Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kat's Top TIFF Picks

Not to be outdone by Jeff, here is my list of most anticipated TIFF 2010 titles. I tried very hard to whittle it down to only ten, with five honourable mentions, listed below, all of which overlap with Jeff's list anyway.

A Horrible Way to Die
Adam Wingard | USA
Ever since Jeff brought Wingard's Pop Skull to Toronto's Over the Top Fest a few years back, I have been curious about what he'd do next. This story of a serial killer who escapes from prison and a woman whose past is slowly catching up with her sounds intriguing and clever. Penned by Simon Barrett, who was last at TIFF with 2004's Dead Birds.

The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman
Dao Jian Xiao | Hong Kong, China
The first film in Midnight Madness from mainland China is about a kitchen cleaver forged out of the swords of the world's top martial artists. If it really is like Ashes of Time meets God of Cookery meets Tampopo, then I can't wait to go for 2:00am food in Chinatown after the screening.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog | USA
Herzog. 3D. Some 3000 year old cave paintings. It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Denis Côté | Canada
Last year Denis Côté delivered Canada's most fascinating film of the year with the strange and compelling documentary-ish Carcasses. This year, he returns with something the TIFF guide refers to as 'accessible' - a portrait of a single dad in rural Quebec who has a deep love of curling. Perfect.

Cirkus Columbia
Danis Tanović | Bosnia & Herzegovina
I thought 2001's No Man's Land was just about the best film ever made about the disintegration of my homeland. Tanović has been making a name for himself outside of Bosnia since, with films like L'Enfer and Triage. Now he's actually back in the old country for the first time since his '01 Oscar winner. I can't wait.

Erotic Man
Jørgen Leth | Denmark
Remember The Five Obstructions, that amazing documentary in which Lars von Trier tries to make his mentor/idol make a shitty film by imposing absurd obstructions onto him, only to be frustrated every time by the master's ability to create something wonderful? Well, the master is back with a feature that's touted in the TIFF guide as his "most radical and personal work", an exploration of aging, loss and of course, sex.

Our Day Will Come
Romain Gavras | France
The image in the programme book has a bald-headed Vincent Cassel surrounded by glum looking redheaded children. I don't need much more than this to be convinced to see this "hallucinatory quest for a land of imagined freedom", to be honest. Plus, I've heard a rumour that it's considerably weirder and not at all the video Gavras directed for M.I.A., which features redheads being persecuted and blown up for ten minutes. This fact piques my interest further.

Red Nights
Julien Carbon, Laurent Courtiaud | Hong Kong, China, France
First time directors make it to Midnight Madness with a "pulpy, fetishistic thriller" that's centred around the hunt for a valuable artifact and the staging of a Peking Opera, The Jade Executioner. Giallo-meets-espionage written by the French and taking place in Hong Kong.

The Sleeping Beauty
Catherine Breillat | France
I love "bracing explorations of female mythologies" and I also love Breillat's take on sexuality. I expect her fairy tale story about a young princess and some witches to be as grotesque and brilliant as only she can make it.

Errol Morris | USA
Morris takes on a story about a beauty pageant queen with an IQ of 168, which programmer Thom Powers almost calls too weird to describe in the programme book without spoilers? Count me in.

One honourable mention must definitely go to the conversation between Bruce Springsteen and Edward Norton as part of the Mavericks program (I really love the Boss).

Since that's not technically a film, here are five other titles that I can't wait to see for reasons Jeff has already articulated: 22nd of May, Boxing Gym, Cold Fish, The Last Circus & Super.

Jeff's 15 Most Anticipated Films of TIFF 2010

The final titles of the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2010 lineup were announced today. Here are the fifteen films that I’m most eager to see:

22nd of May
The new film by Koen Mortier looks to be kinder and gentler than his first film, Ex-Drummer, which was a brilliantly dark comedy. Either way, I can’t wait to see it!

A Horrible Way to Die
The new film from Pop Skull director, Adam Wingard is about an escaped convict in search of his ex-girlfriend who has run away to try and start a new life. Like with 22nd of May, the strength of Wingard’s last film would be enough to have me excited about this, but more reasons to be excited are that it stars Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen, and is written by Simon Barrett.

Boxing Gym
Probably the best documentary filmmaker in the biz, Frederick Wiseman is back at TIFF for a second consecutive year, with a documentary about a boxing gym (did you guess that?) in Austin, Texas.

Burke and Hare
A new John Landis film?! A new John Landis film about grave robbers, starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Christopher Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry, and Jenny Agutter!?!?! GIMME!! EDIT: Burke and Hare is no longer appearing on the TIFF website.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog has made a 3D film. It’s a documentary about cave drawings.

Cold Fish
Sion Sono’s epic, Love Exposure, was one of the best films of last year, so I’ve got high expectations for his new serial killer flic. High expectations which I’m pretty confident will be met.

When a middle-school teacher’s four year-old daughter is killed, becomes convinced that two students in her class are responsible and decides to take her revenge. This total 180 from the director of Memories of Matsuko, Tetsuya Nakashima, was a huge hit in Japan, and that it’s playing TIFF after already having its North American/International Premiere at the NYAFF is a sign of quality.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
New Tsui Hark! Starring Andy Lau! That’s all I need to know.

