but Groves’ (Sam Rockwell) continued menace is a threat to them both.

It’s a fascinating true story that’s perhaps not quite fascinatingly told. It doesn’t tell us nearly enough about the time or the people, so it’s hard to justify its existence. But MV5BNjViOWYyOTctNzhhZS00YjgyLWI5MjctZmM2ZDE3MWM4MTQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ2NzcxOTk@._V1_I really like Jessica Chastain, and she tends to make wise and informed career decisions, so I lean toward giving this the benefit of the doubt. This could easily veer into white saviour territory, and maybe it defaults too much toward politeness, but I think it strives to be a respectful and faithful rendering. I just wish it could be entertaining as well. And I really wish it didn’t take one insignificant white woman to tell the story of an entire people, but if that’s how we have to frame it, then (I guess) this more feminist bent is at least an improvement.

Now let us talk about Jessica Chastain for a moment. Jessica Chastain the actor, but more importantly, Jessica Chastain the principled woman. I don’t know her personally at all, but I see that she is walking the walk, using her privilege and position of power to raise up the talented women with whom she surrounds herself. Not unlike her character in this film, she is fighting battles for equality. Twice Oscar nominated, her talent is raw and smoldering. Undeniably a beautiful woman and a style icon, she’s not afraid to appear in this film without a stitch of makeup and with substantial armpit stains (I’ll credit this bit of realism to her female director, Susanna White, who doesn’t feel compelled to turn a “painter of a certain age” into a sexpot, which is 100% what would have happened under the direction of literally any man). Now what do we have to do to get this story told from the Lakota perspective, with a Native director in the chair?

Molly’s Game

I resisted watching this because of a distaste I have for Molly Bloom, the real Molly Bloom. She’s extremely self-involved and remorseless. So damn you Aaron Sorkin for getting nominated and forcing me to watch this. Well, okay, since it stars Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, it wasn’t a total boycott, but still, I was reluctant. Especially reluctant after being subjected to the trailer numerous times in which Molly asks a little girl “Do you know how many witches were burned at Salem?” and when the kid shrugs, she says none – they weren’t burned, they were hanged or drowned or stoned. But something in me rebelled angrily at this line; the answer is right, none were burned, but that’s because witches never existed. It was women who were burned or hanged or stoned.

Anyway, you may or may not know that Molly Bloom ran a bunch of illegal poker games, made oodles of money, and then get raided, her cash seized, and she was indicted. Facing court, and jail, she wrote a book about it, and named names.MV5BMTU2NjY4NjM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDcyMzIyMzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_

Molly isn’t particularly likable. She thinks she’s smart and she tells you she is constantly. She could have gone to law school, you know. And probably should have. But the money was so easy, and so plentiful! And movie stars played the poker (and the Russian mob, but never mind that). She’s guilty and she’s greedy but she’s also tough as hell. Chastain taps into her resiliency , her intelligence, her strength. Idris Elba plays her “not a little bit shady” lawyer, and he’s a perfect sparring partner. Aaron Sorkin’s scripts are meaty and lesser actors may be felled by them but Chastain and Elba are not just equal to it, they master it. It’s impressive.

Aaron Sorkin isn’t just the screen writer on this, he also steps into director’s shoes for the first time. Swinging for realism, he stacked the lesser roles with real poker players, wanting even the way they handled cards to look authentic. In between takes, the actors would play poker with the real players. Extras, usually paid about $90 a day, would often leave the set the best paid people there.

Sorkin is a smart guy with a lot of famous friends; he asked for and received great advice and support from David Fincher (a Social Network collaborator) and from Kevin Costner, who stars as Bloom’s father. The story is intriguing and well-suited to Sorkin’s abilities, but the movie runs a little long and isn’t terribly cinematic (there’s a lot of sitting in a lawyer’s office, which, not coincidentally, is located in the fictional firm of Gage Whitney, which fans of Sorkin’s will recognize from The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Newsroom.

The movie didn’t change my mind about Molly but it certainly cements Chastain and Elba as razor sharp, a cut above. If you like Sorkin’s zingy TV stuff, you’ll like this just fine. It’s not a best picture contender but it’s got some damn fine performances.

 

 

So, was Molly Bloom a witch, or just a woman?

