stuff, written by me

Monthly Archives: August 2014

Too few days till TIFF, that’s the answer. Too few days and too many movies to wade through!

I have barely looked at the announcements this year. I’ve been busy with things like prepping for and attending Frontières @ Fantasia, and moving my office, and trying to keep up with Royal-related tasks, and submitting 100 funding applications for Birdland, and tackling the post-Fantasia rewrite of the script for Rite of the Witch Goddess, and trying to spend a bit of time with family at the cottage.

The cottage is a wonderful joy in my life and the pictures I post on Facebook make it seem like it’s nothing but barbecues and lake swims, and while that is mostly true, this year I was so exhausted by the time we got here that all I could do was sleep and stare off into space, at least for a few days.

It’s been a great chance to recharge, and spend time with both sets of parents, and my sister-in-law and niece (the cutest cutie in cutesville), and try to step away from social media (not entirely, but I check my phone approximately 200 times less per day up here than I do in Toronto and I feel like it’s helping me regrow brain cells).

And now I’m finally doing something that usually takes up a huge and pleasurable chunk of my summer, and that is: checking the TIFF lists and making some dream-lists. I know there are announcements yet to come, but I gotta get started.

Here’s my initial list, based on a quick glance at the TIFF website. I’ll delve more deeply when the book comes out. Here they are in order of programmes:


I’ll probably just wait for most of these to come out in theatres, because they surely will. But there is one I might try to catch at TIFF:  The Connection. It stars Jean Dujardin, the sexiest actor alive, so it’s worth it, right? Plus, I saw the promo in Cannes and it looked really fun.

Oh hi, Mr. Dujardin. *schwing*

Oh hi, Mr. Dujardin. *schwing*

The other two Galas I’d like to catch are Maps to the Stars and Foxcatcher, both of which I missed in Cannes but really wanted to see. And I’m curious about The Judge, because Robert Downey Jr is second only to Jean Dujardin in my heart. Realistically though, I won’t bother with most of these at the Festival.


One highly anticipated film and one that I’ll see for the experience. First, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Guys! A new Roy Andersson film! If you haven’t seen Songs from the Second Floor, do yourself a favour and seek it out immediately. This one’s my most anticipated Swedish joint of the year! Exclamation marks!

And yes, I am curious to see the Godard, Goodbye to Language 3D, in actual 3D.

Special Presentations

Usually the least-frequented-by-me TIFF section this year it features several titles I’m excited about. A few Canadians, like Denys Arcand’s An Eye for Beauty and Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (I’m not a huge fan, but lots of trusted pals loved this one at Cannes so I’m willing to give him another chance).

Willem Defoe as Pasolini

Willem Defoe as Pasolini

There’s also a few by filmmakers who are on my “usually worth it” list, like Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden and Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini (it’s not about Ferrara, it’s that I’m actually too big a Pasolini fan not to see this one).

And of course, my absolute most anticipated film of the festival, Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle. I want to re-watch Henry Fool and Fay Grim before TIFF just to get in the mood but I doubt I’ll have the time. I’ve written before about the profound impact of Hartley’s work on my life (and the way he is eternally connected to TIFF, for me). I remember the powerful, visceral reaction I had to Trust when I first saw it, accidentally, on TV, nearly 25 years ago. I was thrilled to be able to support both his most recent films on Kickstarter and I am totally elated that this one is playing at TIFF. Feels like a weirdly personal homecoming (maybe more for me than for Hartley, but let’s not quibble).

Aubrey Plaza in a Hal Hartley film? Perfect!

Aubrey Plaza in a Hal Hartley film? Perfect!


Perhaps because other titles haven’t been announced yet or perhaps because Discovery has become the de facto replacement for the Canada First programme, everything in this section that I’m excited about is Canadian.

Bang Bang Baby!

Bang Bang Baby!

There’s the delightfully weird-sounding Bang Bang Baby, by Jeffrey St Jules (whose short, The Tragic Story of Nling, charmed me ages ago). This one’s also produced by a friend so I’m excited to support his success as well. There’s Corbo, about a Quebec teen and the founding of the FLQ. There’s Songs she Wrote about People she Knows, by the director of Doppelgänger Paul, a film I really enjoyed a few TIFFs ago. There’s Wet Bumwinner of the best title award and also produced by a couple of rad women I know who I would like to cheer on.


I love documentaries. I might love them more than I even love features, but I don’t make as much time for them in my life. Lots of great ones coming to TIFF, as usual. Of course, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence, is on my list and everyone else’s. I’m also curious to catch Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon, and Nick Broomfield’s The Grim Sleeper.

Contemporary World Cinema

This catch-all hodgepodge category is always a chore to wade through. At least with Wavelengths or Vanguard or even Special Presentations you have some basic sense of the curatorial voice of the section. CWC is “everything from everywhere”, and it’s usually full of amazing films, so it’s not like you can just skip over it.

Here’s a few that sound intriguing. Behavior, from Cuba. Bird People, from France. Cut Snake, from Australia. The Grump, from Finland. I’ll watch anything from Finland, just about. Canadian Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu Dors Nicole, which I wanted to catch in Cannes. Partners in Crime, from Taiwan. The Reaper, from Croatia. Two Shots Fired, from Argentina.

And then there’s Li’l Quinquin, from Bruno Dumont. I thought La vie de Jesus was one of the best films of the decade. I was lukewarm on L’humanité and hated Twentynine Palms with a fiery passion I usually reserve for … I dunno, Julie Taymor.

