Garbageman33 has seen a ton of movies at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and some of these are playing Fantastic Fest. I'll definitely keep an eye out for BLUE RUIN - his review isn't the only pure praise of that movie I've read, and it's going to be seen by me at FF if I can help it. Garbageman33 also went to Jason Reitman's live reading of BOOGIE NIGHTS, and I'm always curious how those go over. Reitman's live reads are intriguing, but I can't really compare them to the real thing - BOOGIE NIGHTS isn't just well-acted and scripted, but it's also a mastery of editing and cinematography. There's the whole package to consider when looking at a movie like that, and so I'm sure the live reads are fun, but I doubt they're much more than that. It would be cool if filmmakers took scripts from great movies, didn't change a word, and "covered" them, so to speak, but I guess we have enough remakes already.
Marking the article spoiler because from what I understand, GM33 goes a little too in-depth on LABOR DAY. Here's Garbageman33:
JASON REITMAN LIVE READ
Our first film wasn’t a film, but rather a live table reading of ‘Boogie Nights’ staged by director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In the Air). The cast included Josh Brolin as Jack Horner, Dakota Fanning as Rollergirl, Jason Sudeikis as Buck Swope, Olivia Wilde as Amber Waves, Dane Cook as Reed Rothchild and Jesse Eisenberg as Dirk Diggler. Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films, so it was fun to hear a fresh perspective on scenes I’ve seen a bunch of times. Brolin was great. Olivia Wilde was surprisingly good. And it was pretty inspired to have a really smart actor like Eisenberg play such a dumb character. Not even Dane Cook could ruin it. But he tried. Man, did he try.
LOVE IS THE PERFECT CRIME
This French thriller follows a literature professor (Mathieu Amalric) who, for reasons that are neither explained nor demonstrated, is irresistible to women. That includes the stepmother of a missing girl who was last seen with the good professor. Throw in a cabin in the mountains, a sleepwalking affliction and a weird, possibly incestuous brother-sister relationship and what have you got? No, seriously, I’m asking. What have you got?! Clearly, the directors (yes, it took two of them) just decided to throw a whole bunch of shit at the screen and see what stuck. Spoiler alert: Not much.
In this charming Danish film, a 12-year-old boy named Pelle is tired of being ignored. He just wants to be noticed. Which becomes a lot easier when he’s bitten by a radioactive ant and transformed into Antboy. Soon, he’s a hero to adults and kids alike. But when he faces off with his archenemy The Flea, he’ll need more than toxic pee and the super-strength provided by sugar he carries on his utility belt. He’ll need the help of his friends. Which is a great message for kids, who made up a fair share of the audience. But this is no after-school special. It’s an exciting, funny superhero movie, which puts blockbusters like Superman Returns to shame. All for the money they probably spent on lattes.
In the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, he plays a 40-year-old proofreader who, through a loophole, is able to compete in a national spelling bee against a bunch of 12-year-olds. Soon, he’s laying waste to the competition. And being a total dick about it. His attitude changes, ever so slightly, when he’s befriended (against his will, of course) by a 10-year-old Indian prodigy. Before long, he’s taking the kid to bars, teaching him to shoplift and, worst of all, letting him drink soda. The film manages to walk the tightrope of making Bateman’s character a complete asshole, without ever making him unsympathetic. He’s great. And his newfound friend is even better. Just a funny, smart, surprisingly emotional film and a great start to a directing career.
In his follow-up to Submarine, director Richard Ayoade does a very, very loose interpretation of a Dostoevsky story about a meek office drone (Jesse Eisenberg) unhinged by the arrival of a confident, successful executive who looks exactly like him (Jesse Eisenberg). Initially, his doppelganger helps in his efforts to woo a co-worker (Mia Wasikowska) before deciding he wants her for himself. Which leads to a faceoff, in which both combatants have the same face. It’s bizarre stuff, but Ayoade totally commits to the world he’s created, with all kinds of strange cameos and settings that never commit to a specific time period. It reminded me of the films of Jean Jeunet (Delicatessen) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil), which is pretty esteemed company. I just wish it had a more consistent tone. It’s funny in some places and super depressing in others.
In the latest from Jason Reitman, Josh Brolin plays an escaped convict who convinces a well-meaning kid to let him spend Labor Day weekend hiding out with the kid and his agoraphobic mom (Kate Winslet, doing that Kate Winslet thing where she looks like she could start crying any second). Pretty soon, Brolin is fixing the back steps, playing catch with the kid and making to-die-for biscuits. Naturally, Kate begins falling in love with him. Because, you know, who wouldn’t? Especially when it becomes clear that maybe there are reasons he did what he did to get incarcerated in the first place. If this description sounds incredibly romantic to you, you’ll eat this shit up. If it sounds really sappy, you’ll get dizzy from rolling your eyes. This is the kind of movie where a convict just happens to make the best peach pie ever. Which is cheesy enough on its own. But then, it quadruples down on the cheesiness by having the kid make his own pies, then open a bakery, then get the bakery written up in an article that Brolin sees later in life. And yes, I just threw up in my mouth a little. To be fair, the acting and directing is really good. But the cornball premise is just too much to overcome.
SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON
This documentary by Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers) tracks the career of his friend Shep Gordon, who managed everyone from Alice Cooper to Teddy Pendergrass to Anne Murray. He even helped create the celebrity chef movement. Shep is like a real-life Zelig, in that he was there for some of the biggest moments in music and popular culture. His story is, by turns, funny, enlightening and tragic. There’s a ton of old footage, interviews with friends and former clients and funny re-enactments. Unfortunately, what I’ll remember most from the screening isn’t the fun little documentary, but rather the incredibly depressing Q&A that followed. Mike Myers didn’t answer a single question coherently, he just rambled on mawkishly about his new kid and the sacred contract between performer and audience. Dude, we have imdb.com. We know you made The Love Guru. Now, lighten up and tell some jokes, funny boy.
THE MISSING PICTURE
In this Cambodian documentary, the director laments his childhood spent under the control of the Khmer Rouge. The footage that remains from that era is mainly government-produced propaganda, so he stages his scenes using clay figures. It’s an arresting image, to be sure. You just don’t think of atrocities being committed by the California raisins. Trouble is, there’s no real structure to the narrative. It’s just a bunch of stories, with no beginning, middle or end. So, it feels more like an art installation than a movie. The difference being, you can come and go as you please from an art installation.
This drama from Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Grifters) follows Dame Judi Dench in her search for the child she was forced to give up for adoption in the 1950s, by some evil nuns. She’s aided in her quest by Steve Coogan, a former political reporter, who’s been fired after some unnamed scandal and has resorted to doing human-interest stories (the lowest form of journalism). When they discover her son may be living in America, it becomes a bit of a road movie. This all sounds like it could easily veer into manipulative tearjerker territory, but to its credit, it rarely sinks to that level. Instead, it feels like an actual search, in which some leads turn out to be wholly unsatisfying. Coogan and Dench have amazing chemistry, with each of them getting lots of great one-liners (Coogan also co-wrote the screenplay). All I know is, when Dame Judi wins the Oscar for best actress, he better be the first person she thanks.
This Mexican comedy follows a young mother and her 14-year old son, who have an almost uncomfortably close relationship, as they take a vacation in a cheesy motel. A couple days into the trip, the boy meets a girl traveling with her family and the two of them start to spend more time together. Much to mom’s chagrin. It all culminates in the world’s most awkward game of truth-or-dare. This film is the rare coming-of-age story told mostly from the parent’s perspective. It’s perceptive, poignant and funny. It’s also glacially slow. I know teenagers don’t talk much, but the movie runs for 96 minutes and probably has about 10 minutes of dialogue in the whole thing.
In this low-budget thriller, an aimless drifter snaps into action when he learns that someone who harmed his family has been released from prison. He goes from scrounging for food to scrounging for a firearm so he can exact his vengeance. Trouble is, vengeance tends to get a little messy. And he soon finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game in which whoever happens to be holding the gun has the upper hand. It’s a tense, absorbing thriller with moments of pitch-black humor. And it never seems like it was done on the cheap, even though the budget was less than a million dollars. It also serves as a commentary on our great nation’s obsession with guns.
In this tense British prison drama, a repeat juvenile offender is sent to the adult prison where his father is housed. Soon after arriving, the kid runs afoul of guards, administrators and the other prisoners. It’s up to a dedicated prison psychologist to try to curb his violent impulses, all while the kid’s dad undermines him at every step. It’s a tough watch, with lots of shocking violence, including an Eastern Promises-style naked shower fight. And, unless you’ve spent significant time in a British prison, you’ll probably only catch about half the dialogue. But it’s well worth the effort to try. My only real complaint (other than the lack of subtitles) is that the big Hollywood ending detracts a bit from the gritty realism of the rest of the film.
RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS
Much like American Indians, the aboriginal people of Canada have it rough. There’s poverty, illiteracy and rampant drug and alcohol abuse. But the aboriginal people do have one advantage: They can make a totally inept movie about their struggles and still get it accepted into a major film festival. Like this film in which a 14-year-old girl takes over the reservation’s drug business from her imprisoned father and vows to take revenge on a corrupt police officer. All while being guided by the ghost of her dead mother. Seriously, I don’t even know where to start with this movie. The acting is laughable. The corrupt police officer, in particular, is so cartoonishly over-the-top that he made the mom in Precious look subtle and understated, by comparison. The directing is so bad that he didn’t even consider that maybe you shouldn’t have loud music and voiceover at the same time. Just inept on every level.
This documentary traces a legendary Hollywood project, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune by cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain). Jodorowsky discusses everything he went through to try to bring his vision to the screen, including the casting of stars like Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. He shares storyboards and concept art, created by the artist Moebius and others that would go on to create the worlds of Alien, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even at 84, Jodorowsky seems as passionate about the project as he was 30-some years ago. He’s definitely the best thing the film has going for it. In fact, every time it cuts to a noted film geek to talk about Jodorowsky’s place in film history, I found myself wishing they just kept talking to Jodorowsky. Given his infectious personality, it’s easy to see how he convinced so many great collaborators to join him on his epic journey.
In this low-budget midnight madness flick, a man disappears in a flash of blue light. A couple years later, he comes back. But he seems…different. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s chasing people around with axes and chainsaws. Or, maybe he’s just done something different with his hair. I wouldn’t call this a good movie. Not by a longshot. But it satisfies the rules of midnight madness films. It’s fast-paced, bloody and there are enough what-the-fuck moments to keep the audience engaged in the wee small hours. I’m sure the experience of watching at home and dissecting all the bad acting and cheesy effects would be totally different, but at 1:30 in the morning, with a huge crowd of drunk/stoned/sleep-deprived lunatics, it was a lot of fun.