Sunday 19 August 2012

TIFF12 - The Anticipation Has Begun

The full lineup and schedule of this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will be available on Tuesday, but many of the tiles have already been announced and they've already made it literally impossible to see everything I want to see. This includes many of my most anticipated films of 2012: Rian Johnson's Looper (which scored the Opening Night slot - a bit counter to their normal opening programming, but sounds like a great way to kick things off to me), P.T. Anderson's The Master, Terence Malick's To The Wonder, the Tom Tykwer/Wachowskis project Cloud Atlas (though that lengthy trailer has subdued my enthusiasm a bit) and David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. Because of this deluge of titles, though, I don't expect I'll catch a single one of that list.

Don't get me wrong, I'm dying to see them (particularly those first three), but I've found that what makes the festival so much fun for me is finding the smaller, less likely to be distributed films from directors I like. That's not to say that I'm only looking for the rare nuggets - a lot of what I see gets a release (at least on DVD) at some point, but getting a chance to see it on the big screen with a film festival crowd that (typically) is looking for something a little different can make for an extraordinary week of discovery and even adventure. That's what has been my own preference, though, so I can't state its the only way to see a festival - I have several friends who prefer to catch big releases during the 11 day span simply because they want to make their festival as solid a filmgoing experience as they can. I can't argue with that.

And it's damn tempting (particularly with the recent over the moon praise for The Master in 70 mm), but since most of those films I've already rhymed off will hit local theatres soon after the festival ends (very soon in the case of Looper), I'll cool my heels a bit while I dig into the rest of the schedule. Probably.

Looking at the list of already announced titles, it's already packed with a plethora of big and small releases from across the planet. It would've been easy enough to fill an entire festival's schedule simply with the very first titles announced several weeks back (filled with some big names and a good chunk of world premieres), but I usually get a higher "hit ratio" with films from Scandinavia, Japan, the documentary lineup (which seems to get better every year) and the madness that is Midnight Madness.

The full schedule gets released on Tuesday Aug. 21st, but here's a quick shortlist of my 30 most anticipated titles from the currently announced films:

90 Minutes (Eva Sørhaug) - I seemed to be one of the few supporters of Sørhaug's previous feature Cold Lunch which, while certainly not a happy fun time at the cinema, offered surprises and an austere but strangely lovely look and feel. Her latest is apparently "bold and uncompromising" and appears to focus on domestic violence - likely to be a difficult watch, but just as likely to approach the subject from a new angle.

A Liar's Autobiography -- The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (Ben Timlett, Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson) - I suppose this won't be hard to find on DVD once it gets released, but since Monty Python are one of the major touchstones along the path towards my sense of humour AND this mostly fictional account of Chapman's life (he was both ridiculously funny and terribly tragic) is in 3D animation, how can I pass this up?

The ABCs Of Death (26 different directors) - It's true, I'm a total sucker for anthology films. Sure there are clunkers (New York, I Love You was painful at times), but I love the variety on display. This is even more true when you get very short run times like 3-5 minutes per film (if you don't like something, it's not like you have to wait long). The Midnight Madness showing of the 26 shorts in The ABCs Of Death could prove to be a blast with a list of directors who will play in the restricted parameters of a short film (each with a horror theme based on a different letter of the alphabet) and a crowd who love to play along with what's on screen.

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland) - The great Toby Jones plays a reserved sound engineer who begins to crack up as he gets deeper involved in the production of an Italian horror film. It's just simply a fantastic premise.

Blondie (Jesper Ganslandt) - Ganslandt is another director I've only encountered at TIFF (a few years ago with The Ape), but who still left a mark. The premise of three at-odds sisters getting together to celebrate their mother's birthday doesn't sound overly intriguing, but I have to expect there's a whole lot more under that exterior.

Dreams For Sale (Nishikawa Miwa) - A couple decide to get through tough financial times by scamming lonely single women. I've occasionally thought that I should just default to always putting every Japanese entry onto my list considering my past successes.

The End Of Time (Peter Mettler) - The film promises to "explore (and explode) our conceptions of time". Count me curious.

First Comes Love (Nina Davenport) - I really adored Davenport's Parallel Lines, a documentary that traces her trip back to NY for the first time right after 9/11 and the cast of people she meets along the way. She garnered more attention for her next doc Operation Filmmaker (deservedly so) and returns with a look at her own attempt to have baby as a single mother over 40. She typically puts herself at the centre of her films, but I'm perfectly fine with that as I can't help but genuinely like her.

Foxfire (Laurent Cantet) - Cantet's latest promises more of that uncomfortable dynamic between generations that filled The Class as he relates the tale of a 1950s girl gang (from the novel by Joyce Carol Oates)

Ghost Graduation (Javier Ruiz Caldera) - I'm a bit concerned that the comedy in this Spanish mash-up of The Breakfast Club and Ghostbusters might be too broad, but on the other hand it's a Spanish mash-up of The Breakfast Club and Ghostbusters.

The Impossible (JA Bayona) - I was one of the few that didn't go completely ga-ga over Bayona's The Orphanage. I liked it a good deal and it was definitely right in my wheelhouse, but I felt it never quite deserved the jump scares it threw out and quite disliked the ending. However, there's obviously some talent there so I'm curious as to how he handles a story of a couple searching for their children in the aftermath of the massive tsunami of 2004.

Key Of Life (Kenji Uchida) - The plot is irresistible: a failed actor switches identities with a man he meets at a bath house only to realize that the man was an assassin.

The Land Of Hope (Sion Sono) - Sono is currently one of the most interesting and daring filmmakers on the planet, so I'll watch anything he makes. He returns to the aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake with a another story of survival. Though it is apparently a step in a different direction for him, I'm onboard all the way.

