I feel much better now. If you read my Amanda Knox review, you may remember that I was close to TIFF burnout last night. Well, I did what I hate doing: I made the tough choice of skipping my Midnight Madness movie last night and finally got some good sleep. Nothing like watching four more movies to make an unsettling documentary but a distant memory. I’m excited about TIFF again.
Seeing Oliver Stone take the stage to introduce Snowden (which I’ve been dying to see) didn’t hurt. Stone hasn’t made a particularly good movie in awhile and, come to think of it, has never really made a film that I love, but seeing him at TIFF still feels like a big deal. And, thankfully, my concerns about whether or not he could handle this tricky material were unnecessary.
I mean, it’s not perfect. It tries to do way too much and is about 20 minutes longer than it really should be. But it tells and/or speculates about the story that I felt 2014’s Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour missed out on. It tells us about Snowden the man. Wonderfully played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden is easy to root for and easy to relate to. I’d even argue that Stone’s film does a better job of making the case that all of us should care about illegal NSA surveillance. Even if we feel we have nothing to hide.
Of course, this isn’t a documentary and it’s easier to inspire outrage in a dramatization of events. Snowden isn’t a substitution for Citizenfour, which is an important documentary that everyone should see. It is, however, an interesting and worthy companion piece that will likely make you appreciate Snowden’s sacrifice even more and think twice about getting changed in front of your laptop.
I rented Divergent when studying Movies Based on Young Adult Novels just a few weeks ago. There were enough dicks, assholes, and maniacal Kate Winslets that the movie managed to hold my attention from beginning to end just because I couldn’t wait to see them get what was coming to them but I can’t say it left me wanting more. I decided to check out the second part in the series not out of a need to find out what happens next but a yearning to return that magical place with alcohol and comfortable chairs.
Knowing about my quest to find the perfect drink for each movie, Jay suggested a virgin daiquiri to get me in the spirit of young adult fiction. Point well taken but we’re here to drink so as a compromise I settled on something called Sweet Escape, which combined vodka, pineapple and strawberry liqueur, and strawberry puree. I regretted getting two when I saw the waiter bringing them on a tray all to themselves. So tall. So orange. So embarrassing. I’ll admit that they were delicious but the sweet fruitiness got to me after awhile and, partway through my second one, I realized a little Sweet Escape goes a long way.
So it is with young adult fiction, especially when you’re no longer a young adult and say things like “twittering”. I got through Divergent without much trouble. The premise that in the future we will all be forced into five factions based on such uninspired personality types sounded like that of an eighth-grade English assignment but there were enough talented actors involved ( pretty much phoning it in in most cases but still) to make it more interesting than it really should have been. Quickly into the second installment though, I realized that a little Divergent goes a long way.
Insurgent gets off to a pretty good start. The sequel picks up shortly after Divergent left off so, knowing the drill already, we’re spared the usual voice-over exposition and get right into it right away. Tris, Four, Caleb, and Peter have been hiding out in the peace and love commune among the Amity faction, led by a well-cast but not well-utilized Octavia Spencer. The Amity commune is a fun setting and Tirs and Four’s harrowing escape when the evil Eric inevitably show up was well-exectued.
Soon, we’re thrown much deeper into Divergent mythology. Too deep for someone like me who rolled his eyes at the basic premise from the beginning. The film starts to shift its focus to the Factionless and Candor- factions we were only peripherally aware of in the first- and to a hidden message from the Founders that could change everything. All of this is unavoidable. What would be the point of creating this world if we’re not going to explore it? But soon after my sweet drink started to overwhelm me, shortly after the escape from Amity, I began to lose interest in this world.