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.
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.
We still have some tickets to alocate. Any suggestions?
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!
Matt: For a movie called A Most Violent Year, there wasn’t much actual violence with at least two people exiting the Coliseum last night calling it simply “slow”. Did A Most Violent Year hold your attention?
Jay: Yes, actually, it did. I agree that it was “slow” but I kind of liked the control of the pacing. It was very deliberate, which helped build the tension. I also agree that A Most Violent Year was neither terribly violent nor actually a year (the script keeps reminding us, actually, of a strict 30-day countdown, but I suppose “A Pretty Shitty Month” is a less compelling title).
Matt: I actually like A Pretty Shitty Month! The film is set in statistically one of the most violent years in New York’s history. I was born in 1981 and had no idea until now that I was born in A Most Violent Year.
Jay: The scenes of NYC were unrecognizable to me (and I assume to us) – subways filled with graffiti, garbage overflowing onto the streets – and the movie was shot in a really hazy palette of colour. There was snow, obviously, but also just this bleakness, like everything was beige or maybe sepia is a better word. How did that grittiness add to your understanding of the movie?
Sean: I think the bleakness helped set the tone for the movie. There was no real happy ending other than Abel is a bigger player and maybe as a result he could bribe the DA into giving him a better deal.
Matt: Time and place is everything. This is a very different New York than the one that we know, the one that people talk about from the early 80s. Abel’s world is a dangerous one and director J. C. Chandor immerses us in it. He doesn’t have to show much violence. The mood he creates reminds us of the danger.
Jay: Abel is certainly guilty of fraud and tax evasion, among other charges. Does his refusal to pick up a weapon make him a “good” man?
Sean: No, his choice not to use guns does not redeem him. He seemed to like to think he was better than his peers because of it but he was not a good guy.
Matt: I went into A Most Violent Year expecting a gangster film. What I got was almost an anti-gangster film with Abel doing almost anything to avoid becoming a gangster. He prides himself up until the end on walking a righteous path. Is he as morally superior as he would seem to like to believe? Is he more interested in avoiding the appearance of wrongdoing than he is actual wrongdoing?
Jay: I don’t think he kids himself that it was righteous, just “the most right”, and picking the most right of two wrongs doesn’t exactly equal righteous. He seems to have some interior moral code that he’s following, but mobsters often do have exactly that, a strict code, but one that’s just terribly skewed toward their own ends. Abel aspires to be more of a white-collar criminal rather than a gangster, but that’s just semantics. He doesn’t want to pull the trigger himself, but he doesn’t seem above putting out a hit on someone. He’s all about growing his business, and he seems willing to do that by any means necessary. He’s chasing after the American dream, so appearances do matter. I also think he’s smart; he’s not against committing crimes, and he’s definitely not innocent, but he thinks about consequences.
Jessica Chastain plays a wife who seems to challenge her husband to push his moral compass to the limit in order to “support the family.” Can you relate to these characters? Is there ever a time when, as a husband, you’ve felt that pressure?
Sean: I could not relate to either of the characters. I feel a drive to succeed but not to compromise my values in doing that, and I want to do well for my wife but don’t feel I am pressured to attain anything specific by her in order to support our family.
Jay: Really? Then I think you’ve misunderstood some things…
Matt: Uh-oh. So…. Is she the devil on her husband’s shoulder or is their dynamic more complicated than that?
Jay: You know, that’s a really smart question and I couldn’t have put it so well myself. Clearly she’s a little less scrupulous, but she’s also a little less smart. Not to say that she’s dumb. This may be 1981 but she’s no housewife. She’s ambitious and cut-throat and has her own ideas about how to provide for her family. She basically accuses him of being a coward so I’m surprised their marriage isn’t rockier. Ultimately I think he needs her, she’s the one who pushes him to greater heights, she’s partly what motivates him but she’s also what forces him into situations that make him uncomfortable. But as he says early on, “When it feels scary to jump that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying at the same place your whole life.
Matt: When the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this month, the list of Best Supporting Actress nominees were mostly identical to that of the Golden Globes with Jessica Chastain being replaced by Laura Dern. Should she have been included? According to IMDB, she’s received 18 nominations for her performance while the excellent Oscar Isaac has 3. Why do you think he hasn’t gotten more attention?
Jay: I’m not terribly upset she was left out, but I can’t say that Laura Dern was more worthy. I don’t have a particular appreciation for Jessica Chastain, but there were a couple of scenes that were show-stopping. Plus, anyone who can act through the 80s bangs and the big gaudy earrings and still be noticed has to be doing something right.
As for Oscar Isaac, it is a bit of a mystery. I remember when I first started seeing previews for this film in theatres, it took me a while to place Chastain. The shoulder pads were distracting, I guess, not to mention the press-on nails, and I had to go through a rolodex of actresses in my mind before I got to her name and it clicked. Him I recognized right away, but in the movie he seemed way more transformed. Maybe it’s because the last big movie I saw (and loved) him in was Inside Llewyn Davis, and the difference is astonishing. He comports himself like a don, like his empire is vast and his future assured. We know that’s not necessarily the case, but there’s never a hair out of place or a stray piece of lint on his ubiquitous camel coat. Appearances clearly mean a lot to this man; he wants to make it clear he’s risen above his station. And I believe it. I believed his pride, his hubris, his sense of “right.” So I don’t know why he hasn’t been singled out, although considering the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, maybe I have an idea why. …
In Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney gets accidentally left behind on Mars. You can read my review of the book at Quickie Book Reviews (yes, she reads too!). Weir self-published his book on Amazon and it did so well that a real publisher acquired the rights, and that release did so well that some studio bought the rights to make it into a stupid space movie starring Matt Damon.
Which is all well and good. The book itself is pretty heavy on sciency stuff but I think the overall themes of isolation, preservation, and space panic will translate pretty well on film. And Matt Damon’s got some serious experience being left alone on a planet (although as I recall, that one didn’t go so well). Then yesterday I heard Jessica Chastain was added to the cast, and I instantly worried that this was beginning to feel too much like an Interstellar sequel. Also rumoured to be starring: Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover. Add director Ridley Scott into the mix and what could go wrong? It’s a super starry mix, all reportedly working for less than their normal fees just to “get this thing made.”
So what do you think? Interested in seeing this one? It’s slated for release November 2015.
Update June 2015: The trailer’s just been released, and people are psyched!