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Donovan's Toronto Film Fest 2000 Report

Submitted by ryandonovan at 2000-11-10 02:38:19 EST
Rating: 0.67 on 3 ratings (3 reviews) (Review this item) (V)


Give Canada a little credit. Is it an inferior country? Yes. Do its citizens chatter with the laughable McKenzie speech impediment? Yes. Does it actually have a moose on its currency? Yes. But in its defense, it puts on the most audience-friendly film festival in the world.

Oh sure, there are festivals with more prestige and glitz (everyone knows Sundance, Cannes, and Venice), but the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept 7 - 16, 2000) is the only one that is held for the audience. Toronto still has celebrities, big-deal movies, and plenty of spotlight, but it’s the only important film festival where you don’t have to blow an usher to get in (um, I mean, so I’ve heard). For the average filmgoer, it’s perfect. Toronto is a big city, so there are plenty of reasonable places to stay and eat. The fest offers more films (over 300 films from dozens of countries this year) than any other festival in the world. Since it takes place in September, many of the hopeful Oscar contenders introduce their films there (remember American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, Boys Don’t Cry, or The Hurricane from 1999?). And if you like gawking at stars, many of the actors and almost all the directors appear at the screenings and hold Q&A sessions after their films (my celeb sightings this year included Kevin Spacey, Robert Duvall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Mathis, Tom Everett Scott, Laura Linney, Joe Pantoliano, Clive Owen, David Kelly, and Kevin Dillon).

During this year’s trip to the Toronto Film Festival (my second year attending), I saw 12 films over the course of 5 days, including 5 films in one day – my idea of paradise. I saw some fantastic movies, some okay movies, and some movies that just bit ass. But overall, it was an outstanding experience. In the sections that follow, I’ll provide quick ‘n’ dirty reviews of each film I saw, a list of the movies that I believe will be distributed to national audiences, lists of the best Toronto performances and top new talent, and a recap of the official prize winners.


MEMENTO – Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Guy Pierce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Ann Moss; Directed By: Christopher Nolan; Written By: Christopher Nolan
Not only was this the best movie I saw at the festival, it was probably the best movie I’ve seen all year. It’s a hard sell on paper, but trust me, it was awesome. Guy Pierce is a fellow who is trying to avenge his wife’s murder, but he has lost his short-term memory in an accident, so he can’t remember new memories for more than 15 minutes (just go with it, okay?). To put the audience in his shoes, the movie is shown in reverse order, with the last scene first and the first scene last (very much like that Seinfeld episode a couple years ago – but in this case, the method of storytelling has a purpose). I know, sounds gimmicky, but go see it when it comes out in March 2001. If it doesn’t get awards for screenwriting, I’ll be shocked. The only detraction is how Pierce is trying desperately to be Val Kilmer.

MAELSTROM – Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0
Starring: Marie-Josee Croze, Jean-Nicholas Verreault; Directed By: Denis Villeneuve; Written By: Denis Villeneuve
Don’t get this film confused with the gay porno “Male Storm” – totally different movie. This French-Canadian flick was one of the best films I saw in Toronto, but the American public will likely never see it because it’s in French. Cool story, solid acting, and plenty of froggish weirdness. In a nutshell, a woman accidentally kills an older man in a hit-and-run, but ends up falling in love with his son, who is ignorant of the killer’s identity. The premise is similar to that of the new BenGwyn stinker Bounce… except for the fact that Maelstrom is narrated by a dying fish.

THE TRUTH ABOUT TULLY – Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson; Directed By: Hilary Birmingham; Written By: Matt Drake, Hilary Birmingham
Critics will surely call this film ‘This year’s Cider House Rules’. Same type of deal – potential to be extremely sappy and preachy, but it turns out to be a pretty great – and dare I say, heart-warming – movie. The only thing I didn’t like about this story of a young man’s coming of age on a Nebraska farm, was the actor that played the main character, Anson Mount. He’s an irritating pretty-boy. And what kind of name is ‘Anson Mount’? It sounds like an event in the Sexual Olympics: “Our next competitor in the Anson Mount is Bethany from the USA. She’s been practicing mounting Anson since she was 13. She’s got a good running start… She’s up… Oh my, what a fine mounting of Anson! She’s executed a hands-free Anson mount – in the pooper no less! That will get extra points from the judges. But she’ll be feeling sore tomorrow, that’s for certain.”