I Saw the Devil
Kim Ji-Woon, the director of The Good, The Bad, The Weird returns to horror with a film starring Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik and TGTBTW’s Lee Byung-hun.

Jack Goes Boating
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a guy who’s setup on a date by friends. The first date goes well enough to warrant a second. Hoffman then makes plans to make that date the best date ever. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?! This is also Hoffman’s directorial debut.

The Last Circus
Set in the Spanish civil war, two clowns feud over the same woman in this dark comedy directed by Alex de la Iglesia. Sounds good to me.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Donnie Yen, Anthony Wong, and Shu Qi! Watch the teaser.

Norwegian Wood
I really like the Murakami book this is based on, so let’s see if the film does it justice.

Finally, James Gunn! It’s been way too long since Slither came out. Rainn Wilson stars as a man whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), so he takes up crime fighting. Also starring Ellen Page as a young fan of Wilson’s crime fighting work who wants to team up and be his sidekick. With Gunn’s dark sense of humour, I predict great times.

Vanishing on 7th Street
I’m keeping myself in the dark about this one after having watched the excellent teaser trailer. Brad Anderson’s Session 9 is one of the best horror films of the last decade, and this looks like an excellent addition to his filmography.

So yeah… Blah, blah, blah. Those are the fifteen films I’m most excited for. It was hard to narrow it down to just fifteen. It could easily have been twice as long.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Neil Marshall | 2010 | 97 min | UK

I was very excited when I heard that Neil Marshall was tackling the story of the 9th Roman Legion who went missing in the frontier of the empire's territory in 117 AD. What would Marshall conjure up? A reinvention of Gaelic vampire lore? A period return to his werewolves? Oh boy, I had looked forward to that for a long time. Well, the wait is over! And Centurion delivers nothing new.

My problem with the movie is not that I was disappointed by its lack of supernatural hoo-ha, however. The story is interesting enough: a legion is decimated by a local army employing guerrilla tactics that are totally alien to the Romans, and is wiped from the official history books. And the calibre of talent is remarkable, led by Michael Fassbender and Dominic West. Unfortunately, the script just goes through the usual paces, delivering a few character surprises, but mostly favouring the path of countless other action films. Even the action set pieces are dry. There are some gory moments, plenty of tight camera work rendering those moments largely indecipherable, and virtual buckets full of CGI blood jetting forth from CGI wounds. By the time a comely unarmoured woman is introduced, you know exactly where everything is heading.

Though I did very much enjoy most of the cast, I do have one casting gripe: Ulrich Thomsen, who plays Pict leader Gorlacon, was done up to look far too much like Sting for me to have ever taken seriously on screen. "Is that Sting? Why is Sting so mad? That might be Sting," etc.

On the bright side, the photography in the English and Scottish countrysides is beautiful. Marshall seems to recognize this as the highlight of the film, too, because he really got his money's worth with that helicopter rental. There are countless extreme long shots of our heroes and their pursuers racing across hilltops and plains. These running shots could be a drinking game if anyone were willing to give Centurion a second watch.

At 97 minutes it absolutely drags its way to the end. Apparently there is a 120 minutes cut in Finland as well? Good God. Centurion is not terrible, but the best that can be said about it is that it is serviceable. On the heels of Doomsday, The Descent, and Dog Soldiers, it is very disappointing that Marshall would accept that as good enough.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Backyard, Toronto

Paul Bartel's Cannonball. Some fried chicken, a couple cans of Steam Whistle, and sixteen millimetres of David Carradine projected under the stars is my recipe for a perfect summer night. RECOMMENDED.

Arab on Radar, Toronto

These guys are still monsters of rock and Toronto audiences are still sedate. I swear the oldies at the Jesus Lizard and Devo reunion shows earlier this year gave it harder than most of the undergrad crowd at Saturday's show. I have gone to shows in a lot of different cities and Toronto beats them all when it comes to sitting on hands and practically yawning through all but the buzziest of buzz bands. And what was up with that gent shouting, "CHINESE STARS" between each song? I gave him a scolding and he quieted for a few numbers, then returned with a fury for the encore. I don't know if the audiences here are spoiled or if the average age when one realizes having fun is more important than looking cool is really out of whack in this city. At any rate, I don't want to get down on the show. Mr. Pottymouth and co. killed it and I had a smile on my face they entire time. Another band struck from the bucket list.

This entire post makes me sound seventy-eight years old.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I Got Your Americana Right Here, J Crew

These images were taken between 1938 and 1944 by photographers from the US government's Farm Security Administration (FSA) and Office of War Information (OWI). They were intended as documents are typical American life, concentrating on rural areas. However, as World War II loomed large for the States the photographs took on the distinct tone of propaganda, shifting toward factories full of primped and posed men women Working Hard to Defeat Hitler. Regardless of their uses at the time, these gorgeous photos are a rare colour glimpse at America of the period.

High resolution digital scans are available for free use here. Thanks to Rick Prelinger for the tip.

EDIT: The Huffingpost Post is totally ripping me off.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Today's Nightmare Fuel

AAAAAAAH! End of History beer is a thing that exists! It is a 55% alcohol beer presented inside, yes, an actual taxidermied stoat or grey squirrel. Only twelve bottles of this particular beer were made, so this is a publicity stunt more than anything, but still. . . way to infuriate God.

You can find more info on the brew, as well as a terrible video, over at the BrewDog blog.