By Jessica Allen - Friday, October 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
We chatted with the trio about ‘The Paperboy,’ their dark, and very dirty, new film
You can practically smell the swamps and suffocating heat, not to mention the sex, in The Paperboy, a dark, and very dirty, film based on a novel by Peter Dexter written in 1995 that opens October 19. Set in the summer of 1969 in the backwaters of race-charged Florida, reporter Ward Jansen, played by Matthew McConaughey, returns, along with his partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), to his hometown, where his father owns a newspaper and his brother Jack (Zac Efron), a college swimmer–and dropout–delivers them. (Warning: Efron is in his underwears for a good chunk of the film.) They’re there to investigate a case involving a death row inmate, played by John Cusack, whose only champion is Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a sort of death row groupie.
When the movie had its world premiere in May at the Cannes Film Festival, reviews were mixed. (You can read what my colleague Brian D. Johnson had to say about it here.) Indiewire even made a poem using all the descriptors that critics used when they wrote about the film. But director Lee Daniels, who directed 2009′s Precious, wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Maclean’s sat down with Daniels, along with stars Zac Efron and David Oyelowo, while they were in town for The Paperboy’s North American premiere at TIFF, to talk about the critically polarizing film.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 7:32 PM - 0 Comments
As the TIFF circus folds up its tent, here are my 10 personal favorites from the festival. It’s a subjective list. I watched more than 50 features programmed at the festival, some in Cannes last May. But with so much to see and so little time, there are still bound to be some great movies that I missed. Note that four films on the list are documentaries:
1. The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer’s shattering documentary about Indonesia’s 1965 genocide is without precedent—a portrait of mass murder by the perpetrators, proud gangsters who re-enact their crimes for the camera.
2. Stories We Tell
Boldly putting her entire family on camera, Sarah Polley unwraps the riddle of her parentage with exquisite craft. Deconstructing as she goes, she turns the home movie, real and faux, into new genre of investigative memoir.
3. The Master
Acting doesn’t get any better as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, cast as a L. Ron Hubbard-like cult leader and his unstable acolyte, play truth or dare. Paul Thomas Anderson’s gorgeous 70-mm period epic decants extra-virgin snake oil of the highest order.
In a far more subtle fashion, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give an octogenarian master class in acting. Michael Haneke, best known for visions of human cruelty, gears down with a dire, delicate chamber piece about an aged couple facing their mortality in a Paris apartment. It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and will likely lead the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film.
5. The Hunt and Beyond the Hills
I’m calling a two-way tie between these European dramas about intolerance, which (like Amour) I haven’t seen since Cannes. Directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), Mads Mikkelsen gives an intense, finely calibrated performance in The Hunt, as a divorced man whose life is ruined after a young girl falsely accuses him of sexual abuse. And in Beyond the Hills, Romania’s Cristian Mungiu tells a horrific but true story of an exorcism performed on a young woman who tries to liberate a nun from a monastery.
6. Silver Linings Playbook
Football, mental illness, dance and romance mix with Altman-esque chaos in an off-kilter crowd pleaser from David O. Russell. Bradley Cooper is pitch-perfect as an ex-mental patient who goes off his meds and moves back home to an OCD dad played by De Niro. Jennifer Lawrence steals the movie so deftly we don’t even realize we’re watching a romantic comedy until we’re hooked by the plot’s Hail Mary pass.
7. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tom Ungerer Story
A documentary portrait of the artist as an old man tracks him from his origins as a Nazi-scarred child in Alsace through his various American lives as magazine illustrator, best-selling children’s author, anti-war propagandist and S&M freak. Computer graphics bring his subversive art magically to life.
The documentary camera goes where it’s never gone before in this action painting that takes us into a churning, real-time whorl of fish, men, birds and water from the deck-level POV of a fishing boat at sea. This documentary views industrial slaughter with ferocious intimacy. It also batters the optic nerve with dizzying syncopations of light and dark. So it’s hard to watch, but equally hard to forget.
