A quick-paced, hard-charging adrenaline ride of a movie, Gravity takes us into the heart of an infinite darkness and then leads us home. As exciting as it is technically virtuosic, it invites us to reconsider the possibilities of the "popcorn movie." Thank god for that.
I judge a film by the punch it packs and whether it has the sentiments to reach and a message to teach. Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Abdallah's Rags and Tatters possesses it all. But it delivers this wallop in a very meditative, introspected way.
Secrets and lies carried the day in most of the five films I saw Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival. But then, aren't the most interesting movies built around them? It's so obvious that Mike Leigh used the idea as the title of one of his finest efforts.
Between long, punishing shots of brutal whippings, lynchings, hangings, and rape, and the pervasive repugnance of the situation more generally, Steve McQueen has mounted the most affecting film about American slavery that has ever been made. But, does that in and of itself recommend it?
The very first year I produced the live coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival press conferences I met and became friends with one of the truly unique characters in the world of international cinema. Henri Behar is a fixture at Cannes as the moderator of the press conferences there, and years ago was asked to come to Toronto to reprise that same role here.
Hi-Ho Mistahey! is not the joyless catalogue of wrongs I feared. For every grievance the film portrays, it offers equal evidence of inspiring First Nations youth working proactively to improve their situation. Still, while It would be nice if the fix for education in Attawapiskat and other reserves were as straightforward as a better building and more money, the solution is very unlikely to be that easy. The engaging movie would have more impact if it recognized more explicitly that securing more government funding for on-reserve schools is just one piece in a much larger, and more complex, puzzle.
Hello, Mike! I'm not even sure we should have this chat -- or any other this Oscar season -- since the Best Picture winner at the 86th annual Academy Awards is "12 Years A Slave."
Within its creative chaos and subtle but critical balances lie not only the clues to Abu-Assad's genius, but many of the answers that could help us navigate today's hyper-divided world.
Nazareth is infectious. From the moment I set foot in town, I knew why the filmmaker had moved back to "the ghetto," as Abu-Assad affectionately calls it -- to his family's building, where he's now surrounded by uncles, aunts, and his amazing mother who lives just upstairs.
This week saw the kickoff of the Toronto International Film Festival and all the line-ups, cameras, parties, celeb sightings (and stalkings), road closures, red carpet poses, and chaos that go with it. TIFF usually makes me cranky. The whole lining up for tickets you've already bought thing makes no sense. And why the herding of audience members outdoors in inclement weather? Enter HuffPost's Spotlight on TIFF blog series. Hearing from directors such as Atom Egoyan and Alanis Obomsawin has been a refreshing reminder of what the festival is really about. It's not just a venue for waiting around and celeb stalking. It's the place an incredibly creative, hardworking group of people choose to share their deeply felt visions with an audience for the first time. Looked at that way, TIFF feels more like a privilege than a hassle.
The interviewers, who were all women, all asked me the same two questions with a grimace: "So did you have a scene where you had to... be physical...with a 14-year-old?" And I tried to explain, to make light, to assure them that it was... obviously uncomfortable but really honestly it was...fine. But I didn't have the time to explain myself; the interview moved on. Judgment was passed. My character in the film doesn't have a good defense.
Francois Ozon is interested in sex, and Young and Beautiful doesn't let him stray far from his favourite subject. However, his latest film -- a year in the life of a teenage prostitute -- is empty where it should be haunting, and baffling where it should be enigmatic, leading to a confusing misfire from an otherwise thoughtful director.
So much for all the buzz around The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon's frustratingly flat dramatization of the formation, triumphs, and sundering of WikiLeaks, the anarchist information-sharing website. Relying on tight close-ups and lengthy speeches, there is a distinctly made-for-TV feel to the proceedings which even great performances couldn't have overcome. But sadly, the biggest misstep falls on the shoulders of Benedict Cumberbatch.
A middle-aged man arrives at a seaside cottage. He closes the doors, hangs heavy black curtains over all of the windows, and then opens a duffle bag to reveal a little brown mutt. Soon thereafter, we learn that in his (unnamed) Islamic Republic, dogs have been banned. This is just the start of a thrilling, complex journey directed by infamous Iranian filmmaker, Jafar Panahi. It may be the biggest film I saw at TIFF.
Critics haven't been very kind to the Wikileaks/Julian Assange movie The Fifth Estate thus far. But ignoring the way the movie addresses the issue, and instead focusing on its message, might be the best way to look at it.
While it's always dangerous to draw universal lessons from anything as spectacularly evil as American slavery, "12 Years a Slave" is a film that challenges us to ask ourselves what dehumanizing systems we are part of. Not just our ancestors, but us, today.