Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris

I attended the screening with my mother, yes mother! with mother. My mother and I see all sorts of films together. Several years ago it was her idea to see Killer Joe, a film she loved by the way. My only regret was that our seats were not farther back in the theatre. We were in the third row of the Princess of Wales Theatre, too close for this one, and I think we may have missed some details.

I would say I was definitely rocked by the film. It was much more of an experience than I was expecting, like a roller coaster ride versus sitting through a comprehensive story line. I should have checked my heart rate afterwards. It certainly made me think. It’s quite a visual spectacle and Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in it.

After the film, we sat in our seats through the credits and Patti Smith’s rendition of “It’s The End of The World” . We weren’t watching the credits, we were thinking and talking about the film. We weren’t the only ones. There were many others still sitting in the theatre trying to figure out what we just saw. The horrific scenes didn’t bother me per se as I knew when I was watching the film that it was more symbolic than actually occurring as presented on the screen. Don’t get me wrong, its whacky and riveting, hence the many wtfs you hear.

I am not going to share my thoughts, what I think it represents, or any spoilers here. That would spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet.

I can appreciate that some might not have the patience for it and they may hate it. I realize that many film goers prefer to be spoon fed a story that makes complete sense. They crave the closure, the knowing, the understanding and a film like this might leave them feeling confused and undone. This is not a film for those people. This is an attempt at something different, something to wonder about. I commend Aronofsky for taking this leap. He is fortunate that he has the creative ability and the gumption to take the risk. Is he just throwing something nonsensical out there to get attention? I don’t think so. One could have said that about Jackson Pollock. Never mind, some people do…

This film is a polarizing one. I personally find it exciting to have a film to wonder and talk about. I cannot wait to see it again. This is precisely why I love film so much.

Good Favour

Directed by Rebecca Daly, starring Vincent Romeo, Lars Brygmann and Victoria Mayer

A young stranger, Tom, stumbles into a remote Christian village somewhere in the Netherlands. He’s injured, disoriented and helpless, so it seems. The kind folk take him in and treat him with kindness.

The villagers’ devotion to God and the Bible’s teachings is lead by a compassionate preacher. They are a community united in their strong beliefs and it is these beliefs lead them to connect Tom’s actions relating to a series of events as miraculous ability.

And so it goes.  Is Tom a charlatan or is he the second coming? You decide.

Decent movie, solid story telling and thought provoking, but a bit too sleepy for me.

Call Me By Your Name 

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg

I am not the only person to fall deeply in love with this film. It is a romance for anyone who has fallen in love, who remembers their first real deep love. It’s a romance for the ages. It is also coming of age film and very much a family film.

Timothee Chalamet delivers a genuinely perfect portrayal of Elio, a bright, confident and slightly cocky 17 year old with still so much to figure out. He spends his summers in Italy with his highly educated, liberal professor parents in a gorgeous estate in Northern Italy.  He speaks a number of languages and spends time reading and writing music as well as hanging out with other young people also visiting the Italian countryside for the summer. His world is shaken when Oliver, the handsome charismatic graduate student arrives. He is caught off guard and a little bit uncomfortable with his attraction to Oliver, but his desire to be near him and his curiousity take him on a journey we imagine he wasn’t expecting.

The two other films directed by Luca Guadagnino that I have seen, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash were very memorable, a bit quirky,  gorgeous, also set in the same region of northern Italy and starred Tilda Swinton.  This one was different. First of all, no Tilda. And while I enjoyed Luca’s other films, they always seemed a bit too glamorous, campy and perhaps a bit pretentious at times. This film was much more genuine and relatable.

Timothee Chalamet shines as Elio, and many critics are touting him for an Oscar nomination.  There are other great performances here as well. Michael Stuhlbarg, always solid, is absolutely perfect in the role of Elio’s father and Oliver’s mentor. There is one scene at the end of the film where he shares some fatherly advice with Elio and all parents should take good notes here. The scene made by heart swell…again…because my heart swelled a few times throughout the film.  Some folks have been critical of Armie Hammer’s casting, saying that it should have been played by a gay actor or that the subject of a 17 year old engaged in a relationship with a 24 year old crosses the line and somehow this translates to criticizing Armie Hammer. If I listed every straight role played by a gay actor, this piece would be pages long. I commend Armie for stretching outside of his comfort zone. I would actually like to see more straight men play gay parts as perhaps it would help dissolve some homophobia that exists in the world. Another thing that strikes me is that I never hear noise about straight women playing lesbians. As for the age discrepancy, certainly there a point where the gap becomes a concern, but in my opinion it is not 17 and 24. Funny, I bet a 17 year old female and 24 year old male in a relationship isn’t as difficult for people to get their heads around. Perhaps these are new double standards.