I’ll go on the “why that movie is sexist and dumb and hateful and pretentious” rant some other time. The point is, I’ve been on a Dumont hiatus and this new oddity seems like it might be worth returning for.

TIFF Cinematheque

After Ned Rifle, my most anticipated TIFF screening will be the restored version of John Paizs’ Crime Wave. I’ve written elsewhere about my love of the film, so I don’t need to repeat myself, but I will say this. I’m going to go to this screening, and I’m going to sit next to John Paizs, and maybe squeeze his arm out of un-containable excitement, and I’m going to have the best 90 minutes of my festival.



I might also try to catch Atom Egoyan’s Speaking Parts, because it’s a good film and because I know one of the actors who starred in it and I always enjoy the rare chance to see a pal on the big screen. Especially a pal as the fresh-faced youngster he was a whopping 25 years ago, a long-ass time before I met him!


I’ve seen a few of these already (because I live with the programmer) but I still heartily recommend them: Alleluia (a fave of mine from Cannes), Goodnight Mommy, Luna (Dave McKean! All those Sandman covers! Arkham Asylum!) and Spring.

And there are several others that are very high on my list. Peter “Berberian Sound Studio” Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, for example. Or Takashi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body. Or Tetsuya Nakashima’s The World of Kanako.

Let’s face it. Vanguard looks like pretty much all hits and no misses this year.

Midnight Madness

What’s the point of even writing about this section? I’m married to it. I’m biased in its favour. And I’m excited about them all, obviously. Especially the ones I haven’t seen yet, but also the ones I have.

like this one

like this one

Tell me pals, what must-sees have I missed so far?

Today, August 6, marks the 26th anniversary of the day my family landed in Canada for the first time.

I still remember a lot of the first impressions I formed about Toronto on that day. Most of them hold up surprisingly well.

It was 1988, a hot summer. The longest heat wave fell between July 27 and August 18, with 23 consecutive days of higher-than-average temperatures. We arrived right in the middle of it.

  • First impression: it’s soooooo humid here! As soon as the automatic doors slid open and we stepped out of the cool airport terminal, the wet sponge of humidity hit me in the face. I didn’t think people in Toronto lived in igloos, but it did not occur to me that it could be hotter than where I’d just come from – the pretty-much-South of Europe. I was baffled.

My dad’s cousin, who lived here, picked us up from the airport. The first song that came on the radio when we got into his fancy Volvo was Kokomo by the Beach Boys. It was a brand new song – released as a single earlier that summer (on my birthday – July 18 – by strange coincidence), so it was in heavy rotation. That was the first time I heard it. I instantly memorized the lyrics, and remember them to this day.

  • Second impression: holy crickets, Toronto is a very green city. I don’t know if it was the 401 or the DVP or some other highway but I remember driving past more trees than I thought a city of several million people could possibly contain. I am just as amazed with the ravine-and-tree-filled wonderland I live in today as I was then.
  • Third impression: streets in North America are super wide. So many lanes! So much space for everyone! When people here complain about bad drivers, I still, 26 years later, think “yeah, but you’ve got literally three times as much space to manoeuvre around those people than you would if you were driving just about anywhere else in the world”. It’s true. Real talk.

That first night, we went for dinner on Spadina, to a huge Chinese restaurant that I think was called Hunan Palace. It’s not there anymore, but it was delicious. I was already a fan of Chinese food thanks to excellent parents and frequent trips to England during childhood. I was very happy to be living in a city that had a real Chinatown. Little did I know back then that it actually has two!

Chinatown! Please note wideness of streets.

Chinatown! Please note wideness of streets.

  • Third impression: air conditioning is insane. I wore a tank top to dinner that night (see above, re: we were in the middle of a heat wave!) and I needed to go outside and stand on the sidewalk three or four times during the meal to warm up, because it was so cold inside. That is crazy. Cranking the air conditioning in summer is not just a waste of energy and probably terrible for the environment, but it is also completely bananas. Why do people want to feel cold during the precious few warm months we actually get? I still think this every summer when I have to bring cardigans with me if I’m going to be spending any time in a mall, or movie theatre, or office building. I don’t understand one single thing about air conditioning culture.

We spent our first few weeks staying with friends in North York, where I got acquainted with North American television. Not that I’d never seen any American shows (Dallas and Dynasty were both very popular in Serbia, as was L.A. Law, thankyouverymuch), but I’d never seen the constant stream of sitcoms, dramas, commercials, game shows and – most baffling of all – soap operas. Watching a soap opera for the first time was a really confusing experience. The image quality, the lighting, the sets, the way all the actors acted, the way they looked, their bizarrely perfect, glossy hair, I just couldn’t decipher what I was actually looking at. It didn’t look like TV or movies. It was basically from another planet. I felt like someone who had been ripped out of a jungle and placed in the New York subway system. Like, what the fuck is that?! I spent about a week completely mesmerized by All My Children and Days of Our Lives.

Remember Starweek?!!

Remember Starweek?!!

  • Fifth impression: Toronto feels like home. Always did, still does. Of course, I was sad to leave my home, family, and so on. But we’d moved a lot already and I was used to it. Once we arrived here, I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t question for even a single day whether I’d get used to it. I loved it from day one. Toronto stole my heart.

Still love you,  Toronto. Happy anniversary to us.