Battle of the Sexes Rages On
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 ...
Mother! Rips TIFF Audiences Apart with Creative Labour Pains
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 ...
Parent-Child Day at TIFF17
Three movies the the Toronto film festival present different versions of the cinematic parent — Interfering Mother, Distant Father — with varying success
By Jay Stone
TORONTO — It was parent-and-child day at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is always interesting for those of us who are parents and wonder which of several cinematic categories we might fall into: Distant Father, Interfering Mother, Demanding Taskmaster (or –mistress), Indifferent Hippie or Kooky Eccentric. I think that’s all of them.
We began with a terrific little coming-of-age title called Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan — heroine of yesterday’s movie marathon and providing further proof here that she can do no wrong — as a rebellious high school student growing up in terrifyingly unhip Sacramento, Calif. She laughs with her best friend, dumps the friend for some new rich kids, dumps the rich kids for the old friend, meets a couple of boys who are variously ...
TIFF diary: My day in Auditorium 12
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
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
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 ...
Canadian women bound for Palm Springs
Movies: Palm Springs International Film Festival
The partnership between Palm Springs and Telefilm continues to push the Canadian film cause in influential U.S. circles, with female directors taking centre stage
By The Ex-Press
(December 22, 2016) — A delegation of strong Canadian women will be heading to Palm Springs in the new year, showcasing work that touches on everything from Kenyan marathon runners to resource extraction and First Nations issues in the North.
Anjali Nayar’s Gun Runners, Nettie Wild’s Koneline, Anne Émond’s Nelly and Chloé Robichaud’s Pays were selected to screen at this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival, joining Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit, Xavier Dolan’s Juste la fin du monde and Juan Andrés Arango’s X Quinientos as part of this year’s seven-film Canadian delegation, one of the strongest in recent years.
“With a diverse mix of Canadian features—including works from emerging talent and an Indigenous pioneer, ...
John Madden hits home with Miss Sloan
Interview: John Madden on Miss Sloane
The director of Shakespeare in Love says casting Jessica Chastain as a shrewd, morally ambiguous D.C. lobbyist was the best way to expose the ugliness of modern politics
By Katherine Monk
WHISTLER, BC – John Madden doesn’t want to get bogged down by the F-word: Feminism has so much ancillary luggage, too many awkward hard edges to cram into the narrative anchovy tin called a feature film.
Yet, Miss Sloane, the latest film from the Academy Award-nominated director of Shakespeare in Love points a laser beam at the modern female experience. A D.C.-set (Toronto-shot) thriller starring Jessica Chastain as the title character, Miss Sloane offers a close-up view of the lobbyist’s reality.
Watching from a slightly distanced perspective, the viewer picks up the trail of professional lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane just as she embarks on a career move that will change her life forever.
Madden was reluctant to give away too many details ...
John Mann’s Unforgettable Spirit captured on camera
#VIFF16: Pete McCormack on Spirit Unforgettable
The Spirit of the West frontman was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in 2014, spurring his good friend, fellow musician and film director Pete McCormack to follow him with a camera in a bid to document the one-way trip
Ed Gass-Donnelly hides a message up his sleeve
#VIFF16: Interview with Ed Gass-Donnelly
The Toronto-based director takes a pry bar to the basement door of family secrets in Lavender, a psychological thriller starring Abbie Cornish, Dermot Mulroney and Justin Long
By Katherine Monk
VANCOUVER – The man who made The Last Exorcism Part II is marked. Ed Gass-Donnelly rolls up his right sleeve in the firelight, and reveals two words written in deep indigo capital letters: “Find Beauty.”
“I’m not doing this to pay the bills,” says the Toronto-born director of Lavender, a psychological thriller unspooling at the Vancouver International Film Festival this week as part of the Altered States program.
“I have to remind myself of that… after making [The Last Exorcism Part II] I think I found new perspective,” he says, sitting back in a leather couch at the Sutton Place lounge.
“I appreciated the experience of coming out on 3000 screens. It was like ‘WOW!’ – 3000 screens at once is what you ...