September 07, 2012

TIFF Day Two

The Great Kilapy [Angola, Zézé Gamboa, 2] Handsome player's yen for the good life puts him in the crosshairs of the secret police, both as a student in Lisbon and then in his native Angola. Rookie screenwriting mistakes show the failed struggle to fashion a compelling narrative from a colorful true story.

Note to aspiring screenwriters: if your script has more than one instance of friends hugging, cut out all instances of friends hugging.

The We and the I [US, Michel Gondry, 4] A crosstown bus ride on the last day of classes takes a group of NYC high schoolers from raucousness to melancholy. Energetic, Altmanesque group portrait with occasional flash-cuts to the director's trademark whimsy.

Dead Europe [Australia, Tony Krawitz, 2] A hallucinatory confrontation with dark family secrets ensues when an Australian photographer ignores his Greek parents' pleas not to visit the old country. Heavy-handed exercise in Polanskian paranoia.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Gen Con ‘12

This week’s episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff mines topics galore from the wonder that was Gen Con ‘12.

TIFF Day One

That time of year has rolled around again, and it's time for me to attend my 26th go-round of the dazzling, exhausting, overwhelming Toronto International Film Festival. Every year they seem to make it tougher for the diehards: this time they've squished the slots closer together, making it harder than ever to move between venues. And eating between screenings? Forget about it. This will be an experiment in how long one can survive on hardboiled eggs, trail mix, and hoarded Starbucks sandwiches.

Here’s the standard drill, if you’ve forgotten how it works around the Cinema Hut at TIFF time or are joining the festivities for the first time:

I’ll be writing capsule reviews of everything I see, and then gathering them up in order of preference in the festival’s aftermath. Until then, I’ll be giving provisional ratings to the films, which are bound to change as they settle into memory. Ratings range from 0 to 5, with 0 arousing my active ire and 5 ascending to rarefied heights of masterpiece-dom.

Interspersed between the capsules will be expansions on the reviews, stray observations, and whatever logistical complaining I fail to suppress.

If you’ve heard of a release that’s playing TIFF, chances are that it’s because the film will be coming out shortly and is getting a big PR push. I tend to skip films that have distribution in place in favor of those I might never get another shot at. So I’m not the one to ask about the Oscar-bait movies with the big stars in attendance.

Do you want to see these movies right away? Well, these titles are beginning their long journey through the distribution chain. Many will continue to appear on the film festival circuit over the next year or so. The high profile releases I tend not to schedule at the fest may appear in theaters as early as next week. Indies and foreign titles will score theatrical releases over the next year or so, and DVD releases after that. Some may appear only on DVD, or vanish completely.

While a few of last year’s films still await theatrical release, most have made it through the chain. So if you want to enjoy some fine cinema right away, you could do worse than to check out my recommendations from last year.

And now, let's start the capsule reviews rolling, with the two films I caught on opening night:

After the Battle [Egypt, Yousry Nasrallah, 4] Pro-democracy activist involves herself in the family affairs of a disenfranchised tourism worker who disgraced himself by taking part in a horse and camel attack on Tahrir Square protesters. Written and shot concurrently with the events it portrays, this political drama takes the time to round out its characters.

The director was present to introduce the film and movingly call heed to the recent arrest by the Syrian government and documentarian Orwa Nyrabia, who he described as having been accused of crimes against inhumanity.

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story [US, Brad Bernstein, 4] Documentary profile of groundbreaking illustrator who was blacklisted as a children's author over his scathing political posters and shocking excursions into erotica. Filmmakers take full advantage of their subject's wit and eloquence as he takes them from a childhood under Nazi occupation to his present state of uncomfortable acclaim.

Ungerer was present for the screening and will be signing at the Beguiling on Sat. Attn: local illustrator peeps.

This is the first film I've seen to list Kickstarter in the credits. It sure won't be the last.