Crimson Peak

Having somewhat of a crush on Guillermo del Toro’s movies, I watched Crimson Peak soon after it came out, despite my being a huge chicken. But I refused to review it because I was sure I didn’t really get it: the film had gotten tepid reviews, but my initial reaction was anything but lukewarm. On a recent del Toro kick I’ve rewatched it and came to the same conclusion: Crimson Peak is kind of great.

Okay, it’s not epic story-telling the way The Shape of Water is, but it’s a visual master piece that succeeds in both creeping us out and sucking us in.

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, a young woman both relatable but maddening hero_Crimson-Peak-2015because she spurns the favour of her childhood friend, a mild-mannered, handome doctor who cares for her (Charlie Hunnam) in favour of the mysterious badboy newcomer (Tom Hiddleston). Even the brutal murder of her beloved father doesn’t stop her from flitting off to England to a crumbling old mansion atop a mountain that oozes blood-red clay with new hubby Thomas (Hiddleston) and his wicked sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) as her only (living) roommates.

Del Toro has crafted an ode to gothic ghost stories. The story is simple but the visuals a sumptuous feast, with every inch of his Victorian sets crammed with macabre detail that are never without meaning. He couldn’t do it without some talented help. Thomas E. Sanders (Braveheart, Hook, Star Trek: Beyond; Oscar nominated for Saving Private Ryan and Dracula), who died earlier this year, was responsible for the incredibly rich production design. The mansion was built in its entirety on a sound stage, its layered look reflecting the generations of the Sharpe family who would have lived within it. Although inspired by period architecture, this being a del Toro film, everything was amplified and magnified. The details are familiar but the effect they create it startling and rather lavish. It helps to create a world in which the supernatural feels like a natural fit. Kate Hawley (Edge of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad), costumer extraordinaire, used a lot of the same principles on her end. Every single piece in the film was hand-stitched specifically for it. Though styles and silhouettes were inspired by the fashion of the time (circa 1901), every piece is elevated and la-ca-hc-guillermo-crimson-peak-20151011made more moody, more dramatic. Weeks and weeks were spent stitching an intricate detail onto one of Chastain’s dresses that gets a lot of screen time. And this being a haunting ghost story, every costume had to look just as meticulous from behind, for those eerie shots down darkened hallways.

Tom Hiddleston I can generally take or leave (well, preferably leave) but Jessica Chastain continues to impress with her versatility and restraint. And interestingly, it’s del Toro staple Doug Jones who packs a major wallop. A classically-trained mime and contortionist, most of Jones’ best work is done under heavy layers of prosthetics, but embodying several of the ghosts in this film, he reminds us just how creepy a mere movement of the arm can be.

Guillermo del Toro is a master orchestrator of aesthetic and imagination. Crimson Peak’s script doesn’t quite hold up to its incredible production design, but it chills your bones when it wants to and sets your blood pumping overtime when it needs to. There are twisted monsters hidden in the depths of the Allerdale mansion, but like his crowning achievement The Shape of Water, they aren’t always who you expect.

 

 

 

 

 

Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters

Guillermo del Toro has long been one of my favourite story-tellers even though he makes movies that, technically, I shouldn’t care to see. He operates mostly within genres – horror and fantasy being his favourite, and generally, my least favourite. But I’ve been drawn in by the visual spectacle. There is beauty in everything he creates. It sparks my imagination, as it so clearly springs from his. Sean hasn’t seen as much of his catalogue as I have but I hesitate to rewatch them with him because to be honest, lots of his movies have genuinely scared me. It’s not the monsters or the horror that’s scary, it’s del Toro’s excellent world-building. You can get lost in the details, and that’s what haunts me. These fabulous details really fuck with me: anyone can create a monster, but when that monster has a horrifying little trinket on a shelf in his cave, that thing whispers to me, sticks with me.

