So that’s it. Another great year at TIFF. I was concerned at the start that it would be disappointing but after 22 movies in 10 days, I have to admit it was another score. I still can’t stand the poor organization or the disrespect shown to the fans but the films are wonderful. So they got me again next year for sure. Best movies I saw were The Lady and Page Eight and I was disappointed by Werner Herzog and some over the top violence. Some of the big stars were in very disappointing films but some of the documentaries and smaller foreign films were excellent – yes – even the French ones. I will do a guide to the festival for any of you who are interested in sampling the festival next year. You don’t need to take a week to get something out of it but even hitting two to five will give you something to remember. More next summer. In the meantime I will update this blog with films I see during the year.
Last TIFF film for this year and the closing gala film. I saw it at noon on Sunday and both the Director David Hare and the leading actor, Bill Nighy showed up to introduce the film and do a Q and A afterwards. Quite a thrill. I am a huge Bill Nighy fan and he did not disappoint. This movie was shot in five weeks for three million dollars. Compare this to Moneyball at $47 million. The comparison? There is no comparison. Page Eight was the second best film I saw this year. Nighy plays an MI5 agent at the end of his career who is confronted with a combined intelligence/political dilemma that will certainly destroy his career if not his life. In a classic John LeCarre style the story unwinds in an intricate and enjoyable ride. This movie was made for the BBC and has already been broadcast in the UK. It deserves a theatrical release here so you can all see it. The cast includes Rachel Weisz, and Michael Gambon who are fantastic in their supporting roles. In fact the entire cast is fantastic led by Nighy who reminds me of a healthy Keith Richards. If you are trying to picture him think of Davey Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean and Slartibartfast in A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He has been in many other films in small and supporting roles but this is a breakout for him. David Hare promises at least one sequel and the rumour is that the BBC wants a trilogy based on this character. My mouth is watering for the next film. The script – also written by David Hare – is witty and tight. I liked some of the wonderful puns that were slipped in here and there and the overall intelligence of the whole film. Highly recommended.
I kept the two big star movies for today so after George it’s off to see Brad in another target for the Academy. This one tells the story of Billy Beane the manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team in the late 90’s. Beane was a fan of sabermetrics, a statistical analysis of baseball teams and players developed by Bob James. The theory is that baseball can be analysed like a complex mathematical problem and a team can and should be built on this analysis more so than on the assessment of individual player skills and talents. Oakland was very successful under his direction despite the nay sayers who objected to his approach. Jonah Hill plays the young Yale economics grad who understands and crunches the numbers. Oakland never won a World Series using this approach but with one of the lowest salary budgets in professional sport, the team played well above their financial weight setting a modern era record for the most consecutive wins (20) in 2002. But the film is not just about baseball and statistics, it is also about Beane and his life. The ending is great and the script smart and funny. This was a very enjoyable two hours and if there is anyone who can challenge Clooney for the smooth actor title it would be Brad Pitt.
This is the major George Clooney movie at TIFF this year. I saw the Ides of March (see below) but this one stars Clooney in a major role. He plays the patriarch of a large Hawaiian family with roots going back to Hawaiian royalty. The family, as a result of its roots owns valuable property but must sell it off within seven years. The income from the sale will set up everyone (all the cousins, aunts and uncles) with a huge windfall profit so they are keen to complete the sale. While he works through this situation his wife suffers a fatal accident and is in hospital in a coma. The plot thickens as he wrestles with both these major issues. Clooney has to play the family man, a role he does not play in real life and about which he clearly has no clue. So while this movie is big budget and will get lots of Oscar attention, I am not sure George deserves to be rewarded for his role. Regardless of my opinion, Clooney is the smoothest actor on the planet and may bluff his way to a Golden Statue. I will not be terribly disappointed if he does win because while this is not a great role he has definitely done some very good work in smaller and bigger films like Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, and Michael Clayton to name three. The supporting cast is very good and the story rich and enjoyable despite his wife’s situation. Definitely worth the price of admission.
So I am back at work sadly and still have some updates to do including George Clooney’s latest, Moneyball and one of the best movies I saw all week – Page Eight with Bill Nighy. So more to come tonight.