The Toronto International Film Festival Report

Written by Jeff Wright



My friend and I get in line for a screening of BLUE VELVET. It's part of the Dialogues program, in which a filmmaker presents a film that has influenced them in some way. Lynne Stopkewich, the director of the highly overrated KISSED presented the film. She stated that she's a huge Lynch fan, and that she sees BLUE VELVET as basically, his best work to date. I'm not sure if I'd agree with that, but I do think it's a fantastic film.

I found it strange to find out that Lynch keeps the film out of revival houses for some reason, and that the print we were seeing was only used for film festivals. The print was recently struck, and looked beautiful, save one reel that looked like the old LD transfer.

Needless to say, seeing it in a theatre was a thrill. The only thing that somewhat spoiled the experience was the crowd. People were laughing really loudly at things that are only amusing, or that weren't funny at all. Then when a scene like Laura Dern's recounting of her dream about the robins came up, they were silent. Also in conversation after the screening, Stopkewich and members of the audience went about mentioning Freud, and such in relation to the film. Artsy floppers ruin the film festival.


Down to the Elgin Theatre to see David Mamet's new movie, STATE AND MAIN. It's not a movie theatre. It's where The Phantom Of The Opera was performed, but they convert it so that it can show movies because it's big and looks fancy. Not only is it not a movie theatre, but when it's converted into one, it's not a good movie theatre. My friend and I were stuck further back in the auditorium, and because of the balcony, couldn't see the top corner of the screen.

I won't go into discussing the line to get in. I'm sure I'll be talking about the lines quite a bit throughout my coverage. It was long, but not annoying.

So the screening is running late. It's 15 minutes or so past the start time, and we're not watching the movie yet. People start a slow clap to show their impatience. Then who walks down the aisle? But Roger Ebert. The pathetic little man thinks they're clapping for him, and waves to the audience. Then he has a hard time figuring out where he's gonna sit. He spun around a couple times, then must have forgotten something (I'm not gonna say concession, cuz that would be mean), cuz he turned around and did this funny little run out of the seating area.

Say maybe five minutes later; the stars arrive. Alec Baldwin is introduced onstage and then proceeds to introduce cast members Julia Stiles, David Paymer, Sarah Jessica Parker, some Brit I don't know, and a producer I believe. He also introduced Philip Seymore Hoffman even though he was at the ALMOST FAMOUS premiere. I wasted a big old "YEAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!" when he said his name, and felt like a fool. Baldwin assured us Hoffman would be there for the Q&A afterwards, which he was.

The movie starts. Well, not really. First we have to endure some shitty Canadian short film made especially for the festival (there are a number of these and I'm sure I'll be bitching about them a plenty).

So the movie starts. STATE AND MAIN is about a troubled movie, being made in a small town. It would take me a while to do a plot rundown, so I'm not going to. It is a fun little flic, though not brilliant. Everytime I see a Mamet directed film, I'm irked. I just don't like his direction. That said, there are good performances in it, even if it is a little distracting having stars play stars.

Once again, the fucking film festival audience lessened my enjoyment of the film by laughing too much at things that are only amusing.

The Q&A after the film was a good one, but only because of the people on stage. The audience asked stupid, stupid questions. Hoffman and Baldwin couldn't wait to light up until they got outside, so they started smoking on stage while answering questions. Hoffman dismissed a "really funny" audience member by asking him "Is that a serious question, or are you making a joke?". The most interesting comment of the night was Baldwin telling us that he prefers to do smaller, interesting films as opposed to the big budget stuff he usually does. He acted out a scene where he gets a script, and tries to convince himself to like it because he's been offered 10 million dollars to play the part, that was really funny and telling.



Early in the morning. Going to see Christopher Guest's new comedy take on the dog show world, BEST IN SHOW. Early in the morning. Early, and stuck with my friend Alex in line between pretentious gay people to the front of us, and annoying pretentious fucks behind us telling each other how smart they are, by how they understand the frogs in Magnolia. It's just too fucking early for this bullshit.

Inside, we sit down. Christopher Guest comes to introduce the film, then leaves. He didn't come back for questions afterwards for some reason. Later on this afternoon, I was watching television coverage of the festival and what should come on, but the press conference for BEST IN SHOW. So I'm thinking "Christopher Guest should be the only one here, right?" I am sooooo wrong. Every single last motherfucking member of the main cast is there. EVERY ONE!!!!! Why didn't they come to the screening? If I get up early in the morning to see their movie, I damn well want them to be there, to answer questions afterwards. Bastards.