I really felt this film was tastefully done and the casting was spot on. The focus is the evolution of their beautiful love affair. As I said initially, this could be billed as a family film, maybe for families with teenage children, definitely one all parents should see. The gorgeous musical score, the cinematography, the setting, the screenplay, the performances, we are sure to see this one warm the hearts of the academy and receive several nominations. I have not felt so moved by a love story since the English Patient and I cannot wait to see it again.

TIFF 2017 Wrap Up 

What a crazy eleven days it has been. 30 movies later! The TIFF Gods were kind to us. The weather was stellar. I think it tried to rain once over the entire week and failed.  The elevators at Scotiabank held up under the strain. I am very proud of my city being able to pull off such an enormous festival fairly flawlessly. People genuinely seemed to enjoy being in Toronto for the festival. Idris said it best this week when he said TIFF stands for “Toronto is fucking fantastic!”, especially in September.

Here is the ranking of my 30 Films in the order in which they impressed me.  While I didn’t see any terrible films, I do have an excellent top 6 this year. The next 16 were great. And the last 8 were alright.

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
  2. Call Me By Your Name
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. First They Killed My Father
  5. Darkest Hour
  6. mother!
  7. Who We Are Now
  8. C’est La Vie
  9. Custody
  10. Angels Wear White
  11. Lady Bird
  12. Beast
  13. Unicorn Store
  14. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
  15. Death of Stalin
  16. The Rider
  17. Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle
  18. Woman Walks Ahead
  19. In The Fade
  20. Mary Shelley
  21. Kissing Candice
  22. Marrowbone
  23. Three Christs
  24. Mademoiselle Paradis
  25. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  26. Good Favour
  27. The Lodgers
  28. A Season in France
  29. Kings
  30. On Chesil Beach

What didn’t I see that I have added to my list based on what others loved?

      • Molly’s Game
      • I, Tonya
      • Battle of the Sexes
      • Foxtrot
      • Faces Places
      • The Florida Project
      • Sweet Country
      • 55 Steps
      • The Wife
      • The Leisure Seeker
      • The Disaster Artist
      • Killing of a Sacred Deer
      • Professor Marston & The Wonder Women
      • Loveless
      • The Current War
      • First Reformed
      • Les Affames
      • Bodied
      • Just Andre

      I spoke to Thom Powers on the street after my last film and commended him and the other programmers for an amazing selection of films. It was quality over quantity this year and this was a good thing. There is an audience for every film, and never is this more apparent than at the Toronto International Film Festival.

      Congratulations to the winners of this year’s awards!  

      IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film: Pre-Drink, directed by Marc-Antoine Lemire

      IWC Short Cuts Award for ​Best International Short Film: Min Börda (The Burden), directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr

      City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film: Luk’ Luk’l, directed by Wayne Wapeemukwa

      Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Les Affamés, directed by Robin Aubert

      The International Federation of Film Critics — Discovery prize: Ava, directed by Sadaf Foroughi

      The International Federation of Film Critics — Special Presentations: The Motive (El Autor), directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca

      NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere: The Great Buddha+, directed by Huang Hsin-Yao

      Toronto Platform Prize: Sweet Country, directed by Warwick Thornton

      Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award: Bodied, directed by Joseph Kahn

      Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award: Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda

      Grolsch People’s Choice Award: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, directed by Martin McDonagh (Runner’s up Call Me By Your Name and I, Tonya) 

      Will be posting brief reviews over the next few days. Might take some time but I will get them all done.

      Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

      Directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Francis McDormand, Woody Harrilson, Sam Rockwell and Lucas Hedges

      Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was probably one of my most anticipated films and it exceeded my expectations. It blew the bloody doors off, which is what I tweeted shortly after the screening. I had the good fortune of seeing the premiere screening at the Ryerson Theatre where it received a very exhubarant and well deserved standing ovation.

      The sharp script, with all the feels, is definitely McDonagh’s best. Sam Rockwell said during the Q&A that he often has to talk himself into taking a role, but in reading the script, with something happening on every page, it was what they refer to in the business as a “no brainer”. Francis McDormand joked ” You’re no Shakespeare, Martin” and he happily replied “Not yet” after which she started to stroke his arm.

