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Entries in film festivals (283)


TIFF: Charlie's Country

Nathaniel's Adventures at TIFF. Day 1

There's nothing like the fresh smell of na movies in the morning. Or the coffee while watching the movies. I love starting the day with a movie. Always have. It's easy to do that at TIFF where things start rolling at 8:30 AM. So I popped out of bed and hit the theater. At my second movie at 11 AM, two filmmakers in the seats next to me joked that the fairly robust attendance on the first morning of press & industry screenings was because late night boozing hadn't begun yet. "Not so," I interjected, having been to a pre-TIFF party the night before and spotting some familiar faces. "I know for a fact that someone here has a hangover." They laughed and I realized, too late, that it probably sounded like a confession. T'was not, I swear! I left that pre-TIFF party sober and l-o-n-g before I hear it wound down. 

Time has been good to aboriginal actor David Gulipil's face. His first starring role was in Walkabout way back in 1971, but four decades later when you see him on screen in historical films like Ten Canoes (2006) or epics like Australia (2008) his shock of tangled grey and white hair and those visible years on his skin have granted his memorable face even more big screen potency. It's a great face to spend time with and the Dutch-Australian director Rolf de Heer knows it, often just leaving the camera on him for long stretches when not much is actually happening. His latest collaboration with Gulpilil (they co-wrote the film) is a character drama about an old man named Charlie who longs for the "old ways" and resents white Australia and all the policies of "The Intervention".

I know absolutely nothing about Australian politics that I didn't learn from the movies. No two ethnically and morally fraught political situations are exactly comparable -- I don't mean to be reductive --  but what we see in Charlie's Country (and every politically or historically minded Australian film before it), reminded me so strongly of America's own often shameful history and treatment of Native Americans that it was easy to be quickly engrossed without actually understanding details. Much of Charlie's struggles and personal setbacks are a complicated result of a mixture of that politically stacked deck, hopeless self-sabotage, and his respect for "the old ways" that feels both completely genuine and goosed up for whenever he wants feel righteously offended. Charlie longs to track and hunt but isn't allowed to have weapons, he hates fast food but that's all his community has easy access too. The film's best moments are when Charlie's natural sense of humor and feisty spirit busts through the sad political reality: Charlie pretending to be a better tracker than he is; the joy of cooking in nature's "supermarket"; Charlie's friendly antagonistic relationship with both the local cops (they greet each other with "white bastard / black bastard" bickering) and his own community. 

I'd like to heartily recommend Charlie's Country but the truth is it aggravated me as often as it moved me. The pacing is strangely glacial and some of its most superb moments are ruined by goosing them too far. Take for instance a tough scene in a hospital where a doctor asks Charlie if he can just call him that because "foreign names are hard for me to pronounce." If you're paying any attention at all the moment arrives like a cold hard slap. It's enough to enrage you on Charlie's behalf but he underlines it himself with a muttered "so now I'm a foreigner?" He rubs the sting away with his own vocalized indignation, no longer requiring yours. Worse yet is the repetitive (if thankfully sparse) musical score that sounds exactly like a Clint Eastwood parody. Eastwood shouldn't even score his own movies, let alone other people's! There's a wonderful moment late in the film in which Charlie remembers a dance performance from his youth and you hear, all too briefy, the thrilling indigenous didgeridoo. Why not use that for scoring since the movie's heart, like Charlie's, longs for the old country. B-/C+

Also at TIFFA Little ChaosWildThe Gate, Cub, The Farewell Party, BehaviorThe Theory of Everything, Imitation GameFoxcatcher, Song of the Sea1001 Grams, Labyrinth of Lies, Sand DollarsThe Last Five YearsWild Tales, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceForce Majeure, Life in a Fishbowl, Out of NatureThe Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, and Mommy


Off to TIFF: Nathaniel's Journey Begins

For the curious among you this is my very tentative list of films on my very jam-packed schedule at TIFF. This will be the 10th anniversary of my very first trip to TIFF from which my fondest memory was sitting behind Gael García Bernal and Javier Bardem for the premiere of The Sea Inside (the fondness of the memory is due to the view, not the movie). I haven't been attending annually but perhaps last year's short trip was the start of a tradition?

