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El Chivo From TIFF: THE WRESTLER, BLOOD TRAIL, AFTERWARDS, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA!!

Merrick here...
Here's El Chivo from Day 4 of TIFF (HERE). El Chivo actually sent this in yesterday, but there was a delay in posting due to some troubles FTPing images for the article. Here's El Chivo...

Greetings all! El Chivo here. I'm going to dispense with my usual habit of reviewing the day's films in the order I saw them, because today only one was good, real good.

THE WRESTLER

Tonight Darren Aronofsky seemed to be experiencing a post-Venice high, having just picked up the top prize there. While introducing the film he was giddy, even playful, making fun of his producer's shoes and pointing out some of the wresting co-stars in the theater who "you should not fuck with." He even led the audience in a rather pathetic round of Happy Birthday (see below) to Even Rachel Wood who was there -- frequently making out with boyfriend Marilyn Manson -- on this, her 21st birthday. Mickey Rourke gave off a coolest-guy-in-the-room vibe like no one's business. With a film this good, they should all celebrate. Who would have thought such a good character study could be successfully mined from that most base and uniquely American "sport" of wrestling? I don't know where to start other than answer the questions I had going in to it. Yes, it's is unapologetically full of wresting scenes. Yes, they're shot, chopped and performed very well...dare I say exhilarating even. No, the film doesn't wink or allow us to hold ourselves above the "sport" in any way. Wrestling is a form of salvation for Mickey Rourke's character and the film doesn't judge him for it. Several times I thought back to Mick 'Mankind' Foley in the documentary BEYOND THE MAT from several years ago. It's like you took that story of an aging warrior and dramatized into a full length film. For me, there's barely a misstep anywhere in the film (only a loud scene with Even Rachel Wood's character, if you must know). I grew to care deeply about Randy 'The Ram' Robinson. I loved the funky van he drove that apparently only plays 80's music and only very loud. I loved the sense of brotherhood within the performers of the wrestling community. I loved watching The Ram play with the neighborhood kids in his trailer park. I loved seeing another ocean pier scene in an Aronofsky film. I loved seeing such a visually accomplished director throw his skill for composition into something as cheesy-cool as a ladder diving scene. A strong contender for best film of the year; certainly the best I've seen so far. The highest praise I can think of is to say that I already want to see the film again. My TIFF People's Choice Ballot: 4 out of 4.

BLOOD TRAIL

Documentary about a successful, current war photographer named Robert 'Robbie' King. Sounds like a good idea, but the execution was lazy and fractured, while the subject was himself mostly unlikable. Documentarian Richard Parry appears to have spent time only twice in the field with Robbie in the 15 years or so this story tries to cover. Most annoying piece of the lousy production values was a series a repeating still images strobing faster and faster in sequence to illustrate Robbie's distress at one point. Completely amateur. Worse still, about midway through we get a scene of Robbie in Chechnya on a street laughing as one of the firecrackers he's taken to buying and blowing up just for fun startles a poor Chechnyan woman on the other side of the street who thinks it's gunfire. War and covering it may make people do terrible things, but I mentally checked out at that point. My TIFF People's Choice Ballot: 0 out of 4.

AFTERWARDS

John Malkovich is, I believe, part of four films at the festival. I haven't seen the others, but I would put money on this being the worst. It's a French Canadian production, meaning they find plenty of stupid reasons for a lot of French to be spoken even though the story takes place in Manhattan. Evangeline Lilly plays a character named Claire, which is very confusing and ominous to fans of LOST. Malkovich plays a guy who sees nearly-dead people. That's right, only he can see it, but people have a certain glow around them if the grim reaper is on the way. Sounds intriguing, but trust me, it's not. Part of the problem is that Malkovich is really only a supporting player who waits patiently next to the phone at work or in a hotel room or wherever he'll be needed next to show up and be a menacing, bald Yoda. Taking the lead role is a French Canadian guy who speaks broken English and sounds like a more atonal version of Michael Wincott (bad guy from THE CROW). Oh, before I forget, you can clearly see the camera people in the reflection coming off the ambulance in the scene where lead guy is crying outside while showing too much chest hair. The lead guy rants and screams atonally a lot as Malkovich sends him off with elliptical statements about who in this guy's life is or isn't going to die and when. Truth be told, I saw this partly for Malkovich, but mostly to see Evangeline Lilly in person. She was nice, the movie stunk. I give it one point only for the accomplished way in which the scenes of violence and/or death were shot. My TIFF People's Choice Ballot: 1 out of 4.

MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA

I'd heard mostly good things about the new Spike Lee joint before going to see it. Don't know if I will be in the minority or not, but I feel the film is a mess. Spike steps outside of the USA for the first time to tell this story of the black Buffalo Soldiers who fought for America in Italy during WWII. The story is a scattershot of ideas and tonal styles. The film quickly narrows our focus down to a small group of four men on what seems initially to be a men-on-a-mission movie. Oh wait, no one really knows where they're going, they just want to follow the least trained member of their bunch because he is "lucky." Then it becomes a story of helping a nearly-indestructible little Italian boy they find who refers to his main friend as "Chocolate Giant." Then they make it to a village and stay there and stay there some more. Other than when bullets are flying, scenes are played broadly, almost to the point of slapstick whenever the Italian villagers are involved. One particularly grating scene involved tiptoeing towards a sleeping person while an oboe or some other Looney Toons instrument accompanied every step. We even get a scenes of people saying "funny" things to themselves with no one else around. Shifting tone wildly back to military racism and war violence doesn't work. Too bad, I wanted it to be great. My TIFF People's Choice Ballot: 1 out of 4. Note: Yes, that is an Obama button Joseph Gordon-Levitt is wearing in the photo below.


Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 9, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST

    first?

    by unkempt_sock

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST

    yes.....

    by unkempt_sock

    first first ever... now im done

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 1:21 p.m. CST

    hmmm

    by SpawnofAchilles

    Where are the TB'ers today? Awesome news on The Wrestler, I hope your wrong about Miracle at St Anna, I thought the trailer looked great and I love JGL

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 2:19 p.m. CST

    Blood trail?! Like period blood or what?

    by DANNYGLOVERS_DICKBLOOD

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST

    GOOD ONE DGDB!

    by SpawnofAchilles

    oh wait, no it wasn't this apatow call out shit has gone to your HEAD brother

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST

    DGDB

    by SpawnofAchilles

    SO CRASS

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 4:13 p.m. CST

    Mori said "Anna"

    by skimn

    was kind of a mess also, so who knows...

  • Sept. 9, 2008, 5:05 p.m. CST

    Believe everything you hear about the Wrestler

    by Garbageman33

    Best film I've seen at the festival and maybe the best film of the year. Just amazing.

  • Sept. 10, 2008, 7:56 a.m. CST

    I want a Chocolate Giant.

    by Knuckleduster

    Yum.

  • Sept. 10, 2008, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Who do I need to blow to see The Wrestler?

    by MasterBateman

    Pi, Requiem, The Fountain... three of the greatest films I've ever seen. The Fountain was truly misunderstood as it carries such a powerful message about living in the moment. Requiem left me quivering Harry-style in a corner, clutching my prescription drugs and questioning whether to flush them down the toilet or not. WHAT ABOUT THE SCORE? No one has said anything about The Wrestler's music. Is Clint Mansell back? Let's face it, Requiem wouldn't have been half the movie it was if it wasn't for Mansell and the Kronos Quartet. I am so hyped for this movie, I hope that I'm not disappointed when I see it.

  • Sept. 10, 2008, 2:28 p.m. CST

    The Wrestler

    by bigbadbua

    From what I've heard of it, it sounds more like Jake "The Snake" Roberts from Beyond the Mat, not Mick Foley. But either way, Beyond the Mat is fantastic and I'm pumped to see this one. I should also note that I'm a huge fan of Pro Wrestling.

  • Sept. 10, 2008, 2:29 p.m. CST

    Also....

    by bigbadbua

    Anyone here that has read Mick Foley's "Have a Nice Day" think that would make a great film? The book is amazing.

  • Sept. 12, 2008, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Funny how Moriarty had such different views..

    by PullMyFinger

    on Miracle at St. Anna. I'm still really looking forward to checking it out. Lee always delivers at the very least an interesting perspective...