Friday, August 29, 2008

Finding out how the other half lives

Well, it might not be so bad. But I've been so lucky in the past...

For those of you who've been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you know I go to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) every fall -- whether I have time to or not, which I really don't this year, but that's another topic.

Anyway, there's this lottery system. Basically you hand in your selections in an envelope, your envelope goes in a box that's assigned a number. They draw a number out of a hat to determine which box gets opened first and then continue in order.

The last few years I have been VERY lucky. I think last year I was in box 69 and the number called was 64 or something crazy like that. So, my order was one of the first couple of hundred orders processed.

This year my order's in box 68 (yes, I went at the last minute, again) and the number pulled out of the hat was 9. Yes, nine. At least I'm not in box 8. That would suck.

It'll be interesting to see how I do with my picks. I have a bad feeling because I picked a lot of the films that the weekly newspaper NOW listed as "BUZZ" films and must sees. I'd already picked all but one of them before I picked up a copy of NOW... I fear this may be the year where I see a lot of my second choices.


Also, because of the new policy about films at the Elgin I'm bummed I'm not going to get to see the new Coen brothers film, with Clooney and Pitt... But it opens before the festival's over, anyway... Still, it's very exciting to be at the premieres of those films and I'm still angry that the TIFF have basically excluded all the package holders (their best customers) from going to see most of the bigger films.

Their response when I complained? You can always purchase a ticket when they go on sale to the public on Wednesday. Great. I already spent $600 on a ticket, good for 50 films (seeing 50 films is a very strenuous feat... I picked 45), and they expect me to purchase more tickets??? And pay for them??? And line up at about 6:00 am to even have a chance of getting one? I don't think so. Humph. Not even to see Brad and George in person again this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Boy A and Bottle Shock

What does one do when one goes to pick up the programme book for the 2008 TIFF when one knows one will be seeing over 40 films in 10 days starting Sept 4? Well, one goes to the movies, of course. Call it warm ups.

I really wanted to see Boy A, which was a film that was in last year's festival. Wow, what a story.

It's about rehabilitation and second chances and vigilantism and I'd say it's about how easily someone sweet and lonely and abused can be lured into doing something terrible based on peer pressure.

Ultimately, it's a movie that supports the idea that most minors who commit crimes should be given a second chance.

The film opens with a young man being released from some kind of detention. I'm not sure if we'd even know what kind of isolation or detention, if we hadn't read the description of the film going in. But this young man has clearly been isolated from society for a long time and is trying to start fresh and learn how to be an adult and live in the real world. And it's clear he's sweet. The story is interspersed with glimpses of flashbacks to when he was about eleven and those flashbacks build until we ultimately see the horrible crime he was a part of as a child.

At the same time, he does very well in the real world. His main problem is the guilt he feels for not telling his new friends and the girl he's fallen in love with, who he really is, but his case worker keeps telling him not to, knowing if anyone finds out who he is, his life will be in danger.

Ultimately a very sad story... But I'm glad I saw it. The filmmaker, John Crowley, has another film in the festival this year: Is There Anybody There. Another story about a young boy and starring Michael Caine. I have to say, this new film doesn't attract me by it's description (a ten year old boy living in an old-folks home, is obsessed with death and the question of an afterlife) but based on Boy A, I might see if I can fit it onto my schedule.

Then, after an hour and a half break, during which I did some actual editing of my own work... I went to see Bottle Shock.

Not super impressed by this film, but it would make an okay rental. Love the story it's telling, though. It's the fairly true story of how the wine world was completely turned on it's head when a blind tasting of French and California wines took place outside of Paris and both winners (in red and white) were California wines.

This event is credited for opening up all the new world markets for wine. That part is fun and the Napa scenery is beautiful but ultimately the story lacked a strong protagonist for me. Was it about the British wine connoisseur (played by Alan Rickman) or the struggling winemaker (Bill Pullman) or his son (Chris Pine -- whom I'd never seen before, but it looks like he's in the new Star Trek movie)?

I guess, ultimately the protagonist is the California wine industry... Anyway, not a fabulous example of storytelling, but an interesting and pleasant film none-the-less. And Alan Rickman. Really. Do you need to know anything else?

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's all relative

I've been giggling a little these past few weeks (in between the cursing) as I work on coordinating my local chapter's writing contest.

