TIFF2010, Day 3 films

So, the films I saw on Day 3 were:

DAYDREAM NATION, Canada, a whisker shy of 3 cats I wanted to like this, I really did. It's about the tumultuous year that Caroline moves from the city to a drugged-out hicksville where she finishes out high school, & tries to navigate the weird town and her reactions to all the change.  I like Kat Dennings very much, but I felt like the film was trying to hard to evoke Juno-esque qualitlies when its true nature was something more odd and melancholy.  Time and again, I could practically see the writer-director thinking out loud 'need a Juno something or other here', and more often than not, it was the wrong choice.  Dear god, stop with the hip-twee music cue, and let's put the kibosh on ending an emotional or contemplative moment with an overly literate quip into the next scene?  Also, voiceovers should either be banned, or have a quota effect instituted.  For whatever reason, the plot was dripping with frippery and fringe details & subplots, some of which got too much attention while others got none.  The time spent on Elliot's mother and sister, was it really just to have the paralleling at the end?  Really - all that time for a thematic device?  While meanwhile nothing more done on the toxic smoke, which seems to me a more interesting theme to work with, and less cliched.  Also, please don't try to pass off Josh Lucas as a neurotic insecure loser - the scene of him looking in the mirror trying to convince himself he's attractive was laughable. I like the man, but he is too good looking for this role - the one dud in an otherwise well cast film.  And really, that's what saves this film from being completely disappointing.  The two leads are great, and their chemistry is palpable and believable.  Also, hiding behind all that excess story was an interesting and different high school story, and a structure that was inventive and propulsive.   I wished the director trusted his style, and his story's bones, more, or enough to let them be without all the extra fussiness.

THE PLACES IN BETWEEN France/Burkina Faso 4 cats A biracial woman goes back to Burkina Faso to try to find her birth mother, while back in Paris, a white professional woman asks her company's cleaning woman to teach her the language of Burkina Faso.   This film snuck up on me with a wallop by the end, thanks to the solid cast and a standout performance by one of the supporting leads, who played the biracial woman's aunt.  It is seemingly a story about two women dealing with the aftermath and effects of emigration from an African country to a Western one, and trying to find their personal place of reconciliation with that fact.  But as the film progresses and each woman is faced with another woman who might be a friend, an ally, a foe, an obstacle or something of all of those things, it becomes both a bigger and more profoundly personal story - what is home, where does sense of belonging reside, and what is the relationship of those things with the idea of motherhood.  There is a moment when the film's perspective shifts, and while there are many scenes of silence or contemplation, nevertheless the film does not pause in that moment of reveal to push the point - it hits us like it would in real life, in the midst of thngs occurring, and it's only afterwards as you're walking away that you realize - oh, that's what that film meant to me.  Finally, I really appreciated how the film shot Burkina Faso, a country I know nothing of except that it's in Africa.  It didn't feel exotic or third world or 'other' even as it was made clear that it was a very different place and culture from the Western experience.

THE TRIP UK 4 cats if you're well familiar with Steve Coogan & Rob Drydon, 2 cats if you are not.  This is a Michael Winterbottom film I feel fairly certain will NOT get a US release.  It's just too inside baseball:  Steve Coogan grudgingly invites Rob Drydon along on a tour of the north of England, for a writing gig he scored wherein he would eat at several fine dining restaurants and write them up - a foodie travelogue, so to speak.   Basically, though, the plot is an excuse to get Coogan & Drydon in a car together and letting them improvise away.  As was the case in TRISTAM SHANDY: A COCK & BALLS STORY, the two play their friendship as patronizing (Coogan) and competitive (Drydon).   While their family lives are made up for the movie, their professional credits are fair game, and each scores regularly off the other's past highs and lows.  Also up for dispute - who does the better Michael Caine impression, and which is more culturally significant, Wales or the north of England.   Rob Drydon can do no wrong in my book, so I loved this film - but honestly, I can't recommend this to anyone who doesn't know either men's TV shows, because that's really the bedrock of their riffing and improvisations.  I will say that the food they ate looked absolutely incredible - and way beyond my price range, should I ever find myself in Yorkshire or environs.  The Q&A was fun, since all three men were there, and Drydon was in fine form - he assured us that in real life he did not constantly do impressions, while Coogan made sure to clarify the sincerity of his affection for Drydon.  The whole night though just made me want to see the next season of Gavin and Stacey asap, though!

A final note that I'm sorry I have to include - the volunteer situation on the line for the Varsity was extremely bad.  I was shocked and disappointed, because I had had a similar experience in the morning at the box office, where there weren't enough people working the line, and things got confused and people got rattled and irritated.  In the case of the box office, it was clear that there were volunteer no-shows - the headset crew were hustling all over the place, trying to cover what they could.  But in the case of the Varsity, this was not the case.  On the way down the stairs to the outside (where I and another guy started the line there), I counted four volunteers in the stairwell - one was confusingly creating a second interior line on the stairs (thereby making it harder for us to get by), while one tried to direct folks to figure out who was supposed to go in this line.  Meanwhile, two volunteers were at the bottom, directing us lucky ones to go outside.  However, neither of them left the stairwell - we were left to figure out exactly where to start the line, and then to police the gap between the two ourselves.   Every now and then one of them would pop their head out the door, then pop it back in - it was pissing me off, bigtime.    Then, as we finally started making our way up to the theatre, I saw two or three volunteers hanging around on the far side where the filmmakers wait to enter - this was one of the last films to seat of the night, too, so they really had no excuse to leave these volunteers unused.

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