Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

LOVED this movie.

Also glad to have had a good movie going experience at Roy Thompson Hall, again, after not going to a gala for the past seven years.

The experience was good because of a smart gamble I took in line. I had a balcony ticket. And Roy Thompson Hall is a symphony hall. Built for acoustics, not for viewing movies, and I already knew that watching a movie from the top balcony, with it's pale grey walls bouncing all the light so that you can see everyone in the theatre, as well or better than you could see the movie, was distracting at best. But while standing in the ticket holders line, about an hour before the movie was to start, a TIFF volunteer came by with a stack of tickets for the main floor level and offered them to us in exchange for our tickets. Most people weren't taking them. And after going in, I can kind of see why. 99.9% of the main floor seating is taken up by reserved seats for the various sponsors of the gala. But if you're only looking for a single ticket (as I was) and are willing to sit either on the edges or up front, it turned out to be a really good deal. I landed a seat in the second row, on an aisle. Yes, the movie was close, but only felt too close a couple of times, and I was right down front for when they introduced the cast and director at the start.

Unfortunately, my photo op dreams were dashed when a gaggle of photographers rushed in about five minutes before the introductions to block what would've been an amazing view. C'est la vie. Here's a lovely photo of one of the jerkiest photographer's backs. Jerky, because he stood back about 4 feet from the stage, to block our view even more effectively... I could almost touch him he was so close. Should've kicked him in hindsight. (But then I likely would've been kicked out and missed the movie.)

Anyway, I will post the photos I did manage to take.

And say something about the film... because it is about the film and not about photos of Keanu Reeves and Robin Wright. ;-) Really.

Loved it. The screenplay is based on a book by Rebecca Miller, who also wrote and directed the movie, and is also married to Daniel Day Lewis, so it's a little hard not to hate her, but her movie was so good, I can't. (She's beautiful, too... The next photo is of her.)

The story is about a middle-aged woman (I just had trouble typing that... because I think it's about a woman about my age) who's married to a much older man, and while the core of the story is anchored in the present, it makes heavy use of flashbacks showing Pippa growing up.

All the performances were outstanding. Even Blake Lively, one of the chicks from Gossip Girl, was good playing Pippa as a young adult. A stand out was Maria Bello as Pippa's mother. Wow. She's always good, but boy was she amazing in this.

Even all the small roles are played by great actors. Julianne Moore has a tiny, fun cameo. Winona Ryder was hilarious. A few of my laugh out loud moments came from her kind of pathetic character. And Keanu Reeves continues to impress me, now he's matured a bit. I thought he was terrific in that Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson movie, the name of which escapes me right now, and in some smaller films like Thumbsucker. I like that he's not afraid to play into the stereotypes about him as a person, and plays characters who suit him -- quiet, sensitive men -- instead of trying to be the alpha guy. (Like he did in a few ridiculous movies back in the 1990's. I mean really, even as Neo, Reeves was not an alpha.)

And what can I say about Robin Wright (sometimes Penn). Acting goddess. She was so believable in this movie, and I have to say one of the main reasons I love her these days is because she has wrinkles. It's been so long since we've seen the forehead or eyes of female actors (even some male actors) MOVE when they express emotion. I really hope this botox trend dies soon. But that's a blog for another day.

I know I haven't said much about the actual film, except to say I loved it, but I don't want to say too much. It is a "character study" kind of film... almost a coming of age film, even though it's set during a mid-life crisis of sorts, but it made me laugh out loud several times and it made me cry more than once (the mother-daughter stuff is very good). I'm not sure Pippa is someone I'd be friends with in real life, but boy did I feel like I understood her and how she got to be the way she was by the end. I predict award nominations for Robin Wright and possibly the screenwriter/director, Rebecca Miller, too.


Well, yesterday was my first "wow" day of the festival and I have a sneaking suspicion it might be my one wow day this year, but who knows.

First Balibo. This is a film I bought a ticket for at the last minute, after getting an alert from the TIFF late Monday night that there still were tickets available. And I'm so glad my will power was weak at that moment.

It's an Australian film, set in 1975, about events I admit I knew nothing about before this. I suppose I'd vaguely heard of East Timor, but barely, and really don't know much about Indonesia, either.

To sum up the (true) story very quickly... East Timor was a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It declared it's independence and very soon after, neighbouring Indonesia invaded committing many atrocities, and the world not only sat by and did nothing, but purportedly helped Indonesia, since some felt the new government in Timor had communist leanings.

But the story focuses on Australian journalists. Five who went into east Timor to a small village named Balibo, near the Indonesian border, a few weeks before the main invasion, and then one older journalist (played by Anthony Lapaglia) who went 3 weeks later to try to find them, or find out what happened to them.

I found the story moving and engrossing and like other films of it's kind, like The Killing Fields, Shake Hands with the Devil and Hotel Rwanda, it exposes events where history can look back at decisions made by the UN, in particular the powerful countries of the world, and we have only to hang our collective heads in shame.

