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Jim & Andy: the Great Beyond – the story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman with a very special, contractually obligated mention of Tony Clifton – Director, Chris Smith

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This film, also called just Jim and Andy, is a behind the scenes documentary about the making of the film Man on the Moon in which Jim Carey played Andy Kaufman, one of the truly weird comics of all time but also hugely popular. Kaufman tragically died in his 30’s of lung cancer but in a short career made a big mark on comedy of his time. Carey was challenged to take on his character for the movie and did an amazing character acting job. To accomplish it he took on the personality of Kaufman and his comic style and literally lost himself in the process. This documentary of the making of the film is based almost entirely on the video Carey took during the filming. The rest of the film is a long interview with Carey himself years after making the Man on the Moon and reflecting on Kaufman, his own career and the risks and benefits of taking on a personality not your own. The documentary is wonderful and gives great insight into Carey as an actor and a person. The film has been taken on by Netflix so will be available soon for general viewing. We were also lucky to have the director and Jim Carey present for a Q and A. Carey was funny, warm, and very generous with his time. Unlike the bio film about Eric Clapton which had me lose respect for him, this film and the Q and A made me gain great respect for Carey as and actor and a person. I highly recommend the movie and also encourage you to look up Andy Kaufman videos on YouTube.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/jim-and-andy-the-great-beyond/

Battle of the Sexes – Director, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton

Battle of the Sexes

This was my second film about events that occurred when I was much younger. This time the original male chauvinist vs feminist battle that captured imaginations back in 1973. Bobby Riggs was a retired tennis champion who saw a chance to make some money by setting up matches against women and cashing in on the proceeds. Women’s tennis was struggling to get attention and adequate pay days for champions like Billie-Jean King but it was slow to come and male dominance in sports, at least at the gate, was a real road block. Organizers believed that women were not as good as men and therefore could not attract any paying audience. King was out to change it all and set up a competitive women’s tennis association. Riggs played the chauvinist card saying that at 55 he could beat any woman tennis player including the champion King. There was going to be a huge payday at least from King’s perspective plus a chance to humiliate Riggs and put women’s tennis on the map. I won’t tell you the outcome because you can look it up if you don’t know but just to say, women have never looked back. I was again worried that this would not be a good movie but with Steve Carell and Emma Stone as the leads I decided to take a chance and… winner. This movie is superb and much deeper than being just about the match. It delved into the real state of male chauvinism (Riggs was more a clown and opportunist than a chauvinist) exhibited by the US national tennis association and America at large, the rise of feminism as a force in modern society and of course King’s own lesbianism and the prejudice about coming out or being outed at that time. The emotional conflicts around this and Rigg’s own personal battles are explored with drama, humour and great depth. An excellent film and worth seeing. Oh.. all right… King crushes him in straight sets.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/battle-of-the-sexes/

Chappaquiddick – Director, John Curran

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I chose this film largely out of curiosity but also because of the cast that included Ed Helms of Daily Show fame, Jim Gaffigan, and Bruce Dern. The prior two are well known comics and so I wondered how that would all go down. I was very worried, however, that it would not be done well. I was happily surprised to be entertained by an intelligent, complex look at the incident and at Teddy who reacted as many might to a personal crisis. Many are conflicted about all the Kennedy’s from JFK to Bobby to Teddy and especially Joe. They all had flaws but also all did great things. The film does not hesitate to point to the flaws especially around Teddy but also does not condemn him. I have always had questions about the Chappaquiddick incident but been a fan of the work Teddy did throughout his long career as a Senator. So, I left the film unchanged in my opinion but with a deeper understanding of the times and the Kennedy’s. An excellent script drives the movie and some superb acting. There was an excellent Q and A afterwards that included Ed Helms and Gaffigan as well as the star, Jason Clarke. It was funny and wise. Look for lots of Oscar nominations for this one.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/chappaquiddick/

Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars – Director, Lili Fini Zanuck

