Things To Come – dir Mia Hansen-Løve

Cast: Solal Forte, Isabelle Huppert, Roman Kolinka,André Marcon, Sarah Le Picard and Edith Scob

I loved Eden, so I was really looking forward to this film. Here is Natalie, “a woman of a certain age”, whose life is upended by the people she loves, and the trailer and synopsis speak of a relationship with a young rebellious former student and so naturally I was expecting more intense story of passionate personal rediscovery. My intention here is to spare you the disappointment. Don’t let the trailer be your enticement to see the film, nothing exciting happens here. There is no tension, no passion, no bewilderment. This is not that film. This is a film that plods along, very realistically I suppose, as Natalie adjusts to the bombardment of changes and searches for new meaning in her life.  I know I promised no spoilers but I tell you this because for some this will be the thing that leaves you feeling that the movie missed something.   And besides is telling you that something doesn’t happen a spoiler? Otherwise it is a nice movie, Isabelle is a master of cinema, and Mia is proving herself as one of the formidable female directors of the new generation.


Toni Erdmann – Dir Maren Ade (Germany/Austria/Romania)

What a perfect film to kick off the festival with!

Where do I begin?

It’s foreign, it’s quirky, it’s hilarious and has all the feels to keep you hooked. It may have been a  long one but I was honestly sad it was over.
If I told you the best parts, I would spoil the well crafted unpredictability and subtelty that makes this film so unique and lovable.

The performances by Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller are flawless. Maren Ade has created a masterpiece of the human spirit.

Go see this movie!


TIFF16 – 36 Films! Why? It’s What We Do!

36 Films! Why?  To use this year’s slogan – It’s what we do! Let’s just hope it’s not a a tear jerker of a year like TIFF13 – it’s taken 3 years for my sinuses to recover.

If you are curious, this is how it’s going down this year.

Thursday I start the festival out right with one of my besties (who just happens to be of German descent and owns a piano store) for the Cannes laugh out loud favourite, Toni Erdmann. Then I join my one of my fellow monkeys and TIFF partner in crime for Mia Hanson-Love’s Things to Come, the film about her mother’s rebirth following her marriage break-up that promises to be different than most films about women “of a certain age”. Next we drink a stiff cup of coffee and see Free Fire, our one and only midnight madness movie. It’s probably mad to subject ourselves to a midnight show at the start the festival but hoping a later start on Friday takes the edge off.

Well rested on Friday (if I say it, it shall be so), I start with Leo and Fisher’s much anticipated environmental doc Before the Flood. Next up is Paul Verhoeven’s Elle starring Isabelle Huppert, again, with a bit of a dinner break before the Trespass Against Us, an English gangster flick starring two of the greatest Irish actors of our time – Brendan Gleesan and Michael Fassbender.

Saturday is not too shabby either,  but somehow they are better spaced so should make it easy to get from film to film. First up is Ewan McGregor pulling a Babs with his directorial debut, and an ambitious one at that, with the adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, American Pastoral. I’ve started to read it and hope to finish it before the showing. To honour my late Grandmother, I will be seeing The Journey with a fellow Northern Irish descendent. While two dudes with Northern Irish accents talking in a van about peace between the Unionists and Republicans may sound dull, my guess is nothing about Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, played by Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney will be. But just in case, there is a wierd one to follow, Osgood Perkins’, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House.   To close the night is the highly anticipated, by me, Chuck Wepner story, The Bleeder, directed by Philipe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) and starring Liev Schreiber.

Sunday I have a bit of a dilemma. My main goal is to see Moonlight and Lion. I also wanted to see  The Handmaiden, however my partners in crime are seeing Loving and Its Only the End of the World, also compelling Either way, Sunday will be a very full day.

Monday the day starts out with Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, followed by Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest, a complementary screening of The Arrival and finally Bleed for This. 

Tuesday I’m slowing things down to enjoy my Mom’s birthday. We start with the apparently dazzling Hollywood musical La La Land, followed by a nice lunch and topped off by Manchester by the Sea

Wednesday I’m looking forward to seeing Paterson,  as well as Orphan, The Journey is the Destination and Una. To quote my two fellow monkeys,  for sure Julie will see Una, Ben Mendelsson is in it!

Thursday I get a late start with what will bound to be a memorable performance from Rebecca Hall in Christine followed by a highly anticipated (by my mother and I) double feature, the Irish love story, The Secret Scripture and Rob Reiner’s LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

On Friday I start the day with an accidental selection, Salt and Fire, the film I will from now on refer to as the other volcano movie by Werner Herzog.  Followed by movies I purchased on purpose, Ma’Rosa which won Jaclyn Jose a beat actress award at Cannes and I, Daniel Blake, which won Ken Loach his second Palme D’or.

Rounding out the last weekend of the festival, I will see Planetarium, Brain on Fire, Godless and Brimstone on Saturday, and to bring it all home City of Tiny Lights, Daguerreotype and Handsome Devil on Sunday.

Stay tuned for brief updates as the week progresses. There’s sure to be a couple of duds in the mix, but I do believe this is going to be another knock out Festival in Toronto!