Del Toro grew up in Mexico, raised by a strict Catholic grandmother who tried to exorcise him (twice) because of the monsters that sprang from his pen. Sean and I were DSC_0001in Toronto this weekend where the Art Gallery of Ontario is hosting a special exhibit on Guillermo del Toro called At Home With Monsters. Del Toro’s visual panache extends well outside the bounds of his film making. The themes that so often crop up in his movies appeal to him in his real life as well: religion, death, magic and alchemy, gods and monsters, insects and their symbolism, gothic detailing. He’s obsessed with Charles Dickens, Frankenstein, and macabre art – so much so that when his collection overwhelmed his home, he bought two more just to house the stuff. Adjoining the two houses, which he calls Bleak House, it has become a museum of sorts, stuffed to the gills with every crazy thing that’s ever inspired him. And now he’s curated from among his pieces and sent them out into the world for the rest of us to enjoy and think over. The exhibit comprises some 400 pieces – just 10% of his collection, but still more vast than I had anticipated, and it includes story boards, props, and costumes from his movies. It runs in Toronto until January 7th so you should really check it out if you can. If you can’t, you can try to console yourself with just a small sampling below.

20171217_144349Del Toro based the Pale Man’s face on the underside of a manta ray – as a kid he found the fish’s tiny mouth and nostril slits frightening. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the Pale Man consumes fairies and children, but in today’s political climate del Toro sees his creation as an example of predatory white male supremacy. Just after the 2017 US Presidential inauguration, he tweeted “The Pale Man represents all institutional evil feeding on the helpless. It’s not accidental that he is a) Pale b) a Man He’s thriving now”

There’s also a piece about how del Toro believes that simply moving the eyes creates a monster. It gave me shivers: he’s not wrong, is he?

Kate Hawley did the wonderful costumes for Crimson Peak. Her team spent 8 weeks on the leaf motif of Jessica Chastain’s blue dress alone. Period pieces are always a challenge, but for this movie, with del Toro always wanting more more more, every piece had to be created from scratch, often taking inspiration and silhouettes from real life vintage pieces but being made more dramatic, with more fabric and volume than would have been historically accurate, strictly speaking.

This you may recognize as the Angel of Death from Hellboy II: The Golden Angel. Again20171217_150534 del Toro has simply moved the eyes to instantly create monstrosity. We learn as babies to expect two eyes, and when we don’t find them where they should be, it’s instantly disorienting. He drew inspiration from the archangels of medieval manuscripts, which had eyes on the feathers of their wings. The Angel of Death has a bony faceplate and misplaced eyes, making it literally blind to human suffering – the opposite of what we think a ‘guardian’ angel should be, which throws us off balance. Del Toro is really, really good at that. He defies and challenges our expectations.

Wooden puppets created by Simon Verela for The Book of Life. Guillermo del Toro’s works are always about death in one way or another, and his dead characters don’t often stay dead. But The Book of Life is actually a celebration of life, and a vibrant tribute to Mexican folklore.

Yes, that enormous Frankenstein head really does usually hang in the entrance of Guillermo del Toro’s home. Frankenstein is his favourite movie monster and his memorabilia is plentiful. “Frankenstein, to me, is instrumental in the way I see the world…It is the essential narrative of the fall of man into an imperfect world by an uncaring creator.”

20171217_151039  The Faun, from Pan’s Labyrinth, was inspired by del Toro’s recurring childhood dream (nightmare?) of a goat-faced figure who slowly emerged from behind his armoire. In the film, the Faun is intended as neither good nor evil, like nature, he is there to witness but has no agenda – he literally doesn’t care whether Ofelia lives or dies.

These are part of a distinctly sad collection in the exhibit – concept art from a movie that never got made. HP Lovecraft has always been a huge inspiration in everything that del Toro does, and he spent a decade adapting Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness for the screen. In fact he and his studios have created over 400 pieces of art, part of the pitch they presented over and over to studios, who have rejected his wish for an R-rated tentpole horror with no love story or happy ending (even with Tom Cruise and James Cameron on board to produce). With Oscar buzzing around his The Shape of Water, will del Toro’s At The Mountains of Madness finally get made, or will this always be the one that got away?

Anything here look familiar? Aside from his influences, this exhibit covers all of Guillermo del Toro’s movies except his most recent. Which ones can you identify?

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

On Saturday we brought our sweet little nephews to the Capital Fair, where we watched a stunt dog show, rode rides, played games on the Midway, and visited a petting zoo where the kids and I hand-fed llamas. On Monday I watched a llama get shot, point blank.

