Well that's certainly not something you hear everyday...Here we are for our first day and a half in Toronto and I found it somewhat amusing to hear that phrase in general conversation. The party (which we were not invited to unfortunately) was in honor of Lars Von Trier's controversial (so what else is new) new film, which press screened right as we were getting to our hotel yesterday. Oh well, I'm sure we'll catch up to it at some point. In the meantime, we're off to a busy start and the weather is just sensational--mid-50s to low 70s and no humidity. What a pleasure after an Orlando summer.
Riding in from the airport I spotted an article in the newspaper in the cab that shocked me a bit. Popular Canadian/Indian actress Lisa Ray, only 37 years old, apparently has been diagnosed with
an inoperable form of bone marrow cancer. The lovely and talented Ms. Ray is in two new films at the festival, COOKING FOR STELLA and DEFENDOR, and has been a frequent star of recent Enzian/ACA-produced South Asian Film Festival favorites such as BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD, WATER, and THE WORLD UNSEEN. Our thoughts and prayers are with her.
TIFF Quick Hits (using the Orlando Sentinel/Weekly 5-star system):
FISH TANK (4-Stars) - Cannes Jury Prize winner and UK director Andrea Arnold's latest after the Oscar-winning short, WASP, and the terrific RED ROAD, this a gritty and totally compelling look at the troubled, dance-loving 15-year-old Mia and her relationships with her party-girl Mom, her younger sister, and her mom's new boyfriend in contemporary working-class England. Newcomer Katie Jarvis is a discovery, and Michael Fassbender (HUNGER, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) and the rest of the cast are spot on.
NYMPH (2-Stars) - Thai director Pen-ek Ratananaruang gets his BLAIR WITCH on in this elliptical, poetic, and slow combination of marital infidelity tale and horror film set in the forest. Between the numerous scenes of photographing trees and blurry images of a naked woman/demon in the background, the thought that most frequently came to mind was WTF?
A SERIOUS MAN (5-Stars) - The Coen Bros. come through with their most personal (and certainly most Jewish) film to date, and it's a brilliantly funny, gorgeously shot (by Roger Deakins) meditation on the meaning of God in a Minnesota suburb in the late 60s. The excellent Michael Stuhlbarg (who?) stars as a college physics professor who must endure an absurd amount of personal, professional, and spiritual challenges in the days leading up to his son's Bar Mitzvah. The rest you'll have to discover on your own--add this to your Must-See list now!
UP IN THE AIR (4-Stars) - How do you follow THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and JUNO? Jason Reitman continues his winning streak with this very smart, very funny, and very timely comedy about a pro's pro (expertly played by George Clooney) who fires people for a living while spending 90% of his life in airplanes and hotel rooms on business trips. Things get a bit more complicated when he meets his match in another frequent flier businesswoman (the always good Vera Farmiga) and an all-business new colleague (a well-cast Anna Kendrick) whose grand plan is to change the business by terminating workers via video-conferencing. A couple of plot points may be a bit predictable, but this is an accomplished and topical work that's also entertaining as hell.
THE HOLE (3-Stars) - Joe Dante, director of THE HOWLING, GREMLINS, the William Castle tribute MATINEE, and the best episode from the TWILIGHT ZONE movie, has always been one of my favorites from the Corman alumni. Here he's made a perfect horror/fantasy film for tweens (my 13-year-old, Jack, would love it) about a hole with a locked door in the basement of a house that unleashes one's innermost fears. It's up two young brothers and the cute neighbor next door to solve the mystery while they contend with killer clowns and J-horror-like ghosts of little girls. Good, creepy fun, in awesome 3-D no less, but anyone over 15 may not be into it. Watch for the Dick Miller cameo for old times sake!
LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS (3-Stars) - In this new film from Don Roos (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, HAPPY ENDINGS), the stunning Natalie Portman gives a complex and mature performance as "the other woman," a shunned stepmother who's dealing with all kinds of problems--from the horrible loss of her baby at the age of 3 days to the strained relationship with her husband's 8-year-old son to the boy's bitch of a biological mother (a shrill Lisa Kudrow). There are some nice moments here and Portman plays a rich character, but this is too melodramatic and weepie for my tastes.
ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNING (3-Stars) - The prequel-sequel to the 2003 TIFF Midnight hit Thai martial arts epic again stars (and now is directed by) the amazing Tony Jaa as the prodigal son out for vengeance against 13th century warlords who killed his parents. Simply plotted with a weak and highly repetitive narrative, the action is nevertheless awesome and guaranteed to satisfy. The jaw-dropping stunts he does with elephants are worth the price of admission alone.