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TIFF 2012 – A look ahead

Read all our TIFF 2012 coverage here.

| o | – It’s TIFF 2012 time!


I finished up at my job at the tail end of July and we all (@dunnez, @oheag2 and previously @parallellevision) moved out of our lovely old house on Toronto’s Davenport Road. Since then I have spent time faffing about with my family, camping in Canada’s wondrous Algonquin Park and travelling around the eastern side of the US. Usually you do all those things and then go back to your homeland, but since Christmas when I formulated this plan I knew I had to base my exit strategy from Toronto around one thing – TIFF.

This will my third year attending the Toronto International Film Festival and I really feel lucky that the stars aligned with immigration VISAs and my bank account to allow me to attend once again. One of my favourite early memories from my time here comes from the 2010 festival when fellow Spooooler Páraic was over visiting and a group of us attended the North American premiere of Blue Valentine along with the film’s director Derek Cianfrance and some guy named Bryan Rosling (something like that anyway).

I wrote a little bit about the 2010 festival here and the 2011 here. For some reason one is a set of reviews and one is a set of previews… My old blog was a little dishevelled to say the least.

This year the festival will feature 372 films (289 features and 83 shorts) from 72 countries playing across 34 screens. It is now the world’s biggest film festival and second only in reputation to Cannes (sorry Venice and your bleedin’ Biennale…).

Anyway, enough of an intro. Here are the films I hope to see. As always, things could change and I may get to more or less than what is listed below…


Jason Reitman’s Live Read of American Beauty
[TIFF listing]

We start our film festival run-down with something that isn’t even a film. One of my favourite directors (if a little inconsistent), Canada’s own Jason Reitman, has been putting together live stage reads of classic films since late 2011. He brings in actors and they all sit down and have a bit of fun reading through the script for the first time, sharing this workshopping and creative energy with a live audience. For his one-off adaptation of 1999’s American Beauty, he has roped in Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Woody Harrelson and more to sit and read to us.

Look closer: Jason Reitman reveals leads in Toronto live-read of ‘American Beauty’ []

TIFF 2012: American Beauty live-read cast features Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks []


[TIFF listing]

Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman  //  Country: USA  //  2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime:103 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Darren Criss, Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig! The gay guy from Glee! The Bening!

Oh and Matt Dillon…

The primary reason I’m going to this is to see the latest work from the team behind one of the 2000’s most under-rated films. American Splendor, the “splendid” account of Harvey Pekar as played by Paul Giamatti.

Even though it was filmed last year, this will still be considered Wiig’s first big post-SNL gig, so it’s going to be interesting to see how she holds up en-route to her new status as a Hollywood leading lady.


[TIFF listing]

Director: Michael Winterbottom  //  Country: United Kingdom  //  Year:2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime:94 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Shirley Henderson, John Simm, Shaun Kirk, Katrina Kirk, Stephanie Kirk, Robert Kirk  //  Screenplay: Laurence Coriat, Michael Winterbottom

“Commissioned by Channel 4 to make a film on the prison system, Winterbottom decided to employ a unique, almost documentary-style mode of production, shooting over a five-year period with a mix of professionals and non-professionals to document not only the life of an inmate but also, just as importantly, the passage of time, which takes on a different dimension for those behind bars.”

I always hate when movies have to cover a long period of time, but achieve it by prosthetic work and making the protagonist grow a beard or add a little grey to his mane. Not so for Michael Winterbottom (Nine Songs, The Trip) who opted to dip in and out of filming this prison drama over the space of five years.

I’ve always considered John Simm to be one of the finest British actors of his generation, but for some reason while David Tennant and Martin Freeman go on to get big Hollywood roles, we’re left to savour Simm in TV work like Life on Mars, Doctor Who and Exile.  Such is life, but what a pleasure to see him on the big screen again.


 The Central Park Five
[TIFF listing]

Directors: Ken Burns, David McMahon, Sarah Burns  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 119 minutes

God I love a good doc (proof). And a story about a massive miscarriage of justice? Sign me up.

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from New York City were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it “the crime of the century.” Journalists popularized the term “wilding” to describe a gang activity of randomly assaulting victims. Politicians, pundits and the public rushed to a judgment that carried a barely veiled undertone of racial and class prejudice. Convicted of the crime, the five teenagers spent between five to thirteen years in prison until, in 2002, the shocking news broke: they were innocent. Another man confessed to the crime, with DNA evidence to support his claim.


 The Sessions
[TIFF listing]

Director: Ben Lewin  //  Country: USA  //  Year:2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 95 minutes  //  Rating:14A  //  Principal Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy  //  Screenplay: Ben Lewin

This was one of my picks from Sundance 2012, and since then it’s been picked up by Fox Searchlight and undergone a name-change (it was called The Surrogate, but I guess that reminded people of the beardy Bruce Willis flop). By all accounts John Hawkes’ performance is sensational and I haven’t seen a Helen Hunt film since 2000’s What Women Want, therefore I am in.


[TIFF listing]

Director: Neil Jordan  //  Countries: United Kingdom / Ireland  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 118 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Daniel Mays, Caleb Landry Jones, Kate Ashfield, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Uri Gavriel, Thure Lindhardt  //  Screenplay: Moira Buffini

Sligo’s finest (Neil Jordan) and Carlow’s finest (Saoirse Ronan) together at last! The fact it’s a vampire film is a potential worry BUT Jordan did direct Interview With the Vampire so I think we’re going to be fine.