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I was really looking forward to this movie and seeing Eric Clapton live although without a guitar. Well… I did see Eric but sadly I left the movie early totally bored and a little pissed off. The film is not very much about his music and much more about his messed-up life which I really did not need to know about. It went on and on as he bounced from one failed relationship to another including a really messed up on with the wife of his good buddy George Harrison. Also we delved into his drug and alcohol abuse until I thought it would never end. While he had a surprise in learning that his real mother abandoned him, he was actually raised very lovingly by his grandparents, was reasonably well off and after Cream dissolved, very very rich. So all this “suffering” happened at his mansion in Surrey or his friend’s homes in South Kensington, two of the wealthiest places on earth. He never suffered for lack of money and we heard lots about just hanging around the mansion with his friends and various girl friends doing cocaine and dope and ultimately heroin and then alcohol. The movie really started to drag and I left near the end thinking this guy really had no excuse for all this. Sadly this movie has spoiled Eric for me. I will take a break from listening to his music for a bit and hope it will not last because his latest stuff is very good but this demented wallowing in his so-called sorry life was just too much. If you are a big fan and love his music and his suffering for sure enjoy. However if you would rather not be bothered by that  just put on Layla (don’t worry what inspired it) and don’t let this movie spoil it for you.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/eric-clapton-life-in-12-bars/

The Current War – Director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

*FIRST LOOK* Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison CR: The Weinstein Co.

I chose this film because of the actors primarily. I really like Benedict Cumberbatch whether he is Sherlock or Dr. Strange but I  am also a big fan of Michael Shannon. The subject of the film is the fight between Edison and Westinghouse to build an electric grid to light our cities and run our machines. Edison favoured direct current and Westinghouse favoured alternating current and ultimately won. The film is not about the physics or the engineering but more about the men themselves. I was afraid it might be amazingly boring but it is anything but. Filmed with interesting special effects to recreate the era and with a great script and acting it was very entertaining. Electric grid? I hear you ask. Yawn. Well we just take it all for granted but it was only just over a 100 years ago that these two men managed to envision and create the grid that basically runs everything we have today. How we even lived before then is a wonder if you think about how ubiquitous electricity is today and how incredibly upset we are if the power goes off for even an hour. So it was a really big deal and these guys were its inventors. The director captures all that and more. Definitely worth your time to watch. Oh yeah, Edison invented sound recording and film as well so bear that in mind as you watch the movie, listen to the music and remember that it’s the electrical grid that brought that all to you.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/the-current-war/

Kodachrome – Director, Mark Raso

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I was not as keen about this movie as some. I chose it because of Ed Harris being the lead and because it was about photography and Kodachrome which is one of my favourite Paul Simon songs. It is a story about a professional photographer played by Ed Harris who is dying and has four rolls of film he took many years ago that he wants to develop. Sadly, the last place that will develop the film is closing soon and there will be no one who will be able to develop the film. He asks his son to drive him to the developer before it closes and before he dies. The problem is that the two are estranged and have been for many years. The road trip will bring them to reconciliation of course. This comment is the reason I did not like the film. It was a tear jerker that was totally predictable and so I quickly wanted to fast forward to the end. However there are many things in the favour of the film. First and foremost, the cast. Harris is great as the terminally ill photographer/dad and the supporting cast of the son and full time nurse who accompanies them are also very good. Secondly, the film was shot pretty much entirely in Toronto although it is supposed to be happening in New York, Chicago and Kansas. Third it was shot on 35mm Kodak film just to be true to the story. So… I can’t really hate it too much. Also I was totally happy with the Q and A that featured Ed Harris who is really funny and saved the whole experience for me. He was brilliant dealing with some dumb audience questions like: How do you play a dying man? He responded that he was not really so much younger than the character in the film and he had experience of seeing close family members die recently and well “I’m an actor and like… I act”

Glad I saw it and particularly glad to have heard Ed Harris talk about his acting.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/kodachrome/

The China Hustle – Director, Jed Rothstein

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This movie is a documentary that will likely cause you to consider taking all your invested income and put it under your mattress for safe keeping. You may have thought the 2008 market crash was bad but you just need to see this film to see how easily money can be taken from your mutual funds and pension investments to settle in the back pockets of Chinese capitalists and North American investors who are expert in shorting stock market investments. The film is scary to the max as you learn how ordinary people have been hurt by Chinese entrepreneurs who managed to fraudulently draw major investment into fake or nearly fake Chinese companies. The money lost by investors is in the billions and the scams are still going on. They take advantage of the deregulation of the stock market and the underfunding of the agencies set up to protect investors. This is an important film that deserves more attention but may very well not get it. Nonetheless it was interesting to see and the audience present for the screening were not just lefties like me but clearly many more well to do investors. The Q and A afterwards included the star of the film, an American investment company CEO who has lobbied hard to increase regulation but who freely admitted that he currently shorts these stocks and benefits from the lack of regulation. His opening line in the film is: “All the people in this film are evil…. Including me.”

Great stuff.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/the-china-hustle/