Hot Docs Day 4: About Face, The Job, Ping Pong

Day four offered a very good trio of screenings. All were very fun and enjoyable, and had unique, original stories.

About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now
(USA, 75 min.)
Dir. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, About Face
Famed portrait photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders orchestrates a beautiful and insightful documentary about modelling – or the beauty – of the fashion industry. To best explore the industry, Greenfield-Sanders assembles some of fashion’s greatest legends. He photographs and interviews a range of veteran models to reflect upon their contribution to the industry and to discover how fashion shapes who we are. Among the beautiful faces assembled in the film are Isabella Rossellini, Jerry Hall (hilarious!), Beverly Johnson, Christie Brinkley, Marisa Berenson, China Machado, and Paulina Porizkova, just to name a few.


Hot Docs Day 3: Despite the Gods, Big Easy Express, Aida, Meanwhile in Mamelodi

Aida: A Natural Born Artist
(Japan, 99 min.)
Dir. Shogo Watanabe
Aida at work on "The Ash Colour Mountain"
The first of three films of day to to tell of artists and the creative process, Aida: A Natural Born Artist chronicles a year in the life of Japanese contemporary artist Makoto Aida. During this time, Aida struggles to complete several oversized works of art for an upcoming show. He secludes himself in Beijing so that he can finish his strange, provocative works.


Hot Docs: Day 2

Shadows of Liberty
(UK, 93 min.)
Dir. Jean-Philippe Tremblay
Rupert Murdoch at the World Economic Forum, speaks about his papers’ support for the Bush policy.
Hot Docs 2012 began with a strong start. Although I was unable to see the opening night film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, my first film on day two of the festival was quite good. First up was the world premiere of Shadows of Liberty, which delineates the decline of mainstream news media in American through deregulation and corporatization.



Damsels in Distress
(USA, 99 min.)
Written and directed by Whit Stillman
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Carrie MacLemore, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Hugo Becker, Adam Brody.
It’s been fourteen years since Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco was released and he is back with a vengeance! Not a sign of wear is to be seen on Stillman’s latest pic, which is just as fresh, witty, and derisive as his last one. Exceptionally well-written and delivered by a quartet of dead-pan damsels, Damsels in Distress is a scathingly funny film.


Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding Trailer

A trailer has arrived for Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, starring Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener. (Via Yahoo!) I really recommend this one! I caught PLM at TIFF last fall, and it was easily the most pleasant surprise of the festival. (TIFF review here) This one is a true crowd-pleaser and a film that everyone in the family can enjoy. It's very funny and light-hearted (but not light weight). Most of all, though, it offers a great performance by Jane Fonda as a hippie grandma who teaches her daughter (Keener) and grandkids (including Elizabeth Olsen from Martha Marcy May Marlene) all about free love and the like. Variety posted an article speculating on whether Fonda has the goods to pull through the Oscar race much like Christopher Plummer did this year with Beginners, which also hit theatres the year following its TIFF premiere. Fonda is fantastic, so sign me up for the Best Actress campaign!

Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding opens June 8th

Hope Springs Trailer

Here's the trailer for the comedy Hope Springs starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carrell. It looks like a nice, light comedy for the summer. A while back I posted a still from that featured Meryl eyeing a banana whilst reading up on some sex tips. So if you wanna know what she does with said banana, take a look! (PS: the trailer also features talk of a threesome with Mimi Rogers, so will Hope Springs be the break-out porn role of Streep's career?!)



(USA, 94 min.)
Written and directed by Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, James Hong, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon.
Let the Razzie race begin! Safe is a double-barreled turkey that waddles into the multiplex with both guns a-blazing. It stumbles on its own idiocy, though, and pumps two rounds of lead into its little bald head, thus splaying loads of gobbledygook amidst a half-assed mêlée of gunfire. More in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away than of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Safe is unlikely to delight fans of action star Jason Statham.


Atwood and the 'Scrooge Nouveau'

(Canada, 86 min.)
Written and directed by Jennifer Baichwal
Based on the book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood, this new doc, directed by Jennifer Baichwal and presented by the National Film Board of Canada, explores the history and philosophy of indebtedness. Atwood first presented her study of debt at the 2008 Massey Lectures. It was a timely subject then, what with the onset of the recession and all, and Payback feels just as timely in 2012 now that the public is feeling the repercussions of the recession, or to put it in the language of the film, paying of this great debt. 


Hot Docs Welcomes Subjects, Record Number of Directors

Jennifer Lynch directing Hisss in Mumbai. Lynch will be at Hot Docs as the subject of Despite the Gods.
Hot Docs is just one week away! Sure to add some excitement to the event is this list of guests slated to attend the festival. Post-screening Q&As with filmmakers/subjects always add to one’s appreciation of the film and offer an extra incentive to see these films at the festival.
Hot Docs is honoured to welcome a number of guest subjects, including rock star Rick Springfield, director Jennifer Lynch, video game creator Phil Fish, war photographer Don McCullin, artist and Pee-wee’s Playhouse puppeteer Wayne White, and Dahmer-case detective Pat Kennedy, who are featured in films at the upcoming Festival, April 26 to May 6. In addition to guest subjects, 146 directors - a record number - will be in attendance at the Festival to introduce their films and participate in post-screening audience Q&As.