GREENFINGERS – Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Clive Owen, David Kelly, Helen Mirren; Directed By: Joel Hershman; Written By: Joel Hershman
Another top-notch film, but again, you’re going to have to take my word for it. Horribly titled, this film follows a band of inmates in a low-security prison as they take up gardening and compete for England’s top floral prize. And there’s not a bit of homosexuality in the entire thing. I’m telling you, it’s good. Very funny, and an extremely enjoyable story. It’s something of a Full Monty / Shawshank Redemption hybrid, though I’d hate to label it as such. Great work by star-in-the-making Clive Owen, previously showcased in this fall’s rarely-seen Croupier. Many feel (myself not included) that he should be the next James Bond. Not so fast… but I will say he is going to be a familiar face in the no-so-distant future. The film was bolstered by an outstanding soundtrack featuring U2, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen.

ATTRACTION – Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0
Starring: Samantha Mathis, Gretchen Mol, Tom Everett Scott; Directed By: Russell DeGrazier; Written By: Russell DeGrazier
This story about four twentysomethings getting into and out of relationships could have been a tired movie with a plot that’s been thawed out and reheated hundreds of times. Yet writer/director Russell DeGrazier creates characters that are appropriately complex and irrational, and tells the story as a dark comedy / thriller that comes out original and keeps you guessing. Once he throws in a couple of plot twists and some respectable Samantha Mathis nudity, you’ve got yourself a pretty good movie. Going into it, I had my doubts when I saw Tom Everett Scott headlining (I’d die a happy man if I never saw him act again), but not even he could cause me to dislike the film. Relative unknown Matthew Settle spins a performance that will get him noticed, and Gretchen Mol turns up long enough to answer the question “What the hell happened to your career?”. If you’re a fan of stalking – and really, who isn’t? – this is the movie for you.

YOU CAN COUNT ON ME – Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Laura Linney, Matthew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo; Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan; Written By: Kenneth Lonergan
This big Sundance winner was a solid, but not superb, movie about a single mom (Laura Linney) dealing with the everyday tumults of life, including her good-hearted son, her mundane job, her relationship with her brother, and her sex life. In the role of her boss, Matthew Broderick falls short in an Election-esque role. He is outshone by new face Mark Ruffalo, playing the deadbeat, direction-less, immature stoner brother. Linney’s son is played by yet another stick-needles-in-your-eyes-cute Culkin, Rory. Does the world really need another ridiculously-named Culkin? But you have to admit, the parents aren’t idiots. Right now, Papa Culkin is probably saying, “Come on, Mama, spread! We have to crank out one of these muppets every nine months! If we hurry, we can get you knocked up with Spoogie Culkin in time for ‘Lord of the Rings’! Cha-ching!”

A RUMOR OF ANGELS – Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Ray Liotta, Trevor Morgan; Directed By: Peter O’Fallon; Written By: Peter O’Fallon, James Eric, Jamie Horton
Most people will hate this movie about kooky old lady Vanessa Redgrave helping a young boy (Trevor Morgan) deal with his mother’s death by trying to communicate with angels. It is supposed to be touching, dreamy, and sappy. As one of my movie-going companions said, “It’s very ‘Lifetime’.” Shockingly different from Peter O’Fallon’s previous directorial foray, The Suicide Kings. Most of the acting was solid; in fact, don’t be surprised to see Redgrave’s name when Golden Globe nominations are announced (depending on the film’s release date). The kid, Trevor Morgan (seen as Tommy, the bully in The Sixth Sense), was hit and miss. All I could think of whenever he was onscreen was “Tommy Tammisimo sucked big-time.” Believe it or not, I kind of liked the movie. Then again, I also like sipping herbal tea and knitting sock monkeys, so my opinion might be moot.

A SHOT AT GLORY – Rating: 1.5 out of 5.0
Starring: Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton, Ally McCoist; Directed By: Michael Corrente; Written By: Michael Corrente
Poor acting, overly-dramatic athleticism, and a laughable storyline mar this tale of Robert Duvall as the coach of a small-town Scottish soccer team trying to defeat the country’s superpowers. Michael Keaton turned in another – surprise, surprise – horrendous dramatic performance as the team’s owner. He would be well served to listen to his agent (whom he’s been presumably ignoring for the past decade) and get back into comedy. In fact, the best acting was done by real-life baller and first-time actor Ally McCoist. Unfortunately, for most of the movie, I thought McCoist was former teen heart-throb MacKenzie Astin from The Facts of Life. The other bright spot was Cole Hauser (Good Will Hunting) as the team’s American goalie. I had the privilege of sitting next to a Scottish soccer enthusiast, who had this to say about Robert Duvall’s flimsy accent: “Maybe that yankee crank should try it after eating a kilo of my shite! And it’s ‘football’, not ‘soccer’, so fook off and die, you Ameri-cunt!” I didn’t get much out of the movie, but it certainly confirmed the fact that I never want to live in Scotland.

