The trial (little t = not the movie, the trial itself) of the Chicago 7 was a clusterfuck from the start. From before the start. From before the trial, from before the election, from before the protest, from before the war…injustice is as American as apple pie and is baked right into the constitution. To say it wasn’t a fair trial assumes it was ever even a trial. By its very definition, a trial is an examination of evidence in order to determine guilt. Although the trial of the Chicago 7 was by jury, the judge on the case made it clear the evidence didn’t matter and wouldn’t be heard because their guilt was presumptive and anyone who disagreed was an idiot. Of course, not only was the trial of the Chicago 7 not a trial, there weren’t technically 7 of them either. We start with 8 and end up with 5, but more on that later.
A quick pre-trial bit history: it’s 1968. American is gearing up for a tough election amid a lot of unrest. MLK has been assassinated, and civil rights has become more dominated by the Black Panthers than by peaceful protest. The Vietnam war is increasingly unpopular but still racking up a disturbing daily body count. And so a bunch of different protest groups are descending upon Chicago, which is hosting the Democratic National Convention. Though there are many different organizations with different goals and methods of exacting them, they all pretty much agree that change starts with electing the right kind of leader. But the convention becomes secondary news to the riots and bloodshed that surrounds it. When the dust clears, “seven” men have been arrested for conspiring to start a riot. They did no such thing – some had never even met before being indicted for the crime, but like I said earlier, this was never about justice or truth. It was about politics.
The five men who wind up on trial are Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), and David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch). The bonus 8th is Black Panther Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who was only passing through Chicago at the time but got lumped in because a group that includes an angry black man looks 90% guiltier to any jury of “their: peers. As you can see, this is already a fantastic cast and I haven’t even told you about Mark Rylance, who plays a defense attorney, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays the lead prosecutor. But the man who steals the show (and this is indeed an undeniable sausage fest) is Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, a man so inept at his job, so obviously biased and painstakingly obstructive in his own courtroom that he appears to be mentally incompetent. The trial is a circus, the truth is irrelevant, the law has no part to play, and the whole thing gets so wildly out of control you simply won’t believe what is allowed to happen in a court of law. And yet it did, it’s all true.
Writer-director Aaron Sorkin is absurdly good at sifting through months worth of testimony to find the perfect exchanges to illustrate this absurd miscarriage of justice and a mind-boggling waste of resources. He’s also deft enough (un oeuf) to point us toward the inevitable conclusion; this was train wreck of a trial but an excellent diversion that dominated the news cycle, elbowing things like an unpopular war and an unpopular president off the newspaper’s front page. Sorkin’s direction keeps things simple. History has provided some outsized personalities and a court transcript so outlandish you couldn’t make it up. It’s not a flashy film but it is a memorable one.
Time and again, we have been told that a toy’s only intrinsic value is to be useful. And when that toy ceases to be useful – either it gets broken, or a kid stops playing with it – well, that toy has met the end of its life. Yikes. Woody and friends have occasionally had the chance to grab at immortality but have always convinced themselves that to be Andy’s toy is the highest possible achievement. There is no better thing, therefore it is okay to accept the eventual certainty of death. One day, Andy WILL grow up, will leave for college, will leave them behind.
That day has come.
Andy is indeed off to college. Toy Story 3 was released in 2010, 15 years after the first one, so by any accurate count, Woody and the gang have had some bonus years. But their luck has run out. Andy is packing up his room – putting aside a few things to store in his mother’s attic, a few essentials to bring along with him, and the rest will be marked for garbage. Andy’s sentimental side has him setting aside Woody for college, and bagging the rest of his old pals for storage, but a misunderstanding leads both his mother and the toys themselves to think that they’re meant for the trash. The toys manage to save themselves from the metallic maw of the garbage truck, and they throw themselves into a donation pile destined for Sunnyside Daycare.
The toys are sad to leave Andy, but thrilled that they might once again be played with. Until now, the toys have spent their lives caring solely for Andy, wanting nothing but his happiness. Their own needs have occasionally gone unmet in this quest, especially in these last few years, with Andy the teenager no longer having time for them. The toys, and Woody in particular, have often seemed parental in their concern for him, and in fact, with Andy’s dad curiously absent and unremarked upon, Woody seems to have stepped into that of father figure. But parents too must say goodbye to their children eventually, and when they grow to become useless, they too will be placed in an institution. The toys are optimistic about the daycare centre, but it’s easy to read it as relegation to retirement living, being put out to pasture (Buzz even gets lobotomized, like a dementia patient). There’s always been this double read to Toy Story, one that often leaves us choked up. Thanks a lot, internet. I thought the well had finally run dry, and now I’m flooding my keyboard with tears.