Where's the Scream?

The Cabin in the Woods
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Drew Goddard, Writ. Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchinson, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford.
When Scream hit the big screen back in 1996, it introduced something new to horror fans. Among the most self-conscious genre films of all time, Scream reinvented the slasher film by acknowledging explicitly the tropes and clichés that had become the norm. Although the film itself followed the cookie-cutter pattern of the genre, it still felt fresh because of how brazenly it mocked its own logic. The Cabin in the Woods offers a similar exercise in flagging convention whenever it appears, and by incorporating the satire into its objective. It seems that the self-reflexive horror film is finally fleshing out a sub-genre for itself; however, since Cabin in the Woods brings something that is by now quite familiar, the category is already showing signs of strain.


Eat, Pray, Old People

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(UK, 124 min.)
Dir. John Madden, Writ. Ol Parker
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Tena Desae.
Ah, this is what Eat,Pray, Love should have been: a rollicking and refreshing travelogue of self-discovery. Although I certainly enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love (the movie, not the book), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is more appreciable in its embodiment of everything that Eat, Pray, Love is not. EPL certainly had some pretty scenery and a cleansing story told via a hop, a skip, and a jump to Italy, India, and Bali, respectively, but it was ultimately about a self-absorbed white woman who basked in the privilege of shirking her responsibilities and finding enlightenment atop an ivory tower. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also tells of cross-cultural catharsis, but unlike Eat, Pray, Love, this tale of white folks in India is unassuming and illuminating.


Streep and Sex Tips

Meryl Streep in Hope Springs
Saw this posted on the 'Meryl Streep for Best Actress' Facebook page: a new still of Meryl Streep in the upcoming Hope Springs. Hope Springs reunites Streep with her Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel. Streep co-stars with Tommy Lee Jones, with the plot described as: "After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense counseling weekend to decide the fate of their marriage."On the note of marriage, Hope Springs hits theatres August 10th, so save the date!


Edwin Boyd: Canadian Gangster

Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster
(Canada, 105 min.)
Written and directed by Nathan Morlando
Starring: Scott Speedman, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Durand, William Mapother, Joseph Cross, Charlotte Sullivan, and Brian Cox.
A friend asked me a few weeks ago if I knew of any Canadian gangster films. We were working together as teaching assistants for an introductory film class. One unit in the first semester taught genre via a study of gangster films such as Little Caesar, The Asphalt Jungle, and Goodfellas. The second term offered a study of national cinema, using Canadian films from 1983-1994 as the body for study. I quickly replied “Edwin Boyd,” recalling the film’s success at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall; however, neither of us could conjure up an earlier title, save for maybe A History of Violence, but that invokes a whole other argument regarding Canadian cinema. (It’s also more of a western, really.) There might not be any precedent for Edwin Boyd, then, within Canadian film, which suits the film perfectly well as it offers fresh feel on the genre. With all the recent cuts to Canada’s audio-visual industry films, moreover, Edwin Boyd could also be last Canadian gangster film. It’s fine with me if Edwin Boyd goes down in history as the only Canadian gangster film, since this debut feature by writer/director Nathan Morlando is a solid effort on all fronts.


Take Home the Best Actors of 2011

Some Oscar-worthy Meryl in The Iron Lady

The next few weeks are pretty exciting for home video. Some of the very best performances of last year (and many others) are hitting the shelves in the next few weeks. First up is Meryl Streep's Best Actress winner, The Iron Lady, which rolls out on DVD/Blu-ray today. It was twenty-nine years, thirteen nominations, and one Sandra Bullock since Streep's Oscar for Sophie's Choice. She deserved her third win, and you'll surely agree after watching The Iron Lady. I think I was unnecessarily harsh on the film itself in my original review and my FYC editorial for Streep during the Oscar race: The Iron Lady certainly isn't a great film, but it is by no means a bad one. Regardless, it features some of Streep's best work and therefore belongs on every shelf.
(Video of Streep's victory and some other recommendations after the jump!)


A Call for Revolution

Neither Allah, Nor Master! (Laïcité Inch’Allah!)
(France/Tunisia, 72 min.)
Dir. Nadia El Fani
A provocative, if not incendiary, piece of activist filmmaking, Neither Allah, Nor Master! is an important documentary on the need for revolution. In the film, director Nadia El Fani examines Tunisia during August 2010 – before the fall of dictator Ben Ali and the ensuing Arab Spring revolutions. An avowed atheistic, El Fani puts herself as the subject of the documentary and asks why she should be lawed into following religious observances, as the other Tunisians of different faiths. Focusing primarily on the month of Ramadan, El Fani shows the complexities and infringements on personal rights and freedoms that arise in Tunisia when the nation enforces the rule of an unwritten law. Although it is not a Muslim state officially and although no Tunisian law stipulates that all citizens must follow such observances, El Fani shows a society bound by fear and suffocated by false law. 


