stuff, written by me

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Last weekend, I did a thing with a group of friends. The thing was: spending an hour locked in a “mysterious room”, which we had to ransack for clues in order to find a key to get out. The room is filled with a variety of puzzles (some brain-twisters and some that require thoroughness and keen observation skills). The puzzles fit together to create larger puzzles which eventually get you closer and closer to the key. The Real Escape Game that we participated in started in Japan, but has moved to San Francisco, Toronto, and a few other places.

the room kind of looks like this, but different

the room kind of looks like this, but different

We didn’t make it out of the room, but believe me when I say that we made it incredibly close, which felt good and fuelled our group desire to do it again the moment they launch another room (you can’t really play the same one twice, because you know all the answers, and where would the fun be in that)?

I won’t tell you much about the puzzles themselves, because that would spoil the experience for those among you who are considering doing it. But I can tell you this. It was wonderful. And it fulfilled my lifelong desire to solve mysteries in real life.

When I was a very small and only child, I played by myself often, sometimes for hours at a time. I had a whole world, a parallel universe of my own, which I could enter into at will.

When I was a little bit older, I also used to have a recurring dream in which I would wake up, walk to my bookshelf, pull out a book of fairytales and jump into it, and then spend time with the characters stroll through the stories. Another parallel world that was all my own. I was convinced, for years, that the book was real, even though I could never seem to find it during the daytime.

Some years later, during my pre-teen years, I fell in love with mysteries (musicals, too, but that’s a different story). I watched Agatha Christie mysteries on TV, devoured any noir film I could get my hands on, and read as many Famous Five, Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books as I could find. I even read the complete Sherlock Holmes. I don’t really remember the stories now (or if I do, it’s from the film adaptations more than the books) but I remember the feeling they evoked. Pure electricity. I read, and watched, and waited patiently for real mysteries to crop up in my life. They never did, but I never stopped hoping. I still hope.

in my dream of dreams, I am Sam Spade

in my dream of dreams, I am Sam Spade

In my early teens, I was obsessed with Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, the TV game show for kids that aired every day after school on PBS. There was a far more embarrassingly teenage reason for my obsession with the show (he’s the bumblebee on the far left at around 4:38 of the blurry, taped-off-TV YouTube clip below), but that’s not the point. I never would have gotten hooked on it in the first place if the allure of a lady-detective hadn’t been powerful. I wanted to be Carmen Sandiego. In a way, I still do.

When I was in my 20s and still trying to figure out what to do with my life, I flirted multiple times with the notion of going to detective school and making my living as a gumshoe, while I pursued writing or whatever other no-money-making thing I chose. Sometimes, I still think of it as a backup plan if this whole “movie thing” doesn’t work out.

It’s no coincidence that the first film I will likely end up completing as a for-real, full-on producer, is Peter Lynch’s Birdland, a modern noir-ish murder mystery.

If I could put my finger on the beating heart of the Venn diagram of my most fervent childhood fantasies, it would be this: a world of my own in which I have mysteries to solve. Real Escape got me closer to realizing this fantasy than any game has before. I knew before we went into the room that I would have “a good time”. But I had more than a good time. It took me hours to come down from the adrenalin high of the experience.

They’re launching a new room in October. I will be first in line for a ticket, ever grateful for the small gang of game-playing friends who share my desire to pretend to be super-sleuths.


TIFF roundup time. Here’s everything I saw, in alphabetical order, with a sentence or two of commentary. Links below are all to trailers or clips of the films, unless one was not available. I saw around 25 films and didn’t see anything that I really disliked this year, so I’m not going to rank the films in any kind of order.

Although I will say that Crime Wave, The Duke of Burgundy, The Guest, Luna and Ned Rifle were my best experiences, and Alleluia, which I didn’t technically watch at TIFF, rounds out my “top six”.

The Duke of Burgundy was a definite fave

The Duke of Burgundy: a fave

1001 Grams – The story itself was quite simple, but the fact that it was set in the strange world of international weights and measures really charmed me. Where is Canada’s prototype of the kilogram held, I wonder?

