Monday, September 04, 2006

Toronto day one

We start, as always, with films I have seen at previous film festivals and thus have voluntarily waived their "embargo rights" before heading off to the airport:

Sleeping Dogs Lie

Written and Directed
By Bob Goldthwait

Amy(Melinda Page Hamilton) and John(Bryce Johnson) are a happy young couple in love. She'sgot a job teaching school and he's…well…a newspaper delivery boy. She has a secret that she shouldn't tell anybody, but we know from the first couple of seconds of the film. It really doesn't matter what it is, lets just say that this is rather disgusting.

So what is expected to become of those raunchy teen comedies goes forward when Amy takes John to meet her silly family, which consist of her conservative parents (Geoffrey Pierson and Bonita Friedericy) and her totally degenerate cartoon of a brother(Brian Posehn).

The secret is revealed and everything does to hell in a hand-basket. Now while this may be a really good idea for a TV sketch, where all the characters are one-dimensional cartoons, it doesn't work ina feature where you have the live action cartoons interacting with what appears to be real people with feelings and the like.

While John appears at the beginning to be a perfectly nice guy, he turns into one of the less likeable characters, and his reaction is what would be expected. This sort of thing gets really old after a few minutes. So with John turning into a cartoon, it is Amy has to grow, and she does in a romance with a married colleague(Colby French), which is actually kind of sweet.

But being neither fish or fowl, the thing just doesn't work. However it's a good try, and maybe Goldthwaite will get it right the next time.

American Hardcore

Directed by
Paul Rauchman

Inspired by Steven Blush's book "American Hardcore: A Tribal History," This is a chronicle of the underground hard-core punk years from 1979-86. The fact was that movement was going on for quite a while before that, and the music was for the most part lousy and there was a good possibility of one's getting the crap beaten out of you.

Beginning in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was in office and America was in the grips of malaise, we trace the art form from it's roots in California and Washington, DC all the way to it's ignominious demise in1986, when the artists realized that they were getting to old for this sort of thing. The interviews with the original artists were interesting enough, and the music itself is shown in concert clips, which is all one needs to understand how truly bad it was.

If you are one of the tiny minority who liked that sort of thing, and there aren't that many people who are connoisseurs of old CircleJerk or SSD albums, you'll probably feel nostalgic. If you're not, then it's a mildly interesting historical artifact. Britney Spears fans need not apply.

Snow Cake

Directed by
Marc Evans

Justbecause something is obviously Oscar®-bait doesn’t mean it has to suck. Sigourney Weaver hasn’t been nominated for one since she got two noms way back in 1989,tobe perfectly frank, she could use one. So, since playing disabled people is generally considered a call for help by respected actors who want kudos,this
film is on the very early lists.

It may actually deserve to be.

We don’t really know who Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire) is when we first see her on the screen. We know she’s a neo-hippie, and she’s looking forsomeone special,and she settles on Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), who’s lookingdepressed although we learn soon enough is a manslaughterer just out of prison.He doesn’t like her, but the force of Viv’s personality forces him to relent,and soon enough they’re on the road headed west, where he’s to drop her offat her home town.

That’s when the unexpected truck plows into the car, and the person who we think is going to be the main character gets killed. (I include this spoiler here because we’re only about fifteen minutes into the film and the rest is about what happens later.)

Viv’s mom Linda(Weaver) is disabled. She’s a highly-verbal autistic person who can take care of herself to some extent, but still acts like she’s about five.[That’s the Oscar®-bait part. Apparently, the voters are supposed to love that sort of thing.] Alex comes over to pay a condolence visit and winds up spending the better part of the week there. There’s a funeral to organize and Linda’s parents are off somewhere having fun.

So we have two great actors doing what they do best, and having a wonderful time not grieving.There’seven a chance for romance between Alex and Linda’s next door neighbor Maggie(Carrie-AnneMoss), who’s a bit of a slut and is a glutton for grownupconversation. That balances off the bizarre goings on at Linda’s.

The best thing about this is the fact that script is so smart and fresh, scribe Angela Pell has crafted something really funny and touching. It should be seen.

The Treatment

Written and Directed
by Oren Rudavsky

Romantic comedy is always better with a little hallucination. Jake Singer(Chris Eigeman) is an English teacher in a fancy prep school where he also assistant coaches basketball. His life is kind of on the boring side, what with his still pining for his lost love Julia (Stephanie March) and all. This torch will have to be put out as she’s about to marry someone else.

This is not that kind of movie. His shrink Dr. Ernesto Morales(Ian Holm) is the last of the great Freudians and won’t allow for that sort of thing. Not only does he give bizarre advice when he’s presiding over his $125-an-hour sessions, but he’s apt to appear at the most opportune moments out of the blue to give sage advise.

This is mostly of no help when he meets the beauteous Allegra Marshall(Famke Janssen), a widow with two adopted children. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but it’s your typical romantic comedy relationship. There are the usual complications. Jake’s father(Harris Yulin), with whom he’s not talking has a major illness and Allegra’s having problems with the adoption agency.

Then there’s the problems with the shrink, who’s more of a pain in real life than as a hallucination. It’s all rather predictable, but the cast is so damn winning, and the script so cute that we can’t help but have a good time watching the romance bloom, crumble and bloom again. The jokes all work and the pathos is just right temperature. This is worth seeing.

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