9. Anna Karenina
Reunited with director Joe Wright (Atonement), and his adoring gaze, a radiant Keira Knightley brings more depth to Tolstoy’s heroine than you would ever expect. An ingenious adaptation, scripted by Tom Stoppard, frames lush visuals with a trompe l’oeil theatrical setting that, has trains thundering across a proscenium stage.
Quebec writer-director Kim Nguyen spent a decade bringing this harrowing drama of African child soldiers to the screen. Shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s the tale of a pregnant 14-year-old girl (Rachel Mwanza) who is forced to kill her parents and become a child soldier. Nguyen’s camera shies away from depicting atrocities, finding moments of tenderness and humour in a story of authentic horror. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 10:06 AM - 0 Comments
Actor David Oyelowo on Nicole Kidman’s hands-free sex scene, and Zac Efron almost looked at us
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 7:28 AM - 0 Comments
Video: Click here to view Brian D. Johnson’s interview with Spike Lee.
Just when you thought there was nothing more to know about Michael Jackson, Spike Lee‘s Bad 25 arrives as a revelation, and an unexpected pleasure. The made-for-TV doc, which premiered at TIFF, was commissioned by a record label to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Bad, Michael Jackson’s follow-up album to his mega hit Thriller. Due for broadcast by ABC in November, the film is tied to this week’s re-release of Bad, which comes with a payload of remastered and unreleased tracks. Given that kind of marketing agenda, you have to wonder: how good could it be? But Lee, who moves between dramas and documentaries with a virtuosity unmatched by anyone other than Martin Scorsese, had his own agenda: to reclaim the genius of an artist whose work has been eclipsed by a tabloid narrative. “That’s why this film is out there,” Lee told me in an interview on the weekend. “Just focus on the man’s art, focus on his creative process.”
Lee succeeds brilliantly. Drilling much deeper into Jackson’s legacy than Kenny Ortega’s 2009 documentary This Is It, his film unearths a myriad of detail about Jackson’s music, influences and methods—along with juicy trivia, notably a story of a testy summit between the singer and his rival Prince. Lee explores the making of Bad track-by-track, weaving rich archival footage with a gallery of talking heads that includes musicians, choreographers, confidants—and luminaries who include Martin Scorsese, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder and Cee Lo Green. The 1987 album was Jackson’s follow-up to Thriller, the highest selling album of all time. It had then sold about 40 million copies but would go on to sell 100,000. “Everywhere Michael went he had a red sharpie,” says Lee. “He’d write on mirrors: ‘100 million.’ He wanted Bad to double the success of Thriller.” Jackson never reached that mark, but Bad would become the first album in history to spawn five consecutive number-one singles.
By Brian D. Johnson - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
Silver Linings Playbook, an off-kilter comedy by David O. Russell (Three Kings), has been crowned the most popular film at TIFF—winning the Blackberry People’s Choice Award, voted by an online ballot of audience members. The prize was announced at an awards brunch today, the final day of the festival, along with a string of other prizes. TIFF, unlike Cannes, doesn’t host an international competition, but a jury does award cash prizes for Canadian films, and the festival’s audience poll has often been a predictor of Oscar success. Previous People’s Choice winners include American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. Even without this award, Silver Linings Playbook—which features dynamite performances from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence—appeared to be Oscar bound, especially with Harvey Weinstein driving its campaign
TIFF’s $30,000 prize for best Canadian feature went to Laurence Anyways, the epic tale of a romance that’s derailed by the man’s transsexual awakening. The third feature directed by Quebec wunderkind Xavier Dolan, it’s virtuosic feat of filmmaking though some viewers, myself included, found its running time of almost three hours to be unjustified. Sarah Polley’s acclaimed memoir doc, Stories We Tell, was considered the front-runner.
In accepting his award, Dolan, who was shaking with emotion, said “I’m honestly surprised. At one point I thought this film would be forgotten.” Acknowledging the challenges of his movie, he said, “It’s as scary for people to go see it as it was for us to do it.” And as he embraced producer Lyse Lafontaine, praising her largesse and declaring his love for her, Dolan said, “Your balls are bigger than mine.”