Alleluia – Technically I did not see this at TIFF. I saw it in Cannes, but it remains one of my faves of the year so I’m including it anyway! Based on the same source material as The Honeymoon Killers, this is one of the most gorgeous films of the year.

Big Game – The craving deep in my soul that can only be satisfied with Amblin Entertainment-style kid adventure films was fed a substantial meal by Big Game. Unapologetically silly and kid-friendly action. Anyone who thinks this isn’t one of the best and least phoned-in Samuel Jackson performances in a while is nuts.

Cart – A simple but affecting story (based on real events) about the plight of South Korean temporary and contract workers (who make up 60% of the population and make 50% of their full time counterparts’ wages) and their attempts to unionize or at least force the supermarket that unfairly dismissed them to hire them back.

Corbo – Really powerful Quebecois film about the early FLQ movement. Great lesson in recent Canadian history, and a good piece of cinema too.

Crime Wave – I’ve said enough, right?

Cub – A straight-up fun horror movie. Just the meat and potatoes of scary movies, where a pack of cub scouts gets it from a psycho-killer and a feral child. Sometimes, it’s satisfying to go back to basics.

The Duke of Burgundy – One of my faves of the festival. Gorgeous, stylish, original, funny as hell. The strange story of a relationship between two women that you think you understand, until you realize it’s something else entirely. Plus, I learned a lot about mole crickets.

The Editor – If you’ve ever enjoyed a Giallo film, then the loving parody/homage of The Editor is for you. If you enjoyed Father’s Day or Manborg or just like funny jokes, then The Editor is probably also for you.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films – Mark Hartley is the champion of documentaries about the “wild, untold stories” of cinema, and while this one was less of a “to watch” list than Not Quite Hollywood (because I’ve already seen way more Cannon films than Ozploitation films) there were still a few that I will definitely be watching post-TIFF. Like all the Ninja films.

Goodnight Mommy – This film starts out as a drama about a woman recovering from recent facial plastic surgery while trying to keep her rowdy twin sons in check at their country house. And then it becomes something far more dark and disturbing. Great film, intense viewing experience.

The Guest – Ah, the uninvited guest film, the Terminator-esque dangerous android film, the “fun American action” film, that old chestnut! Thanks for making a brand new chestnut, Barrett/Wingard. The Guest is already out in the US and opens in Toronto soon. Go fucking see it!

Luna – One of the most beautiful and moving relationship dramas I’ve seen in a long time, by Dave McKean, the visual genius behind all those Sandman covers, and Arkham Asylum, and lots of other great stuff. Perfect blend of illustration, animation, real feeling, and magic realism.

Maps to the Stars – A bit too hysterical (and I don’t mean that as a synonym for funny) for me, but filled to the brim with a lot of very good performances. What was the point, though? That Hollywood is a horrible place full of depraved monsters? I expect better, less obvious points from Cronenberg.

Ned Rifle – Hal Hartley’s best since Henry Fool, for sure. And a great end to the trilogy that Henry Fool and Fay Grim round out. Featured a cameo by every Hartley actor in the stable, which was nice to see. Truly “one for the fans”.

Over Your Dead Body – Leave it to Takashi Miike to make me squirm and feel vaguely nauseous while looking at something incredibly striking and beautiful. Gorgeous story about a group of actors rehearsing a play (the story of which echoes their real lives). Some of the best production design I’ve seen all year.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – is it “reflecting on” or “contemplating”? The programme said one but the subtitles on the film said the other. Anyway. Great film. Bonus fact: all the backgrounds are matte paintings, and they are very impressive.

Spring – I’ll try to resist the “X” meets “Y” description that this film has been getting a lot of, but let me just say this: Spring is a very beautifully made and smart romance, lightly tinted with supernatural elements. Don’t go in expecting a “horror movie” but do go in expecting a “very good movie”.

