Monday, August 27, 2012

My Mini TIFF 2012 Preview

Yesterday, I was able to pick the 10 films I will be seeing at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. Long time readers will know I used to see between 25-30 films each year, but that was back in the days when I was childless, and my wife didn’t mind not seeing me for a week. Now, with a 1-year old at home, I will only be attending a few days. Next weekend, when single tickets go on sale, I am going to try and add another 2-3 films to fill in some of the blanks I have, but I know these 10 films are the ones I am going to see for sure. Sadly, my most anticipated film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, was not available for the one screening it had that I could attend. But I got my second and third most anticipated, so I’m happy. Besides, apparently The Master will open in Toronto on October 12 – which isn’t that far away. Anyway, here are the 10 films I will be seeing this year.
Amour (Michael Haneke) – I have been a Haneke fan since I saw The Piano Teacher 10 years ago, and since then I’ve gone back and seen all his films, except for his adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Castle. His latest, which put won the Palme D’Or at Cannes (making Haneke won of the few to have won that prize twice) stars legendary French actors Jean-Louis Trintignat and Emmanuelle Riva, as an eldery couple who has to deal with the fact that one of them is slowly dying, and other is forced to care for them. This doesn’t seem like a typical Haneke film, and the reviews out of Cannes suggest as much, but Haneke is a modern master, and any time he makes a film it is an “event” film (for me anyway), so I cannot wait to see this one.
Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg) – The son of David Cronenberg is making his debut feature with this film, which sounds a lot like something his father would have made early in his career. It is set in the near future – a dystopia of course – and is said to be a “body horror” film, which his dad specializes in. It stars Caleb Landry Jones and Sarah Gadon (who starred in Cosmopolis for Cronenberg Sr. this year) and is about a man who works at a company that supplies celebrity viruses to obsessed fans – who becomes infected with a deadly virus, and has to figure out how to cure it, or he’ll die. Reviews out of Cannes, where it played in the Un Certain Regard section, were decidedly mixed, but I’ll give this one a chance.
The Company You Keep (Robert Redford) – Robert Redford is a fine director of mainstream Hollywood fare – intelligent films for intelligent adults. His latest stars himself as a former member of The Weather Underground, in hiding for 30 years, who risks having his secrets exposed when another member (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, and an enterprising young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) starts digging. The film, written by Lem Dobbs (who specializes in stripped to the bone thrillers like The Limey and Haywire) from a popular Neil Gordon novel (which I will try to read before the festival) has an amazing cast – Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Brendan Gleason, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper and Nick Nolte. I like to break up some of the heavier films with some good, solid Hollywood entertainments – so hopefully, this is one of those.
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang  (Laurent Cantet) – French auteur Laurent Cantet (who has made excellent films like Time Out and The Class), adapts a Joyce Carol Oates novel, and shot in Sault Ste. Marie and Hamilton among other Ontario locations – for this film about a 1950s female gang. No, it doesn’t sound like a Cantet film, but he is a great filmmaker, so I’m willing to follow him anywhere. I have not read the Oates book, or seen the not highly thought of American film Foxfire from 1996 (starring a young Angelina Jolie), but this one sounds interesting.
The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg) – The wonderful Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (best known, in North America anyway, for his blood crying Bond villain in Casino Royale) won the Best Actor prize at Cannes this year for his work as a man who is accused of child molestation, and sees his world crumble down around him because of it. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, the onetime Lars von Trier protégé, who looked like he was going to be a giant of world cinema with his debut, The Celebration, but has since come nowhere close to matching it, The Hunt got some VERY mixed reviews when it played at Cannes – some calling it a masterpiece, and some seeing it as manipulative bullshit. When something is talked about THAT much, you almost have to see it for yourself.
The Iceman (Ariel Vromen) – I have to admit that I am not familiar with director Ariel Vromen’s previous films, but this one sounded too intriguing for me not to choose. It stars Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski, the infamous Mafia hit man who claims to have killed more than 100 people – but that number could actually be much higher. During his “career”, he was also married and raised kids. Shannon is one of the best actors in the world right now, and him playing a psychopathic hit man seems right up his alley. I am also intrigued by the supporting cast – Winona Ryder (please deliver another great performance), Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco and Stephen Dorff. I like Mafia movies, so I figured I’d check this one out.
The Impossible (J.A. Bayona) – I may not have been a huge fan of J.A. Bayona’s breakthrough film – the Spanish language horror film The Orphanage – but I can admit that it was a superbly directed film, even if the story felt repetitive. Here, he casts Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as a couple trying to find their kids in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, on Boxing Day 2004. I have no idea if the film is going to be an intelligent treatment of the subject matter, or simply exploitive, but I’ll give it a chance.
The Lords of Salem (Rob Zombie) – I still think that rock star turned director Rob Zombie is one of the hopes for American horror films. His debut, House of 1,000 Corpses, may not have been great, but I think that may well be because he had to cut so much out for studio reasons – and there is greatness in it (the best dramatic pause in modern horror films for example). His next film, The Devil’s Rejects, remains his best, and one of the best horror films of the decade really. But even his remake of Halloween was much better than I thought it would be – Halloween II not being quite as good, but interesting to say the least. So, I’m going to keep track of Zombie’s work for now. His latest, The Lords of Salem, will be my first time seeing a Midnight Madness movie at TIFF actually at midnight – and I couldn’t think of a filmmaker I would want to see more. It takes place in Salem, so of course, it is about witches.
Passion (Brian De Palma) -  I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or simply an optimist, but I choose to see Brian De Palma’s new film, even though I haven’t really liked much of what he’s done for the past 20 years (I do like Carlito’s Way and Femme Fatale but not much else). But this film, a remake of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime from 2010 (a film I will try to see before TIFF) just sounded too much like a great De Palma film from the 1970s or 80s to pass up. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in an corporate thriller with erotic overtones. How the hell could I not be interested in that? Let’s hope De Palma has re-found his magic.
To the Wonder (Terrence Malick) – Terrence Malick usually takes years to finish his movies, but somehow just over a year after the release of The Tree of Life, he returns with his latest film, To the Wonder (to be fair, he shoot it a while ago, so it’s certainly another of his long gestating projects). Like The Tree of Life, this one seems to be based partly on his life – as the main character, played by Ben Affleck, falls and loves and marries a woman from France (played by Olga Kurylenko), but when they return to Oklahoma, he finds himself drawn to an old girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) – much like Malick in real life in the 1980s. Javier Bardem also stars as a priest who Kurylenko is drawn to. Said to be another step away from traditional narrative, and somehow the 2008 Financial Crisis is somehow involved, To the Wonder was one of my must sees at TIFF this year. The film is having trouble finding distribution in North America, most likely because The Tree of Life didn’t exactly set the box office on fire last year, so who knows when it will be released. But Malick is a master, so any film by him becomes something I have to see.

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