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Cartuna Day 5: A SERIOUS MAN on THE ROAD to see George A Romero's SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD & more!

Published at: Sept. 15, 2009, 8:34 a.m. CST

CARTUNA REPORTING - TIFF DAY FIVE Okay, kids... Day Five of TIFF has concluded. Sadly, I concluded a bit sooner than I was scheduled to (hey, don’t pretend like it’s never happened to you!) More on that at the bottom. For now, here are the reviews: A SERIOUS MAN directed by the Coen Brothers The short version: A ridiculously great movie. Funny as hell. I really loved this one. The long version: This is a phenomenal film. Is it too much to ask that it become a big success? Is that at all possible? Larry Gopnik is comfortable. He doesn’t get a lot of respect from many folks around him, but he’s achieved something and is maintaining it. He’s even up for tenure at the university where he is a professor. So it comes as a great shock to him that not everyone around him is happy with the status quo. His wife wants a divorce, and has gone so far as to find his replacement (someone for whom she DOES have respect). Someone has been sending letters, urging the university against granting him tenure. He’s forced to move into a divey motel with his mostly useless brother and his sebaceous cyst. Things that seemed stable, are no longer. And I guess that’s what the movie is about - what does one do, when the illusion of stability is taken away? Michael Stuhlberg is a total revelation as the put-upon Gopnik. He is absolutely perfectly cast here, and turns in a smart, funny and sensitive performance. He has a silent movie star’s face and needs to be shot in black and white at some point. The movie itself is screamingly funny at points. If you like the Coen Brothers’ sense of humor, you will revel in this film. They get everything right here. The ‘Tale of the Goy’s Teeth” in particular, is a killer sequence. The audience was in hysterics. As a goy, myself, there were quite a few moments of jewish ephemera with which I was not particularly familiar, but none of it seemed to be need-to-know. I didn’t feel left behind at any point by some inexplicable practice. I don’t think the niche setting should in any way preclude a niche audience. If there’s anything that keeps the film from being practically perfect, it is the inclusion of the accursed “all-just-a-dream” sequences. And not just one. Nothing kills the enjoyment of a movie more for me, than suddenly discovering that what I’d just seen was all just pretend. I have no issue with dream sequences - they can give more insight into what a character is going through, and give the filmmakers opportunity for visuals they may not otherwise get away with in the reality of their movie, but when we’re led to believe something is real, and it turns out it ain’t? Fuck that. So, that brought my overall score down a bit, but in spite of that, I loved this movie unreservedly. I would make a long-term commitment to this movie if I knew it a little better. Maybe after a couple more dates? Who knows? GEORGE A. ROMERO’S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD directed by (shockingly) George A. Romero The short version: Well... We can still watch Night, Day and Dawn as often as we want to, right? The long version: I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, but I was really disappointed by this one. It certainly wasn’t the movie I was hoping it would be. I haven’t seen Diary of the Dead, but I’ve certainly heard nothing good about it. Still and all, Land of the Dead was mostly pretty passable, if not inspiring, and I had hopes that the Romero who kicked my ass so many times in the past would be back on the scene. When an amateur internet advertisement suggests that a secluded island may be a potential refuge from the zombie epidemic, a group of AWOL soldiers-turned-brigands steal a ferry and go. Unfortunately, the island is home to a pair of feuding clans, whose main source of disagreement (other than an apparently pre-existing age-old feud) is whether zombified family members should be killed immediately, or chained up and kept around, just in case someone comes up with a cure. To the film’s credit, it does try to be about something more than just zombies. Focusing on the different ways that people might react to, or deal with living in a world where zombies become the norm. But even so, all of its ideas come off as incredibly half-baked and very poorly thought out. And unfortunately, in this case, the focus on other issues actually diminishes the zombies. In the argument between slow zombies vs. fast zombies, I come down squarely on the side of the shamblers, BUT in this film, they mostly don’t feel like all that much of a threat. I can only imagine this is because the characters in the movie don’t perceive them to be much of a threat, and are much more focused on one another. Whereas, in Night, Dawn, and Day, the power seemed to come from the fact that the characters didn’t realize that the people around them might be more of a threat than the zombies they were focused on defeating. The tone of the movie is a bit scattered. It wants to be hard-nosed, but instead, it’s dumb. It’s corny. The dialogue is goofy and forced, the delivery of the dialogue is... goofy and forced. Nothing feels very serious. The movie has no sense of scope. It doesn’t feel like a world taken over by zombies. There’s never any greater understanding of what’s going on around our characters. Not that we should necessarily know more than they do, but they cover a fair amount of ground in the