Midnight Special vs 10 Cloverfield Lane

I just happened to see both of these movies this week, so why not put them up against each other since they are likely to appeal to the same movie crowd.

These films are similar in some ways.   Both pay tribute to some earlier films .   10 Cloverfield Lane obviously inspired by Cloverfield and Midnight Special, well it might ruin it but safe to say it’s an homage to a certain director’s films.

Both films take you on a crazy journey where you are not quite sure exactly what is going on.  And that’s the beauty of it.  So don’t read trailers that talk about plot points.

What did I love about Midnight Special?   Michael Shannon and Joel Egerton.   These guys are such amazing actors that do incredible things with minimal dialogue.   Also the story has a great message about parenting and allowing your children to be who they are destined to become even if you don’t understand what it is.

What did I love about 10 Cloverfield Lane?  The perfect chemestry of madness in the casting of John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.  And the sheer craziness of the story.  Also that the protagonist hero in this story is a young woman.

What didn’t I love about Midnight Special?  It was a bit slow in spots and not terribly original.  And the glowing eyes were annoying.

What didn’t I love about 10 Cloverfield Lane?  Nothing stands out.

For me 10 Cloverfield Lane came out ahead on the thrill scale.  Something I might watch again.

88th Annual Academy Awards


People were wondering what to expect from the #OscarSoWhite evening and apparently viewership was down significantly. Anger, frustration and controversy did not ruin the evening, but the issue was not downplayed either. The lack of diversity was addressed meaningfully, tastefully and most of the time with humour. I do hope that when we look back in 10-15 years time, the 88th Annual Academy awards will be perceived as the pivotal year, the year that marked meaningful change to diversify the film industry, the Academy Awards, and end the era of white privilege.

Off my soapbox now…

How did I make out in the annual Oscar Pool? For the second year in a row, I landed in fourth place. Not bad since my votes are far from strategic. Am I disappointed that George Miller did not win Best Director? Absolutely. He was robbed. Should Mad Max: Fury Road have won Best Picture too? Probably, but you have to share the love. And if love is to be shared, I am glad the good people of Spotlight were recognized for bringing this very important story to the screen.

Other disappointments were Best Supporting Actor and Best Song. Sly should have won. Quite frankly, I am wondering if the voters even watched Creed, because if they had, Michael B. Jordan surely would have been nominated. “The Writing’s on the Wall” could have been a great song, but sadly it is not. Voters no doubt realized their terrible mistake after Lady Gaga’s gut wrenching performance.

Enough about the disappointments, what was memorable? Most memorable moments for me were….

When Chris Rock made all the white people cringe-laugh with his intro, and especially when he said that years ago they didn’t have time to be bothered with the Academy because “we had real things to protest” “when your grandmother is swinging from a tree who cares about best documentary short?”

When Stacy Dash came on stage and everyone went like “What?”

When everyone was adjusting themselves in their seats to stand up for Sylvester Stallone’s standing ovation and Patricia Arquette announced Mark Rylance as the winner.

When Lady Gaga blew it out of the Dolby Theatre with her emotional performance of “‘Til It Happens to You” and the young survivors of violence appeared on stage, wounded and united.

When Brie Larson hugged these same survivors as they left the stage after Gaga’s performance.

The hilarious parody video that placed Whoopi Goldberg in Joy, Leslie Jones as the bear mauling Leo in The Revenant, Tracy Morgan as The Danish Girl and Chris Rock on Mars in The Martian.

When Mad Max cleared through all of the technical awards, but particularly when Jenny Beavan marched proudly, in her Mad Max-esq crystal studded leather jacket, from the back of the theatre to receive her well deserved Oscar for Costume Design and the people stared.

When Chris Rock helped the Girl Guides sell $65,000 worth of cookies to the starving stars.

When Brie Larson gave her lovely acceptance speech for her brilliant performance in Lenny Abrahamson’s beautiful Room and she thanked the Toronto International Film Festival.

When Leo got a standing ovation for his six-times-the-charm Academy Award and spoke on behalf of the planet, humanity and people’s children’s and their children’s children, because will probably won’t have any.

When Spotlight was named as Best Picture and some of the nicest people in Hollywood got up on stage, because they were in the movie and the movie was important.

And finally, at the very end when they played “Fight The Power” loudly over the PA system.

Let’s hope the 89th Annual Academy Awards continue to make inroads that make for a more inclusive and rewarding culture of movie making.


I May Die Historic Tonight on Fury Road

My Oscar picks are in, and I’ve gone very long on George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road.

With all the chatter about Spotlight vs The Big Short and the love-hate people have for The Revenant, I thought I would go with Miller’s action packed, edge of your seat, crowd pleasing splendour. The only film I saw twice in 2015. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it won?

Who am I kidding? I never win the Oscar pool. I can never quite bring my self to select those most likely to win. Somehow in employing that winning strategy I fear I might be endorsing the politics that seem to cloud the Academy’s better judgements. Every year I hope really great films will receive the recognition they deserve and every year I am a little bit disappointed, even more so when some of my favourites do not even receive a nomination.