New Trailer for Take This Waltz

A new trailer has been released for Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz! A teaser hit back on Superbowl Sunday, but this new one gives a better sense of the story, the film's beautiful colour palette and cinematography by Luc Montpellier  and, most notably I think, the beautiful lead performance by Michelle Williams. (She's on a roll!) This film really is a must-see, especially for anyone who is a fan of Polley's debut feature Away from Her. I saw Take This Waltz at TIFF in September, and it made my list of the top ten Canadian films of 2011.

Take This Waltz will be released on demand May 25 and in theatres June 29th.
And just to remind: there is also its Canada's Top Ten screening in Ottawa at the Bytowne on April 25th.


Bond at TIFF!

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Here's some news that'll have you shaken, not stirred! It was announced today that the TIFF Bell Lightbox will be hosting the North American premiere of the exhibit Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style from October 26th, 2012 to January 20th, 2012.

In celebration of James Bond's monumental 50th anniversary, Piers Handling, CEO and Director, TIFF, and Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox, announced today details for the North American premiere of Designing 007 - Fifty Years of Bond Style. Running from October 26, 2012 to January 20, 2013, this innovative exhibition will focus on the distinctly British luxuriance of the world's most iconic movie brand and its influence on art, music, lifestyle, automotive design, travel, technology and fashion over the course of five decades. Designing 007 - Fifty Years of Bond Style is curated by the Barbican Centre, with guest-curation by fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave and Academy Award®–winning costume designer Lindy Hemming, and designed by Ab Rogers.. TIFF’s exhibition will feature a series of accompanying film programmes to be announced at a later date. The exhibition is organized by Barbican Centre, London, in partnership with EON Productions.
…Designing 007 - Fifty Years of Bond Style is a natural progression for TIFF Bell Lightbox,” said Cowan. “This in-depth examination of one of the most significant film and cultural icons of all time will offer new and familiar visitors an unprecedented look at the cutting-edge design and décor of the Bond legacy, charting its influence on contemporary society and on the action genre as a whole.”

Highlights confirmed to date include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); storyboards for Diamonds are Forever (1971); the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962); the poker table from Casino Royale (2006); multiple gadgets from Q Branch including the attaché case given to Bond in From Russia With Love (1963); and the 1961 United Artists/Eon Productions contract to produce the James Bond film series.

Very exciting news, I think, especially for anyone who is as big a Bond fan as I am. I don’t know what I’m more excited for, the exhibit or the potential Luma menu! (Octopussy, maybe? The true test will be whether it serves up the traditional vodka martini, or the new Heineken that Bond will be sipping in the upcoming film instead.) Maybe we can even hope that the festival will precede the event with a Gala of Skyfall? At the very least, festivalgoers can expect a preview much better than the oft-maligned Grace Kelly ad that ran at TIFF 2011, lol!


'To Rome with Love' Trailer

A trailer has arrived for Woody Allen's latest To Rome with Love, starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Davis, and Penelope Cruz.

Hope this is another Midnight in Paris.


Sandler Makes Razzie History

Something to celebrate? Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill
Adam Sandler is redeemed! The actor has finally gotten the recognition he deserves. Sandler's Jack and Jill made history at the 32nd Annual Golden Raspberry Awards. The awards, a.k.a. The Razzies, honour the 'berry worst' in film, and usually serve as a lampoonish prelude on the eve of the Academy Awards; however, the Razzies decided to move their 'honours' to April Fool's Day this year, and the switch was a perfect day for a landmark Razzie event. Jack and Jill  became the first film in Razzie history to sweep all ten categories, including Worst Picture and Worst Director. To add insult to injury, Sandler hit a double-whammy, winning both Worst Actor and Worst Actress for his performances as Jack and Jill, respectively. (It's a feat only surpassed by Eddie Murphy, who won Worst Actor, Worst Support Actor, and Worst Supporting Actress for Norbit in 2007). Oscar-winning nominees Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to Sandler's blunder, although two-time Oscar winner Al Pacino fared less well, winning Worst Supporting Actor for Jack and Jill. (He was previously nominated for the Bennfier bomb Gigli.) Jack and Jill was nominated for 12 Razzies, but nominees Nicky Swardson and Katie Holmes got off the hook by seeing their co-stars take one for the team.

Full list of "winners":

With Four Stars You Get Egg Roll

Chinese Take-Away (Un cuento chino)
(Argentina/Spain, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Sebastián Borensztein
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Ignacio Hun, Muriel Santa Ana.
This quaint little Argentine film first makes a stopover in China before jetting viewers to Buenos Aires. Chinese Take-Away opens with a scene that is part Magnolia and part absurd fairy tale. Jun (Ignacio Hun) has whisked his girlfriend away for a romantic boat ride. Set against the sumptuous lake and the overwhelming magnitude of the mountains (thanks, Shannon), Jun’s date is the most romantic setting imaginable to propose marriage; however, just before Jun pops the question, the proposal is interrupted by a cow. The helpless bovine descends straight from the sky, plummeting downwards akin to a hailstorm of frogs. The cow lands right on Jun’s fiancée, smashing the boat and, presumably, her. A bull's-eye, if you’ll pardon the pun.