Sunshine Superman – Great doc about the adorable nerd who invented base jumping. First time I’ve ever seen a visually impressive documentary about an inspiring subject that did not make me want to participate in the thing that it was about. There isn’t enough money in the world to convince me to jump off a cliff, ever.

Tokyo Tribe – Japanese hip hop musical about warring gangs battling for control of Tokyo. The rapping isn’t mindblowing, but y’know what? That’s kind of not the point. I saw someone on Twitter complain that the film was about rape gangs, and I feel like I saw an entirely different film, which isn’t about that, at all.

Two Days, One Night – Marion Cotillard, the undisputed queen of looking ugly-beautiful in films that are uplifting downers, is really good in this at-times-hard-to-watch drama about a woman who spends an arduous weekend fighting to get her job back after being laid off. Watching this film made me realize that I’ve hardly seen any of the Dardenne brothers’ films. I will rectify this post-TIFF, when I make my ambitious list of “films and filmmakers to catch up on this fall”.

What We Do in the Shadows – Funniest movie of TIFF or funniest movie of the year? Probably both. This unexpectedly touching and totally hilarious Christopher-Guest-style mock doc about a group of vampire roommates in New Zealand hit pretty much all the right notes.

Wet Bum – A solid story about a gawky teenage girl who has few friends, works part time at a retirement home (where her mom works), and maybe has a crush on her swimming instructor.  Although I  was a little disappointed with the familiar track the relationship with the swimming instructor took, it was great to see a film about a teenage girl that wasn’t rife with clichés.

X + Y – I liked this movie about an awkward, mildly Autistic math-whiz who finds himself in an unusual situation when he finally gets to compete in the international math olympiad. Suddenly, he’s no longer the only weird one, or (perhaps more disturbingly, to him) the only smart one. Very touching hi jinx ensue.

I’m sorry to have missed many people’s faves, films like Force Majeure, Wild Tales, Phoenix and The Tribe, as well as a few of my own hotly anticipated titles, like Danis “Oscar for No Man’s Land” Tanovic’s latest, Tigers. Hopefully they’ll all be back in theatres soon. Or maybe I’ll have to bring some of them back myself, at The Royal.


Saturday September 13, 2014

This is the end, my friends.

By Saturday, I’d already mentally checked out of festival mode, but I knew the evening would bring one last avalanche of mega-socializing.

Friday was an unintentionally late night, so on Saturday I had no particular desire to race around trying to see movies – besides, I’d be seeing The Guest at midnight and frankly, by this stage of the game, one film is enough. I spent the day mostly doing nothing and getting ready for the evening, which involved a pre-midnight dinner and party with Team Guest.

At dinner, Colin and I squirrelled ourselves away at a side table with Simon Barrett and just caught up for an hour, which after days of big events and large groups was just what the doctor ordered. Post-dinner, a party for the film, at which bar staff were dressed like hunky soldiers (way to theme it up!) and I spent a good chunk of time catching up with friends from Baltimore who I don’t see often enough but love (unrelated fact: one of them made a movie called Small Pond, which I really liked).

The Guest, which I watched in the European Film Market in Berlin (twice, because I liked it so much that I really wanted to see it with Colin, who wasn’t free for the first screening) was a treat to see again with a public audience. Besides, being there for the public screening meant seeing Matt Brown in the Symbol pyjamas Colin recently gave him. Which was worth the price of admission, and then some.

Matt Brown: world's most huggable

Matt Brown: world’s most huggable

After the film, we went back to our apartment with a few dozen of our closest friends and whatever filmmakers were still in town. This is something Colin and I do every year after the final Midnight Madness screening, but this TIFF we took it up a notch by getting some amazing friends to cater the party with booze and delicious made-on-the-spot tacos. They took it up several notches, to be honest.

Seriously though, Symbol might be one of the best and weirdest movies of all time.