But that’s not even the sad part! Toy Story 3’s genius has the toys not just facing oblivion and meaninglessness without a kid to serve, but it has them facing actual death. When the daycare turns out to be a pretty awful, tyrannical living situation, they find themselves embracing death. This is possibly this decade’s most traumatic and touching scene: with death mere moments away, the toys stop their futile efforts to save themselves, and hold hands to face it bravely together. Luckily, Pixar thinks better of killing off their revered heroes, and they do get a last minute reprieve and a second chance at life with Bonnie, a little girl just down the street from Andy. Even Woody, who was meant to accompany Andy to college, gets reassigned, and frankly, it’s with a sigh of relief that we find he will remain with his friends. Because for me at least, it wasn’t actually death that seemed the worst of it, it was thinking of Woody and Buzz, best buds and life partners, being separated in their twilight years. Is anyone not thinking of their grandparents, and who will die first, leaving the other to face those bleak years alone?
Toy Story 3 improves upon its predecessors in my ways. In 11 years, the animation has of course improved by big heaping gobs. In the first film, we briefly see a teddy bear that’s been relegated to the shelf; they chose not to make him part of the gang because fur was just too hard to get right. In this film, Lotso the bear is made a proper villain, and he looks glorious. Not only are the colours and textures perfect, but the animators find ways to show proper wear and tear on the toys as well. The animation is vivid and astonishing. The expressions on the toys’ faces are often so realistic that you have to pinch yourself to remember it’s just a cartoon (Woody has 229 animation points of movement in his face alone). In Toy Story 3, the Pixar animators are fearless. Whereas before they struggled to get clothes right, in this film they embrace them, with Ken making over 20 costume changes alone (and all of them fabulous). Hair swings. Fibers are differentiated. But they’re not just improving, they’re innovating. Believe it or not, in this film, the real challenge was the trash bag. They have properties that apparently you and I take for granted, but the animators truly struggled with.
But we don’t keep coming back to this franchise for the richly drawn cartoons, we come back because these characters are our friends, and the excellent story-writing has made us care. And boy did we line up in droves to see this film, even if it had been more than a decade since the last installment: it was the first animated film to make a billion dollars worldwide, which it did in just over 2 months at the box office. It was also one of only 3 animated films to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast and Up were the other 2), and it did it without any of its predecessors being nominated. Toy Story has continued to surprise fans because it actually feels that each sequel is better than the last, while Hollywood of course has led us to expect exactly the opposite. Although, it should be noted: while the first and second films both had 100% ratings on Spoiled Red Fruit, this one had a mere 99.
If the nostalgia attached to vintage toys and TV shows and lunchboxes isn’t enough for you, I find it kind of neat that Toy Story has managed to keep the same guy, John Morris, as Andy’s voice for its entire run (there was an 11 year gap between this film and the one before it – the producers had no idea if adult Morris would at all be suitable, but they called him up and his voicemail convinced them on the spot). And Laurie Metcalf as his mom; Roseanne was still on network TV when the first film premiered, and now I suppose it’s kind of on again. Of course, we’ve lost some voice actors along the way: Jim Varney (Slinky) was replaced by his friend Blake Clark. And Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head) will appear in the latest film via archival audio. But we’ve also seen some great additions. Toy Story 3 introduces Ned Beatty (Lotso), Michael Keaton (Ken), Jodi Benson (Barbie – but most famous as the voice of Ariel, of course), Timothy Dalton (Mr. Pricklepants), Kristen Schaal (Trixie), Bonnie Hunt (Dolly), and the list goes on. Toy Story 3 has over 300 characters, which is a lot for any movie, never mind one in which each needs to be rendered from scratch!
Toy Story 3 earned a place in our hearts with scenes that register both pleasure and pain – bittersweet, like life. It taps into our primal fears (uselessness, loneliness, death) but ends with a hopeful note. Toy Story 3 was the perfect way to end a beloved franchise: Andy says goodbye to his toys, and so do we. We know they’re safe and happy in their after(Andy)life, with the final scene panning up into white fluffy cloud, reminiscent of Andy’s wallpaper, but also a sure symbol of heaven. But this franchise has again proved irresistible and Disney-Pixar just couldn’t stay away: a fourth installment hits theatres this weekend, so if you’re curious what life has been like for the toys in their new home, you’re in luck. Just pray that this one holds up to the rest.
