TIFF Reviews 2013: Part I

The Toronto International Film Festival was underway once again in early September, and transit matters on this site went into eclipse for a week or so.  Here is a capsule view of the films I saw during the first half of the fest:

  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Southcliffe
  • Watermark
  • Triptych
  • Le Week-End
  • Philomena
  • Fading Gigolo
  • The Unknown Known
  • The Selfish Giant
  • The Lunchbox
  • The Double
  • The Invisible Woman

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The 501 — Toronto in Transit

At Theatre Passe Muraille from December 4-8, 2012

The Queen car, known since the advent of the “new” streetcars by its route number 501, is almost 25km from Long Branch to Neville.  It runs through many neighbourhoods each with its own history, quirks and stories.  Some of these are very much part of the evolving city, others exist only in the memory of those who lived in Toronto through the gains and losses of decades.

Justin Many Fingers, Bob Nasmith and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard spent half a year collecting stories from their travels on the 501.  Some are humourous events we will all recognize (a teacher shepherding a class of children), some are vignettes from a long-vanished youth (bathing cars to Sunnyside), some are the trying and at times dangerous effects of service riders can’t count on when they need it.

Each of the three actors/creators brings their own style and background.  Many Fingers is a First Nations actor/dancer from Alberta, and physical movement is part of his stories.  St. Bernard’s work in spoken word and hip-hop translate her experiences on the 501 to song.  Nasmith, long associated with Theatre Passe Muraille, is a story-teller.  He provides the thread linking episodes as we travel from Long Branch far in the west to Neville Loop in the now so-trendy Beach.

The three styles don’t completely gel into one work, but that’s the nature of Toronto — many people whose lives reflect different origins and experiences of the city.  There is no attempt at plot here beyond the journey across town as, in cinema terms, we fade in and out on each passing neighbourhood.

This is a Backspace production at TPM, and the set is rudimentary — four TTC seats and a pole — all the better because we are left to conjure each scene as it is told without a lot of stage business to get in the way.  That’s the magic of storytelling — we each bring our own knowledge of Queen Street, chuckle at familiar sights in our mind’s eye, and share in the pain of the inevitable short turn.

I saw the November 29th performance, a preview, and this bodes well for the opening on December 4.

The 501 — Toronto in Transit is part of TPM’s fall 2012 season Theatre Beyond Walls with plays by and about the community around the theatre.  More information is available at the TPM website.

TIFF 2012 Part I

The Toronto Film Festival has been back for another year, and I was distracted from transit affairs enough to be watching movies and writing reviews rather than the usual content on this site.

Reviews appear here in the order I screened films.

Included in this batch are:

  • Festival promos and observations
  • Rust and Bone
  • The Gatekeepers
  • Stories We Tell
  • Frances Ha
  • Anna Karenina
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Capital
  • A Liar’s Autobiography — The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
  • Cloud Atlas

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TIFF 2011 Reviews Part I

September brings the Toronto International Film Festival, a period when some of my readers complain that I am preoccupied with movies, and a few think I may miss some skulduggery in transit politics.

Last year’s reviews (and indeed my spring batch from hotdocs) were incomplete for personal reasons.  I may push short versions out the door at some point, or just leave that to history.  The films that deserved to vanish without a trace have already done so, and those that deserved accolades have, mostly, seen them without help from me.  I will try to do better this year.

Reviewed here:

  • Pina *****
  • Le Havre ***
  • Urbanized **½
  • Keyhole **½
  • The Love We Make ***
  • Land of Oblivion ***
  • Barrymore ****
  • Alois Nebel ***½

This covers days 1 to 3 of the festival.

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hotdocs 2011 part i

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year when a transit blogger burrows into dark theatres to watch documentaries for eleven days.  Our regular programming will resume in due course.

This year’s hotdocs has 199 films and the most dedicated won’t see even half of them.  Me?  I manage two or three a day with the odd foray to other events such as concerts and even the occasional political/transit meeting.  Hard to break old habits.

This post covers days 1-3 of hotdocs and includes reviews of:

  • POM Wonderful Presents:  The Greatest Movie Ever Sold ***
  • A Hard Name ***
  • How to Make a Book with Steidl **½
  • That’s Life ***
  • Our Persian Rug ***
  • Mighty Jerome ***½
  • Battle for Brooklyn ****
  • The National Parks Project *½

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TIFF 2010 Part I

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when Steve disappeared into many theatres for 10 days and the unwary thought they could get away with transit announcements while he’s wasn’t looking.

Reviewed here:

  • Cirkus Columbia
  • Shi (Poetry)
  • The King’s Speech
  • How To Build Your Own Country
  • Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)
  • The Conspirator
  • Beginners
  • Tabloid

In each review, the film title is linked to the corresponding page on the TIFF site which contains credits, stills and, in some cases, trailers.  Where titles are shown in their original language, note that the English version is the one assigned by the production, not necessarily a literal translation.  The reviews appear in the order that I saw the films.

My rankings are:

  • ***** Personal favourite
  • **** Excellent
  • *** Good
  • ** Worth One Viewing
  • * Don’t Bother

Due to circumstances, these articles have sat half-finished for the past few weeks, and work on them will be further interrupted by a busy agenda at a recent TTC meeting.  In any event, I hope to finish them before (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

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