The after party was more of a chance for me to catch up with Toronto friends than visiting filmmakers, though I did my fair share of both. This year, for the first time in the afterparty’s illustrious seven year history, someone passed the usually fairly private invitation around to some random festival guests, and we ended up playing babysitter to a pair of very drunk short filmmakers who spent at least 20 minutes having a relationship argument (in German) in our kitchen. And an extravagantly drunk Dutch dude who was really hard to get rid of. But hey, 98% of the party was great. Besides, now I can say that handsome Dan “Downton Abbey” Stevens has been in my living room! He was actually quite nice and very sweet to fans and he’s brilliant in The Guest. I definitely recommend that you all see it when it opens in Toronto in a week or so. Or y’know, today, in select cities in the US.

I haven’t seen Downton Abbey but I guess now I have to, since I was told by a hundred people during TIFF that it “really is very good”.

It took me a week to get around to writing this final diary entry, and that’s because post-TIFF, all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and not think about TIFF. I mean, it’s not like some traumatic experience. I’m not trying to paint a fun week of movies and parties as an ordeal, by any means, but I definitely do feel a bit over-saturated with TIFF-related matters, and with film festival life in general.

path to our backyard after party, or path to our backyard blood sacrifice?

path to our backyard after party, or path to our backyard blood sacrifice?

I’m thrilled to be back at my apartment, back at my (really wonderful) new office, back to the gym, to grocery shopping, to playing board games with friends, to watching old movies with Colin (this weekend, we watched a double bill of Working Girl (an all time fave of mine which I’ve probably watched 100 times since the age of 12 or so) and Mean Streets (which I had never seen before!) and it was basically the best night ever).

best makeover in movie history?

best makeover in movie history

Lots of our film friends are currently having the times of their lives at Fantastic Fest. But fun as every tweet and Facebook update from Austin sounds, I must say, I’m not jealous. I couldn’t be happier to be staying home for the foreseeable future. I am so in love with my regular Toronto life.


When people ask me, in the days to come, what my “highlight of TIFF” was, I will answer with absolute certainty. Friday was a day of highlights, but the top one was surely the screening of the piping hot, fresh-out-of-the-TIFF-ovens restoration of Crime Wave, which I got to attend with director John Paizs.

the first five minutes of the best Canadian movie ever

But let’s begin at the beginning. I start Friday with a few errands – delivering some weekend TIFF tickets to friends, and so on. I follow it up with a film, though not the one I’d hoped to see. I race to the Scotiabank to see Phoenix, which everyone had been raving about all week, but the final P&I screening is already too jammed by the time I arrive (admittedly kinda late – only a minute or two before the film is scheduled to start). So, I do the only logical thing I could under the circumstances. I look at the schedule and walked into the next available screening, an Argentinian comedy called Two Shots Fired, which started out promising and then meandered into a directionless series of vignettes with no real story to bind it all together. Good concept, shaky execution.

In the afternoon, I have only one priority: to leave myself enough time to shower, change and feel confidently fabulous enough to attend the pre-screening reception for Crime Wave, which is being held on the small but charming rooftop patio of the brand new Beverly Hotel (it’s not where the old Beverly (the bar, I mean) used to be, it’s actually on Queen between John and Peter).

one of many brilliant lines in Crime Wave, and one I think of often

one of many brilliant lines in Crime Wave, and one I think of often

In my first actual moment of outfit-panic during TIFF, I decide I can’t wear the devastatingly hot purple dress I had planned on because it clashes with the red lipstick I have fallen in love with. First world girl problems, or whatever. Don’t judge me, I’ve been looking forward to this night for months. I opt for a mini-skirt & crepe top, with patterned fishnets and T-strap wedges. All black. The red lipstick is a fine match. Phew. The bitch-goddess success hasn’t claimed me yet, though the outfit is 100% on point.