Lunarcy! (Simon Ennis) - It's really the perfect title for a doc about people's obsession with the moon isn't it?

Miss Lovely (Ashim Ahluwalia) - "A delightfully lurid ride through the lower depths of the Bombay film industry, Miss Lovely follows two brothers who hit it big producing sex-horror films in the mid-1980s.". Yes please.

Motorway (Soi Cheang) - Cheang's Accident sounded brilliant as it focused on a team of assassins who made their killings look like, well, accidents. But it wasn't - apart from botching the excitement of most of the over-convoluted impossible-to-suspend-belief accidents, the film didn't handle its melodramatic character moments in any interesting fashion (somewhat like most of Johnnie To's - a producer here - films). And yet, I'm still drawn to the promise of non-stop car chases and action in his latest (rookie cop learns the tricks of the high-speed pursuit trade from a veteran as he prepares to go after a skilled getaway driver).

Mumbai's King (Manjeet Singh) - I daresay that this neo-realist style view of one young boy's life in Mumbai's slums is a different take on the city than Miss Lovely, but since this year's City To City program focuses on Mumbai, it's highly appropriate we see numerous viewpoints.

No (Pablo Larrain) - I was amongst those that were wowed by Larrain's Tony Manero, so I'm going on his name alone. Casting Gael Garcia Bernal doesn't hurt either.

Painless (Juan Carlos Medina) - The horror genre certainly seems to be an attractive place to start your feature filmmaking career in Spain and here's another example of a first time helmer dives headlong into the genre. The plotline of secret experiments conducted during the Spanish Civil War that come to the fore in the modern day sounds well-worn by now, but you can't deny that it'll bring some creepiness to a packed theatre - and that's always a treat.

Penance (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) - A new Kiyoshi Kurosawa film. Let the world rejoice.

Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas) - I'm terribly conflicted here...I absolutely head-over-heels loved every frame of Silent Light, but the reviews from Cannes indicated a very different and possibly self-indulgent work this time. Why must I wrestle with these decisions?

Room 237 (Rodney Ascher) - I have no interest in personally deconstructing Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but apparently there are legions of obsessive fans who have found hidden meanings throughout the film. However, I do have interest in Ascher's documentary that focuses on these people.

The Secret Disco Revolution (Jamie Kastner) - As I've grown and matured over the years, I've come to realize that any genre - be it film, music, literature, etc. - is not completely bad in and of itself. Even the dreaded Disco genre that I couldn't stand while growing up has revealed itself to me in later years to be filled with some great songs. Kastner's doc promises to cover not only the musical part of the movement, but the changes it brought to society as well.

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh) - OK, I know this is coming out soon after TIFF as well, but I don't think I can resist seeing this at Midnight Madness, lapping it up with the crowd and likely seeing many of the cast/filmmakers on stage.

Storm Surfers 3D (Christopher Nelius, Justin McMillan) - I'm picturing those incredible big wave surfing shots at the end of Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants splashing out of the screen in 3D and drenching me with awe...

The Suicide Shop (Patrice Leconte) - I'm not sure if an animated musical about a family concerned about passing along their business (of ending people's lives) to their cheerful, live-loving son is the place to start with Leconte's films, but it hardly matters. The screencaps look great.

Tai Chi 0 (Stephen Fung) - A "slick, stylish pop-art take" on the life of the founder of a school of Tai Chi. It's the only trailer I've watched from this list so far and it looks like it could be gobs of fun. I'm considering taking The Boy to see it if it doesn't seem overly gory.

Thermae Romae (Hideki Takeuchi) - Yet another Japanese comedy - this time time-travelling an ancient Roman architect to a Tokyo bath house in present day. Ripe with possibility.

The Thieves (Choi Dong-hoon) - One can only hope that this Korean action picture set in Hong Kong will combine the best of both worlds of filmmaking. If it does, look out.

The We And The I (Michel Gondry) - I'm not sure if Gondry is the first director I would have thought to helm this single day look at teenagers from the Bronx on their last day of school, but he continues to surprise me with his choices.

I'd be ecstatic just with that lineup, but new titles still to come and scheduling challenges will certainly mix things up. Who knows, maybe I'll still find some time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt...


doc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
doc said...

Great list Bob.

A few that are already on my long (, long, long) list but also a few I had glossed over that I'm not curious to re-examine.

See you in line!

- Shane

Bob Turnbull said...

Oh yeah, things will be shifted around as titles get dropped, readded, new ones entered, others brought in from the backup list...Can't wait.

Looking forward to the comparing of schedules...

Peter Nellhaus said...

The Thieves is currently the biggest movie in South Korea. I'm hoping it gets US distribution, and soon.

Not on your list: A theater in Denver is currently showing Bollywood movies on a regular basis, so I saw the trailer for English Vinglish - hopefully the movie is as funny as the trailer, which made fun of the certificate that is shown before Bollywood movies.

Looking forward to reading about what you've been able to see.

Courtney Small said...

"A new Kiyoshi Kurosawa film. Let the world rejoice"

Amen to that brother! I still fondly remember my introduction to Kurosawa at TIFF with the films Pulse and Bright Future.

While I am excited for the festival, I have no real must see films this year. I figure I will see The Master in regular theatres on the second Friday. Since I am doing a "back half" package I will be picking from the scraps left over anyways...which probably means I will be discovering a few hidden gems this year.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Peter...Yeah, I had read that "The Thieves" was huge in its native country. I'm really hoping it's as fun as it sounds.

"English Vinglish" totally escaped my attention. I'll have a closer look at it.

Courtney, I am SO jealous that you saw "Pulse" at TIFF. To have seen that with an audience with no one knowing what to expect...Oh man!

Even if you're doing "back half", you're still coming to the TIFF blogger meet-up right? RIGHT?! B-)