The TIFF Canadian jury, meanwhile, split the prize for best Canadian feature debut between Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral and Jason Buxton’s Blackbird. TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey said that the prize would doubled so that each filmmaker would receive the full purse of $15,000.
Bailey, meanwhile, made a social-media booboo with a tweet congratulating Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell that leaked through the Twitterverse just as we were sitting down to the awards brunch. That’s ironic considering that Blackberry sponsors the award, and that the filmmakers will receive a Blackberry Playbook. The first runner-up for the audience award was Ben Affleck’s wildly entertaining, if irresponsible, Argo, about the C.I.A./Hollywood rescue of six Americans hiding in the Canadian embassy during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. (It had more CanCon than most Canadian movies, and the local audience ate it up, but it would have been perverse if Canadians awarded a fiction that robs credit from Our Man in Tehran, Ken Taylor.) The People’s Choice runner up was Eran Riklis’ Zaytoun, an unlikely road movie about a Palestinian boy and a downed Israeli fighter pilot, both trying to get back “home” through war-torn Lebanon in 1982.
As for Silver Linings Playbook, it was also one of my top 10 faves of the festival. Here’s what I wrote about it: “Football, mental illness, dance and romance mix with Altman-esque chaos in an off-kilter crowd pleaser from David O. Russell. Bradley Cooper is pitch-perfect as an ex-mental patient who goes off his meds and moves back home to an OCD dad played by De Niro. Jennifer Lawrence steals the movie so deftly we don’t even realize we’re watching a romantic comedy until we’re hooked by the plot’s Hail Mary pass.”
Cooper meanwhile was the subject of a pre-festival piece I wrote for the magazine.
For the full list of TIFF awards click here.
By Jessica Allen - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 9:41 AM - 0 Comments
As the red carpets get rolled up, here are the moments that made me cringe, plus the 5 best ones that left me giggling with delight
MOST AWKWARD MOMENTS
1. The skies cleared just in time for the afternoon Artists for Peace and Justice lunch hosted by Paul Haggis and Jude Law on September 8. It was a casual event–Alexander Skarsgard wore jeans and a sweater–held in the backyard of the University of Toronto president’s estate in Toronto’s affluent Rosedale neighbourhood. Spirits were high. Why wouldn’t they be? There was great food and drink, plus Arcade Fire and K’naan were slated to perform, along with Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace and his wife and fellow musician, Chantal Kreviazuk.
By Colin Horgan - Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Colin Horgan explains what made Michael Jackson so endearing
What does a perfect album sound like? If one were to have taken Michael Jackson at his word in 1988, we would only have had to look upon the album he released one year prior. Bad, he wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalk, took “so long” to make – it emerged five years after Thriller – because he and producer Quincy Jones decided it “should be as close to perfect as humanly possible.” It came close. Bad rocketed to the top of the charts, eventually went on to sell somewhere between 35 and 40 million copies, spawned five number one Billboard hot 100 singles, and solidified Jackson’s reputation as the King of Pop.
But Bad, the subject of a new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee, which is set to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15, also marked something else for Jackson. It was the beginning of a long, slow, and often bizarre personal and professional decline that lasted the better part of the next two decades until his untimely, drug-induced death in 2009 – the unfortunate end of a life spent forever yearning for perfection.
“It was after Bad had run its course that we began to look upon Michael Jackson as something of a tabloid topic,” says Alan Cross, music expert and host of syndicated radio show, the Secret History of Rock.
In the years following Bad’s release, the public perception of Jackson switched from that of a musical wunderkind to massive weirdo. “We heard more about Bubbles, we heard about the Elephant Man bones, we heard about Elizabeth Taylor’s friendship with him. We heard about the hyperbaric chamber that he had at home. All that sort of stuff… seemed to come out after Bad,” Cross remembers. “Once that album had gone through its cycle, he was never able to achieve those heights ever again, nor was he ever able to achieve that level of respect ever again. And it was a slow deterioration after that.”