Do not confuse The Zookeeper’s Wife with We Bought A Zoo. This is no light-hearted tale. It’s about real-life couple Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who used their posts at the Warsaw Zoo to save hundreds of Jews during the German invasion. Of course I’ve read both The a6oYy417yHHP01DGIDZUeEzH7JFZookeeper’s Wife, and We Bought A Zoo, and more recently I was reading another book about a woman who led an underground railroad of sorts to smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto, wherein the zookeeper’s wife was specifically mentioned. It was an especially brutal place to be during the war. Terrible, unspeakable things happened every day, and it’s kind of a miracle to see\hear these stories about ordinary people who couldn’t live with what was happening, so they didn’t [it’s sort of awful that these words sound very applicable even today].

Glimmers of light do not eliminate all the darkness. The Zookeeper’s Wife is not an easy watch. The film makes the stakes clear, yes for the zookeepers taking enormous risks themselves (they would surely die if discovered), but especially for the people they are helping, who would otherwise be dead – or worse.

Jessica Chastain as the zookeeper’s wife is of course fantastic. There’s no CGI used int he film; those are real lion cubs she’s cuddling, with not a shred of hesitancy. Fitting, I suppose, when she’s sitting in the middle of a war where much scarier things are happening on the streets. WW2-era films always inspire a bout of siderodromophobia in me (the fear of trains).

This movie gets some things right, and some things wrong. In the end, I think it’s just not terrible enough, which I realize is a weird thing to say. What I mean is: it doesn’t have the power to haunt you the way Schindler’s List did (does). It feels a little cold, without the emotional gravitas you’d expect. I expected to cry. What does it mean that I didn’t? Perhaps what this movie needed was a meaningful connection to just one victim. Heroics are all well and good, but they’re only important because they’re necessary. Heroes are only half the equation: both must be compelling.

Miss Sloane

miss-sloane-32016 Golden Globe nominee Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a notorious Washington anti-regulation lobbyist taking on the biggest challenge of her career when she’s asked to help take on the powerful gun lobby.

It’s timely and potentially divisive subject matter that will surely be attacked in many online comment sections as Liberal Hollywood Elites trying to take your guns away. But, honestly, can’t we use a rational discussion on gun control right now?

Well, you won’t find any of that here. Neither Sloane nor her opponents are particularly interested in facts or rhetoric. They are masters of spin, manipulation, and trickery. Never mind guns or politics, this is really a movie about sleight of hand. It has more in common with movies about magicians, con artists, or thieves  than movies about politics.

Film Review Miss SloanAnd maybe this is supposed to be the point. The only problem is that and Miss Sloane (the movie) seems to love the thrill of the chase as much as it claims to be outraged by her methods. For awhile, this behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pass a bill in Washington (or keep one from passing) is almost fascinating and thought-provoking but the endless double crosses and Sloane’s nearly superhuman foresight make it harder and harder to take any of this seriously.

Needless to say, Chastain is pretty much the best thing about the movie. Any insight miss-sloane-2we get into her character comes more from her performance than Jonathan Perera’s script. But even she occasionally fails to convince during some scenes where she seems to be acting more for the trailer than the actual film. I can only assume director John Madden is to blame for this given that Miss Sloane also showcases inexplicable overacting from the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Waterston, and Mark Strong that I can’t believe made the final cut. You’d think  a director of a Best Picture winner (Shakespeare in Love but still) would have done a better job of reining them in.

Madden may have had trouble keeping control of his hammy cast but he still manages to make a watchable film. It is slickly edited and never boring. And I have to admit, its most outrageous twists are the best ones. It just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. I knew almost nothing about this movie going in and expected something serious and dry. I was anticipating a chore and got a preposterous guilty pleasure that I’m still trying to forgive myself for kind of liking.

 

 

Hollywood Doppelgängers

Hollywood has absolutely no faith in audiences. If they think you liked something, they’re so overanxious to play it safe that they’ll sell it to you twice. We’ve had twin movies as far back as memory serves: movies that have near-identical plots and are essentially the same right down to their release dates. Wyatt Earp & Tombstone. Dante’s Peak & Volcano. Armageddon & Deep Impact. Antz & A Bug’s Life. Infamous & Capote. And on and on. The interesting thing though is that we don’t just have twin movies, we have twin stars too. Hollywood thinks we like familiar things. Familiar faces. And of course, plastic surgeons can only make so many noses. Everyone wants the Liv Tyler lips and the Salma Hayek tits. We can’t be surprised when they come off the assembly line looking a little too similar.

javier-bardem-jeffrey-dean-morganJavier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan: are they actually the same person?