Since the original Dumbo is only 60 minutes long, it was inevitable that Tim Burton’s 2019 update would veer from the scant story line of the first.
Max Medici (Danny De Vito) is the owner of a rinky dink circus where little Dumbo is born and immediately considered a monstrosity, despite the fact that our eyes tell us that between his big, sad, blue eyes and his soft, floppy ears, CGI Dumbo is perhaps even cuter than his hand-drawn cousin. A couple of kids, Millie and Joe Farrier, befriend Dumbo and together they discover he can fly. Their father Holt (Colin Farrell), a former trick pony rider and current one-armed vet, cares for the elephants but isn’t particularly warm to them, or to his own motherless children. When Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is in the middle of an incident, she is labelled ‘mad’ and sold away. This is the straw that broke the circus’s back. It gets eaten up by a new amusement park called Dreamland, owned by Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and featuring the beautiful Colette (Eva Green).
As you can tell by cast alone, all the trappings of a Tim Burton movie are there, but sadly, almost none of the magic.
The first thing working against it, at least in my mind, is a circus scene in the movie Big Fish. It’s only a small part of the movie but it’s completely wonderful. Shouldn’t the wonder just multiply when set entirely at the circus? But no. Things start off relatively well at DeVito’s flea circus, but once it gets swallowed up by the soulless Dreamland, things go off the rails.
Second, I despised seeing Dumbo ridden. Dumbo is a flying baby elephant. Isn’t that enough? But no: 2019 needs to subjugate his whimsy by physically climbing aboard. It also doesn’t help that the sight of Eva Green on Dumbo’s back is some of the worst CGI work in the movie.
Mostly though, the movie just doesn’t feel coherent. Dumbo isn’t really even the star. Burton decided against the whole talking animal schtick, and while that makes sense for a live-action remake, it means a lot of improvised human characters and actor egoes who need screen time and dialogue and character arcs.
But when Dumbo himself is on the screen, the movie puffs its little chest and feels bigger for just a moment. Dumbo is irresistible, particularly in his clown makeup. My heart practically grows arms that yearn to embrace the poor little guy. Unfortunately, this little heart of mine just can’t quite make its way to liking this movie. It has everything going for it but the sum isn’t more than the parts. The sum is messy, and a little cold. Burton’s Dumbo is BYOH – bring your own heart.
They make you wait 20 whole minutes before getting to Tom Cruise, and when they finally do, I realized I’d been duped. In fact, it was Michael Keaton being introduced, not Tom Cruise, and I’ve been mistaking American Assassin for American Made possibly for as long as either have existed.
American Assassin is about a kid who goes on vacation with his girlfriend and sees her and countless others get slaughtered on a beach. He does what any reasonable bloke would do: he grows regrettable facial hair, and decides to become a secret spy assassin. Now, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that no dead girlfriend is worth growing that kind of tragic beard for. I can also tell you that this guy’s a doofus. I mean, a) his name is Mitch. Case closed. He’s played by that dude who’s in the Maze Runner movies, which is possibly why he believes he can just become a spy, and then does. He looks up terrorist on the internet, and then just shows up at their door. It’s just that easy. I mean, it doesn’t go well and he has to be emergency extracted by the CIA or whatever, but who’s counting? Revenge, baby! And then for some totally inexplicable reason, the CIA takes a liking to this renegade with pubic hair on his chin, and they decide to train him up so his spy game’s a little more on point. Cut to: Michael Keaton, who plays Stan, a tough as nails ex-NAVY seal who takes young Mitch under his grizzled old wing. They decide to become a lame crime fighting duo, and the bad guy is none other than Stan’s former protege, who coincidentally owns an atom bomb and holds a grudge, and together they put the ass back in assassin.
This genre is crowded as hell and the fact that I merged two movies with similar themes AND titles in my head is a bad, bad sign. Painfully generic. There, I said it. In fact, generic just texted me an angry face emoji because generic would honestly be a step in the right direction for this crap. Even Michael Keaton can’t save it, nor does he really appear to be trying. The script is just that bad. The maze runner, Dylan O’Brien is clearly not his generation’s Tom Cruise, so I guess I’m wondering….who is?