So, there might be something slightly strange about marking the 25th anniversary of Bad, as Lee’s film sets out to do with rare new footage and commentary from those who worked on the album with Jackson, along with some contemporary stars discussing its influence. That is, it’s a second place finisher on the Jackson record podium, destined forever to take a backseat to the best selling album on the planet, Thriller. Despite Jackson and Jones’s lofty goals, it was not, in the end, perfect. It did not prove to be a catalyst for cultural change. It did not mark a shift in musical history. But it was very a good record.
About a year after Bad was released, Jackson bought the property upon which he would eventually build his home and miniature amusement park that he called the Neverland Ranch. In the years to come, this would be ground zero for some of the weirder and worrying stories about Jackson – including the ones he released to the tabloids on his own. The Ranch was where he would hide out from the world. It was also where, in 1993, he was alleged to have had inappropriate contact with a young boy (it came to nothing, but the episode haunted him).
It was where he died.
But Neverland was also “his fantasy brought to life,” Jackson’s longtime friend and former personal assistant wrote in his book My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man. “He knew exactly how he wanted every element… He was an artist and a perfectionist in everything he did.”
It’s telling to look back now on Jackson’s desire to create a perfect album with Bad, given how it would become a theme. The pursuit of perfection acted as the underlying narrative that propelled his philanthropy and personal life as much as his music, where the vision of perfection would come up again and again, including on his Dangerous album, in songs Black and White and Heal the World. With hindsight, Bad becomes more than a very good also-ran in the discography; it is part one of the soundtrack for a desperate, ultimately unrequited, existential quest.
Because it was, and is, Jackson’s desire for perfection that ultimately made him so endearing to us as well as so tragic. We sympathized with his wish for the childhood we understood had been denied to him, loved his drive for his art, measured our own lives against his tabloid persona, and, in many ways, supported his more altruistic goals. Whatever it was, the question seemed to be that if Michael Jackson couldn’t do it, then who could? We, too, wanted – needed – him to be perfect, again and forever. Clearly, some of us still do.
By Erica Alini - Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 9:54 AM - 0 Comments
Hint: It’s not about reality TV. It’s about Italy
I am a little puzzled by the North American reviews of Matteo Garrone‘s Reality. The Italian director’s latest movie, a comedy/drama about Luciano (Aniello Arena), a Neapolitan fishmonger who becomes obsessed with the local version of Big Brother, has been called everything from “disappointingly obvious” and “unfunny” to a sappy version of the Truman Show.
The Globe and Mail reads:
The unsubtle theme about the quasi-religious nature of celebrity worship lacks any real satirical bite, spinning its wheels with too many scenes of the deluded Luciano and his sprawling family.
It’s been quite a different reception from the one the film received in Europe, where it won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, just like Garrone’s much better received Gomorrah from 2008.
I’ll have to side with Europe on this one. I thought Reality was wonderful. And I thought it was about Italy, not reality TV. I entirely agree that any new film trying to make the point that shows like Big Brother have become the hollow religion of modernity has missed the bus. What a supremely unoriginal and boring theme. But I never would have guessed people would see that in Garrone’s Reality (thankfully I hadn’t read the reviews before I saw the movie).
When he stepped onto the stage to take questions from the audience at Wednesday’s TIFF screening, Garrone graciously declined to feed us his own interpretation, so I have no way of claiming that my own is better than anyone else’s. Still, for what it’s worth, here’s what an Italian émigré with a political science degree and an embarrassingly short memory for film titles saw in Reality.