The source of my amusement: the number of compliments I'm getting on my organizational skills.

I do admit that I like figuring out and setting up systems (even if I'm not always great with follow-through) and I got a system mostly figured out for the contest this year. I also admit **Maureen pats herself on the back** that it did go quite smoothly (so far) compared to some prior years... But why this is funny to me is that in my previous career, I had a reputation as a disorganized flake. (Okay, I may be overstating... but that's how I felt.)

Guess it's all relative. Now, I'm the slightly square writer, but before I was the artsy/flaky accountant.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mama Mia -- Cast singers in musicals!!!

I really wanted to like Mama Mia! In fact, I was convinced that I would like it. I don't remember who talked me into seeing the stage version and I went to it in a very skeptical state of mind, both because of some snobbish bias against such blatently commercial theatre (I know, I'm a hypocrite) and by my life-long hatred of Abba music. But I liked the stage version of the musical. I had fun. I thought the way they managed to link the lyrics of the songs together into some kind of a coherent, if simple, story was clever.

Then I saw the previews for the film. Meryl Streep! Colin Firth! That girl from Veronica Mars and Big Love! Beautiful scenery! Mama Mia! I was so sure it was going to be great.

But it wasn't. Not for me. And in trying to figure out why, the only thing I can think of is that if you're doing a musical, you need to cast actors who can sing. Most of the women (save Julie Walters) sang quite well, but the men were sad. Especially poor Pierce who's the romantic lead of the film. It's hard to get emotionally involved in a story partly told by song, if you're distracted by the so-called singing.

Two other films in the fairly recent past were similar "types" in that they were stories that cleverly linked together well-known songs: Moulin Rouge and Across the Universe. These were two of my favorite films of the past 10 years. And I really think the difference was not only was there good storytelling and acting, but also good singing. The music parts were enjoyable and entertaining, not mildly painful and uncomfortable.

And I think that's why the stage version of Mama Mia worked so much better for me, too. They cast singers...

But what the heck do I know? Obviously my taste differs from most, because Mama Mia! has been a box office success, while the fabulous Across the Universe was not. Go figure.

(but I expect that's more to do with star power and major studio distribution, etc.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Seeing Your Home Town on TV

This might not be a big deal for most people, but I live in Toronto and a lot of movies and TV shows are filmed in Toronto. Thing is, usually these same movies and TV shows are set someplace else. So, they avoid shots of the skyline and change the mailboxes from red to blue and put trash in the allies.

Funny story, and I don't think it's an urban legend... During the filming of one particular Toronto-shot, NY-set film, the crew left their downtown alley set and took a break in the wee hours of the morning and came back an hour later to find the lane they'd been filming in had been cleaned up... So they needed to cover it with trash again. LOL.

So, why this post? CBS is showing a CTV show right now called Flashpoint and it's not only filmed in Toronto, it's set in Toronto, so there are lots of nice shots of the city. Fun. And the mailboxes are the right colour and the police cars are real Toronto police cars etc.

Supposedly this show is getting good ratings both north and south of the border... but frankly, it doesn't have much competition right now. Hope it lasts. Cop shows aren't usually my thing, but I like how this one works through all the psychology of the situations and how most of the situations aren't so black and white. Fun to see all the Canadian actors, too. If you watch BSG you'll recognize a lot of actors... In fact, Col Tigh's (Michael Hogan) real life son (Gabriel Hogan) was in the first episode and I thought he was going to be a series regular, but haven't seen him since the first one... It's a nearly all Canadian cast, though. The only series regular who isn't Canadian is the girl, I think... (Oh, I also like that they have a girl SWAT team member... And that they aren't called SWAT, because that's not what it's called up here... They're called SRU (Strategic Response Unit). I like that they don't try to just make it American.)

Plus, I really like seeing the shots of the T dot.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Molly in the National Post

So, I could be blogging about the RWA National conference, and likely will, but how did I miss this??? Molly was interviewed for the National Post newspaper talking about "the sexiest place in Canada". How fun is that?

Go, Molly, go!

Her latest book, Worth Fighting For, hits the shelves this month.

Great cover, isn't it? What girl doesn't want to be in his arms (and wearing that red dress.)
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