Spider-Man: Homecoming may not be the best movie in the franchise (since my favourite Spidey villain is Doc Ock, I have a soft spot for Spider-Man 2) and may not even be the best superhero movie of the summer (Wonder Woman is undeniably great). But the fact that those were the conversations the assholes were having after we saw Spider-Man: Homecoming last night shows that Homecoming is a great movie in its own right.
Most importantly, Homecoming GETS Spider-Man. This is a movie that is fan service from start to finish. The Marvel Cinematic Universe features prominently in the story as the events in the Avengers and Civil War are built on (and Iron Man plays a pretty big role). There are also a ton of familiar names for fans to find, from Ned Leeds to Flash Thompson to Mac Gargan, and one or two more that I’ll let you discover for yourself.
Even better, the story calls back to several classic comic moments, including this one from Amazing Spider-Man #33 (1966), which is a defining moment for Spidey:
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Spider-Man finds a way to succeed even when it seems there’s no chance, and the final battle in Homecoming is a great display of what I love about Spidey, from start to finish. The conclusion of that battle especially reminded me of the first Spidey comic I ever read, and really, every Spidey comic since. Spider-Man’s desire to do the right thing is what makes him my favourite and I was extremely happy to see that made a focus of the film (“with great power comes great responsibility” is never actually said, but it’s the movie’s underlying theme and that’s a far better approach than giving us another depiction of Uncle Ben’s death).
Fittingly for Spider-Man, the hero who can’t stop saying corny one-liners as he fights the bad guys, this may also be the funniest superhero movie ever made. It captures the light-hearted, good-natured awkwardness of Peter Parker and the awkwardness of high school in general. There are a lot of laughs from start to finish, and like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Homecoming always finds a way to entertain the audience in between the action (often at our hero’s expense, as it should be with Spidey).
(SPOILER: sometimes the humour even comes at the audience’s expense, as you will find out if you stick around to the very end.)
Spider-Man: Homecoming met my high expectations, and then some. This is how you make a great superhero movie, by staying true to the character, and when that character is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you’re in for a treat.
Fans were shocked when Jared Leto’s Joker had only about 7 minutes of screen time out of Suicide Squad‘s bloated 123, but Hollywood has a long history of assigning big names to small roles – and it’s not always a bad thing.
Okay, sometimes it’s a bad thing. Brad Pitt was in 12 Years a Slave for only a couple of minutes, just long enough to establish himself as the only nice white guy, but some countries (not naming any names, Italy) really ran with the white guy and blew his big white face up on the posters, relegating the star (and the slave), Chiwetel Ejiofor, to a small corner.
Anne Hathaway shaved her head and followed a life-threatening diet in order to play the part of Fantine in Les Miserables. She had only 15 minutes of screen time, but it was enough to win her an Oscar and shape her career.
Know who did more with even less? Darth Vader. He appeared in the original Star Wars for just about 12 minutes, but he was an instant bad guy icon. His presence is so magnetizing he truly doesn’t need much. What’s a little more head-scratching to me is Boba Fett. I still don’t even know who he is, or if that’s the correct pronoun for this person. And yet I hear about him ALL THE TIME. He’s in the top 5 favourite characters despite being a glorified extra; he manages about 18 minutes across the entire trilogy mind you, and only got that much when fans seemed to really respond. Mark Hamill got second billing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because Hollywood is a sexist machine. He’s in that movie for about 6 seconds – sneeze and you miss him.
Beetlejuice is one of Michael Keaton’s most famous roles, and he plays the title character, but he only gets roughly 17 minutes worth of screen time, all told. How crazy is that? But it’s true: he doesn’t appear til quite late in the movie, but boy does he maximize every crazy moment he’s there.
Judi Dench will see your 17 minutes, Michael Keaton, and she’ll raise you: she won a best supporting actress Oscar for only 8 minutes of a role. She played Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and clearly made quite an impression from her modest 6% of the film. Accepting the award, she joked “I feel for eight minutes on the screen, I should only get a little bit of him.” I’m sure that was some consolation to the likes of Lynn Redgrave and Kathy Bates, who lost to her.
Anthony Hopkins only managed to double that screen time when he took on his (arguably) most famous role: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. In just 16 minutes he managed to creep out an entire generation, and caused chianti sales to plummet. Sean Connery was originally approached for the role and turned it out down, which means he lost out on an iconic role, an Oscar, a big day, and sequel opportunities.