By Kara Dillon - Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 8:41 AM - 0 Comments
Read all about it: ‘The Paperboy’ gala draws Zac Efron and stars to Elgin Theatre
The Paperboy, based on a book by Pete Dexter, stars Zac Efron, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman. Some of the production’s talent showed up in Toronto on Friday at TIFF. Our photographer Kara Dillon took in the scene:
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM - 0 Comments
The 5 most important things I learned at the ‘To The Wonder’ bash all have to do with securing the free food
The life lessons don’t come courtesy of Rachel McAdams, who cozied up on a white leather couch with friends and family in a striking green single-shouldered Elie Saab dress –and whose role in Terrence Malick’s latest film apparently got stripped to just 12 minutes. Nor from Olga Kurylenko, the former Quantum of Solace Bond girl who became the default lead in To the Wonder after Rachel Weisz’s part was cut entirely. And not from actor Michael Sheen, McAdam’s boyfriend (whose part was also cut from the film), although I think he could teach me a thing or two considering he spent the majority of the evening talking to arguably the two best-dressed ladies in the room: Darrell Kirkland (she’s thanked in the credits of Malick’s third movie, The Thin Red Line) and Rose Styron, a poet and human rights activist, whose late husband was Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron.
The five most important things I learned came courtesy of Lainey Lui of Laineygossip.com and CTV’s eTalk. Our paths crossed a number of times during the festival. During the second night on September 7 at Soho House, I spotted her downing a bowl of paella and then calling over a server to secure a second helping, without a hint of being self-conscious.
By Kara Dillon - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 8:16 AM - 0 Comments
One night, three red carpets: ‘Sons of the Clouds,’ ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’ and ‘Twice Born’
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 11:36 PM - 0 Comments
The juggernaut is winding down. Proof of that came as early as Tuesday when TIFF CEO Piers Handling made a Freudian slip while introducing the Inescapable gala saying, “We’re looking forward to the last two days of the festival.” Maybe he misspoke, or I misheard and he said “last few days.” Either way, there were still five days left to go. But TIFF peaks early. The studios fly in American journalists for press junkets on the opening weekend, and by Wednesday the crowds have thinned. The movies will continue to play until Sunday, but by now it’s time to take stock.
We’ve seen some strong films—and too many mediocre ones that had no business being at this festival, any festival, except to stick mid-level stars like Greg Kinnear on a red carpet. I won’t waste your time with them. But among the heavyweight American dramas, two movies, The Master and Cloud Atlas, loomed largest. And they present polar opposites of narrative bravado. Shot on the lush retro format of 70 mm film by Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master’s story of a Second World War veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls under the spell of a Scientology-like cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an epic storm of emotion. Cloud Atlas, which splices and dices David Mitchell’s novel, is a Rubiks’s Cube of interlocking stories spanning a half dozen centuries and worlds. It’s a conceptual stunt, $100-million toy that recycles a blockbuster bin of genre tropes from films that range from The Matrix, Blade Runner, Avatar and The Lord of the Rings.
Powered by a raging duel of two terrifyingly good actors, The Master is all about character; Cloud Atlas is all about plot, an intricate gizmo of plot that’s constructed as a Transformer-like special effect. But here’s the crucial difference between the artistic ambitions of the two films: The Master examines the snake oil, shakes it up and spills it all around, leaving us disturbed and confused, infected with mystery and doubt; Cloud Atlas traffics in snake oil, drilling us with the same kind of ideological mantra about freedom, enslavement, and heroic consciousness that made movies like The Matrix and Inception much dumber than they pretended to be. Paul Thomas Anderson has made a movie about a bogus religion. The directing trio behind Cloud Atlas—Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski—have made a religious movie. I’m still thinking about The Master and am keen to see it again; once was enough for Cloud Atlas.
The so-called real world, meanwhile, held its own at TIFF in what turned out to be an exceptional festival for documentaries. Continue…
By Simon Gadke - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
The musician-writer-director-actor is in town again: anything could happen
Three years ago, Billy Bob Thornton riled our polite Canadian sensibilities while huffing and puffing his way through a Jian Ghomeshi interview on CBC’s Q. Ghomeshi had noted that Thornton, who was there to promote a new album, had enjoyed a pretty illustrious career in film as a writer, director and actor. But Billy Bob was not impressed. For more than 10 minutes he evaded questions, dropped non-sequiturs and antagonized Ghomeshi.