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Amy Adams and Isla Fisher: they don’t just look alike, they sound alike too!

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Will Arnett and Patrick Wilson: even losing hair at the same rate!

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Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard: sharing the same bottle of Miss Clairol since 2001.

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Jesse Plemmons and Matt Damon: even their accents are the same!

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Henry Cavill and Matt Bomer: yup, that’s two different people. Same damn jaw.

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Paz Vega and Penelope Cruz: they usually say that a woman this stunning “broke the mold” but that’s clearly not the case.

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Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe: these two look so alike it’s creepy. Watch this face meld of the two of them and you won’t be able to distinguish one face from the other.

Who are your favourite Hollywood twins?

 

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is the sister we know: kinda evil, not above killing kings in order to usurp their kingdoms. Ravenna is the one who the-huntsmantormented Snow White in the last movie, the wicked step mother, if you will. Her younger and less-known sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has powers that resemble Elsa’s, from Frozen, and they’re awakened when she undergoes a personal tragedy. She flees in grief, and tortured by sad and angry thoughts, she establishes her own land, her own army, all ruled with the vengeance in her heart. The best of her army turn out to be Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) and they attract Freya’s unwelcome attention. They also attract each other and there’s a little bow-chicka-bow-wow. But Freya, scorned by love, can’t bear to seem them together, and slays Sara.

Meanwhile, back at home with Ravenna are the events of the previous movie. Ravenna recruits Eric, aka, The Hunstman, to capture Snow White after her escape, and promises to bring his wife back to life as a reward. a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740031-1461183847_640x0cHowever, he quickly switches allegiance and together they defeat and kill the Evil Queen, and Snow White is crowned in her place.

In this movie, an unseen Snow White (Kristen Stewart does not reprise her role) asks The Hunstman to do one final thing: to get rid of Ravenna’s magic mirror, still a source of evil.

You’ve probably already heard that this movie is not super good, and I’m not able to tell you any different. I’m also pretty grumbly about the fact that a movie with 3 strong female leads is still named after the man.

I’m going to focus on the thing that this movie does right, and that’s noticeably its costuming. It should be a surprise to none of you that Colleen Atwood is behind the genius designs.

a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740028-1461183847_640x0cOn Freya’s costumes, Atwood says: I sourced a lot of fabric in Italy for the dresses that she wears. She has a lot of Italian velvets and silk in her dress and croquets from different vendors in Italy. Some of her fabric is vintage fabric I had in my stock. We wanted Freya to have something that wasn’t a crown. I have a 3-D printer in my crafts department, and this guy is a genius at operating it. I said, “Let’s do little tiny feathers and glue themmaxresdefault together.” So we grew that mask as separate elements in a 3-D printer and applied them to a facemask.

On Ravenna’s look: We built a different kind of cloak with feathers that I had all hand-foiled and made into the cape. It was quite an a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740032-1461183847_640x0cordeal for the people who had to feather it. I had a feather room, where it was just feathers stuck into Styrofoam. It was really beautiful, you walked in and there were all these shelves with gold feathers stuck in foam before we applied them to the cape.

On working in the fantasy\period genre: The big challenge is that you’re working with modern bodies, you’re working with people that are three times the size what people were in the actual periods. When you look at all the costumes from historical figures, you realize how small they were. You have to adapt that period or that fantasy silhouette to a modern body so that it doesn’t look charlizereally goofy. You back away from it to get the proportions right, so that you feel it’s historical, even though it’s on somebody eight inches taller than the average man was in that period, and it’s a woman.

TIFF 2015: The Martian

Since I read for leisure less than I’d like, it is rare for me to be hoping that Hollywood does justice to a book I absolutely loved.  Andy Weir’s The Martian is that book. Jay handed it to me a while back and the way she did, I knew it was something special.  The Martian is both the most accessible and most science-heavy science fiction novel I have ever read.  If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour at some point and check it out.  You won’t regret it.