There was a lot about the movie Doubt that got under my skin, but Viola Davis’s 5-8 minutes were consistently under there. She plays the mother of a young boy who may or may not have been molested by a priest. She goes toe to toe with Meryl Streep and doesn’t just hold her own – she steals the scene, earning a supporting actress nomination to boot.
5-8 minutes? Bah! Ned Beatty earned his best supporting actor nomination in under 6. He had one riveting scene in Network, which he shot in a single day, but it sure had us glued to our seats.
Beatrice Straight shaves about 13 seconds off Beatty’s time with her Oscar win for her work in the same movie. As William Holden’s poor, wretched wife in Network, Straight made quite an impact, stealing away the record for least screen time for an Oscar win from Gloria Grahame, who took a leisurely 9 and a half minutes to earn hers for The Band and the Beautiful.
It seems as thought it might be difficult for anyone to earn an Oscar with a sub – 5 minute role, but who knows: has anyone actually racked up Michelle Williams’ screen time in Manchester By the Sea? It’s not a whole lot more, I’m guessing. But the truth is, someone came close: Hermione Baddeley was nominated for best supporting actress for just 2 minutes and 20 seconds worth of screen time in Room at the Top, in 1960. The bar’s been set: who will be the first to duck under it successfully?
What’s your favourite tiny role? Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street? Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Daniel Craig in The Force Awakens?
I suppose it was to be expected that Ray Kroc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, was an asshole. But, wow, was he ever an asshole. He died well before this movie was made but it seems he would have agreed with that assessment and been fine with it since it got him where he wanted to be – it made him rich, eventually.
But not without some struggles. You see, he didn’t “create” McDonald’s until he was 52 years old, and the reason for the quotation marks is because he didn’t actually create it. But as we know, history is written by the victors, and that’s Ray Kroc.
Michael Keaton is extremely good as Kroc. Good to the point that he makes Kroc seem like almost a decent guy even though he’d take your last McNugget whether or not he was hungry. The great Nick Offerman and the familiar John Carroll Lynch are excellent as well as Kroc’s former partners, the McDonald brothers. Other familiar faces will pop up for a scene or two, but this movie is mainly about Kroc and the McDonalds.
The Founder’s story is an interesting and engaging one from start to finish. It skips around noticably at parts and I felt a bit disconnected from the movie as a result, but the core tale remained crisp, clear, and entertaining throughout, to the point that the lawyer side of me wanted to yell at the screen as one particularly bad decision was made.
So bring your notepad and find out how an empire can be built from practically nothing on someone else’s idea, as long as you don’t mind being an asshole about it. The Founder gets a score of seven “fries with that” out of ten.
A young couple, spiky-haired Alec Baldwin and plump-lipped Geena Davis, get into a car accident and come home depressed and sodden, their vacation off to a bad start. And they don’t know the half of it!
A handbook for the recently deceased mysteriously appears in their home and they get to wondering if maybe they didn’t survive the crash after all.
First rule of death? You can’t leave your house. First rule of real estate? When the previous owners die, a new family will move in (cue: pale and deliciously high-strung Catherine O’Hara, creepy as ever Jeffrey Jones, and strange and unusual Winona Ryder). The ghosts of the old owners plus the thoughtfull new owners makes for a very crowded house. We all know that if you want to rid a house of ghosts, you call an exorcist – but what if the ghosts want to rid a house of the living?
Before he was Birdman, even before he was Batman, Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice, the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist. Free demon possession with every exorcism! Keaton goes all out in this film, and he’s the absolute stand-out, despite the fact that he’s in all of 17 minutes on-screen. He’s ghoulish and manic and clearly having a lot of fun leaping into improvisations.
Makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on this film. Watching it now, it feels a little dated, but that’s nothing in comparison to the weird, stop-motion stuff that Burton dreamed up for the afterlife.
I was a kid the first and last time I saw this, and I had to work hard to convince my mom to rent it for my little posse of pony-tailed friends. Beetlejuice was perfect sleepover fare: creepy, with the illusion of the illicit, but overall harmless fun with an inspired Calypso soundtrack perfect for sleeping bag shenanigans all night long. Rewatching it now, I have a new appreciation for how dark and funny it is, and for the formidable Catherine O’Hara, whom I always love, but who rarely looks as stylish as she does in this movie.