Once again, a shitty Canadian short film is shown. This one made by Don McKellar. What is wrong with him? The short was terrible. That didn't stop the audience from laughing though. I seriously don't know if I'll see that many comedies at future festivals. Sadly, I've still got two or three of them left in the coming week. So is the movie good? Yes. It didn't blow me away, but it was pretty funny. I had hoped for more documentary style stuff, but oh well. While most of the cast is really good, it's Fred Willard that steals the show, so be prepared for that.



Leo, Alex and I are in line for SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE. There's still about a half hour till the movie's supposed to start, which means that there's still fifteen minutes till they let us in. It starts to lightly rain though, so they let us in early. I doubt this was out of concern for us, but rather the seats of the prestigious Elgin Theatre.

The director of the film, Dafoe, and a couple other people who're in the movie get up on stage and introduce the flic. They weren't there at the end of it by the way. No Q&A. Why? Hmmmm. I wonder.

I was really looking forward to this film. The trailer was funny, and the premise amused me. After seeing the film though, neither the trailer, nor the premise amused me. SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE is a bad movie, plain and simple. It would have been a great short film (no longer than 20 minutes), but as a feature, it falls flat on its face. Its script doesn't know what it's saying, its cinematography is shite beyond words, and its technical accuracy concerning filmmaking is terrible; the list goes on. I've read people say that this is Dafoes' best performance. Those people have their heads up their asses. The performance is hammy as hell. It relies on the makeup instead of adding to it.

This so far, is the biggest disappointment. I wouldn't bother wasting your time or money on this when it comes out.


This isn't part of the festival, but who cares. Alex, Leo and I went to see NURSE BETTY after SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, in hopes of seeing a good movie. We got that and more. NURSE BETTY is easily the best film of the year so far. So there's my endorsement for that. I needed a comedy like NURSE BETTY, cuz I hadn't laughed this much at film since last year.



Midnight. Only one of my two friends I was seeing AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, with, showed. Well, actually they both did, but I didn't see Leo and he didn't see me, so he didn't see the movie.

The movie is a made for TV (Independent Film Channel) documentary on horror films, and their social commentaries. It wasn't a great movie, but it'll be worth a watch on TV for sure. It features interviews with David Cronenberg, George Romero, Tom Savini, John Carpenter, John Landis, Tobe Hooper, and Wes Craven. It's also directed by the director of CARNOSAUR, but don't hold that against it.



Outside the festival again. Had a little time to kill before VULGAR, so Alex and I went to see WAY OF THE GUN. It's a pretty well made, really fun flic. Just a lot of fun, with cool actors, who have great chemistry. The opening scene is a great one. Had me laughing pretty damn hard.


Alex and I go to see VULGAR. We have an extra ticket due to a work-related cancellation. (Leo!) So, Alex goes to sell it to people who are waiting in line for rush tickets. I told him to try and get at least 50 for it. I figured there would be a lot of Kevin Smith fans, who would be willing to pay at least that. I know that last year when I waited in line to see DOGMA last year, I was ready to pay at least 50 bucks for a ticket. One just didn't pass by me. So my friend goes to sell the ticket (Oh, and he was gonna throw in our 2 tickets to the next day's screening of DR. T AND THE WOMEN since we didn't feel like waking up first thing in the morning). He comes back, with the ticket, and tells me that the line was calling him an asshole for trying to get more than face value for it. Fucking idiots! Don't they know how the world works? Anyway, he goes back to sell it, this time to the back of the line, and sells the 3 tickets for 40 bucks. So that's pretty close to face value, and little profit. Dammit! Oh well.

In the theatre. We're all given foam clown noses in the spirit of the film. A whole bunch of the people involved in the film were in attendance, and introduced the film (Bryan Johnson, Monica Hampton, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, and Brian O'Halloran to name a bunch). After the introduction, Johnson asked the audience to put on their clown noses so he could take a picture for his 90 some odd year old grandmother who wasn't able to make it to the screening (his mother and father were there, and even have parts in the film).