INTERSTATE 84 – Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Kevin Dillon, John Littlefield; Directed By: Ross Partridge; Written By: Ross Partridge
Interstate 84 is an unconventional mystery that unfolds into a humanistic tale about the discovery of life, faith, and the ways in which our personal tragedies touch the lives of everyone around us. At least, that’s what the festival program says. I personally have no idea what it was about, because it was so boring that I stopped paying attention. It must have something going for it, because Kevin Spacey ponied up as the Executive Producer. I do know this: It starred the lesser of the Dillon brothers, Kevin. I wonder how many times a week his unlucky agent has to say, “No, no, not Matt. KEVIN.” And I learned something from the experience: If you are going to make fun of Kevin Spacey, do it when he’s not standing right behind you.

THE GIRL – Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Agathe de la Boulaye, Claire Keim; Directed By: Sande Zeig; Written By: Monique Wittig, Sande Zeig
I’m as big a fan of soft-core lesbianism as the next guy. In fact, I’d be willing to say that I love it. But, as much as it hurts me to say it, there’s a limit on how much I can watch at one time. Don’t get me wrong; for about a half hour, I’m all about brillo on brillo. But after that, with the same two girls, it’s a little… well, boring. Throw in French accents, and forget it. And that’s all The Girl was. Just like Communism, the idea was great on paper, but didn’t quite pan out in practice.

ENDGAME – Rating: 0.5 out of 5.0
Starring: Michael Gambon, David Thewlis; Directed By: Connor McPherson; Written By: Samuel Beckett
This is one of the 9 films in the series “Beckett on Film” that showed in Toronto. Producers Michael Colgan and Alan Moloney commissioned all of Samuel Beckett’s plays from the Beckett estate and brought them to celluloid. They rounded up some top directors (including Neil Jordan, Atom Egoyan, David Mamet, Sir Richard Eyre, and Patricia Rozema) and actors (including Julianne Moore, John Hurt, David Kelly, and Sir John Gielgud, in his final performance). The series is a cool idea, but unfortunately, I’m not the biggest Beckett fan. There is plenty of substance in Endgame, but Beckett is difficult (even boring) to watch as a film or a play. It’s much more engaging to read and discuss… Aw, fuck it, it put me to sleep.

DUETS – Rating: 0.0 out of 5.0
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, Andre Braugher; Directed By: Bruce Paltrow; Written By: John Byrum
As a father, it must have been pretty humiliating for Bruce Paltrow to ask his daughter Gwyneth for a handout. “Gwynie, honey, I know people call me an ‘acclaimed director’ even though the only thing I’ve ever helmed was an episode of St. Elsewhere, but I’m directing a terrible movie about karaoke singing with Huey Lewis, and I thought maybe someone would come to see it if you were in it. Please, don’t hang up. It would be a great chance for us to work together… Oh hell, that’s not true; I need the money.” This movie was worse than you would have guessed. I guessed it would be pretty horrible, and I overestimated it. In my defense, I watched it as a concession – the females we were with wouldn’t see Memento unless we saw a girly movie, too. This film accomplished the impossible: It dulled the shine of wispy, willowy Gwyneth Paltrow, who is luminous in nearly every role she plays. Even more saddening, it might have killed the budding film career of Huey Lewis. And what was Andre Braugher thinking? One of today’s top actors, he has appeared in some pathetic movies of late (Did you see It’s The Rage? Neither did America.). And then there’s Scott Speedman (of Felicity infamy), one of the random karaoke aficionados. I’d like to disfigure his face with a rake, hoe, trowel, or whatever gardening tool happens to be handy. Not even Maria Bello’s brief nudity could elicit anything but a ZERO rating from me.

