And now, back to regular programming...
It's been a hectic week. We've had some grandparents visiting us and have been doing touristy things by day and going to movie screenings by night. But the film festival is one of the reasons we love this city so much, so sleep be damned!
Here's how TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) works.
A few months ago we bought a ticket package which included half a dozen red carpet 'events'. At this stage, we didn't know which movies would be screening but we love the buzz of premieres so opted for the best package ($$$!!!!). Not long after this purchase, the list of films coming to TIFF were announced. A week later we were sent an email giving us the exact date and time when we would be able to buy our tickets online. In one week we had to read up on a huge list of films and pull together a shortlist of viewing options. Husband jumped online and managed to grab tickets to all of our first preferences and we sighed with relief. It's pretty intense achieving this much, TIFF doesn't make it easy to understand how to buy the best tickets and life also manages to get in the way. Having met people in the line for screenings who take the week off to view films (sometimes three a day) I can't imagine how they manage it all. Possibly they don't have children?? We are exhausted!
To attain a reasonable seat at said screenings, you need to arrive about two hours beforehand. It's best to bring your 'dinner' (usually Subway) along to eat whilst standing in the queue as you'll be exiting the cinema around 9pm and trying to make your way home with all the other commuters. No time for some late nosh, you've got babysitters to relieve and some sleep to snatch before another night on your feet! Once inside the theatre there's a stampede to find the 'best' seats based upon your best guess as to where Ryan Gosling/Zac Efron/Penelope Cruz will be sitting. Usually, your guess is wrong as they tend to change things up from screening to screening to avoid nutbags hounding the stars. Fair enough. Once seated, the director and whichever cast members turned up will usually take to the stage to introduce the film and smile. Then the movie will crack on and you can forget that you're sitting in a cinema with the rich and famous. Well, we are good at forgetting but there always a couple of nutbags who spend the whole session staring at the back of Brad Pitt's head in the hopes that he'll turn around and ask them to dinner. Hmmm. These are the same 'girls' who call out "I love you Zac" in the middle of the director's speech. Nice. I would love to say that they are teenagers but alas, they tend to be grownups. Still, they are very entertaining in their mini skirts and fake tans. Oh dear, I'm sounding a tad nasty. I don't mean to be harsh towards other females but I've never understood the whole groupy thing. The other 'irritant' at screenings are the financial backers and corporate sponsors. They swan over to their special seats seconds before the film is about to begin (making everyone wait) and give each other multiple smooches whilst making damn sure the whole theatre has seen their sequins. Yawn. At this stage we begin to feel very sorry for the actors/directors/producers for having to spend any time with these people just to get the money to make their project. It's a dirty world, the entertainment industry! But enough of that, back to the reason we bother with it all.
What movies did we see?
We started the week off with the best film by far. It was a very tough call for the other films to impress after seeing "The Master". Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood", "Punch Drunk Love") wrote and directed this incredible film which explores the notions of cult in a post-war America. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the finest performances I've ever seen, closely followed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Frankly, I'm struggling to find a single negative thing to say about this film. Joaquin and Amy were in the audience with the director (and us!) but the screening started soooo late that we didn't hear from any of them. Hey ho, it was enough to be amongst the first to see this incredible film.
And that Amy, she is just so fabulous...
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On the following day, we took our visitors to see "Cloud Atlas". Brought to us from the makers of "The Matrix" and based on the famous book, of which I had never heard. I live under a rock so that's to be expected. An incredibly ambitious film, and I applaud the Wachowskis for having a crack at such a difficult story. The decision to give the actors multiple roles was a great one, but none of the directors seem to be of the calibre to make that work. Instead of pushing their cast into new territory, they relied upon awful makeup and prosthetics to do the work for them. A shame, as I'm sure this incredible cast is capable of so much more. The standout performance for me was from Jim Broadbent, who is always capable of delivering character performances with more depth and nuance. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry left me a littled flat, they were just doing what they always do. Susan Sarandon (whom I love) was forgettable and Hugh Grant was funny (even when he wasn't meant to be). Many people love this film, and whilst it was entertaining and gave glimpses of a great movie, I find that it is becoming more and more forgettable as days go by.
Still, look how cool Susan looked at the screening...
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Our next flick was "A Late Quartet". Frankly, the only reason I wanted to see this is for my love all things Phillip Seymour Hoffman (remember we went to the states to see him onstage). The story of a string quartet reaching the end of their union. This could have been a lot more interesting, but it was too didactic (director Yaron Zilberman has a history in documentary) and the characters trod a predictable path with little true exploration of their emotions. The exception was Christopher Walken, who gave a fabulous performance as an aging cellist. Both Phillip and Catherine Keener did what they could with the script they had. Hmmm.
But I still love her to bits...
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Film four was Billy Bob Thornton's "Jayne Mansfield's Car". I love Billy Bob. He's the right kind of quirky (often truly odd) and his writing reflects that. What could have been a fairly simple family drama was packed with interesting character traits and beautiful performances. Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt and Billy Bob were all incredible. I really loved this funny little film, it's so great that people still strive to bring simple stories to the screen. Possibly if Billy Bob had written "A Late Quartet" I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
He is one of the few actors around who can write, direct and star with such grace.
Katherine LaNasa was a very pleasant surprise, straddling her character role and giving it so much more depth than many actresses could manage...
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Last night we saw "The Paperboy". Once you get past the hilarity of the girly Zac Efron attention from the crowd, it's a very good film. The director, Lee Daniels, brought us "Precious" a few years back and he didn't let us down with this one. Nicole Kidman was actually very good (I haven't thought that for a while) and all of the cast took huge risks. It definitely paid off. John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey were twisted and fabulous, and little Zac was very good indeed. But there weren't any girly stars at the screening so I haven't linked any shots for you. If you want to google Zac Efron and drool, be my guest.
So, after spending multiple hours in lines to get the best seat, eating too much Subway in said lines and getting nowhere near enough sleep, it's time to bid farewell to TIFF for another year. I'm off for a much-needed pedicure today, and am planning an early night. We have more shows this week (of the comedy and music variety) as this city just keeps on delivering.
Thanks Toronto, even if you keep me awake as much as my newborn ever did...