This year Billy Bob is back in Toronto as the writer and director of Jayne Mansfield’s Car, his first movie in a decade. It will have its North American premiere at TIFF on September 13. While an invite to Q seems unlikely, the possibility of Ghomeshi and Billy Bob sharing an elevator leads the mind to wonder. Should it happen, here are five questions Ghomeshi should refrain from asking:
1. Do you think Tom Petty’s first love was movies?
Around the seven-minute mark of the interview, Ghomeshi tried to get Thornton to answer his question about what Thornton listened to growing up. Thornton didn’t bite. But Ghomeshi pressed: “Given that you seem to quite passionate about music, I was wondering about your [influences].”
Thornton replied, “Would you say that to Tom Petty?”
Ghomeshi responded, “Would I say that he’s passionate about music? Yeah.”
Thornton continued to reference Petty. I don’t know what’s more absurd, not asking Tom Petty a question like that (if he was promoting a movie and his first love was movies) or Thornton placing himself with the likes of Tom Petty as a musician.
2. Is it hard for you to make films when you basically grew up as a music historian?
The most over-the-top moment of the Q fiasco was Thornton’s claim that he “basically grew up as a music historian.” A little humility would have gone a long way for the cosmic cowboy.
3. What about gravy without the potatoes?
At his most mean spirited, Billy Bob said something about someone being mashed potatoes without the gravy. Was he insulting all of Canada? The next night, as he was almost booed off the stage at Massey Hall, Billy Bob clarified: all Canadians aren’t mashed potatoes without gravy. Just one: Jian Ghomeshi. What a relief. At least he didn’t call us poutine without the cheese curds.
4. What did you do with all your back issues of Famous Monsters of Film Land?
In an attempt to talk about anything other than his music or his own films, Billy Bob recalled a subscription he had as a child to the magazine Famous Monsters of Film Land. This might have been a poor choice of anecdote (since he was being one at the time), but it’s nice to know that if this rock and roll music thing doesn’t work out Billy Bob has a back up. Mint copies of early issues sell for as much as $500 on Ebay.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey on their rise from Tweeter feed, to viral YouTube sensation, to TIFF
Canadians Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey posted their first episode of S–t Girls Say on YouTube on December 12, 2011. That same day, the video went viral and received over 2 million hits. The video’s leading lady, played by Sheppard, is based on a Twitter feed that the two created back in April of 2011 and has has over 1.6 millions followers, including Gwyneth Paltrow.
We caught up with writer and director Sheppard and Humphrey, a graphic designer, artist and writer, before their fourth episode has its world premiere in the Canadian Short Cuts program at TIFF on September 14.
- If you’re not one of the 30-million people who’ve viewed the three S–t Girls Say videos, here they are.
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 7:42 PM - 0 Comments
Jessica Allen picks her favourites
We may not get every A-lister—E-Talk and the other big media outlets eat up red-carpet time—but we make the most of who we get. On Day 1, for example, instead of Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the premiere of Looper, we got Bruce Willis.
On Day 3, at the Silver Linings Playbook premiere, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper walked by, but film director David O. Russell stopped to talk.
No matter what, Maclean’s photographer Kara Dillon manages to capture the elusive stars.
On Day 4, Quartet director Dustin Hoffman and star Maggie Smith lingered to chat since we’d actually seen the film. And Billy Connolly … he was … well, just watch the video.
Our luck didn’t let up. On Day 5, on the carpet of Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, both leading ladies Rachel McAdams and Olga Kerylanko chatted with Maclean’s. I won’t lie: McAdams, who was raised in the same hometown as me, remembered me from years of serving her in restaurants on Queen Street West, where she was–without exception–amiable, delightful and generous to staff. One time, maybe six years ago, she hugged me good-bye. I haven’t showered since.
I’ve been like a fly on the wall at after-parties of bold-face names — observing some of Hollywood’s biggest players in their natural habitat. (For example, Harvey Weinstein and Dustin Hoffman at the after party held for Quartet. Or the Day 2 parties for Anna Karenina and Spring Breakers, which couldn’t have been more different.)