With hundreds of films in Toronto, how do you know which ones will be big hits, and which ones will never make it past the director’s own VCR? Some movies, like Almost Famous and Duets, arrive in Toronto with a distributor in tow; they are just looking to build steam before they hit theaters nationwide. Others, like The Weight of Water, get bought by a large distributor at the festival, and have good chances of being seen. Films that make a splash or win awards (see Award Winners section below) at Toronto usually get some kind of art house audience. Finally, films like The Girl, which are either foreign or horrible or both, get seen by the director’s parents. It’s impossible to tell which films will hit your multiplex for sure, but here’s a list of my safe bets for Toronto movies you’ll hear more about over the next year…

Almost Famous – Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson
Attraction – Tom Everett Scott, Gretchen Mol
Beautiful – Minnie Driver, Hallie Kate Eisenberg
Before Night Falls – Johnny Depp, Sean Penn
Best in Show – Christopher Guest, Michael McKeon
Billy Elliot – Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis
The Contender – Joan Allen, Gary Oldman
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh
Dr. T and the Women – Richard Gere, Helen Hunt
Duets – Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis
How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog – Kenneth Branagh, Robin Wright Penn
Memento – Guy Pierce, Carrie-Ann Moss
Men of Honor – Robert DeNiro, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Requiem for a Dream – Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto
Shadow of the Vampire – Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich
State and Main – Sarah Jessica Parker, Alec Baldwin
The Weight of Water – Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley
The Yards – Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix
You Can Count on Me – Laura Linney, Matthew Broderick

Like I said, Toronto is often a showcase for Oscar hopefuls. Last year, almost all the big Academy Award winners played at the festival (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay). Here is a list of this year’s top performances by actors, directors, and writers at Toronto. Hollywood buzz touts them as early Oscar contenders…

Joan Allen – The Contender
Darren Aronofsky (Writer/Director) – Requiem for a Dream
Ellen Burstyn – Requiem for a Dream
Cameron Crowe (Writer/Director) – Almost Famous
Willem Dafoe – Shadow of the Vampire
Ed Harris – Pollock
Ang Lee (Director)– Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Frances McDormand – Almost Famous
Gary Oldman – The Contender
Vanessa Redgrave – A Rumor of Angels
Julian Schnabel (Director)– Before Night Falls

Not only does Toronto showcase award-winning performances, but it also introduces the world to new talent. Here are some of the fresh faces that had the town talking…

Eric Bana - Chopper
Javier Bardem – Before Night Falls
Colin Farrell – Tigerland
Cole Hauser – A Shot at Glory
Anson Mount – The Truth About Tully
Clive Owen – Greenfingers
Mark Ruffalo – You Can Count on Me
Matthew Settle – Attraction

Toronto prides itself on being an international film festival, so it often awards foreign films that you’ll never hear about. But many of the award winners will likely wind up at your local high-brow art theater. I’ll wrap up this overly-long Toronto Film Festival Report with the major film winners and their directors…

Discovery Award:
1st Place (tie): George Washington - David Gordon Green
1st Place (tie): 101 Reykjavik - Justin Kerrigan
2nd Place (tie): The Day I Became a Woman - Marziyeh Meshkini
2nd Place (tie): The Iron Ladies - Yongyooth Thongkonthun

People’s Choice Award:
1st Place: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Ang Lee
2nd Place: The Dish - Rob Sitch
3rd Place: Billy Elliot - Stephen Daldry

World Premiere Award:
Winner: Bangkok Dangerous - Oxide Pang and Danny Pang

Best Canadian Feature Film:
1st Place: waydowntown - Gary Burns
Honorable Mention: Maelstrom - Denis Villeneuve
Honorable Mention: Ginger Snaps - Karen Walton

Review This Item




Submitted by Natsukau at 2004-12-24 16:08:00 EST (#)
Rating: 0

WTF Wookie? How the hell did you dig this out of the archives anyhow? Oh, and the reviews suck. All of these movies blew, and over 3/4 of them were never released.

Submitted by WookieSuave at 2004-12-24 14:44:56 EST (#)
Rating: 1

1 rating in four years.


Submitted by bart at 2000-11-17 16:45:09 EST (#)
Rating: 1

Finally got around to reading it...

Definitely funny at parts, but perhaps a bit too much material at once. In the future, I would like to see an entire story dedicated solely to the "Anson Mount".

Elaborating on why you shouldn't make fun of Kevin Spacey would certainly be amusing.

Also, while I did appreciate some of the bitter overtones, I would have liked more bitterness in regards to the following:
1. The French
2. The Scottish
3. Huey Lewis
4. Lesbians

Thank You

Homer: We chained Hugo up in the attic like an animal and fed him a
bucket of fish heads once a week.

Marge: It saved out marriage!

Treehouse of Horror VII