I get to the reception early and chat with Adam “The Editor” Brooks about Crime Wave for a while. We completely agree on one thing: John Paizs has to write and direct another film and we are willing to do whatever it takes to get him there. By the time John arrives, I’m literally buzzing with excitement.

two talented Winnipeggers share a moment

two talented Winnipeggers share a moment

A backstory-aside: when I found out Crime Wave would be restored and screened at TIFF, I emailed John to ask whether there would be any pre- or post-screening receptions, and whether I could a) tag along to them, and b) sit with him for the screening. He seemed to feel that I wouldn’t have to beat any competition off with a stick, but I’m pretty sure he was dead wrong. I managed to swoop in first, that’s all. It’s obviously no secret that I’m a fan of John’s work, but I actually feel pretty honoured to call him a friend as well. By which I mean “I’m glad he lets me bully my way into sitting next to him at his screening, because I sure loved it.”

The reception is lovely, I have a glass of wine and a tiny amount of (actually pretty delicious) food because I’m too nervousxcited about the screening to eat properly (besides, I don’t want to mess up the red lipstick). At a certain point, John tells me he has to go to the Lightbox for a tech check and I opt to head down with him, for the full VIP experience. The check goes fine, and I continue to float about seven inches above the ground for the entire time that we’re inside TBL Cinema 4 (a small but really lovely space, one of my festival faves, actually). I get to briefly meet Jonathan Ball, the writer whose book on Crime Wave was part of the impetus for this whole event (I have a copy, I got it right before TIFF and haven’t had time to read it yet, but of course it’s at the top of my post-festival list).

The restoration, of course, looks and sounds incredible, and it’s such a joy to be reminded of some of my favourite jokes (and a few I’d forgotten about). And what a pleasure, to hear John laugh along with the crowd. Only regret of TIFF: not being able to buy that charming genius a post-screening drink, because I have to jet off to the Midnight Madness screening.

Swoooon! John with Crime Wave book author Jonathan Ball during the Q&A

Swoooon! John with Crime Wave book author Jonathan Ball during the Q&A

Though, I do not at all regret attending the Midnight Madness screening, as it is the funniest film of the year, What We Do in the Shadows, and I get to sit next to The Moms (mine and Colin’s) who came out for it. Who would have guessed that one of the most heartwarming and hilarious films of the festival would be a Spinal-Tap-esque mockumentary comedy about vampires? And yet, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s film is just about the best thing I’ve seen all year. The jokes all land exactly where they’re supposed to, but there’s an unexpected line of real emotion running through the whole thing that really touched me. Brilliant stuff.

Jonathan Brugh (left) with co-directors Taika Waititi (centre) and Jemaine Clement (right)

Jonathan Brugh (left) with co-directors Taika Waititi (centre) and Jemaine Clement (right)

The film is both hilarious and heartwarming, and just as I think my day was coming to an end as we all shuffle out of the Ryerson, Colin gets a text from a friend asking us to join him and the team from the French gala The Connection, at a private speakeasy recommended to him earlier in the week. Since it’s right around last call, we text a quick “yes”, ask them to order us a couple of old fashioneds, and hop into a cab.

Jean Dujardin, star of The Connection. Sexiest man at TIFF? Or sexiest man on earth?

Jean Dujardin, star of The Connection. Dreamiest actor at TIFF? Or dreamiest actor in the world?

It’s so nice to have a low-pressure drink with a good friend and some assorted French charmers (but no, Jean Dujardin wasn’t there). The staff close the place shortly after the other patrons leave, and then let us drink (and smoke!) in the bar until past 4am. The French are especially thankful for the opportunity to smoke indoors. I am thankful for the potato chips (I skipped dinner due to Crime Wave butterflies) and the personal bourbon tasting menu I’m treated to by the delightful bartendrix.

Another late night, but a wonderful one. Can anything at TIFF 2014 top that Crime Wave screening, though? Probs not.

p.s. Crime Wave bonus: this is my new ringtone.


Thursday September 11, 2014

I’ve been attending TIFF for almost 20 years, a fact that I can’t fully reconcile myself or my deeply wrinkled and chronologically-unhinged sense of the passage of time. For the past four or five, I’ve been going with an industry pass, and it has changed the experience for me dramatically. One of the key differences, which begins to rear its head just before the final weekend, is the way I deal with festival fatigue.

