By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater September 8, 2006 at 5:21AM
They say you're never too old to learn something new, and the trip north to Canada for this year's Toronto Film Festival certainly reinforced that point. Checking in at the Air Canada/United Airlines counter at 6:30 AM (for our 8:00 AM flight) on Thursday, the attendant took our passports, seemed a little confused, refused to look at our confirmation printout, said everything was good, handed us our boarding passes, and told us what gate to proceed to. Upon attempting to board the plane 20 minutes prior to take off, we discovered that not only were our seats different than what we had reserved while booking the flight, but she had ticketed us for the next flight out to Toronto 6 hours later at 1:55 PM. Why she did this (supreme incompetence?) we'll never know. After many frantic phone calls, contact with Canadian immigration, and lots of running around by the wonderful person at the gate, we were finally able to get on the early flight and our bags even made it--amazing! Moral of the story: verbally confirm the flight number, time of departure and gate every time with the person checking you in--who the hell knows what they're doing! That this could happen on an International flight in the current climate is even more mind-boggling.
Thankfully the flight itself was without incident and I was very impressed by Air Canada's "enRoute" entertainment touch screen system in the backs of the seat headrests. Check this out--under the "Movies" category, they actually have 8 different categories: Avant Garde(!), Classics, Holllywood, Family, Contemporary, World, Franco-cinema, and Canadian. Each one had anywhere from 2 to 8 titles which you could watch previews for or in their entirety, and though some of the choices actually fit better in other categories, the list was pretty formidable for an airplane. Unfortunately I was too tired to start watching films at that time of day (especially knowing the task at hand once we landed), but titles in their library included BALLETS RUSSES, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, WAH-WAH, WAKING LIFE, the original STRICTLY BALLROOM, WATER, DOUBLE DARE, SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS, THREE TIMES, and BEOWIULF & GRENDEL. Now how cool (and cultured) is that?
Now on to the miniscule sampling of the 352 films on display here in Toronto at this glorious festival. For consistency sake with the Orlando media's way of doing things, my quick takes will be accompanied by a 1 - 5 star rating. Things got off to an auspicious start with THE HOST (4-Stars), a Korean monster movie with a giant mutant fish (you have to see it to believe it!) running amok and causing major death and destruction. When a dysfunctional family sets out to rescue one of its own, the stage is set for for a comical creature-feature that skillfully blends horror and social and political satire with some jaw-dropping special effects. Next up was one of the most anticipated films of the festival, Almodovar's VOLVER (4-Stars). The stunning Penelope Cruz is wonderful in this juicy, comic melodrama that plays like the ultimate Spanish chick flick. Mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, family secrets, generational ties, a fully functioning "ghost" and a dead body are some of the key elements in this impeccably acted work that's sure to be one of the Fall's biggest art house releases.