This list is highly subject to change - there are always cancellations, late starts, pop ups which all throw off schedules, you can try to follow the critical buzz which will throw off the schedule, you can meet with friends for food and conversation which will throw off the schedule, and you can sleep which will throw off the morning screening schedule. It's a madcap journey: eye strain, memory loss, and international film culture await up north. Some of these films are scheduled because I'm dying to see them, others less so because they fit exactly into the proposed schedule at an opportune moment. I'm going to try to skip some "must sees" like Maps to the Stars, Clouds of Sils Maria and more but 'WHY?' you shout in anger? Here's why: ten or so mouthwatering titles from TIFF's abundance are part of the New York Film Festival and those screenings begin in NYC literally the day after TIFF wraps. 

on my tentative schedule
1001 GRAMS (Norwegian Romantic Drama)
BANG BANG BABY (Canadian Musical)
CHARLIE COUNTRY (Australian Drama)
CUB (Belgian Horror)
DUKTHAR (Pakistani Drama)
FAREWELL PARTY (Israeli Drama, Ophir Nominee)
FORCE MAJEURE (Swedish Oscar Submission)
FOXCATCHER (Channing Tatum in a singlet. I think other people and things are in it, too.)
THE GATE (Cambodian/French from the director of "Indochine")
THE GOLDEN ERA (Chinese epic starring Tang Wei from Lust, Caution)
A HARD DAY (South Korean drama)
IMITATION GAME (Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing breaks the enigma code)
IN HER PLACE (I already forgot what this one is)
LIFE IN A FISHBOWL (Icelandic Oscar Probability)
A LITTLE CHAOS (Kate Winslet back in corsets. Whoooo)
LOS HONGOS (I already forgot what this one is)
MISS JULIE (Jessica + Colin)
MOMMY (new Xavier Dolan) 
THE NEW GIRLFRIEND (new François Ozon)
OCTOBER GALE (from the director of "Cairo Time" starring Patty Clarkson again)
OUT OF NATURE (Norwegian Drama)
PHOENIX (German)
THE PROPHET (animated)
RED AMNESIA (Chinese Thriller)
RETURN TO ITHACA (from the director of "The Class")
THE RIOT CLUB (from the director of "An Education")
SCARLET INNOCENCE (I already forgot what this one is)
SHREW'S NEST (Spanish Thriller)
SONG OF THE SEA (from the filmmakers behind "The Secret of Kells")
STILL ALICE (indie Julianne Moore drama)
THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Eddie & Felicity court each other and Oscar)
TODAY (Iranian drama)
THE TRIBE (Ukranian Oscar Probability) 
WILD (Reese hikes toward Oscar #2?)
WILD TALES (Argentinian comedy) 

Anna Kendrick with the brilliant composer Jason Robert Brown ("The Last Five Years")

That's 40 films and I can guarantee I won't actually see that many and it's unwise to if you hope to remember any of them. But wish me luck in staying very roughly on track. Remember this: comments and retweets and shares are helpful fuel for those on the run from screening to screening. Follow Me on Twitter and Instagram if you want smaller and more frequent updates in addition to the reviews I'll be offering here.

What About the Blog? 
I'll try to get you one TIFF diary a day. Meanwhile the team has some fun stuff planned for you while I'm up North including more "back to school" pieces, a Team Top Ten and a mini fest celebrating the centennial of Robert Wise. 


NewFest: "Futuro Beach" and "Gerontophilia"

This double feature review was originally printed in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Help, he’s drowning! In good movies so don’t rush to the rescue. Both the opening and closing night films of this week’s satisfying NewFest (July 24th-29th), NYC's annual LGBT film festival in partnership with OutFest, begin with a drowning. Both drownings become romantic catalysts for the lifeguard, but the films couldn’t be more different in tone or purpose so it’s surely a coincidence. NewFest got the order right, opening with the dramatic punch and ending with a sweet drive into the sunset.

In the Brazilian/German film FUTURO BEACH, which opened the annual LGBT film festival Thursday night, two tourists are hit by violent waves. Lifeguards rush in to save them but only one survives. Donato (Wagner Moura) shaken up by losing his first swimmer, seeks out the survivor's friend, a sporty motorbike enthusiast named Konrad (Clemens Schick) to explain the process for dealing with the body. Soon they're angrily rutting, caught up in the disorienting and wrenching drama. Their hookup appears destined to burn bright and die quick due to its emotionally disconnected start and its rapid and frank visual presentation -- English language cinema still lags far behind European cinema in its depictions of sex; the full frontal here is presented as if it’s no big deal.


Click to read more ...


