Haven’t had much time to write.  Got another busy day today, so just a few quick things:

  • Ghost Town:  an otherwise completely ordinary film was quite funny thanks to Ricky Gervais
  • The People Speak:  Howard Zinn, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Chris Moore along with surprise guests Marissa Tomei and Viggo Mortensen discuss the documentary based on Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.  Spotted in the crowd were Tim Robbins, Danny Glover, and Naomi Kline.
  • Zack and Miri Make a Porno:  Kevin Smith at his best – probably his best work.
  • Not Quite Hollywood:  “Rock”umentary about Oz-sploitation films – crazy and fun.
  • L’Heure d’ete:  SNOOZEfest!
  • Good:  it took some discussion afterwards for me to decide if I liked this film.  I do.

I’ve taken lots of good video and some not so good pictures but the computer I’m using is wayyyy too slow – will upload when I’m home.

Ok, busy couple of days…  the party on Day 3 was totally fun – we got all dressed up and went to the place and enjoyed some complimentary wine and food (roast beef, assorted hors d’oevres and cheeses, oh my!) and performances by members of the cast of the revival production of A Chorus Line.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long, as we had a screening to get to.

Religulous was fantastic, (probably hired) protesters and all!  The documentary is essentially an hour and a bit of Bill Maher running around making fun of people of faith followed by a call to arms for the large silent minority of non believers in the world to speak up and stop letting the world be run by people who believe in fairy tales.  The film won’t win over any converts, but if you’re a fan of Bill Maher and a bona fide skeptic, you’ll be entertained.  The Q&A was great too – I have some video to put up, unfortunately I ran out of room on my camera and couldn’t take as much as I’d have liked.

Just dropping in quickly after a screening of A No-Hit No-Run Summer, a great little French Canadian film.  Set in Montreal summer of 1969, a 12 year old kid who’s obsessed with the Expos’ first season and dying to play ball himself, tries out for the local team but is denied.  His dad, previously unenthusiastic about his son’s obsession with baseball, decides to start up a b-team for all the kids who’d tried out but didn’t make it onto the main team.  The film is beautifully shot and has a really warm nostalgic feel about it.

Now we’re just getting ready to go out to a party for Every Little Step at 6:30 which will probably just be a short visit since we’ll have to get lined up nice and early for Religulous at the Ryerson later on tonight.  Bill Maher is an idol of mine – I can’t wait!

Just a quick rundown – guests arrived late last night and so not much time for writing over the next few days…

First flick was an Irish black comedy, A Film With Me In It – funny as hell – wickedly funny script, great performances by the actors, and a truly dark and absurd plot.  Really enjoyed the movie, too bad about the audience… well, too bad about the woman sitting next to us anyway – one of the types that needs to laugh a little too loud, and react a little too much, and just comes off as fake and irritating. Didn’t ruin the experience, but came close a couple times…

Later on we saw the new Richard Linklater film, Me and Orson Welles. I’d really been looking forward to this one, and it was great – I was a touch tired though and a few parts of the film dragged a bit. But Linklater is a master film maker and as always he pulls some incredible performances from his actors, in particular Christian McKay who played Orson Welles.  I took a bunch of vid of the Q&A after, I’ll try to get that uploaded soon.

A very rushed cab ride later and we checked out the Gala screening of Burn After Reading. We’d never done the big hollywood Gala, and I’m glad that we did, but don’t think we’ll do it again.  We knew we’d be seated up in the balcony, but when we finally got up there after waiting out the massive “Priority Seating” line, we were rushing from section to section as volunteers told us “this section is full!”
and finally got seated as the introduction to the film was just finishing in a section normally reserved as “obstructed view” seating.  The film was fantastic though – the Coen brothers were in their element, doing what they do best.

On to day three – we have invites to a party for Every Little Step tonight – we weren’t able to fit the film into our schedule, but who doesn’t love a party?

So now that the fest has gotten underway, I’m going to try to update this blog as much as I can.  Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done – we’re going to have some pretty late nights and some pretty hectic days and we’ve got guests coming to join us through this weekend so I don’t know what I can guarantee.  I’ll definitely be twittering quite a bit and you can follow me on twitter here.  I will try to get in some quick reactions to films and celeb sightings and so on here when I can though.

Today’s been great – we arrived to find the apartment that we rented is even better than we’d expected – the photos didn’t really do this place justice, and the location is phenomenal – we’re just three blocks from Ryerson where most of our screenings are.  We also found out that the place has a gym and a rooftop terrace with bbq – not that we have tons of extra time, but hitting the gym once or twice this week will certainly make us feel better about all that sitting around and eating crap food that goes along with festivaling.

Tonight we saw O’Horten, a really great little Norwegian flick by Bent Hamer – a great start to the festival for us – it was such a charming, quirky, fun little movie.  Will definitely have to look up some of this director’s other work.

Next up was a film we (and it seems everyone else at the fest) were really looking forward to, JCVD.  What a great film – Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself in a Being John Malcovich-ish self-aware reality where he riffs on his own career and persona and turns in a performance that you really just need to see to believe – I’ll never look at the “Muscles from Brussels” the same again.