If I’d paid somewhere between $20 and $24 per ticket for the TIFF experience, there’s no way in hell I would be missing any screenings – not just out of a desire to not throw money out the window, but because a hard ticket is a commitment. It is a firm plan, written if not in stone then at least wet concrete. With the pass, everything becomes malleable and I start thinking “ehhhh, I don’t have to go to that film I was really looking forward to five days ago, because I’d rather take a nap or just sit in a chair staring at the wall for 30 minutes because my brain is no longer capable of processing images.”

Over Your Dead Body

Over Your Dead Body

It’s a sad form of defeat, for which I always blame my own inability to plan and persevere, and I try to avoid it every year. This is why it was especially great to have a good old fashioned hard ticket to a public screening of Over Your Dead Body, the new Takashi Miike film. I started my day with an industry screening of Wet Bum (which I quite liked – keep on making those mostly cliché-free films about teenage girls, Canadian women! See also: Picture Day). If I didn’t have that hard ticket to the Miike film, I might have just gone back to the hotel and fallen asleep for four or five hours. In fact, I almost certainly would have. The sleep might have done me some good, but seeing a really beautiful Japanese film did me better.

The film is about the relationships of a troupe of actors rehearsing a play, but their rehearsals (in full costume and on elaborate and gorgeous sets like the one pictured above) are also shown – and, of course, the story of the play (a period piece about a heartless samurai who betrays his wife) echoes what’s happening in the actors’ lives, at least somewhat. The production design, especially of the theatrical sets, but also the “real world” was so beautiful, I’m not sure the film was able to live up to its own visual promise. It was good. But it looked brilliant.

Colin with the Editor crew

Colin with the Editor crew

The evening was all about The Editor, the new giallo comedy/loving-parody/homage by Astron-6 members Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks (actor Conor Sweeney also came in for the fest), all of whom I really enjoyed meeting. We had dinner, drinks, and went to the movie in high spirits. Everyone was lovely, and I especially enjoyed talking with Brooks, who is smart, gracious, and modest in the way really good artists usually are. Plus, he’s a Crime Wave fan, so obviously a top notch dude. Fact you may or may not know about Brooks: he’s a really good painter. Dude should definitely be selling prints of his work to the legions of Astron-6 fans out there. If the reception their film got is any indication, he’d do well for himself.

"Ever heard of an Adam Brooks?" by Adam Brooks

“Ever heard of an Adam Brooks?” by Adam Brooks

And for the record, I loved The Editor. I haven’t seen nearly as many Giallo films as these guys have, but I’ve seen enough to know that every joke lands perfectly, every zoom and dubbed line is just right, and every wild and barely-sensible plot twist is exactly as it should be. The film is really well done. Team Kennedy/Brooks is the real deal.


Wednesday September 10, 2014

Things have, by Wednesday, started slowing down. Many of the industry types who clogged up every inch of space between  Queen, John, King and Peter streets have left. The theatres are still full, at public screenings especially, but it feels less hustle-and-bustle-y.

For me Wednesday was the kind of easy, not-too-hectic festival day that I enjoy, but also makes me feel a bit sad – like, oh, it’ll be over soon. I know in this case the felling was a bit of a lie, because everything (my own energy included) would pick up for the final weekend.

the inch-thick peameal at Avenue Open Kitchen

the inch-thick peameal at Avenue Open Kitchen

I started the day by going for breakfast at Avenue Open Kitchen with Colin. It’s on a small side street off Spadina, between Richmond and Adelaide. It’s the only remaining old school diner downtown, and their peameal bacon is brilliant. Tip for out of towners: if you’re looking for an authentic greasy spoon experience or want the best possible version of “Canadian bacon”, this is the place.

I watched Waste Land, a dutch thriller that I thought would be more of a straight ahead police procedural, but turned out to be a “descent into madness” story instead. I’m not sure whether that’s criticism or praise, but I liked the film, and pensively-hot Jérémie Renier’s performance as the troubled cop, especially.