When I heard that Ridley Scott’s adaptation of The Martian was premiering at TIFF 2015, it went to the absolute top of my list.  And it quickly became clear I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.  Despite having a good window for our premium selections, the red carpet premiere was gone before we even had a chance at it.  But fortunately, Matt used his window to grab Jay and me a pair of tickets for the next (and only other) TIFF screening of The Martian.  We got to see it yesterday and it did not disappoint!

The movie is everything it could possibly be.  My only question as we were leaving the screening was whether there was a way they could have kept more in the movie, because some of the problems that arose in the book did not make it into the movie’s two-hour-plus run time.  But that’s inevitable and it’s not something I can criticize because the movie was expertly paced and there was nowhere to expand without losing momentum.  It’s a reason to re-read the book but not a fault of the movie.

The best part of the whole experience was seeing the spirit of the book preserved and celebrated.  As Jay pointed out afterward, while we lost a little Mark Watney time, we gained some time with the other characters, and it was a pleasure to get to know them better.  It might even be a better fit with the theme shared by the book and the movie, namely that when we all work together, we can accomplish remarkable things.  All we need is a little motivation.  There’s no villain here.  There are only challenging problems to be solved by the people who are determined to save one unlucky botanist, most notably the botanist himself.  It’s a joy to watch it all play out, especially against the backdrop of a Mars that is both desolate and vibrant.  The visuals are incredible from start to finish.  See The Martian in 3D if you can – it’s simply spectacular.

The Martian is perfect.  I can’t wait to see it again.

TIFF: The Agony and the Ecstacy

Matt wrote last week about the choices he made for his viewing pleasure (and hopefully your reading one) at the Toronto International Film Festival, slated to open with a bang (or rather, a star-studded screening of Demolition) on September 10.

I  held mine back because the truth is, the TIFF selection process was not a fun one for me. TIFF  has weird rules where it takes your money and then weeks later gives you a “randomly” selected window of just 60 minutes for making your choices – I’m seeing maybe 20 movies out of over 430, by my count, so that’s an awful lot of frantic sifting, choosing, replacing, and scheduling to do in just 60 minutes. It goes without saying that I was “randomly” selected to choose more than 24 hours later than Matt, which meant that a lot of my first, second, and third choices were “off-sale”. Off-sale doesn’t mean sold out, it means that they’re holding some tickets back for when they go on sale to the general public. And nothing against the general public, but I paid my oodles of money, I’m travelling in from out of town, and I don’t think it’s very nice or very fair to force me (since I’ve prepaid for tickets) to see movies that aren’t selling as well, when someone who pays a nominal $25 on the day of will have better luck than me.

I’ll stop my belly-aching now. We’re still pretty lucky to be going at all and I know that. So, without further whining about first world problems, my TIFF picks:

Demolition: I’m actually going to see this one with both Matt and Sean, so it’s a rarity, and I’m not only looking forward to seeing what director Jean-Marc Vallée can squeeze out of Jake Gyllenhaal, I also can’t wait to discuss it with my favourite movie-going friends.

The Lobster: This one is quirky as hell and right up my alley, and I never thought I’d be saying that about a Colin Farrell movie. Newly heartbroken, he checks into a hotel where he’s under the gun to find a mate within a super tight time period – or risk being turned into an animal and put out to pasture? It sounds more like a child’s drawing than a movie, but there you have it.

Eye in the Sky: We ‘re doing the red-carpet treatment of this one on Friday night, and Dame Helen Mirren is confirmed to attend. She’s looking less glamorous in the still from this movie, playing a Colonel who’s spent a long time tracking down a radicalized citizen who must be stopped. But when drone operator Aaron Paul reports that a small child has wandered into the kill zone, the team has to decide whether the casualty of this little girl is acceptable collateral damage. Yowza!

The Martian: You may know that I have been frothing about this movie for months now. I luuuurved the book and passed it along to all of my literate friends but then waved a flag of skepticism when I heard that a) it’s directed by Ridley Scott b) it’s a reteaming of Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, lately seen together in Interstellar. But I hope hope HOPE that they “science the hell” out of this thing and blow my fucking socks off.

The Danish Girl: Eddie Redmayne is almost certainly in the running for a second Oscar for his portrayal of Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery. The trailer alone looks so lush that I’m drooping to see it – which is fortunate, because TIFF stuck me with TWO pairs of tickets to this. Woops! Anyone know someone who’s looking for a pair?