film, on the way to the island, but we don’t see a lot more than empty highway around them. There ARE a few inventive kills in the film, and the audience ate them up, though in that desperate-to-be-entertained-by-ANYTHING sort of way. I dunno. This isn’t the review I’d hoped to be writing. I think Romero has kinda lost touch with what’s going on in other films around his. Not to say that he should speed up his zombies or do work that isn’t true to himself, but it seems as though he needs to be a bit more aware of the context in which his films are going to be seen. That they will be compared to the other zombie films that are playing elsewhere in the multiplex. I want to fall head-over-heels for another film of his, but after this one, I will be greatly lowering expectations. THE ROAD directed by - John Hillcoat The short version: If this movie doesn’t make you hug your kid and appreciate the world you live in, then I don’t want to know you. The long version: A man pulls his young son through the end of the world, where everything and everyone is a threat, and there is almost no hope of anything ever being better at all. An unnamed apocalypse has destroyed almost all life. There is no more living foliage. There are no more animals. There are only other people. And they are as evil as you can possibly imagine. As the duo travel, the man does his best to insulate his son from the badness surrounding them, while preparing the boy to go on without him. Because, he is dying. The book almost killed me. While reading it, I descended into a deep funk over its unrelenting bleakness. Even crazier, the book made me paranoid, or at least, enhanced my existing paranoia. While reading it, I would feel terribly anxious and uncomfortable when people joined me on an empty subway platform, or walked behind me on less than fully-lit streets, especially while I was out with my young, defenseless kid in hand. So you could say it had an impact on me, and I came into the movie with a pre-existing relationship with the material. And so it is a relief to say that the film is exactly what it ought to be: tense, bleak, terrifying, an experience. My stomach went quickly to that place of twitchy flux, and stayed there through to the end. Which is what SHOULD happen. It wouldn’t be fair to say that it had the SAME impact as the book - I don’t imagine that’s really possible - but it is still a powerful and affecting film, and one that will surely leave many folks reeling from its implications. I can tell you one thing for sure: I would not survive in the existence of this story. The boy is born very soon after the end of the world, but is around eight or nine by the time we catch up with them. I’m certain I could not have survived nine years. Most likely, I couldn’t have survived nine months. Probably, I couldn’t have survived nine weeks. If I was alive at the nine day mark, it would be a miracle. And if I couldn’t, what of my family? How could anyone possibly protect their loved ones? It’s horrifying. Horrifying, but well worth checking out. Truly, a film of consequences. Be ready to be upset by it, but in the end, shockingly, there is a sense of hope and possibility to the tale. A sense of triumph. The movie definitely carries the flame of the book. And in the end, I think most of the audience will as well. PHOBIDILIA directed by - Yoav Paz/Doron Paz The short version: Starts out to be something pretty interesting, then veers off into crazyland... and not in a good way. The long version: A computer programmer doesn’t ever need to leave his home. He gets everything he needs delivered to him - either to the door, through the tv, or over the internet. And without even realizing it, through isolating himself and never leaving home, he becomes extremely agoraphobic and uncapable of leaving when it comes up that he needs to. And he DOES need to. He’s being evicted. For the first half of this movie, I really enjoyed it. It was inventive and interesting. The lead was cool, and I was interested to see what happened to him and what he did about it. As his world destabilizes, first by the intrusion of new people into it, then by the threat of eviction from life in the manner to which he’d become accustomed, I began to lose interest. Because, I think, his answer was to not really do much of anything at all, at least, not anything that really made a lot of sense. And he very quickly goes nuts, and not nuts in a way that followed from the character (who was a pretty obsessive compulsive cleaner) but instead in a way that kinda went in an opposite direction to what we’d learned so far about him. It rang very falsely to me, and kicked me right out of the film. They had me, but they lost me. It certainly had its strong-points, but overall, the film left me pretty meh. And, finally for DAY FIVE, I hold in my hand, my intact and unspoiled, non-torn ticket to: CELL 211 (directed by - Daniel Monzon) a film which I was really looking forward to, based on the synopsis, but which I had unfortunately done a piss-poor job of scheduling. I didn’t really leave myself a sufficient window of time to get from the Varsity Theatre to the AMC between the films, PLUS... I’m feeling a bit burnt out from a few nights of minimal sleep (which, coming from me, is really saying something). So I missed it. Anybody out there get the chance to see it? Please, let us know what you thought. Anyhow, I’m the full(er) night’s sleep has left me totally refreshed and ready to greet the first day of the last half of the Toronto International Film Festival. YAWN! Pretty sure anyway. Wish me alertness, kids.

Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:35 a.m. CST

    First!

    by Pogue__Mahone

    I rarely do that!

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Survival does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    Perhaps they should have renamed THE ROAD as SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. Seems like an apt title.<p>

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:43 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    Mind you as a double bill those two movies would probably make for fairly depressing viewing (albeit for different reasons).

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:44 a.m. CST

    Glad to see

    by DanielPlainviewOnVacationInBoston

    that The Road is being mostly praised. Can not wait to see how Hillcoat treated one of the greatest novels of all-time.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:49 a.m. CST

    Bummed

    by Rustle

    about all the negative reviews of Survival of the Dead.. I was looking forward to that one playing at Fantastic Fest..

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 8:58 a.m. CST

    I'll pass on the jewmour...

    by Harrigan

    but I'm excited to see The Road.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Bummed...

    by skellngtn

    ..but not surprised by the slagging that Survival's taking, considering the last two installments were, for the most part, underwhelming. Time to pass the torch, George? The Road is still the movie I've been looking forward to more than any other since all the participants were announced. Variety's negative review aside, the clips I've seen bode well. It won't be the book as I saw it in my head (thankfully...?) but the clips of the movie itself, not the crap-ass trailer( F.U. Weinstein...your act of creative sabotage to fool the public into thinking this was Mad Max 4: 28 Days Later sucked) bode well indeed. Now, I wanna see how seemlessly the CGI apocalypse background scenes merge with the relatively untouched Western PA scenery of the clips thus far...back to work now.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 9:33 a.m. CST

    The Road will hurt...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...to watch, assuming it works. Survival otd will hurt to watch if it doesn't. It wounds more and more like The Road works. It seems more certain all the time that no future Romero films will.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 9:35 a.m. CST

    Survival

    by BloodFart

    Romero's single handedly destroying the genre he created.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 9:41 a.m. CST

    CARTUNA

    by Marxeffect

    I got to be fair man, your reviews rock! I always look forward to reading your reports. Keep it up!

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Good review of THE ROAD. Cartuna, the reason you...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...wouldn't survive is probably the same reason everyone else in THE ROAD world is so evil...all the decent people were eaten long ago...

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Only PUSSIES whine about FICTIONAL survival!

    by EvilWizardGlick

    I can't do this, I couldn't do that. Fuck that shit BITCH! <p> When it comes live or die time EVERYTHING FIGHTS TO LIVE! <p>Next time watch fucking Barny and avoid the pain.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 10:10 a.m. CST

    SPOILER TAG PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    by YackBacker

    I'm reading the SERIOUS MAN review and BAM! Spoiled some serious shit that review did!

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 10:14 a.m. CST

    FlickaPoo, weak were eaten.

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Simple, survival of the fittest. <p> Darwin explains it all. <p> Either things adapt or they die. <p> The problem is when people assume that fiction really is what will happen. Fiction obviously is written to maintain the readers attention. So things become overblown and fantastical. <p> Yet some dumbass will come along and confuse the map with the territory.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Half-Empty or Half-Full?

    by hippolyta

    I don't whether to be happy or sad that TIFF is half-over but I sure am looking forward to more than 4 hours sleep a night. I don't know how you are doing it, Cartuna.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 11:04 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    EvilWizard, now i'm confused. Are you saying that in an 'end of the world' situation that we will all eat each other or not?

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 11:06 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    If so then why the fuck didn't Romero nick that idea?<p> An end of the world flick where the zombies might eat you but far more dangerous are the other survivors WHO WILL ALSO EAT YOU!

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 1:13 p.m. CST

    EvilWizardGlick, you're a moron...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...and you have either not read the book or didn't understand it. How far are you willing to go in a survival of the fittest situation?...you are more fit than a baby, but will you stick it on a spit, roast it and eat it? I wouldn't. Life...but at what cost?...

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Survival's a fun little gem

    by Bobman46

    No idea why some folks seem it disliked it so much let alone write off Romero again before you've even seen it. Better than Diary and probably even Land.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Diary wasn't a bad picture

    by kolchak

    It delved deeper into the human psyche and made some great points.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 2:11 p.m. CST

    sigh...no one even reads what they write before sending it

    by BadMrWonka

    "So, that brought my overall score down a bit, but in spite of that, I loved this movie unreservedly."<p> yeah, that totally makes sense. I found a fly in my soup at lunch today, but still, my meal was flawless.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 2:28 p.m. CST

    BadMrWonka

    by FailureAtTheCave

    I know, right? Here's a favorite of mine: "OMG, I *literally* had butterflies in my stomach!" "My jaw *literally* hit the floor!" "I *literally* shit myself laughing." Fuck...

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 2:41 p.m. CST

    EvilWizard's posts...

    by MattmanReturns

    I made the mistake of attempting to discern coherence... and my brain broke.

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 5:19 p.m. CST

    Anyone think The Road will make its money back?

    by Turingtestee

  • Sept. 15, 2009, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Good call, FailureAtTheCave..

    by LastOfTheV8Interceptors

    .. that crap and "irregardless" really get my goat for some reason.