Get On Link

Towleroad The Imitation Game (we just discussed the trailer) isn't the only Alan Turing focused artwork in the ether. The Pet Shop Boys just debuted their opera Breaking the Code (yes, opera) about the man.
Theater Mania there's a stage adaptation of Shakespeare in Love in the West End. Here's a review
Vulture interviews True Blood's Nelsan Ellis on the lame actor who wouldn't make out with him on True Blood and his role in Get On Up

Kenneth in the (212) Ryan Gosling joins the waxworks at Madame Tussauds
MNPP freaks out for a John Waters retrospective this September. As well we all should.
Variety big weekend expected for Lucy. I guess this means Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow solo film will get a greenlight
Boy Culture Wonder Woman in Madonna drag. LOL
Awards Daily Heart of the Sea, the Ron Howard/ Chris Hemsworth post-Rush collaboration is test screening
/Film new poster for Mad Max: Fury Road 
Superhero Hype Batman's new costume displayed at Comic Con... but I'm sorry it looks so creepy without someone in it
AV Club Project Runway begins its 13th season tonight

And please to enjoy the Venice Film Festival Lineup. They're sharing some titles with TIFF like Good Kill, The Humbling, 99 Homes, and Red Amnesia. But ther opening night film Birdman is all theirs. Feel the envy. I'd do a whole post as with TIFF but I'm not going to Venice *sniffle* whereas I might be a TIFF and also as you read this I am fulfilling my obligations as a citizen via Jury Dutyzzz. No, for real. Feel for me as I sit in the rooms waiting for my name to be called or not.


TIFF Lineup 2014

There's been a snafu with my TIFF credentials so I'm currently in limbo. Therefore today's listing is not an 'OMG Look What Prezzies I Get in September' humble brag, merely today's listing. Which of these 46 films hitting Toronto (not a complete list) are you most excited for? If I do go to Toronto I may well use you readers as film-picking guide.

TIFF Lineup So Far 
100s more films to come
(If we've already covered the film somehow, it's linked up) 

I demand custody of... your Oscar!

Black and White (Mike Binder) - Kevin Costner reunites with his Upside of Anger helmer for a racial custody battle drama. Octavia Spencer co-stars
Breakup Buddies (Ning Hao) - a "raunchy romantic comedy" 
Cake (Daniel Branz) directs Jennifer Aniston and other stars in this drama about a depression support group 
Coming Home (Zhang Yimou) - Gong Li doesn't remember her husband, returned from mail, in this drama
Dearest (Peter Ho-sun Chan) 
The Dead Lands (Toa Frazer) a New Zealand action epic. You don't hear that every day.

40 more after the jump...

Click to read more ...



Guardian Tim Robey has a lovely tribute to TV & film star James Garner (RIP) who I'll always remember best for Murphy's Romance and Victor/Victoria in the 1980s
Pajiba I'm more of a cat person but this gallery of big celebrities with tiny dogs is adorable
Criterion Collection on the painstaking restoration of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Thompson on Hollywood has an in depth look at the VOD decisions involving Snowpiercer from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein (so yes it's very one-sided... but interesting nonetheless)

The Dissolve 'when images match ideas' on Snowpiercer and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 
Pajiba has the talk with Marvel about the Edgar Wright Divorce  
Towleroad Andrew Rannells starts soon as Hedwig. (I'm excited. The role is big enough for multiple interpretations)
Theater Mania Michelle Williams wants to keep singing at the Kit Kat Club longer than expected. She's staying with Cabaret all the way through November 9th now (I guess she doesn't have to start promoting Suite Française for awhile still)
Details interviews Wentworth Miller, former Prison Break hunk and Stoker writer, on his career after coming out

And, finally, are you excited for Festival Season yet?

I'm trying to remain calm as I make plans but NYFF isn't making staying calm any easier what with their Opening Night Film (Gone Girl's world premiere) Centerpiece (Inherent Vice) and Closing Night (Birdman which is scheduled for Venice as well). Tomorrow TIFF holds their opening news conference and we'll hear more about their plans as well. Here's some speculation from a Toronto news site which suggests that Reese Witherspoon is going to be a major presence and you can probably safely assume that Maps to the Stars will also be there given TIFF's love of Cronenberg.


Podcast: Cannes Aftermath with Special Guest Guy Lodge

For this quickie edition of the podcast Nick and Nathaniel speak to Guy Lodge on the last day of the festival about his experience, from favorites to disappointments, festival politics and even a little Oscar buzz. He answers the really important questions like: is Kristen Stewart really that much of a revelation in Clouds of Sils Maria?; is Hitchcock's The Birds is a fair comparison for the Hungarian dog movie White God?; Which movie convinces you that Xavier Dolan is the real deal?

00:01 Winter Sleep and the politics of being "overdue"
05:00 Leviathan & Mommy: late bows and multiple raves
07:45 Acting Prizes: Julianne Moore in Maps and Timothy Spall as Mr Turner
13:00 "Foxcatcher is really terrific!"
18:00 Un Certain Regard: The Tribe and White God
22:00 Competition quality and surprises: Party Girl winning Camera D'Or and the media praise for Channing Tatum and Kristen Stewart
28:00 Last words, movies missed.

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments... and while you're at it listen to the last couple of week's of the podcast which were two of my favorite episodes and weirdly less remarked upon than usual.

Cannes 2014 in Review