So the film starts; and it starts on pretty shaky feet. The first 10 minutes or whatever it was, is pretty bad. There's even a dialogue scene that sounds and looks so much like a Kevin Smith scene, that I was really getting worried. But then it kicked in. The first really funny moment in the film is from the director himself, as an actor (he play's the title character's best friend). The point where the film starts going is when Will a.k.a. Flappy The Clown (who then becomes Vulgar), tries to tell Johnson his plans to become a dirty little clown. To go to bachelor parties as a prank, as a transvestite clown, when the guest of honour would be expecting a stripper.

Vulgar is just as unlucky a clown as Flappy. On his very first job as Vulgar, Will, gets. Well it's not something you'd want to happen to you, but when it's done to this pathetic character, and these hicks are doing it, then it's all good and brilliant comedy. From there on in, the film kicks ass. It's certainly not without faults. It's a very flawed film, and a lot of the laughs come from that, but the film's spirit is wonderful, and is the most refreshing film I've seen at the festival so far. Just a great, fun flic, warts and all.

In the Q&A, Johnson accused some guy who asked a question of laughing at inappropriate places in the film. Apparently it was me though, who did that, and a woman in the reserved row ahead of me looked back at me and smiled. My friend who was laughing a lot too, was kicked by the girl sitting next to him, during the film. Then right after the film was over, she made her boyfriend switch seats with her.



Another film in the Dialogues series. This time, it's DO THE RIGHT THING, and it's introduced by Kevin Smith. In his intro, Smith acted as though he had made the film, and was an angry black filmmaker. Made me chuckle, then came the film. I'll be damned if it doesn't have one of the coolest title sequences ever.

I hadn't seen DO THE RIGHT THING in a theatre before. I had seen it on VHS, LD, and DVD, but not on film. It looks fantastic, and added a lot to the cinematography that really isn't as clear on video.

The film ended, and a race riot ensued. I exited the theatre as quickly as possible.

Outside the theatre, I asked Smith about his thoughts on VULGAR, and its humour. He then directed me towards Bryan Johnson, who was nearby. I said "Great. Thanks. That's even better.", then went over to talk to him about the film. I told him how much I had enjoyed the film, and how funny I thought it was. He then gave me a VULGAR hat (which I did wear tonight to the REQUIEM FOR A DREAM screening, in hopes of getting a few more people to go down for the screening, even though it's sold out). It was nice to be able to discuss the film with him. To find out what the desired tone and such was in the making of it. When I mentioned finding one scene really funny, he said "So that was you" or something to that effect. I said yeah, and whatever. We then chatted about the film a bit more; Alex got in the conversation for a bit, and then we parted ways. No real point in paraphrasing the entire conversation.


Waiting in line for REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, the new Darren Aronofsky (Pi; which I fucking love) film, a couple of damn good looking girls asked me if I wanted to sell my ticket. That was the highlight of the night. That, and staring at the one's ass while they stood around trying to get others to sell them their tickets. I really wish I had sold them my ticket. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a piece of pretentious shit, and I don't think Aronofsky deserves to direct another film again. It's just manipulative shit.



Nobody came to see SCOUT MAN with me. Bastard friends I've got. SCOUT MAN is about the porn industry in Japan, and how they recruit girls, by approaching them on the street and offering them high paying jobs in the "A/V Industry" (Adult Video). Apparently this really exists in Japan, and that aspect of it was extremely interesting and entertaining. The film starts to fall apart however, when it starts its turn towards the dramatic. The first hour is really light, enjoyable, and captivating. However, once the director starts making the characters (Who aren't in the A/V industry) resort to prostitution and such, it's cheap, and lessens the film. He even uses the old "shoot an interview scene on video" shit that has been pretty popular since LEAVING LAS VEGAS. It's an easy way to get people uncomfortable, and really lowered my opinion of the movie. SCOUT MAN could have been really good, but at the end, isn't.

There was a Q&A after the film, which included a translator since the director only spoke Japanese. He told a few interesting stories about the making of the film; the funniest being how they had to get permission from the Japanese Mafia to film, and how they got a break from them by saying they were independent filmmakers.


I walked over from SCOUT MAN, to the line for THE MISSION, a Hong Kong action film, which I knew next to nothing about. Leo was already waiting in line, so that was good. He tells me however that there is a 1/2-hour delay so the movie will be starting at 12:30. I was already tired, so that wasn't really what I wanted to hear. Oh well.