The exciting thing about this film coming out now, is that it's now East Timor's tenth anniversary of breaking free of Indonesian rule, and also largely because of the film, Australia is now persuing war crimes charges on those responsible.

In this photo of the principle cast members, the actor, next to Lapaglia is Oscar Isaac, who played Jose Ramos-Horta, who represented East Timor, in exile, for 24 years in the UN and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 and is now President of the country.

The film follows two timelines, interweaving them. Basically the route of the missing five journalists, and the route of Lapaglia's character, Roger East, and Jose Ramos-Horta following behind three weeks later. It all builds to a pretty horrific and moving conclusion.

This film got so much buzz during this year's festival, I kind of expect it will get some kind of distribution. I hope so.

If it comes to your city, go see it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TIFF -- Whip It!

First, who knew there was another Wilson brother? Not me.

Monday morning, (I know, Monday morning!) I saw WHIP IT, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut about Roller Derby.

I’m a little on the fence about this film, but mostly on the positive side -- just not on the jumping up and down raving about it side. Some of the performances were amazing. Marcia Gay Harden as the mom, Kristen Wiig, as usual stealing scenes with her dry delivery, andJuliette Lewis in a great performance in a made-for-her role. I mean, really, why hasn’t Juliette Lewis played a roller derby bully before now?

But back to my opening question... Through the whole film, I kept wondering, who does their coach remind me of? It wasn’t his appearance, it was his voice, his accent, his phrasing, his entire manner of speaking. And it finally hit me: he was doing a Luke Wilson impression. Or that’s what I thought, until we got to the credits and I saw the actor was named Andrew Wilson.

A quick peruse of shows he’s been in quite a few films, but I don’t think I’ve noticed him before. Also turns out that it's actually Owen Wilson who does a pretty great Andrew Wilson impression, since according to their bios on, Andrew is the oldest.

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned the lead yet, Ellen Page. She was good, as always, but I thought the biggest stretch of the imagination for the audience was to believe tiny little Ellen Page as a roller derby player. But that’s why I’m glad I stayed for the Q&A.

I wasn’t at the first screening of this movie, and so neither Drew, nor any of the actors were at the screening I was at... :-( but who was there was the screenwriter. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I mean, we all know the writer’s the star, right? Here's a photo of the writer, Shauna Cross, during her Q&A.

Cross said a couple of interesting things about casting Ellen Page. First, that she pretty much wrote the part with Ellen in mind, after seeing her in Hard Candy. (A very disturbing little film, if you've never seen it.) Second, that she was attached to this project before Juno even happened (crushing my assumptions) and third, that there are lots of girls that tiny in roller derby. Who knew? The tiny girls are prized for being fast, getting through small holes in the pack, and bouncing back up when they fall. Hmmm... Shows how much I didn't know about roller derby. I mean, who even knew that roller derby had experienced a revival? I thought it had died a well-deserved death in the 70’s.

But while I’m still not sure I really developed an appreciation for this campy, showy sport, that has more in common with the WWE than speed skating, I do now understand the objective and how you score. :-)

And was very impressed that almost all of the skating and stunts were done by the actors, especially Ellen Page, who the screenwriter says could easily hold her own in a real roller derby league. There was actually a live demo of the sport in downtown Toronto Friday night featuring the cast and some local roller derby players... but I couldn't go.

So, I guess I haven’t really reviewed this film… It’s a tad predictable (but with a few choices that are less than cliché). I certainly could've done without a few things, like the food fight, but overall the performances and writing make it an enjoyable film to watch.

It opens in a couple of weeks. Here's the trailer if you haven't already seen it.

Monday, September 14, 2009


And so it begins. I saw the first films of my much abbreviated festival this year.

The first one was really interesting, if not amazing, and I have no idea whether or not it will ever see the inside of theaters in North America. It was a Spanish film called. V.O.S., which in Spanish basically stands for Original Version – Subtitled. And I’m still puzzling over that title, slightly, especially after the director explained that while the film was bilingual, the actors speaking in both in Basque and Catalan, it was actually dubbed for its theatrical release in Spain. (Whereas, we saw it with the original actor's voices, but subtitled.) I assume it had something to do with that? Or a joke on what's real and what's fake? (see storytelling structure, below.) I'm not sure.

There were two interesting storytelling choices made in this movie. First, it’s told out of order, with the actors directly addressing the audience (almost) at times. In addition to this out of order thing… one of the main characters is writing a screenplay based on the story that’s supposedly happening to the characters, so occasionally there are parts where other characters break out of the scene to argue with the screenwriter character, to say, “That’s not how it happened.”

And if all that weren’t enough, it’s quite obviously filmed on a sound stage, with the “crew” interacting with the actors at times and the actors walking from set to set and by the end almost seeming like they were actually living in the sets on the sound stage. Confused? Well, so was the audience, but I think we were supposed to be. One of the sections of dialogue was actually an argument about the storytelling structure being too complicated. But in the end (actually, by about 1/3 of the way in, it was all fairly clear.)

The movie was based on a stageplay and from what I understood during the Q&A, the only thing really added to the screenplay from the stage script was this idea of the film crew being part of the movie.