The movie ended up being successful enough to spawn a cartoon series and whispers of a sequel that remained in the works for years but seemed to die off until they were recently dusted off for us in 2015. It’s been terribly hush-hush, Burton unwilling to confirm except that he’d only consider it if Keaton is on board – and he is, and so is Winona. Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride & Prejuidice & Zombies) has been working on the script since 2012. Chloe Grace Moretz (rumoured to play Winona’s daughter) and Samuel L. Jackson have reportedly already begun filming.
As for Delia Deetz, style icon, I present you:
She wears mostly Japanese designs by Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garçons. James Acheson took home the Oscar that year for Dangerous Liaisons, and I can’t argue that, but I do think it’s a crime Aggie Guerard Rodgers didn’t even get a nomination for her work here.
And while I’m engaging in some movie history revisionism, can we please start a campaign to digitally erase Jeffrey Jones from our favourite movies? You want to know why he was so convincing as Feris Bueller’s creepy principle? Because he’s a real-life pedophile. In 2003 he pled no contest to the felony charge of taking sexually explicit pictures of a minor, and possessing child pornography. He’s a registered sex offender. Can we maybe take him out family movies like this one?
My Asshole compadres and I were enthusiastically discussing and comparing notes on all the wonderful films we’ve seen at TIFF over guacamole and cocktails when I raised the question of how difficult it can be to stay objective through TIFF-coloured glasses.
TIFF is exciting. I’d forgotten how exciting. The red carpets, the thrill of seeing eagerly anticipated movies before anyone else, and the frequent false alarm celebrity sightings (I could have sworn I saw Hillary Clinton last weekend outside TIFF Bell Lightbox but began to doubt myself when I heard her speak with a Ukranian accent) all make for as thrilling a trip to the cinema as you can get. Separating the quality of the film itself from the experience has been- I’m not going to lie- a challenge.
The anticipation I feel going into a TIFF screening and the focus I keep at all times at what’s happening onstage and onscreen made it particularly surprising that the couple sitting next to me at Monday’s international premiere of Spotlight, the true story of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, were making out through the beginning of the movie. That’s a TIFF first for me.
So you’ll excuse me- I hope- if I was a little distracted for a little while at the beginning. Luckily, the urgency of Spotlight soon caught even my neighbors’ attention and we could all sit back and enjoy the show. Well, maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton play real-life Boston Globe journalists who exposed the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of approximately 90 local priests. It’s not always an easy movie to watch. The interview scenes where survivors disclose the details of the abuse are harrowing and stomach-turning and the extent of the corruption on the part of the Church and so many others who turned a blind eye is infuriating.
Last week, I named All the President’s Men, The Insider, and Zodiac as my three favourite films about journalism. All three are based on real journalists and maintain suspense throughout while mostly avoiding melodrama. Spotlight works for many of the same reasons as those films did but doesn’t quite measure up to my favourites. It’s not always as tightly written as those films and even drags a little in the middle but Keaton- who can’t seem to believe his luck getting great parts two years in a row– gives a passionate performance that always keeps things moving. He may get his second shot at Oscar with this film.
I don’t know if the lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival is better this year than in previous years I’ve been but choosing my films and fitting them into my schedule is harder than ever. Maybe it’s because I prepaid for 12 tickets over a four-day period (my most ambitious itinerary yet), making the choices seem unlimited. Well, almost unlimited. Every time I choose a movie, I have to give up another one and I had forgotten how painful it can be to scratch something from my list.
Here’s what I’ve decided on. What do you think? Is anyone else going to TIFF? What’s made your list?
Friday, September 11
Demolition– Jean-Marc Vallée directs Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts in what sounds like an intense drama about a grieving investment banker who copes with the loss of his wife through what the TIFF website describes as “random acts of destruction”. Not sure what that means exactly (although the write-up goes on to say something about an office washroom stall) but both Gyllenhaal (Prisoners, Nightcrawler, and Southpaw) and Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) have been killing it lately and I can’t wait to see what they can come up with together. My only regret is that I’ll be catching the last of three screenings at TIFF, making me worry that Jake may not bother to show up.
