Mike White Updates Status Consciousness

Movies: TIFF17 The writer-director of Brad's Status is an indie darling, but he says he still wrestles with insecurity and ego issues because we live in a world of false comparisons By Katherine Monk TORONTO — “I think you have your epiphany, and then you forget about it,” says Mike White. “Then you remember it again. And you forget it again. It’s like you are inching toward wisdom. Or circling the drain.” White seems to be doing all of the above, all the time, because his mind seems to radiate ideas. He creates tangent lines mid-sentence, leaving orbit, only to fall back to earth, chained by the full force of gravity. It’s his ability to levitate and fall with giddy aplomb that makes his voice so unique and his characters so memorable, whether it’s Selma Hayek as massage therapist and healer in Beatriz at Dinner, Laura Dern as a recovering executive experimenting with faith in Enlightened, or the entirely childlike Chuck, from the indie landmark Chuck & ...

The Motive Moves in Mysterious Ways

Movies: TIFF17 Capsule Reviews Javier Gutierrez stars as a notary struggling to write the great novel without success until he starts eavesdropping on his neighbours in Manuel Martin Cuenca's darkly comic exploration of the writerly quest By Katherine Monk The writerly process is a running theme here at the Toronto International Film Festival. Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and Haifaa Al Mansour’s Mary Shellery may be the headliners, but hiding in the background is a little film called The Motive (El Autor), a Spanish film about a notary struggling to write the great novel. A dark comedy that has an ability to offer a string of surprises out of left field, The Motive stars Javier Gutierrez as Alvaro, the number cruncher with great expectations. He lives in a beautiful flat in Seville with his wife (Maria Leon) — a sexy and successful writer in her own right. Everyone loves her work, but Alvaro thinks she writes crowd-pleasing pap. He craves substance — writing with real ...

Time-travelling in Uptight Toronto

Movies - TIFF17 Katherine Monk goes back to the future and catches up with the past in a day that includes a haunted Jim Carrey, a brush with the Khmer Rouge, a chilling take on the Chinese stock market and a moving visit to a psychiatric ward in Bille August's 55 Steps By Katherine Monk TORONTO (September 12, 2017) — Today, I was a time-traveller. I started in the mid-1980s in San Francisco, fast-forwarded to 1990 to pay a visit to the Man in the Moon, spent some time dodging the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia circa 1975, then took a break at the modern-day New York Public Library before entering 19th century London to hang out with Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. By nightfall, I was entering a very uncertain future as I headed to China and realized the entire global economy was a house of cards about to be undone by a game of three-card monty using Mah Jong tiles. It can all be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, I took notes: 8:45 am: I prepare myself for 55 Steps by ...

Battle of the Sexes Rages On

Movies: TIFF17 Stories about strong women continue to struggle for popular approval while movies about middle-aged men absorbed in their own search for success are celebrated for brave storytelling By Katherine Monk TORONTO (September 11, 2017) — Battle of the Sexes is the title of one of the bigger buzz movies at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but four days into this exhaustive and exhausting celebration of cinema, it may as well be a central theme. On one side, the festival is showcasing films featuring strong women with the courage to pursue their dreams. On the other, it’s awash in the insecurities of middle-aged men terrified by the prospect of being forgotten. Or, worse yet, being altogether average. Maybe it was just the course of my day that kicked off with the press and industry screening for Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s take on the famous 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. I thoroughly enjoyed their period ...
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Mother! Rips TIFF Audiences Apart with Creative Labour Pains

Movies: TIFF17 Darren Aronofsky's latest is a dark swan dive to the depths of the artistic process that could be read as brilliant biblical allegory or a self-absorbed bid at vindicating failure By Katherine Monk TORONTO (September 10, 2017) - Oh, mother! The creative process can be a real bitch. Just ask Darren Aronofsky. The director of the Oscar-winning Black Swan returned to the Toronto International Film Festival with his latest film, mother! And already, it’s dividing audience opinion. A laborious metaphor about the act of making art, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a handsome couple renovating an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. He’s a successful writer struggling with a blank page. She is the young muse, fixing and mending broken walls, looking to restore the house to its former glory after a fire burned it to the ground. The only thing left is a diamond-like stone with a mysterious glow that he carefully places on a ...