I know all that sounds really complicated… but it was actually quite entertaining and funny in parts and the lead actor was hot, which goes along way for me. ;-) Okay, he might not look super hot in the photo above, but trust me. He had a bit of a Gerard Butler thing going on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Captain Harkness!

More than four years ago, when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who were living outside of London at the time, I must've inadvertently signed up for a newsletter that comes about 4 or 5 times a year, listing ticket deals for the latest West End plays. I'm sure I could unsubscribe... but figure, why?

And this a.m. I got a big answer to why not. Check out this photo of John Barrowman for a production of La Cage Aux Folles. I assume it's him. It kind of looks like him. He is very pretty.

I blame Amy Ruttan and Christine D'Abo and Wylie Kinson for getting me started on watching Torchwood. I admit it was a bit of a slow burn for me. Was ready to give up after first couple of episodes, but then I got totally and completely hooked. And a big part of that was getting past Barrowman's (for me) corny acting to focus on his overall hotness, especially the hot looks he often gives to the other actors, male and female. I want to go to London to see this play now. Anyone have a spare thousand dollars or so? Please?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Totally caved and bought a few tickets for the TIFF today. Not even sure how many right now. Got so annoyed with the website...

Even bought a gala ticket by mistake... (To a film starring Robin Wright Penn and Keanu Reeves that I think actually sounds pretty great. I'm a big fan of the on-again-off-again Mrs. Penn.) I knew it was a "premium" ticket, but thought it was one at the Elgin. Oh, well. I shall try Roy Thompson Hall again. I haven't seen a screening there since 2002.

The good news, for those of you mourning my lack of TIFF attendance, is I will be blogging about a few films!

The bad news is all for my finances... The tickets, bought individually, are either about $22 or $45 (all in with the taxes) depending on whether they are "premium" screenings. Still so angry about that premium thing that started last year with the Elgin screenings... See my posts from last year's festival for the rants. They so figured out how to ruin the good thing I had going with the festival, spending most evenings at the Elgin where I could hang at the VISA VIP lounge for gold card members and get into the theatre in front of the line on the street. Guess too many other people figured out the great scheme, too...

Based on these prices, the $600 for 50 films is starting to look like a good deal after all. Not that I have time for 50 films this year. Pushing it to go to the ten or so I chose. Just saying.

I was going to go to the midnight madness showing of Jennifer's Body tonight. I'm interested only because Diablo Coady wrote it, and it's the first night, which is fun... but the buzz is not good, so I don't see the point in standing in a line outside for 3-4 hours to possibly get the opportunity to pay $22 to see a horror movie, and get in at the last second to get a crappy seat and probably miss the introductions of the cast, when I really kind of hate horror movies.. But I do like the midnight madness screenings none-the-less. Fun crowds go to movies at midnight.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Win Tons of Books!!!

My good friend Louisa Edwards' first book has hit the shelves! Yippee!

Isn't it a gorgeous cover? I for one can't wait to dig into this tasty treat of a story about chefs and, um, food. And, to make things even better, she's running an amazing contest on her website.

Just check out the bag-o-books she's giving away!

Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards (signed!)
Hunt Her Down by Roxanne St. Claire
The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter
Red Kiss by Deidre Knight
Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare
Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann
A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore
Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
Julia & Julia by Julie Powell

Go to Louisa's new site to register!

TIFF is in the air

The days are starting to shorten, the nighttime air is getting cooler... All signs t'is the season for the Toronto International Film Festival. Pout. I'm not going this year.

I know this will come as a shock to many, but I decided the combination of the cost, the time, the recovery and the timing this year, were all too prohibitive.

  1. First, it's a lot of money to do the whole thing. Especially since they turned the Elgin into a "premium" venue, thereby screwing pass holders. Still annoyed about this. Sure, I could've just gone to a few movies, but I'm not good at doing things half-way and it likely would've ended up consuming too much of my attention anyway. See #2
  2. All in, the festival takes up about 2-3 weeks of my life. Between standing in lines to pick up the selection book... and picking my films, and standing in line again to hand in my picks, then again to pick up my tickets, then again to exchange tickets because of inevitable screw ups... It takes at least a week of my life, before the films even start. Then the next 11 days are consumed, and I mean consumed, by seeing films. I'm typically out of my house for minimum 15 hours each of the 11 days of the festival. Typically out of the house before nine and rarely home before midnight... And that takes me to #3.
  3. It always takes me at least a week to decompress from the festival and get back onto my writing schedule. It's so exhausting and so overwhelming and between going and trying to blog about it, it takes over.
  4. The early September timing is often an issue. I invariably end up missing a couple of important meetings because of the festival. And both my sister's and her hubby's birthdays fall during the festival most years.... so I forget those and feel badly. But this year, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. (I know, crazy!) And since the party is right after the festival, there is no way I could justify going this year.
Tiff... Wait for me. I'll try to be back next year. Not sure I can quit you... (Quoting one of my fav films I saw the premiere of at the festival...)
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