TIFF’12 is officially on. How do I know? Well, the most obvious way to know is the line-ups. If you’re in Toronto at the beginning of September and find yourself constantly stuck in long queues, you’re probably at TIFF.
My first “screening” of TIFF’12 wasn’t until 6pm, but I still headed down early to do a couple ticket exchanges at the festival box office. That was a good idea. I got down there around 11am, had the tickets exchanged relatively quickly, and then got to hang out with Andrew Robinson of Gman Reviews, who’s in town for the fest all the way from Trinidad. What better way to kill time before Jason Reitman’s Live Read of American Beauty and The End of Time than to meet friends who I’ve only have spoken with on Skype?
Andrew and I went over to Smoke’s, where I introduced him to poutine, then I took him on a long walk through Toronto to show him where most of the theatre venues for the festival are located. Eventually, Andrew went to go rest and I met up with yet another Andrew from out-of-town. Andrew Johnson, of Film Geek Radio, is in town from North Carolina, a place to which I’d love to take a road trip. We sat at a Starbucks, talked about what we’d be seeing at TIFF this year. Eventually, we started off walking in the direction of the Ryerson, where my first TIFF’12 event would be taking place.
When I finally got to the American Beauty line around two hours before the show, the line was already quite long. Luckily I spotted Matt Brown, of Mamo, near the front. Over the course of the two hours we were joined by Matt Price, also of Mamo, as well as various other Toronto bloggers and friends. The line was quite something to sit in considering the sun was baking us and leaving nowhere to hide. There was also a massive line of people standing to pick up tickets for the show at the theatre box office. I’m talking 400 people in a line with only two people printing off tickets. Suffice it to say, the line barely moved and the show was quite delayed because of it.
Jason Reitman’s Live Read of American Beauty
Finally we were seated for Jason Reitman’s Live Read of American Beauty, and 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, Reitman showed up on stage to get things going. The cast reading the script included Mae Whitman, Adam Driver, Sarah Gadon, Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll, and in the lead roles originally played by Annette Benning and Kevin Spacey, we had Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston.
In the years since American Beauty won the Oscar for Best Picture, the film has seen a pretty big backlash. Many now saying it didn’t deserve the acclaim it got, and many others saying it’s a downright bad film. Well, I beg to differ. While the film isn’t nearly my favourite film of 1999, it’s still a well-made, sharply written satirical drama. The script crackles and Sam Mendes directed the hell out of it.
Seeing the script performed live on stage as essentially a first table read was interesting. There were some flubs, and a few places where the actors were clearly figuring out how to get into character, but it was still pretty amazing. It was thanks in no small part to Hendricks and Cranston. Hendricks, who is just as stunning in person as she is on Mad Men, took her character in a wildly different direction from Benning’s portrayal in the film, and she was fantastic. Cranston, though… Man, the guy is brilliant. He just nailed everything. It’s like he was born to play that part. He seemed to relish every line reading, bringing his all, and in many cases outright shocking the other cast members. To be only a few feet from him as he delivered such a performance, well, I’m not forgetting that any time soon.
The show ended, the actors left, and Matt Price and I got out of the Ryerson as swiftly as possibly to catch a subway to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to see the new Peter Mettler documentary.
The End of Time
I’ve never seen a Peter Mettler doc before, but if The End of Time is any indication, I should seek out his previous works. The film is best described as a rumination on time, change, birth, decay, and the human perception of time moving forward. There is narration, there are talking heads, there are voice-overs from interviewees, but this isn’t a regular informational documentary. Much of the film is instead comprised of philosophical question and thinking matched to poetic shots of landscape, structures and people around the world. I enjoyed it.
The End of Timebegins with some spectacular 16mm footage of Joseph Kittinger, a US Air Force pilot, as he rises to 100,000 ft in a balloon and then jumps out and falls back down to earth. We then go on a journey to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, then to an island in Hawaii where a slowly erupting volcano has taken out most of the landscape, then to Detroit, then to India, then to Canada, and then ending off with a pretty avant-garde sequence. I will say the film started to lose me a bit after it left Detroit. Up to that point the beautiful and thought imagery (for example, slowly flowing lava, which I could have watched for hours) was absolutely mesmerizing. But after that, Mettler seemed to lose the plot a bit. He got more overtly philosophical and spiritual, but couldn’t quite connect the images anymore. That said, there were plenty of great nuggets, including an interviewee discussing the notion that everything that now exists came from something that was dead; that we “live in a cemetery.”
Mettler stayed for a pretty fun Q&A, and then it was off to the subway (and then a bus, stupid TTC) to get home and catch some sleep before a long Day 2 at TIFF’12.