And here it is, just got word that we got all of our picks, so here’s the final rundown of films we’ll be seeing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival:

Thursday September 4

O’Horten (Bent Hamer, Norway)
JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri, France/Luxembourg/Belgium)

Friday September 5

A Film With Me In It (Ian FitzGibbon, Ireland)
Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater, UK)
Burn After Reading (GALA) (Joel and Ethan Coen, USA)

Saturday September 6

Un été sans point ni coup sûr/A No-Hit No-Run Summer (Francis Leclerc, Canada/French)
Religulous (Larry Charles, USA)

Sunday September 7

Ghost Town (David Koepp, USA)
The People Speak (Howard Zinn, USA)
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Kevin Smith, USA)
Not Quite Hollywood (Mark Hartley, Australia)

Monday September 8

L’Heure d’été (Olivier Assayas, France)
Good (Vicente Amorim, UK/Germany)

Tuesday September 9

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA)
Gigantic (Matt Aselton, USA)
Paris, Not France (Adria Petty, USA)
Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA)

Wednesday September 10

Cooper’s Camera (Warren P. Sonoda, Canada)
Control Alt Delete (Cameron Labine, Canada)
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, France/Canada)

Thursday September 11

Je Veux Voir (Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige, France/Lebanon)

7 days to go!  Since the schedule and programme information went live 2 days ago we’ve just been pouring over the information available, post-it noting the hell out of the program book, and putting together a list of all the films that are remotely interesting to us.  Once that was mostly together (it’s never really complete), I started putting all the available screenings of those films into Google Calendar, colour coding the entries with my top choices as well as Danielle’s.

That of course makes for a messy messy mess to choose from (left) – I probably have 100 screenings on the schedule across 8 days, and we’ll only be seeing about 20 or so.  Next I start narrowing things down – I pick another colour for our first choices and start pulling out screenings that we both agree on as our top favourites.

The general criteria I follow from there is no early mornings (hey, this is also a vacation), preference to first screenings (best attendance by cast/crew for stargazing), and I try to limit travel distance between screenings (ie, don’t schedule one film at Scotiabank/Paramount and then the very next one at Varsity 8).

And that’s how we end up with our final list of first picks.  It’s a bit of a rough process – lots of movies have to get dropped off, compromises made.  I feel like we’ve got a pretty good balance of films from different programmes, some foreign language films, some Canadian flicks, and we managed to keep most of the films at Ryerson and AMC which are both within a couple of blocks of our apartment.

So now we wait to find out if we get all our picks.  I think we have a pretty good chance.  Typically the ticketing process involves a lottery system where you have no idea what your chances are of getting your picks.  This year though, they’ve introduced a (somewhat controversial) policy where donors who make a contribution to the Bell Lightbox fund get their orders processed ahead of the general lottery.  We made a donation at the lowest level that would allow us to participate in this program – so I’m hoping that’ll be enough to get us all our picks – there are quite a few donor levels above us that will get processed first though, so who knows.  We just wanted to give ourselves the best chance we can get since we don’t get to make it down to TIFF too often.

So without further ado, the final list:

O’Horten
JCVD
A Film With Me In It
Me and Orson Welles
Burn After Reading (GALA)
Un ete sans point ni coup sur
Religulous
Ghost Town
The People Speak
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Not Quite Hollywood
L’Heure d’ete
Good
The Wrestler
Gigantic
Paris, Not France
Synecdoche, New York
Cooper’s Camera
Control Alt Delete
Martyrs
Je Veux Voir

I’ll do up a page with some writeups for these shortly.  For now, we wait…

With the Premium tickets already on sale, the full film list out, and the schedule about to be announced, I’m starting to build out my shortlist of films I’d like to catch at TIFF08 over here.  Currently the list is heavy on Special Presentations and light on World Cinema – will have to work on that a bit.  This list will definitely get a lot bigger before it gets trimmed back down to about 20 films over the next couple of days.

There’s a lot of films in the Midnight Madness series I’m really looking forward to, but that’s gonna mean a lot of late nights making morning screenings difficult.  There’s a number of Canadian Films that I’m interested in, and we’re hoping to catch our first Mavericks discussion panel with Howard Zinn, Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Josh Brolin discussing Zinn’s upcoming documentary The People Speak.

I’m going to keep updating that page with films and information as we whittle our selections down over the next couple of days.

So Gala and Visa Screening Room tickets went on sale this weekend.  We managed to get a pair for the opening of Burn After Reading, the new Coen brothers film starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand.  I love the Coen Brothers’ films and we figured this would be a good chance to do some star gawking and catch what looks to be a really great flick.

There are a couple other films screening in the Gala and Visa Screening Room programmes that I’d like to see, but the tickets are a bit pricey, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to catch the second runs.  Zack and Miri Make a Porno is Kevin Smith’s new flick and I’d really like to catch it, mainly because I’d love to see him speak.  But as far as I know, the films that show at the Visa Screening Room typically don’t have Q&A following.  So I’m hoping Zack and Miri’s second screening will be at Ryerson, because if anyone will come out to a second screening just to do the Q&A, it’ll be Kevin Smith.

I also really want to see The Wrestler, the new film by Darren Aronofsky starring Mickey Rourke, but at $40 a pop, Gala screenings are pretty pricey so again I’m hoping to be able to catch this one on its second screening.

I got an email last week saying I was selected to take part in the Online Ticketing Process which is great because it gives us an extra couple hours to get our schedule in order – normally as Out-of-Towners we’ll get our programme book and schedule this wednesday morning and then have to turn it over to FedEx by the next day at 5:00pm.  With the Online Ticketing option, we get until midnight on Thursday to submit our order.

Looks like a friend of mine has scored us some invites to the after party for Every Little Step, a documentary on the making of Broadway’s 1975 original and the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line.  I hadn’t really had any interest in this film, but hey – if we’re going to the party, guess we’d better fit it in.  Actually after reading a bit about it, the film actually sounds kinda interesting so why not.

Unfortunately this means we’ve run into our first conflict – the one non-filmfest related event I’d been hoping to catch while in town, Cheech and Chong are performing at Massey Hall that night.  I kinda suspected this wasn’t going to be do-able – it’s Saturday night of the first weekend of TIFF – but I was still hopeful.  Oh well – I have two tickets for sale for the 7:30 show of Cheech and Chong at Massey Hall on Saturday September 6 if anyone’s interested.