Toronto’s film festival has shrank. Not the movies, but the area. The Cineplex Scotiabank googleplex on Richmond is only two blocks away from the Lightbox on King, and with nothing but restaurants surrounding these two venues, you can’t really go anywhere., just circle the same few blocks over and over again. Which is okay, I guess. The Chapters Bookstore next to the main venue is gone, which is a bummer. It was a great place to hang out between screenings. With Worlds Biggest Books gone as well (something I found out last July, so this is insult on top of injury), and that means there’s nowhere cheap to hang out besides waiting on line for screenings.
So with nowhere to go and nothing to do but go to movies, that’s what I did. A friend of a friend, who looks like a slightly chubby Marilyn Monroe, had to leave early for personal reasons. The publisher of this site had gotten me some tickets for me at great cost to his personal reputation, and I was only going to be up there for a couple of days. So she gave me her five hundred bucks industry pass, which had her adorable visage right there on the front of the pass. She’s 35, blonde, and weighs 138 pounds, and I’m 57, bald, have a bushy grey beard and weigh 235. This wasn’t going to work.
But somehow it did.
The first thing I did was go down to the HQ and try to get caught. I went to the press lounge and was immediately stopped by a volunteer guard. She took one look at the badge, scanned it, and let me through. I took a stroll and went o find a place to sit down. There wasn’t one, so I went around walked around to see where the theaters were in the Lightbox and went back into the press lounge. They let me in for a second time and I was just about to get into the DVD room when the woman who let me in came running up to me. The jig was up, I thought,
“Excuse me sir” she said.
“Yes,” I replied, apprehensively.
“Oh, I thought you were someone else” was her response, “Sorry.”
“Well,” I said with a smile, “I AM someone else. I’ve been someone else for years.”
She smiled back as I got the heck out of there.
A block away was the Princess of Wales theater, One can see the rush line from the Lightbox. There was a guy giving out free tickets to see James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, a filmic biography of physicist Steven Hawking. They couldn’t throw me out; I had a real ticket!!
As to biopics, this one wasn’t that bad. It starts at Cambridge University in England where Hawking( Eddie Redmayne) is still healthy. Here he meets Jane(Felicity Jones), and despite the fact that she is gorgeous and he’s kind of geeky, they fall madly in love. Then he get’s sick. They get married despite of this, and then there’s the usual melodrama, as Jane meets Jonathan(Charlie Cox), a choirmaster and is smitten, surprisingly, so is Hawking, and things get kind of complicated. Then he gets famous and things get even moreso.
The acting is terrific, even though it feels like a movie-of-the-week. But then again, this is Toronto, where Oscar-bait tends to get introduced.
Next, I went up to the Scotiabank googleplex to see if I would get caught again. Nope. I didn’t have a press and industry (P&I) schedule, so I told the lady guarding the elevator I was only going to see the one up on the second floor, which was for the most part true. I did indeed go up and look at the schedule. Didn’t find anything to my liking, and just walked into the first screening room I found. What I found inside was a thing called the Owners, which was from one of the ‘Stans and was atrocious.
Director Adilkhan Yerzhanov is an amateur in bad sense of the word. The acting is okay, but the editing is terrible, the star has bruises that keep popping in and out of the poor lead’s face and it’s distracting. This is not a musical and yet people start dancing for no reason at all. I almost walked out.
The next day’s goal was to recreate the glory days of the film festival by going to as many as five or six movies.
I managed to actually do it. It seems that this year’s festival has a theme. Horrible diseases. You will remember the Steven Hawking film. He’s got Lou Gerhig’s disease. The hero in the Owners sister has a fatal disease too. Now the first film of the Day, Richard Glatzer, and Wash Westmoreland’s Still Alice, in which the title character( Julianne Moore) is afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s. To make things worse, she’s married to Alec Baldwin, and the ending sucks. They set up an excellent one, but nooooooooo…Then there’s Daniel Barnz’s Cake, which is about how Claire Simmons( Jennifer Aniston) is coping a year after her horrific car wreck. She’s become a total bitch that only her saintly maid Silvana ( Adriana Barraza) can put up with her. I call these films “gilded turds” because everything is brilliant but the script.
Across the street from the theater, there was a place that served really great tuna melts, and I savored one before going to see John Stewart’s Rosewater which ,despite the director’s reputation, is a physiological drama. Maziar Bahari’( Gael García Bernal) is an Iranian journalist living in London who gets sent back home to cover the 2009 presidential election He hires a driver named Davood ( Dimitri Leonidas) who shows him around Teheran and where the opposition hangs out. This is fascinating and is the flashback part as the film opens with our hero being taken away by the secret police.
Now why is the movie named Roswater? Well, that’s the nickname our hero gives his interrogator, played by Kim Bodnia. The final half of the film is mostly the verbal jousting between our hero and Rosewater, and Bernal and Bodina are both due for getting nominated for awards in the winter and spring.