      I actually think he is a Shakespeare for our time. This is a modern day tragedy, bold and brash with a huge heart. There is lots of humour, compassion, plenty of violence and lots and lots of anger, and swearing, lots of swearing.  Do I believe Shakespeare would have dropped F bombs in his dialogue if he was writing today? Abso-f-ing-lutely!

      In a nutshell, without spoilers, this is the tale of Mildred, a mother who has lost her daughter to a brutal rape and murder.  Many months later, the crime has no leads and the local police seemed to have filed the case away. Mildred has no patience for their apparent laziness and determined to shake things up, she shames the police department with three obnoxious billboards just outside the town. Lots follows, no spoilers here.

      The characters are layered, and while many are brash, they have a sense of humanity and vulnerability that evolves throughout the story. Francis McDormand’s Mildred is really angry and above all heart broken. She conveys a rawness that any parent can identify with, although we would hope to never want to find ourselves in her shoes.  Her performance is flawless and it might be her very best. Sam Rockwell plays the Sheriff’s unhinged racist deputy in what is absolutely his best performance to date.  If this doesn’t earn the man an Oscar, I am not sure what will. Woody Harreslon is his solid self as the no nonsense, charismatic Sherrif.

      I am very pleased that it won the People’s Choice Award in Toronto and is now destined to awards season for nominations in all major categories including screenplay, acting, cinematography, musical score and best picture.

      I look forward to watching this again when it is released in theatres.

      On Chesil Beach

      Directed by Dominic Cooke, starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle

      In 1962, particularly in England, sex was not something many people talked about openly. Hell today some people still don’t  want to talk about it.  But in 1962, around the onset of the sexual revolution, most people were not speaking openly about sex.

      This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, takes us to the seaside resort where Florence and Edward have arrived for their honeymoon. We initially find them walking on the beach.  They are not so easy together, and at this point you know nothing about them so you would almost wonder if this was an arranged marriage.  But no, as we learn from flashbacks, they were genuinely in love. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Florence’s family is wealthy, poised and focused on keeping up appearances, while Edward’s father is a school teacher and his family struggles a bit given his mother suffered brain damage after a head injury.  Edward likes rock and roll music, while Florence, a violinist, prefers classical concertos.  They say opposites attract, but their differences will prove otherwise.

      A large part of the film centres on their wedding night, a most awkward attempt at intimacy and the heartbreaking result of their inability to share how they truly feel.  The film flips back to moments in their relationship before their wedding so that we can see they truly care for each other.  The frustration we feel as we watch and imagine how many couples would have gone through something like this, is what this film does so very well.

      The first 2/3rds of the film were incredible. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle deliver spectacularly with this very delicate subject, doing justice to the very uncomfortable disappointment and heartbreak that ensues.

      Unfortunately the filmmaker Dominic Cooke, and screenwriter, Ian McEwan, decided to add material to the screenplay not originally in the novel. Fastforward to the future where older versions of Florence and Edward, who look like burn victims, enact a very tacky Hollywood ending that didn’t suit the first part of the film. If you watch the film, you can stop watching at the point where Edward tells his friends the story then fast forward to the final flashback on the beach.  You will know what I mean. Yes, there are parts where he looks like his been out in the sun too long, but this part of the film is ok for an ending.  Do not go any further. Thank me later.

      Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami

      Documentary directed by Sophie Fiennes.

      Filmed over 10 years this documentary collaboration was well worth the wait. It’s a gritty, candid view of a woman who has until now been careful to present herself as a work of art. This film shows more of the inside of Grace Jones, beneath the veneer. She shared during the Q&A that she has always struggled with being a slave to vanity and that this documentary was an opportunity to show herself inside out vs outside in.

      Sophie Fiennes had met Grace over 10 year ago when she was filming a documentary about Grace’s brother, Bishop Noel Jones, called the Hoover Street Revival.  It was during this meeting that they hatched a plan to do this documentary. Apparently it was Grace who would call Sophie up periodically to invite her to film footage, for instance, at the Jones family reunion in Jamaica, in the studio and on tour and Sophie always had a bag packed ready for the call. There was talk of a follow up film because there is apparently a who lot more unused footage.

      The doc is a hodge podge of tour footage, Jamaica, studio rehearsals and more, but the songs that are selected for the film are personal ones. Will not spoil that element but the songs are part of the story telling. She’s had an interesting life.

