Aug 30, 2012

Ariane Labed.

This video is a few months old, but I just stumbled upon it as I was browsing TIFF's schedule and it blew me away. I met Ariane Labed after a Q&A session for ALPS last year at TIFF. She's one of the most beautiful people I've met in my life and this video perfectly captures the ethereality that she exudes in person. (It is directed by Justin Anderson with cotsumes designed by none other than Giorgio Armani.)

Labed's performance in ALPS was a revelation for me, though that Venice best actress win for Attenberg should have been indication of her talents. But she brought an icy, stoic fagility to her character that was a perfect fit for Yorgos Lanthimos's formal direction, and an intriguing companion to Aggeliki Papoulia's unstable, twichy sensibility. If you haven't seen ALPS yet, you need to put it at the top of your queue. (It was easily one of 2011's best films, in my opinion. You can read my TIFF review here.)
This year, she's coming back to the festival with a short film by Attenberg's helmer, Athina Rachel Tsangari, called The Capsule.

Aug 27, 2012

TIFF Lineup...So Far

Nina Hoss in Barbara
The way I approach my ticket selection at TIFF every year is not to jump to films that I most want to see, but to first go for titles that I suspect will be sold out quicker. More often that not, there are some overlaps between these two sets of films, but just as often, my wish list includes films that go unnoticed for the first few days of ticket sales, allowing me to get to them once I've got the loftier titles out of the way. Although, as I've mentioned several times before here and on The Film Experience, the festival's biggest attractions usually aren't close to the top of my list. I came this close to being tempted by seeing The Master at the fest - for many people the experience of watching Boogie Nights is their best TIFF memory, though I think that's partly because Paul Thomas Anderson was more of a surprise package back then - but eventually I decided against it because of its pre-determined October 12th release in Toronto. I can always wait longer when there are other options at hand with no release date.

Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines
Anyway, for now, there are ten films that I will watch for sure as I just finalized my ticket package. I'll be adding maybe another ten or so in the coming days and I'm hoping that my hunch that films like Ernest & Celestine, Like Someone in Love, The Central Park Five, Mea Maxima Culpa, The Suicide Shop, The Hunt, etc. will not sold out by Monday proves to be correct. I'd hate to miss out on any of those. We'll see. But you can look forward to my coverage of all of this at The Film Experience, where since last year, Nathaniel has been nice enough to invite me as his Toronto correspondent.

Christian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills

In the order of their screening dates:
The Place beyond the PinesAt Any Price, Berberian Sound Studio, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Lore, Beyond the Hills, Barbara, Dormant Beauty, What Maisie Knew, To the Wonder

Aug 18, 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Part 2

You may remember my first involvement in Encore Entertainment's poll of the best performances of the 1990s which was a battle between Homayoun Ershadi of Taste of Cherry and Kate Winslet of Titanic. Ershadi came out the victor. If you didn't vote then, now is the best chance to make your voice heard on the second battle I'm covering. This time I'm making a case for Vincent Cassel in La Haine against one of my favourite performances of all time - and arguably my favourite of that entire decade - by Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights. You can vote here.
The cast of Boogie Nights is surprised that you haven't voted yet!

Aug 17, 2012

Let TIFF Begin...

I'm happy to announce that for the second year in a row, Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience has given me his space to cover the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm understandably overjoyed. It's one thing to be able to attend the festival on a yearly basis but getting to cover it for an audience far larger than my parents is an entirely different thing. 
I've started my coverage with a preview of the films I'm most excited for, or rather, the smaller titles that I'm hoping prove to be real gems. After all, my favourite film of the festival, and the whole year actually, was one that had not been on my radar but caught me by surprise on the last day of the fest.
I will be back with lots more during September, but for now, head over to The Film Experience and help me with your suggestions. What else should I be looking forward to. 

Dennis Quaid in Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price

Aug 13, 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Part 1

Andrew of the amazing blog Encore Entertainment has started a series called Essential Performances of the 90s Showdown wherein he and guest bloggers pit two performances from the decade against each other, making a case for which is better or more important. I had the pleasure of being invited to participate and my first contribution - there is more to come - was a contest between Kate Winslet from that little-seen gem called Titanic and Iran's most recognizeable actor, Homayoun Ershadi, in his debut performance in Abbas Kiarostami's Palme d'or winning Taste of Cherry. You can read my commentary, chime in with your thoughts and vote here.


Aug 8, 2012

Hit me with a dream role: Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr.

When Nathaniel assigned us Sherlock, Jr. for this week’s edition of Hit Me with Your Best Shot, the first thought I had before rewatching the film was that my favourite shot would end up being one with Buster Keaton’s face front and center. For, with the sole exception of Maria Falconetti, Keaton is the only actor whose face always registers with the exact same impression in my mind upon hearing his name: the perfect contours of his brows and lips, the expressionless stare that conveys ennui, resignation, innocence and hope despite itself. 

It was a surprise, then, to find an entirely different shot lingering with me after watching the film last night. In the film's dream sequence of sorts – which lasts for more than half the film's duration – Keaton, who plays a theatre projectionist and an aspiring detective, enters the world of the film he’s projecting, replaces the characters with those from his own life, and materializes his ideals by becoming the world’s greatest detective Sherlock, Jr. 
In the opening of this part of the film, the projectionist has an out of body experience as he falls asleep and enters his dream. And I think this long take speaks to the powers of Keaton both as a great director and a superb actor. While his framing sits us with the audience in the theatre and Keaton himself up there by the screen, his comic physicality dominates the entire sequence. Like the projectionist, we’re in awe of the magic of the cinema as we watch a story unravel on the big screen. Like him, we’ve all wanted be the hero of our own film. We’ve replaced a character with ourselves and lived their lives, or projected our ideals onto an imaginary story. Here, while Keaton the director makes us long for our part in the film, Keaton the actor does what he does best. This is him at the peak of his slapstick powers, running and chasing and falling with his clumsy gestures and naiveté, going after his dream girl and making us laugh along the way. 


Aug 1, 2012

Food Dreamin'

*This post is part of Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series. 

To be perfectly honest, How to Marry a Millionaire doesn’t really go to the top of the list of films I’ve watched for this series. It’s because of its stars - particularly Monroe who’s as charming, sexy, and funny as she’s ever been - that the film is worth watching at all today. 

Visually, the film is a bit of mixed bag with gorgeous mise-en-scene that doesn’t quite come off right. It seems specially unfair to criticise a film that pioneered a new era in cinematography in its own way, but what we see on the screen is, inevitably, more of an early experiment than a satisfying showcase. 

Thematically, too, the film doesn’t resonate so much with a 21st century audience; its premise and its jokes feel equally outdated. I'm not saying there isn't enough to make it worthwhile, just that Nathaniel has really set the bar high with his choices recently.

When it came to choosing my favourite shot, I found myself undecided between two options. The first was to pick from a couple of scenes that highlight the costumes – one of the film’s strong suits.* The second was going for a silly laugh and this is the one I opted for.

Early in the film, when the three leading ladies have just met their potential husbands, each of them dreams in her sleep about the luxury that marriage can bring to her life. Schatze (Bacall) imagines the man’s oil refineries and cattle farms and all the jewelry she can buy.  Pola (Monroe) sees herself flying a golden plane and receiving exotic gifts from Arabia. Loco (Grable) sees this.

Silly, really, but this is the shot that made me laugh the loudest. It’s what we watch comedies for, right? Plus, that meal does look pretty damn delicious.

* Tim has selected one of those shots for his post. That his choice is also one of my favourites is par for the course.