There aren’t a whole lot of Irish films at the festival this year with Kieron Walsh’s Jump and Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did being the pick of the bunch if you discount documentaries and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths (funded and filmed within US and UK). Sooooo, it will be nice to feel like I’m getting a bit of Paddy action.


The Iceman
[TIFF listing]

Director: Ariel Vromen  //  Country: USA  //  Year:2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 103 minutes  //  Rating: 18A  //  Principal Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco  //  Screenplay: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen

Director Ariel Vromen is a virtual unknown with only two features to his name, but the stellar cast should make this one fairly worthwhile. And who doesn’t want more crazy Michael Shannon?


To The Wonder
[TIFF listing]

Director: Terrence Malick  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish  //  Runtime: 112 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Javier Bardem, Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams  //  Screenplay: Terrence Malick

New Malick. Already?!


[TIFF listing]

Director: Ben Wheatley  //  Country: United Kingdom  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 89 minutes  //  Rating: 18A  //  Principal Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Jonathan Aris, Richard Glover, Monica Dolan  //  Screenplay: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram

We’ve been excited about this one since the start of the year. With my cousin Ben making a name for himself this side of the pond last year with the incredible Kill List, whatever he chose to follow-up with was always going to get people’s attention. Getting Edgar Wright on board as an exec producer seems to have brought out his funny side with the latest trailer released last week looking like he’s got one hell of a pitch-black caper on his hands with co-writers and leads Alice Lowe and Steve Oram on top form.


[TIFF listing]

Director: Henry Alex Rubin  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 115 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skårsgard, Max Thieriot, Colin Ford, Jonah Bobo, Norbert Leo Butz, Haley Ramm  //  Screenplay: Andrew Stern

From the director of Murderball?! That cast! A  multistrand drama about the ubiquity of technology… Great!


[TIFF listing]

Director: James Ponsoldt  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2011  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 85 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place  //  Screenplay: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt

Another Sundance 2012 holdover with AMC’s Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul starring opposite the-woman-who-didn’t-actually-talk-to-Irish-journo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead.


Room 237
[TIFF listing]

Director: Rodney Ascher  //  Country: USA  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 104 minutes

Another one that has been on the Spooool radar for some time finally arriving on screens. For someone who regularly lists The Shining as his favourite film, I am freakin’ delighted that the legal loopholes have been worked out and this documentary is finding its way out to a wider audience.

“Obsessive cineastes detail their byzantine conspiracy theories about the secret themes and messages hidden within Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, in director Rodney Ascher’s fascinating, kaleidoscopic deconstruction of a horror classic.”


The ABCs of Death
[TIFF listing]

Directors: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Adrián García Bogliano, Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Xavier Gens, Jorge Michel Grau, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime:123 minutes

It’s nice to mix it up at a festival and what better way than arriving at a movie theatre at 11.59pm and spending two hours witnessing an alphabetised 26 ways to die in a horror movie? 25 horror film-makers all participated with the entry for the letter T reserved for a public vote, the winner being British director Lee Hardcastle with T is for Toilet, which is pictured above.


[TIFF listing]

Director: Ben Affleck  //  Country: USA  //  Year:2011  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 120 minutes  //  Principal Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Barry Livingston, Tate Donovan, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishe, Chris Messina, Bryan Cranston, Clea DuVall  //  Screenplay: Chris Terrio

With Clint Eastwood gone to the dogs, there is an empty chair (baddum tish) at the table of great American film-makers. Ben Affleck’s third film has a lot to live up to after the remarkable promise he showed in The Town and Gone Baby Gone and fingers crossed Argo lives up to those high benchmarks.


[TIFF listing]

Director: Daniel Gordon  //  Country: United Kingdom  //  Year: 2012  //  Language: English  //  Runtime: 80 minutes

I have to admit I probably find the drug cheats as interesting as the clean-cut athletes. I’d take some Michelle Smith de Bruins and Lance Armstrongs any day over your Usain Bolts and your Mo Farahs. The 1988 Olympic 100m mens final is one of the most infamous stories of drugs in athletics ever, thank heavens they’ve made a film about it!

In the history of the Olympics, there’s never been a controversy quite like what ensued following the men’s 100-metre race at Seoul in 1988. The match pitted fierce competitors Ben Johnson (Canada) and Carl Lewis (USA) against each other. Lewis was known as a savvy careerist who became an American hero at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Johnson was his chief rival, considered an underdog due to his recovery from a pulled hamstring. In the time of 9.79 seconds, Johnson edged out in front of Lewis to win the Seoul sprint. Instantly, he became a hero across Canada. But that wasn’t the end. Two days later, in a reversal of fortune, the Olympic Committee announced that Johnson had failed a drug test. He lost his medal to Lewis in disgrace.

– – – –

So there we have it. Right now it’s still missing Seven Psychopaths, The Place Beyond the Pines, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and Jump but hell there’s only so much a brain can take. Plus shit sells out pretty quickly at this thing.

Anyway enough to keep me busy and Spooool’s North American side fed for the next few weeks before Spooool is re-united in Dublin.

Read all our TIFF 2012 coverage here.