Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Sheep's TIFF11 Review

Officially, it has been eleven days since TIFF sucked me into its unique brand of vortex but I've been dedicating my time to the festival for what seems like weeks now. I caught my first pre-TIFF screening on  August 16 and finish today with my 35th and final film. Sure there is a lot of time in a month to see 35 films but more than 20 of them were in the last 10 days alone. Factor in all the writing, all the interviews and all the running around too and it is easy to see why some in the industry describe this festival as an endurance test.

I know a few people in the biz here and there but, for the most part, I keep to myself. I hear things though. I hear other journalists who have been doing this way longer than I have talk about how happy they are that its ending, complaining about everything from the free food to the films themselves. And while TIFF seems like such a burden for them, its like Christmas for me. Sure, its easy for even me to complain when I have six interviews in a day and not one of them seems to start on time, but I am always grateful for the amazing opportunities being part of this festival affords me.

Meeting Roger Ebert at big book signing
This year, I did three times as many interviews as I did last year. I met with filmmakers I admire a great deal, including Gus Van Sant, Steve McQueen and Jean-Marc Vallee. I interviewed actors I love to watch, including Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Matthew Goode. I met the reigning king of all film criticism, Roger Ebert. I even stood three feet away from the biggest artistic inspiration of my life, Madonna, on her red carpet for W.E.. Sure, I never got to fit in A DANGEROUS METHOD into my schedule and my Jessica Chastain interview was canned at the last second but that's TIFF. You can plan as much as you want, and I assure you I did a great deal of advance planning this time around, but something will always change. You just have to ride it out, wherever it takes you. And if you just sink into the journey, you will have plenty of time to appreciate it.

I took this at the W.E. red carpet. I was shaking a lot.

And now, I would like to run down my 10 favourite TIFF11 films and five least enjoyed, beginning with the latter. (Click any linked film title for the full Black Sheep Review.)

(in alphabetical order)

Directed by Roland Emmerich
Mr. Emmerich tries to break away from the genre he is famous for with this period melodrama about the authenticity of Shakespeare's work but only ends up making yet another disaster movie.

Directed by Jim Field Smith
Any hope of this Jennifer Garner political satire having any bite whatsoever melts away in the first ten minutes. Though the subject is butter carving, this film never takes proper shape.

Directed by Drake Doremus
This movie about two young people in love and trying to make it work with an ocean between them should have been called "Like Tedious and Insipid".

Directed by Sarah Polley
I know a great deal of people who loved this movie about a woman torn between two men but I never really saw why other man (Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby) would want the woman (Michelle Williams) in the first place.

Directed by Joel Schumacher
First of all, Mr. Schumacher has no business at TIFF to begin with. This was the funniest film I saw at TIFF and it's supposed to be a hostage thriller.

Mia Wasikowska and Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs

(in alphabetical order)

Directed by Jonathan Levine
It'd billed as a cancer comedy but, as I've now told everyone I know, I cried five times watching this. The fantastic cast, led by Joseph Gordon Levitt, make this a must see fall film.

Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Glenn Close gives the performance of her career as a male butler in this fascinating period drama about gender identification and sexuality. She is a shoe-in for an Oscar nod and I hope the film picks up a few more for itself too.

Directed Michel Hazanavicius
Everything you've heard about this enchanting black and white, silent film is true. It is a simply told and brilliantly executed celebration of the cinema. You cannot help but feel happy when you see it.

Directed by Alexander Payne
I love Hollywood storytelling when it's done right, with heart and intelligence. This George Clooney vehicle is an incredibly unique tale that reminds us that we never know what will happen in our lives that will bring us closer to ourselves and the one's we love.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
I feel like people are all Drive'd out at this point but I personally want to see this movie again and again. It has an energy and tone to it that you don't often see come out of Hollywood. In time, this will be a cult classic.

Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin

Directed by Sean Durkin
This was the first film I saw for TIFF this year and it remains one of the most disturbing experiences I had throughout the entire festival. Elizabeth Olsen is incredible in her debut and I hope she is able to hold the momentum she has started until she earns an Oscar nod for this.

Directed by Lars von Trier
I'm not ordinarily a huge fan of this man's work but I was fully absorbed by Lars von Trier's fascinating and visually stunning contemplation on depression set against the end of the world. Somehow, despite its subject matter, it still manages to be amusing.

Directed by Steve McQueen
Michael Fassbender will pick up his first Oscar nomination for this incredibly honest look at sexual addiction. Audiences have been somewhat polarized on this but that often tends to happen when the mirror is held up to them with such strength.

Directed by Paddy Considine
Actor turned director, Paddy Considine, has written a tale of two people struggling with the misery that has consumed their lives. To say it is dark would be a grand understatement but if you can find the hope in the film, it will move you significantly.

Directed by Lynne Ramsay
This is by far one of the most striking and colourful films I saw this year. Tilda Swinton is unbelievable as a mother grappling with the love she feels for her sociopathic son. Bloody brilliant.

That's me with my pass! Always an honour.

I want to thank everyone that made TIFF11 possible for me. First of all, my editors at Hour Community and Ottawa Xpress for sending me. My boss at the bank for giving me the time off to pursue my passion. All the great PR people at Alliance, StarPR, AMPR, Fox Searchlight, Sony and eOne for all their assistance with booking advance screenings and interviews. And of course I need to thank my readers and fellow film enthusiasts for keeping the conversations going on the site, on Twitter and in person during the festival.

TIFF brings film fans from all over the world to Toronto and it is a pleasure to share this experience with everyone who truly appreciates just how rare and amazing it is. I am truly blessed to have had this opportunity for a second year and hope it comes around again next year. Thank you again for all your support and until then, Happy TIFF!


Jessica said...

An endurance test indeed! 35 movies. Sounds crazy. And all thouse interviews... I had no idea bloggers could get interviews. But you're in a different class. You should feel proud! It's nice to hear you're still enjoying yourself even if it's exhausting.

Black Sheep said...

Thanks, Jessica! Yes, I am a blogger but I was not accredited for the festival for this site. I was covering it for two print publications in Montreal and Ottawa. This definitely opens a few more doors. To be honest, if I just had Black Sheep backing me, I'm not sure they would even consider me. The exhaustion is a minor irritation when I compare it to how blessed and fortunate I feel for the opportunity.