This year I think the films nominated for best picture are the right ones. Could there have been 11 or even 15, maybe?  But we haven’t got all night now, have we?

Regardless of the politics and disappointments, I have never missed watching the Academy Awards. For many it still represents the hallmark of film achievement. The carrot that drives the effort. More and more we are seeing filmmakers take risks that are recognized, pushing creative boundaries, inspiring innovation and bringing important stories to the forefront of audiences in cinemas around the world.

With high hopes that the Academy make immediate changes to eliminate bias next year,  I will sit and enjoy the evening with friends. I will enjoy the gowns, the tuxes, the speeches and the tributes. I will enjoy the tweets and texts with my movie nerd compadres. Here is  hoping for some surprises (Room and Lenny for the win?), that no one trips on the stairs and the winners remember who helped them win the wee man.


The Woman in Gold – Stories that need to be told 

The trailer for this film did not do it justice, in my opinion.  It is a really great movie with an important story to tell.   Maybe if it had been an HBO film it would have done better. I know the producers bet on a small number of films to go big or go home with and with the over abundance of excellent films this year The Woman in Gold did not make the cut. As I said, the trailer did not intrigue me and I only saw it because a trusted friend recommended it. She and I don’t always agree on all films,  but generally we do on agree on human interest stories.

The story is simple, it is based on the true story of Maria Altman and her quest to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting that had belonged to her family.   The painting, an Austrian national treasure, was a portrait of her beloved aunt and stolen by the Nazis.   Helen Mirren plays Maria and I thought she did an incredible job. Shhe was, after all, recognized with a Golden Globe nomination for this role.

Ryan Reynolds portrays Randy Schoenberg, the son of Maria’s close friend, who is struggling to find success as a young lawyer.  Maria approaches him to help her with her quest because someone she feels she can trust him.   Reluctant at first, he is eventually persuaded not only by her charm and the potential for financial gain, but by the opportunity for redemption and acknowledgement by Austria of some of the atrocities carried out in the war. There is a scene where Ryan Reynolds’s character realizes why this case needs to be won and I believe this is the best acting I have ever seen from Ryan Reynolds.  I will not spoil the moment by describing it here.  Best you experience this for yourself.

It is a solid film with a good message. Hopefully through word of mouth and video on demand, more will see it.


Hail, Caesar! Written and directed The Coen Brothers

I am one of the Coen Brother’s original fans and I was supposed to see it with my daughter, but could not wait to see it. Too many trailers taunting me.  I was a bad mother and went to see it without her on the opening  Friday.  My first impression was that it lacked a certain emphasis, a certain humour and I was a bit disappointed.  Then I let it slip that I had seen it. Mom!!! How could you???  And off I went to see it again.  This time in the VIP theatre. Who pays twice as much to see a movie that disappointed them a second time? Apparently I do, but hey it’s the Coen Brothers.  Surely I missed something.

I have to say I did enjoy the film much more the second time. This is a film about the golden age of movies, a film about capitalism, a film about socialism, about writers and a film about secrets, but most of all it is a film about resigning oneself to the empire of illusion not because you have to but because you want to, because you love it.   Like Ethel Merman sang “there’s no business like show business”.

This is not my most favourite Coen Brothers movie but I found it moderately entertaining and it actually made me think more about it the second time.


Youth, dir Paolo Sorrentino

I saw this film not because I chose to but because it was thrust upon me by way of a surprise pre-TIFF screening for members. Each year Piers Handling hand selects a film for TIFF Patron Circle members before the festival activities begin. Last year we saw the highly enjoyable Force Majeure. This year his selection was something to appeal to the older crowd – Youth. Having gone through many of the films announced so far for this year’s festival, Youth was not high on my list. You may be familiar with director Paolo Sorrentino given his Best Foreign Film Oscar for A Great Beauty, his visually stunning somewhat avant-garde masterpiece. While I did think A Great Beauty was a beautiful film, I found the characters narcissistic, shallow and boring. My fear and perception from watching the trailer for Youth was that it would simply be Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel sitting in A Great Beauty lamenting over their lost youth. Snore. But alas, Youth has much more of a storyline and depth to its more likeable characters.

Fred, a retired composer played by Michael Caine, along with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), have accompanied  his friend movie director friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) to a luxurious health spa in the Alps. Fred and Lena seem to be there to enjoy a holiday and spa treatments, while Mick is there with a group of young writers hoping to find inspiration for his new film. Fred who seems comfortable with his decision to retire, is being pressured to come out of retirement to perform before a very prestigious audience. Mick, on the other hand, is reluctant to give up directing even though it seems it might be time to do just that. The two of them wander around the spa resort, observing the guests, talking about their children and bickering about a girl they were both infatuated with many years ago, but never do they seem to speak meaningfully about each other’s past or present.

It is a story of two men who have devoted their lives and love to their art and how that has impacted those who have loved them.  Perhaps a bit slow at times, I thought the dialogue was good, the performances were solid, and visually stunning, the cinematography was very beautiful.