And if the glam of TIFF parties are not your scene, check out our Outsider’s Guide to the Festival by Sarah Lazarovic.
TIFF 2012 hasn’t all been roses, of course. There have been some real awkward moments. Seeing how there are still five days to go, I’m going to wait to share. Wish me luck on topping a golden one with Anna Karenina star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who I annoyed the hell out of with a red carpet question. We’ve got video to prove it.
In the meantime, here’s a collection of my favourite photos of couples (married, or otherwise) that Kara’s taken at TIFF 2012. Because it’s a heck of a lot easier to navigate TIFF with a little help.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM - 0 Comments
One of the most buzzed about films at TIFF is a documentary featuring real-life Indonesian death squad leaders
Walking around TIFF with a head full of important thoughts about important movies—from The Master to Cloud Atlas—I was trying to carve out some time to write about them today when I decided to squeeze in another movie: The Act of Killing. It’s one of the most buzzed about films at TIFF and now I know why. It’s hard to believe what I’ve seen and I’m still reeling from it. To say it’s a documentary about the death squads responsible for the genocide of over one million Indonesians from 1965-66 does not begin to describe it. A film within a film, it shows the leaders of the death squads, a merry cabal of gangsters, proudly re-enacting their crimes for the camera, boasting of killing and torture, and staging surreal costume pageants to celebrate their historic role as mass murderers. After seeing a preview of the movie, Werner Herzog said, “I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal and frightening in at least a decade.” I can’t imagine what Herzog could have seen over a decade ago that would trump it, but then he also said: “It is unprecedented in the history of cinema.”
Herzog and Errol Morris both signed on as executive producers after The Act of Killing was made. As two of the world’s leading documentary makers, they clearly recognized that this documentary goes where no film has gone before—even if it does echo the theme of Standard Operating Procedure, Morris’s investigation into the performance-art torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. In this case, we’re not talking souvenir snapshots. The killers at the heart of the story throw themselves into re-staging their crimes with breathtaking bravado on a grand scale. They’re led by Anwar Congo, a gangster who graduated from scalping movie tickets to leading anti-communist death squads in the 1960s. He brags of killing hundreds of so-called communists with his his own hands. “At first we beat them to death and there was too much blood,” he says, as he proceeds to demonstrate his preferred tool of mass execution—a wire garotte torqued with a wooden handle.
Citing names like Pacino, Brando and John Wayne, Anwar and his cronies says they were inspired by Hollywood gangster films and westerns, the ones they sold tickets to on the black market. To stage their re-enactments, they mimic myriad genres ranging from film noir to Bollywood-like musical extravaganzas. They get into costume, slather on make-up, and engage in elaborate discussions how best to play their roles. One boasts about raping 14-year-old girls. In one scene, they re-enact the rape and killing of women and children and burn down a village, then wonder why the women and children are still weeping after the cameras stop rolling. Shockingly, these killers are folk heroes in their own country, still tied to the current government by powerful and popular paramilitary organizations. They have never been brought to justice, and we see their exploits celebrated on an Indonesian TV show by a smiling female host.
The Act of Killing is beyond belief. It’s as if Hitler and his accomplices survived then got together to re-enact their favorite scenes from the Holocaust on camera, for a documentary crew intent on exposing the horror. Their triumphant reminiscence is the direct opposite of the apartheid confessions invited by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Healing and penance in this case are not even on the agenda. Nevertheless, the men do slip into debates about the wisdom of revealing so much truth as they romance their mythology. When one is asked if he’s not worried about being hauled before the International Court at the Hague on charges of war crimes, he shrugs and says he would welcome the fame it would bring. However, Anwar Congo, the film’s central character, is more circumspect. He’s gradually drawn into some soul-searching over the arc of the narrative. He’s quietly charismatic. He tries to put the past behind him with alcohol, drugs, and dancing. But as he portrays torture and murder victims in the re-enactments with painstaking detail, trying to imagine their pain, the weight of buried guilt gradually begins to crack his polished veneer. By the end, we start to feel empathy for him, which is perhaps the most disturbing thing of all.