Waste Land

Waste Land

In the afternoon, I got to do something that has never happened before, in the history of my relationship with Colin. I got to go to a public screening of a TIFF film that he did not program, with him. And we got to sit together, munching on popcorn, and watching the movie, like a regular couple of audience members. It was so nice! We saw Roy Andersson’s Venice Golden Lion award winning A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Contemplating Existence. I really liked it, though I have to admit I briefly dozed off at a certain point. No reflection on the quality of the film, only on the quantity of sleep I’ve been getting.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Contemplating Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch et cetera

In the evening, we briefly attended a party put on by the US distribution company A24, where I got to meet the directors of The Editor for the first time (what sweethearts!) and drink champagne out of a golden goblet. I was pretty tired, but that champagne helped, kinda. Then, off for dinner at Ematei, our favourite Japanese joint, with our friend Roxanne, who Colin had earlier in the day described as being someone who “energizes him and cheers him up”. It’s true! Some people just have a really great vibe about them.

cool my brow, Möet

cool my brow, Möet

After dinner, in the faint drizzle of the encroaching autumn, I couldn’t bear the thought of more movies, so I scurried back to the hotel, and actually went to bed early. It’s too bad I had to miss Cub, which apparently went over like gangbusters and involved a creepy gimmick, wherein the terrifying feral child from the film turned up at the Ryerson to freak out viewers during the film.

eeeee!

eeeee!


Tuesday September 9, 2014

This was a well planned day. I saw three movies quite early on in the day, which is really the way to do it. It left me with time to eat dinner and get down to the SXSW party early, which was my biggest goal of the day. Start partying early so that I could, in theory, also quit early. Of course, I did not quit early. But hey, you win some, you … drink a lot of gin and tonics.

that kid from Ender's Game is now a gawky teen in X + Y

that kid from Ender’s Game is now a gawky teen in X + Y

First up was the charming story of a somewhat autistic math whiz, X + Y. The awkward teen dreams of competing in the math olympiad, but when his chance comes, he struggles more than he realized he would, with the fact of no longer being the only “weird one”, nor for that matter the only very, very smart one. There’s a touching side-story about his single mom and his math tutor, and on the whole this was one of the few uplifting films I saw at TIFF.

private school student Jean Corbo gets radicalized

private school student Jean Corbo gets radicalized

Next, the fairly heart-wrenching story of the early days of the FLQ, Corbo, a story about a young man in mid-60s Quebec who was so inspired by the liberation movement that he ended up getting involved in some bombings. These events would, a few years later, culminate in the October Crisis, but Corbo is just the tragic and powerful story of one young man and the fierceness with which youth embrace the causes they care about.

Third, I saw the Korean film Cart, which was a simple but affecting story of temporary contract workers in Seul fighting against unfair dismissals, and trying to unionize. The hardships the (mostly female) workers endured were difficult to watch, all the more so because the film was inspired by true events, and is a common sort of tale in South Korea, where 60% of the workforce are “temporary” workers and earn 50% of what their permanent counterparts can make.

In the evening, a lovely dinner with Fabrice du Welz, the director of one of Colin’s Vanguard picks, Alleluia. I cannot recommend this film enough. It’s probably one of the best films I’ve seen all year. This man deserves to be a much bigger name in international cinema, and hopefully after this spotlight in Cannes and TIFF, he will be. Alleluia is playing again on Saturday night. Go see it!

Alleluia

Alleluia

After dinner, I walked down to the SXSW party, which is the one social event at TIFF where I’m guaranteed to see the largest number of my American (and other international) friends. I prioritize it because it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with folks I haven’t seen much of otherwise. Plus, it’s fun as hell. I managed to hang out with many of my beloveds, get some good movie recommendations, get a Twitter friend into the party on an unexpected plus one, and dance & sing along to several karaoke classics without ever getting up on stage myself. Oh, and drink like a dozen gin & tonics. Basically, a perfect night?

Maria gives Annie Lennox a run for her money

Maria gives Annie Lennox a run for her money