TIFF diary: My day in Auditorium 12

Movies: #TIFF17 What's it like to spend the entire day in one cinema, watching whatever comes along? Jay Stone sets out to find out at the Toronto film festival By Jay Stone TORONTO — Today I decided to test the fates by spending the entire day in one movie theatre at the Toronto International Film Festival. Most of the press and industry screenings are held at the Scotiabank cinema on Richmond Street, and I chose Auditorium 12, for reasons that will become more obscure as we go on. The result was a kind of mini-film festival, with all the delights, disappointments — and meals of dry popcorn — that one associates with the glamorous life of the freelance film critic. This is what I saw: On Chesil Beach: The first film of the day in Auditorium 12 — which turns out to be the Imax theatre, so you get a nice big screen — is this adaptation of what is, frankly, a rather thin 2007 novella by the otherwise estimable Ian McEwan. It stars Saoirse Ronan (whose appearance in ...

TIFF17 Opens with an Overhead Smash

Movies: #TIFF17 Festival's opening movie, Borg/McEnroe captures, an epic battle at Wimbledon and the two contrasting personalities — the emotional American and the cool Swede — who fought it out By Jay Stone TORONTO — A magazine called Screen has a special edition at the Toronto film festival, and it runs capsule reviews of some of the movies showing that day. Wednesday’s edition included a review of Miracle, a Lithuania/Bulgaria/Poland co-production, in which “the owner of a struggling post-Soviet pig farm finds a surprising benefactor in a visiting American investor, whose ‘good’ intentions upend the gentle rhythms of small-town life.” And that’s the film festival for you: it might be a warm and wonderful comedy, or it could be what you might later describe as the best Lithuania/Bulgaria/Poland co-production of the month. You can’t tell without actually going to watch it, and who has time for that? As it happens, I was reading this while seated next to ...

The Square and Loveless Share Responsibility for Eye-Opening Day

Movies: #TIFF17 Ruben Östlund's Palme D'Or winning satire of the art world and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s peek into a Loveless Russia address issues of social responsibility in our generic age of self-absorption By Katherine Monk TORONTO — One man was lying face down on a street grate to keep warm. He wore no shoes. His feet were blistered and gangrenous black. He was eating what appeared to be a discarded salad with his hands, dirty, swollen, cracked. I walked by him, and about a dozen other bodies wrapped in soiled sleeping bags, on my way to festival headquarters on King Street where the freshly laid red carpet curls out its tongue, anticipating the glitterati. As a Vancouverite, walking past homeless people is routine. Turning a deaf ear to the person with the glazed eyes and a feeble hand stretched into the moving stream of sidewalk treading humanity is such a regular exercise, it doesn’t even register. It’s considered part of the urban experience. Yet, on day one ...

George Clooney and Margaret Atwood on Jay Stone’s TIFF List

Movies: #TIFF17 The Toronto International Film Festival hits middle-age with an entourage of famous faces and a long history of cinematic conquests that seems destined to continue with a slate of intriguing titles from the world's best filmmakers By Jay Stone TORONTO — The Toronto film festival turns 42 this year, which is a dangerous age: if it was a man, it would probably buy a fancy red sports car that was entirely unsuitable to Canada’s roads or its climate and leave its perfectly serviceable wife for a doctoral student — studying something impractical, one imagines, having to do with postmodern cultural analysis — young enough to be its daughter. The festival hasn’t exactly done that, although one notes that it has lost some of its older friends — 81-year-old auteur Woody Allen, for instance, is taking his new film Wonder Wheel to the New York festival, bypassing Toronto — in favour of younger, more with-it voices. And while festival director Piers Handling ...

Salute Labour Day with 10 Movies that Did the Job Right

Movies: Top Ten Movies About Labour Issues In a world where the salaried worker is becoming an endangered species and the income gap is now the Grand Canyon, the only place to find solace may be on the silver screen -- where workers of the world can still win By Rod Mickleburgh (September 4, 2017) I had fun doing this a few years ago, compiling a list of my top ten films for Labour Day viewing. This was in 2014, when BC teachers, instead of heading back to school, were still on strike from the previous June. They would have several more weeks to go, before the longest province-wide teachers strike in BC history was over. And, just like in some of these movies, there was a happy ending. Last November, the teachers won a resounding victory in the Supreme Court of Canada, restoring classroom limits and other staffing measures the BC Liberals (remember them?) had illegally stripped from their contracts way back in 2002 (Jean Chretien was still Prime Minister!) The result has been the ...