The Lobster– An enthusiastic reception from the Cannes jury convinced me to give this seemingly very strange movie a shot. Newly single Colin Farrell checks into a hotel where guests are given the task of finding a new partner within 45 days and the punishment of being turned into an animal and released into the wild if they fail. From Yorgos Lanthimos, a supposedly acclaimed Greek director that I’ve never heard of, I have no idea what I’m in store for here. I have a feeling that this bizarre-sounding film will either be my favourite that I see in Toronto this year or the most aggravating. Either way, I’m expecting to react strongly to it.
Sicario– Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners) tackles the war on drugs in the latest collaboration between Quebec filmmakers and American movie stars. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro make up an inter-agency task force that take on a dangerous mexican drug cartel and, from the sounds of it, will have to make some tough decisions about how far they’re willing to go. I picked Sicario out of the bunch because of Villeneuve, a very intersting filmmaker with a great eye and a bit of a dark side. His films are usually tough to shake off and I’m hoping this one will be too. You can see the trailer here.
Saturday September 12
Eye in the Sky– I’m hoping Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul don’t party too hard after Eye in the Sky’s premiere on Friday night because I’m hoping to see them all at 11:15 this morning. I love all three of them and the film’s plot- about an ends vs means dilemma concerning an innocent child in the line of fire of a drone targetting a terrorist. The synopsis on the TIFF website makes it sound like a mix of comedy of errors and topical thriller and this cast this concept sound promising, especially with the right script.
Ninth Floor– A Canadian documentary about the 1969 occupation of Sir George Williams University’s (now part of Concordia University in Montreal) by students protesting against the school’s systemic racism. I always try and catch at least one documentary when I visit the festival and I chose this one both because 1) I did my Undergrad at Concordia (they told us this story at orientation) and 2) the TIFF website sells this as not only an account of this one story but the larger story of how Canadian citizens and institutions hide their racism while boasting of their tolerance to the rest of the world. Check out the trailer here.
Hardcore– I try and see at least one Midnight Madness screening every year and I chose, partly through the process of elimination, this “non-stop, white-knuckle, crackerjack thrill ride” about a Russian super-soldier trying to save his wife from- get this- a “psychotic paramilitary psychic”. I love the rowdy mood of these midnight genre screening, a nice break from the more pretentious tone of some of the other screenings, but am not a horror fan. Because all the other Midnight films seem to be about Hell and demons and posession, I settled for this out-of-control action movie. Apparently it’s filmed almost entirely from the POV of the hero, which sounds intriguing. Hardcore even.
Sunday September 13
About Ray– Born female, Ray (Elle Fanning) has always felt he was born the wrong gender and finally feels ready to commit to the surgery. Only trouble is he needs the signed permission of both parents. Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, and Tate Donovan star in this comedy-drama with an amazing trailer. Can’t wait for this one.
Closet Monster– Three years ago, I caught a TIFF screening of a fantastic Canadian film called Blackbird, which featured an impressive lead performance by a young actor named Connor jessup. Jessup returns to the festival this year with this surreal-sounding Canadian drama about an aspiring make-up artist in a small Newfoundland community where he feels suffocated and is haunted by increasingly vivid nightmares of coming out to his father.
The Missing Girl– A lonely middle-aged comic book store owner becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to his missing young employee when her disappearance triggers his adolescent memories of another missing girl. Not sure exactly what to expect here but the trailer has my attention.
Monday September 14
Remember– The great Christopher Plummer stars in what sounds to me like a Mementoish road trip thriller from Atom Egoyan (The sweet Hereafter). Plummer plays a nursing home resident whose memory is beginning to fail him. Before it’s too late, he must follow a step-by-step plan laid out for him by the mysterious Max (Martin Landau) to escape his nursing home and track down and kill the man who murdered his family 70 years ago. Check out the trailer. i can’t wait. Even if Plummer isn’t there to answer our questions, I’ll be happy just to see this.
Freeheld– I’m often skeptical about Based on a True Story movies if there’s even a chance that I’ll see even half of this cast on stage, I’m there. Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, and Michael Shannon star in the story of a terminally ill police officer fighting for the right to pass on her pension benefits to her same-sex partnerIt runs the risk of being a little preachy but with this cast I’ll keep an open mind. Besides, it’s a story worth telling. Here’s the trailer.
Spotlight– With a trailer that looks just amazing, this based-on-fact drama about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of their priests stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton. It’s from the director of the amazing The Visitor and the not-so-amazing The Cobbler so it’s hard to tell how good it’s going to be but I’m daring to get my hopes up.