The Act of Killing is directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, a Texan-born, Harvard-educated filmmaker, who has spent a decade researching and shooting Indonesia. He began by interviewing the victims, which he found was a far more dangerous endeavor than talking to the killers. The film was co-directed by Christine Cynn, who worked with him on The Globalization Tapes (2003), and by an Indonesian director who is listed as Anonymous for his own safety.
We wonder if films can change the world. This one is at least bound to have a devastating impact.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
‘Argo’ shifts the spotlight from Ken Taylor, our man in Tehran, to CIA spy Tony Mendez
For a country that has a hard time finding heroes in its own history, Ken Taylor’s role in the Iran hostage crisis marks a glowing exception. When armed student militants occupied the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, six U.S. staff members escaped and found refuge in the Canadian Embassy. Taylor, then Canada’s ambassador to Iran, hid them as “house guests” for three months, then helped smuggle them out of the country. Two decades later, declassified CIA files showed Taylor had been working closely with America’s spymasters. And now the cloak-and-dagger tale takes on a bizarre twist with Argo, a Hollywood movie that had its premiere last week at the Toronto International Film Festival—by coincidence on the same day Stephen Harper’s government closed the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.
Directed by Ben Affleck, who stars as CIA officer Tony Mendez, Argo turns the story into a caper movie that’s part comedy, part thriller. It tells how Mendez worked with Hollywood to concoct a fake sci-fi movie about space aliens called Argo so that the six American hostages could pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations in Iran. With the help of a wise-cracking Hollywood producer (played by Alan Arkin) and a veteran makeup artist (John Goodman), Mendez forges an elaborate cover, compete with poster, script, storyboards and a production office.
A cheering audience at the TIFF premiere lapped up its bonanza of Canuck references—there’s a scene where Mendez coaches the Americans not to pronounce the second “t” in Toronto. Critics, meanwhile, stoked Oscar buzz. There’s just one problem. The movie rewrites history at Canada’s expense, making Hollywood and the CIA the saga’s heroic saviours while Taylor is demoted to a kindly concierge. Mendez did indeed work with Hollywood to forge an elaborate cover for the Canadian Embassy’s clandestine house guests. But Affleck’s movie underplays Taylor’s role. And Taylor is not amused.
By Kara Dillon - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 8:45 AM - 0 Comments
Marisa Tomei (gorgeous!), Diane Kruger (wow!), Joshua Jackson (hello!) and Ralph Fiennes (Ralph Fiennes!)
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 3:16 PM - 0 Comments
Just a couple of girls from St. Thomas, plus a one-time supermodel from the Ukraine
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 8:56 AM - 0 Comments
From the screener to the red carpet to the film’s after party at Soho House, these seniors sure know how to have fun
As the credits rolled after a recent screening of Quartet, the man next to me collapsed his head. ”I never cry in real life,” he said, “but I’ve being doing it a lot during these TIFF screeners.”
Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut features four opera singers in a retirement home in the English countryside. The film ends when the septuagenarians (Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins) perform Verdi’s Rigoletto.
“Twenty-five years ago, I saw my first opera,” my seat-mate said. “It was Rigoletto.”
As the lights went on and before we parted ways, my new friend made introductions. ”I’m George,” he said, as in Stroumboulopoulos.
At Quartet’s TIFF premiere at the Elgin Theatre on Sunday night, the four stars and their 75-year-old director were in top form. Billy Connolly, wearing black patent leather shoes with oversized tassles, laughed when I asked if he shared the “appetites” of his character Wilf, who boasted the libido of a teenager. “We’re nothing alike,” laughed the actor, who once said in an interview, “I’m a very f—ing wealthy person, I’m married to a very beautiful woman and I get laid with monotonous regularity.”
By Jessica Allen - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM - 0 Comments
Jessica Allen with Billy Connolly, Dustin Hoffman, and an up-and-coming actress named Maggie Smith