      What I found most surprising about Miss Jones is that she is quite self deprecating and she has a dry raunchy sense of humour. Do not get the wrong idea, this woman is still bad ass, but she is a lot more human than the persona that has illuminated over the past 50 years.

      It was a real treat to attend the premier and hear Sophie and Grace speak after the film. No better way to kick off TIFF 2017!

      C’est La Cinema! TIFF 2017 is locked and loaded

      After hours of pouring through the films and fiddling with the TIFFr scheduler I narrowed my list down to 30 films I hope to see.  If you have not used the site to schedule your films, I highly recommend you try it out. It is incredibly helpful and very easy to use.  Without it, I would not have been able to cram this many films into my tight schedule.

      What am I seeing? 

      Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Call Me By Your Name, On Chesil Beach, The Death of Stalin, Mademoiselle Paradis, Who We Are Now, Beast, The Rider, Mary Shelley, The Shape of Water, Woman Walks Ahead, Unicorn Store, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Darkest Hour, First They Killed My Father, Tulipani Love and Honour, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, In The Fade, Kings, mother!, Marrowbone, Three Christs, Good Favour, The Lodgers, Kissing Candace, The Motive, Angels Wear White, Lady Bird, C’est La Vie, A Season in France

      Highlights : 13 films directed by women (highlighted), 15 world premiers, lots of UK films including one from Northern Ireland, French films, a Spanish Film, a Chinese Film,  an Italian film and some first features.

      What’s missing? Germany, the Middle East, India and South Korea.  I usually see a film from each of these countries but this year is dominated by the US and UK. I would have liked to have seen Lean on Pete, The Florida Project and Bodied, as well as a few more docs, but sadly I couldn’t make them work. 

      Which films top my list? That’s a hard one but certainly  Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Death of Stalin, The Shape of Water and The Motive are up there.

      Who am I excited about seeing? Grace Jones, Gary Oldman, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, and Peter Dinklage. 

      I am looking forward to 1o days of films, the buzz on King Street, and meeting up with film friends in line of course! 

      TIFF 2017 – The Planning Begins 

      There are only 31 days until the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival officially kicks off. For me, much of the fun has already begun, reviewing all of the titles to see what might make my list. A lot depends on the schedule, but need to see what the possibilities can be.  After cataloging and reviewing the 90 odd feature length films announced so far, I’m happy to share my early musings.  There are still more programs to be announced with lots of films, but  I need to be even more organized and informed because I have less time to commit to the week of film this year. Whittling down 300 plus films to the 15-20 films I will be able to manage will take some effort.

      High on my list :

      C’est la vie!, Darkest Hour, Kings, Mary Shelley, Woman Walks Ahead, Call Me By Your Name, A Fantastic Woman, First They Killed My Father, mother!, A Season in France, The Shape if Water, The Square, Suburbicon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Razzia, The Death of Stalin, Mom and Dad, The Ritual, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bambi, Jane, Lots of Kids a Monkey and a Castle, Makala, and The Other Side of Everything.

      Almost as high on the list :

      Borg McEnroe, The Catcher Was A Spy, Film Stars don’t Die in Liverpool, Long Time Running, Mudbound, Stronger, The Wife, BPM (Beats Per Minute), Catch the Wind, The Children Act, Disobediance, The Guardians, The Hungry, Lady Bird, Plonger, The Price of Success, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, The Rider, Sheikh Jackson, Submergence, Thelma, Victoria and Abdul, Beast, Brad’s Status, Dark River, If You Saw His Heart, Mademoiselle Paradis, Sweet Country, The Seen and Unseen, What Will People Say, Bodied, Revenge, Azmaish:A Journey Through the Subcontinent, Boom For Real, The China Hustle, Cocaine Prison, Ex Librium, The Gospel According to Andre, Jim & Andy, The Judge, The Legend of the Ugly King, One of Us, Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, and Silas

      And these I need to know more about before considering :

      Breathe, The Mountain Between Us, The Upside, Battle of the Sexes, The Brawler, The Breadwinner, The Current War, Downsizing, Hostiles, I Tonya, Novitiate, Omerta, Custody, Euphoria, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Downrange, Great Choice, Let the Corpses Tan, The Crescent, The Disaster Artist, Vampire Clay, The Final Year, Love Means Zero, Of Sheep and Men, and Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

      Lots to get excited about. Always a fat middle of the list. So much can change between now and ticket purchase day. And so much depends on the scheduling.

      More to come on the game plan!