In front of us, we had the last of the annoying line person. The fat woman who loves to talk to people she doesn't know. This completes the trinity of
A) Pretentious assholes (which are either in their 20's studying the arts, or old trying to come off as cultured),
B) Overtly gay guys (who're often pretentious to boot), and
C) The above mentioned fat bitch. Fun stuff to be around for extended periods of time. I said "This movie better be damn good" about a million times.

It wasn't that great. It wasn't bad, but it was all right. It was what it was. A HK action flic, with a bunch of guys shooting guns. It had a couple of really well directed strategic action scenes, which made it worth the time.




I get there and see Leo. We're here to see THE KING IS ALIVE. The latest dogme 95 film, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brion James, and Janet McTeer (Who I'd never seen a movie before. She's got a great rack on her, doesn't she?) Leo doesn't have a ticket yet, and it's sold out. I figured that it wouldn't be. So he has to stand in line, hoping for an empty seat before the show starts. Damn. I go in line. I'm behind a couple of old people, talking about how the music in a film they saw, was so complex, and how anyone with any kind of musical interest would appreciate it. Fuck them!

The line starts going in, and Leo has scored a ticket for only 5 bucks. Bastard! I made him buy my pop, since he saved so much money.

I was really looking forward to the movie, since I love THE CELEBRATION, and really liked THE IDIOTS, and JULIEN DONKEY BOY. The premise that I read was "A bus breaks down in the desert, and its passengers perform KING LEAR to pass the time". That made me think this could really be cool. Sadly, it was just really boring. On top of that, it was breaking the dogme 95 rules, left, right, and centre. Why even say you're a dogme film, if you're not? Anyways; it was really boring, but people seemed to give it more respect than it deserved because it involved Shakespeare, which as we all know, is only for intellectuals. Fuck I hate the pretension you have to put up with at the film fest. Only one movie left, I told myself. Then it's back to the regular movie theatre set-up, and seeing movies with regular audiences (who aren't great, just better than film fest audiences).


Midnight. The film is WILD ZERO. A Japanese film, that kicked my fucking ass! It's the film that I needed. The film that I wanted so bad. The movie that made up for the last week. How do I describe the film? Brilliant. It's a zombie, ufo, rock and roll superstar movie. I really don't know how to fully describe the film to you. It would be really long winded, and would give away too much of the plot. It's like Dead/Alive, meets Killer Klowns, meets Rock And Roll High School, meets Desperado. If that makes sense. I doubt it does. The movie is just out there. It's brilliant.I don't know how many people know about the Japanese punk trio, Guitar Wolf (Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf, and Drum Wolf). Anyway, they kick ass and they're the rock and roll heroes of the film. When Guitar Wolf's "rock and roll blood brother" Ace gets in trouble, he needs only blow on a special whistle given to him by Guitar Wolf himself.

I'm really not doing this film justice. All right. Let me try it this way. I got home at 2:30 in the morning, and went on an internet search to get a copy. I NEED to show this to all my friends. The only copy I was able to find, didn't have subtitles, but I ordered it anyway (This is after 2 hours of searching. It isn't even in the IMDB - I can't fucking wait for it to arrive, so I can crank up the volume, sit back and enjoy the coolest fucking thing I've seen in a long, long, time.

The director (who just happens to be neighbours with Guitar Wolf) was there, and was accompanied by a translator. There was a really good Q&A after the film. The best thing about it was when someone asked for a sequel, he said that he was basically broke. That he put all his money that he had made making music videos into the film, and it was enough for him to have probably bought at least a few houses. Someone close to the stage, got up and gave him some cash. Had I been closer, I probably would have too. Come to think of it, I think it should have been the audience's responsibility to give him money. If everyone in the theatre had given him a 20, then he would've had close to 15-20 Gs. Canadian I know, but it would have been a start.

Anyway, the movie rules the world as far as I'm concerned. I had a smile on my face through the entire thing, and if by some chance you come across a copy of it, or it's screening nearby; don't miss it. Goddamn I love this movie!


Glad it's over. Glad I saw WILD ZERO!!! Hope that what I've written was somewhat helpful and/or entertaining. That's about it.