Freeheld: We’re seeing this one on flashy premiere night as well and will see both Julianne Moore and Ellen Page walk the red carpet. They star as a real-life couple from New Jersey who just want Moore’s pension to go to Page when Moore passes away. It was a huge case for LGBT rights and I’m betting that both of these ladies really bring it.

The Dressmaker: Funny story. I read this book recently, in anticipation of this movie. And I really, really liked it. Only: it’s about a young dressmaker who survives the sinking of the Titanic thanks to her wealthy employer. Knowing that Kate Winslet was set to star, I was shocked that she’d choose to go back to Titanic in this way. I mean, if anyone can put it off, it’s Winslet, but still. The more I read, the more I thought maybe she’s not playing the dressmaker, maybe she’s playing the plucky journalist. I still couldn’t believe the press wasn’t making a bigger deal out of this, but it wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized that I’d read the wrong Dressmaker. Same title, different author. Oopsie daisy again. But I’m confident this one’s good too, and it’s Kate Winslet, so we’re almost guaranteed to see boob.

Into the Forest: Here’s a movie that looks so familiar to me in the trailer that I believe I have read the book. I do not know for sure that it’s based on a book and I’m not looking it up. This way even I’ll be surprised (or, REALLY surprised!). Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page star as sisters who live in a remote cabin in the woods. The world is on the verge of the apocalypse and their location keeps them safe, but also leaves them vulnerable…

Anomalisa: This is the Charlie Kaufman-directed stop-motion animated ode to a motivational speaker and his bleak existence. I have no idea what to expect from it and that’s why I’m so crazy excited. It could go a lot of ways but no matter what, I do believe I’ll be seeing something special.

About Ray: Have you ever attended a red carpet event in the middle of the afternoon? Me neither! TIFF is so jam-packed with gliterry premieres that it starts packing them in at odd times just to get through them all. I’m tickled we got tickets to this (hard won, believe me) and I’m anxious to see if it’s as good as it looks, and if this and The Danish Girl will cancel each other out (though this one is also about a gender transition, it’s set in modern day, with Elle Fanning as the young woman who wants to be a young man, Naomi Watts as her mother, and Susan Sarandon as her mother.

Miss You Already: This might be a little too chick-flicky to be regular festival fare, but it’s Toni Collette so say what you want, but my ass will be in that seat at the ungodly hour of 8:45 in the goddamned morning. Toni and Drew Barrymore play lifelong friends whose friendship hits a bit of a roadbump when one discovers she’s pregnant just as the other gets a cancer diagnosis. Note to Sean: bring tissues, or an extra-absorbent shirt.

Maggie’s Plan: Starring the delightful Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke) and destroys his relationship with his brilliant wife (Julianne Moore). I like Gerwig a whole lot but to be honest, I’m really wondering how this dynamic is going to work – and I’m super intrigued to find out how Bill Hader fits into the mix. Julianne Moore is going to be one busy lady at this festival!

The Family Fang: Directed by and starring Jason Bateman, he plays a brother to Nicole Kidman, both returning to the family home in search of their super-famous parents who seem to have disappeared. Jason Bateman is a little hit or miss for me but I committed on the off chance that the man playing his father – legendary Christopher MotherFucking Walken – might be in attendance. He’s not slated as far as I can tell, but I’d kick myself right in the sitter if he was and I wasn’t.

Legend: Tom Hardy plays real-life English gangsters. Yes, plural: the Kray twins. This dual role is getting a lot of buzz and since I seem to be mesmerized by Hardy in nearly everything he does, I’m super excited to check this one out.

 

Biggest TIFF regret: Missing Room. We’ll be back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto, but this particular movie only plays twice during the whole festival, and neither screening is on a day I’m there. I loved this book and am anxious to see the movie treatment. Good or bad, I want to pass judgement. I want to feast my little eyes. I am heartbroken to miss this one.

Two questions:

  1. We still have some tickets to alocate. Any suggestions?
  2. If you were in The Lobster hotel and failed to find a mate – what animal would you be turned into. Me? An otter. Definitely an otter.

We’ll be posting updates as we go, and be sure to check out our Twitter @assholemovies for photos of the red carpet premieres!