The Toronto International Film Festival, which began with such high hopes 10 days ago, limps into port tomorrow with its tattered flags still flying. It was a time of cinematic surprises, big-budget disappointments, late-night celebrity-spotting and elevator rides with stars whose personal hygiene was not exactly meticulous. Herewith, a digest of the highs and lows of a voyage of discovery.When In Rome Department
African-American actors Forest Whitaker and Kerry Washington said that when they arrived in Uganda to film The Last King of Scotland, they were told they needed to schedule some time in the sun because they were not "black enough."
Just What A Film Festival
Doesn't Need: Another Use For Cellphones:
Before every screening, there was a trailer promoting the types of movies that people can make on their cellphones -- including one about a woman who left Transcarpathia illegally and crammed everything she owned into three backpacks.
As she tells her story, a line of text tells us she was once going to be traded for 200 sheep.
Is this not a story that can be told with a camera?
You Have To See:
- Away From Her: Sarah Polley's profoundly moving take on an older couple struggling to accept the bitter truth of Alzheimer's disease was by far the most emotionally poignant film of the festival.
- Babel: Alejandro Inarritu's three-part family drama is tense, tragic and complex, an utterly watchable story about people trapped behind borders. It also proves for once and for all, that Brad Pitt can act.
- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: Sacha Baron Cohen's faux documentary may not be great art, but it had them rolling in the aisles.
- The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing!: Veteran filmmaker and two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple works with Gregory Peck's daughter Cecilia, on this insightful, witty and altogether urgent chronicle of the Chicks' fall from country grace after an anti-war comment.
- The Last King of Scotland: Whitaker, Washington and James McAvoy star in this bizarre and highly disturbing story about a Scottish medical doctor who ends up becoming a close advisor to African despot Idi Amin.
On The Other Hand, There Are
Still Plenty Of Good Seats Still Available For:
Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain was booed from the theatre at Venice, which resulted in a truncated press schedule for the former golden boy who burst onto the A-list in the wake of Pi and Requiem for a Dream. The Montreal-shot fantasy, about a man desperate to save his wife from a lethal tumour, features hunk Hugh Jackman in the lotus position, floating through space in his pajamas, trying to understand the secret of life itself.
The Best Movie You'll Never See
Brand Upon the Brain is Guy Maddin's latest and most autobiographical work, but because it's a silent film that demands a live score, a narrator and a Foley artist, the cost of touring it is about $20,000 per show. If you get a chance to see it staged in New York this fall, don't miss it. Shot in Seattle in about two weeks, the movie tells the story of a family that lives in a lighthouse alongside a group of orphans who are siphoned of brain nectar in order to keep the matriarch youthful. A pure shot of art hallucinogen.
- "Just don't pay attention to him." -- gay director Pedro Almodovar, asked what he thinks of the Pope's condemnation of Canada for allowing same-sex marriage.
- "Willie was just an enormously forceful, and gregarious and wilful character. And people got swept into his undertow constantly. He was like Harvey Weinstein." -- actor Mark Ruffalo finds Hollywood echoes in the demagogue politician Willie Stark, hero of All The King's Men.
Fame! Success! I Can Practically Smell It:
Those who shared elevator rides with Cohen could smell stale sweat for the rest of the day. Chances are it was all part of his Borat character, the Kazakhstan newsman in the eponymous mock doc about cultural differences. Then again, it may have been Cohen's revenge for opening night projector problems. After arranging one of the most audacious premieres -- complete with arrival on horseback -- Cohen and his team were forced to entertain stupid questions from the largely college-age audience when the projector failed and could not be fixed.
Quick, Get A Hello! Canada Gift Bag Over To The Borat Suite
Guests at the rollicking party put on by Mongrel Media and Hello! Canada magazine received gift bags that contained, among other things, room freshener, Woolite detergent, and teeth-brightening strips. The festival's gift pack to journalists included a tube of anti-wrinkle eye cream.