Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too many Toronto films keep us buzzing

One of the many fun things about the annual Toronto International Film Festival is trying to match a movie's actual worth with its pre-screening buzz. Naturally, it becomes a guessing game of immense proportions, and the upcoming TIFF No. 36 certainly shows no signs of anything different.
For now, let's consider Day One (Sept 8) of this year's movie excursion and the plight of a poor visiting journalist who again will be forced to choose from among a wealth of early riches.
In the category of press and industry screenings, which can be attended only by accredited media and seriously connected movie types, viewing will begin at 9 a.m. by having to dismiss respective South African and Indian films called Beauty and Azhagarsamy's Horse for a same-time showing of Lars von Trier's Melancholia.
Of course, the dark master of Dogma offers his usual A-list cast, including Kirsten Dunst (left), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling and the father-son pairing of Stellan and Alexander Skarsgård.
And lest anyone think that sitting through 135 minutes of von Trier is any easy day at the beach, then they really "ain't see nothin' yet."

The noon hour calls for some much more mainstream decision-making. I mean, what would you choose to see? Perhaps Brad Pitt in the reportedly smart baseball movie, Moneyball;
Sundance darling Like Crazy (with Felicity Jones, right); maybe Wim Wenders' 3D dancing doc about a woman named Pina? Or how 'bout none of the above and instead opting to leave the controversial von Trier early for the 11:30 start of the widely discussed We Need to Talk About Kevin (starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, below left)?

If lunch is not essential -- and for these 10 days in September neither are breakfast or dinner -- many likely will walk right into another selected screening avalanche from 2-3 p.m. That's when the likes of the supposedly startling This is Not a Film; the French and Lebanese Where Do We Go Now?; Japan's Cut, and (at bottom right) Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus (with a little help from some guy named Shakespeare) will be among a slew of choices screened.

All are followed (or in some cases interrupted) at 4 p.m. by director George Clooney's Ides of March and a few distinguished foreigners, like Austria's Breathing and China's Mr. Tree, taking their bows for the visiting hordes of press and buyers.
On and on it goes, at which theater any particular critic might stop, nobody knows.

Now, I won't even get into the topic of that night's actual festival screenings, which media can attend only by coaxing a favor from a publicist or a perhaps festival-related friend or -- gasp! -- by actually spending some Canadian money on a ticket.

Most journos can get comped for Thursday's official "opening night film," and this year it's Davis
Guggenheim's U2 rock doc, From the Sky Down. Please know, however, that movies such as Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss, Gus Van Sant's Restless, Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, and Tunisia's intriguingly named Always Brando will play simultaneously at other venues.

I know, I know, it really is a tough job we festival regulars have. So, hopefully, by the time I offer up my next post -- from the war zone that will be Toronto -- I'll still be in one piece to write about a few films I've actually dared to digest fully. Just please pray that all of the incessant buzz won't get me first.

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