Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm Still Here

I'm writing this blog post very late on a Sunday evening after spending many hours working on a paper for my graduate project. I noticed since my last update on this blog, way back in early September while I was still in Toronto for the film festival, and I just left it hanging - I did not mean to do that, I just didn't have time to update my last day while there. And this just goes to show you how many balls I have up in the air and how busy I have been with work and classes. I'm going to put this blog on hiatus just until after I finish my final semester of school in mid-December. The light is at the end of the tunnel, but I really have to focus on some things in the coming 6-7 weeks to ensure I graduate with as less stress as possible. So much has been happening, both good and not so good, but nothing terrible, just regular stress and annoyances. By time I am able to resume updating ToZ, I'll be planning my Amsterdam trip on Dec 25th and I look forward to sharing pictures and commentary about that trip.

Meanwhile, sorry for the break and I'll be back...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

TIFF13 Day 6: Less Stress and Four Films

By Day 6 of TIFF of every year, the crowds are noticeably lighter and there is not as much stress as the first five days of this front loaded festival. I saw four very different films today, in four different theaters. But before I get to that, I'd like to brag that a star of 'Mystery Road', the Aussie film I raved about on Day 5, Hugo Weaving, re-tweeted my tweet about how awesome the film was. That's such a big wow in my book!

Anyway, here is how today flowed:

Director Guillame Canet and Producer
Blood Ties - 8.5/10 - This film had a steady slow pace that picked up big time at climax shoot-out scenes, and it reminded me of why 70's themed crime dramas are the best. Clive Owen and Billy Crudup are two brothers who lead different lives, one is a criminal, and the other is a policeman. When it comes to family, blood is thicker than water and it proves difficult to go full-stop on an older brother that is loved, but is so bad for the family. Does the cop quit his job to go after his brother, or does he stay on the job and take him down?

Producer(l), and the director(r) Jonathan Glazer
Under the Skin - 8/10 - An alien who seduces men who fit a strict criteria ensnares them in a horrific and creepy way. Why does she do it? For food, for energy, for game? Scarlett Johanssen impressed me with her limited speaking in this film, and the special effects and originality of this sci-fi thriller kept me in suspense the whole time. While we may not get the answers or understand what's going on, just go along with it and enjoy it because it's sexy scary and the ending leaves open some interesting questions.

Scarlett Johanssen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Don Jon - 8.5/10 - In Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, he plays a wise-ass New Jersey dude who is addicted to porn and sleeps around. He thinks it's normal to look at porn all the time, and he does it so frequently and for so long, he cannot be satisfied with real women. However,when he meets the woman of his dreams, he thinks he's set for life, but she has her own quirks and yet, she's still not enough. Will Jon ever be able to balance his love of porn with a fulfilling and loving life with a real woman? This was funny, but not for the prudish.

Director Claire Denis
Bastards - 7.5/10 - I'm not even going to say that I understood this film, but I was trying to keep up with it. This french film focuses on a family affected by a suicide of the father, the rape of the daughter, and the blind gullibility of the mother. The woman's brother comes to her aid to help the family in this crisis, but there are so many secrets and blind spots that will eventually swallow him and lead to more tragedy. There were so many pathetic characters in this film that it was hard to feel sorry for anyone, save the brother who tried to get down to the bottom of a seedy world of drugs, sex, and familial taboos.

Monday, September 9, 2013

TIFF Day 5 - My First Film Walkout

Another interesting TIFF day started off with two very good films, and I ended the day walking out on my third film.
Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Director Kelly Reichart

Night Moves 8/10 - Three eco terrorists (well, when you use 1500 lbs of sodium nitrate to blow up a dam, you're a terrorist) find themselves facing a moral dilemma when something goes wrong with their plans. They don't think about the consequences of their actions and the long term emotional effects it'll have on the community and on their conscience. Jesse Eisenberg and Dakato Fanning star with Peter Saarsgard as morally righteous environmentalist who want to take matters into their own hands and make a point to The man, the world, humanity, etc., but when their actions take on a tragic turn, loose lips can get them all in trouble.

Australian actor Aaron Pedersen, and director Ivan Sen.

Mystery Road 9/10 - this was a brilliant story about an aboriginal police officer who is trying to solve the murder case of a young aboriginal girl. The racial and socio-economic tensions in his community does not make solving this case easy. He's getting attitude from his fellow policemen, and the aboriginal people in this small Queensland town don't respect him much either because they don't think he's one of them anymore, now that he's a policeman. But someone has to solve this case and it is his determination to find out who. He can't trust everyone, and there is something dirty, unlawful, and sinister going on and he is going to get down to the bottom of it, regardless of the veiled threats against his own life and family. The actor who plays the aboriginal officer is Aaron Pederson and he did a brilliant job. This film also stars Hugo Weaving as a cop that you just don't know whose side he's on. I hope this film gets distribution so that more people can see it, and I think it's brilliant enough for Australia to submit for Oscar consideration as Best Foreign Film.

Director and cast of Third Person
Third Person 3/10 - Three men living three different lives dealing with the women in their lives. It's suppose to be funny, but I didn't laugh. I walked out within the first hour, and that was 45 minutes too long. I'm not a fan of Paul Haggis, and I have proof now to stay away from his work from this point forward. What a waste of talent in this movie.

In the ten years that I have been attending TIFF, walking out on Third Person was the first time I've ever walked out on a film.

My patience has been tested several times during this TIFF event because I'm getting fucking tired of people trying to cut in line because they don't feel like getting in the back of the long line due to arriving later than everyone else, and not wanting to lose out in getting select seats. I'm also tired of the people with big ass heads who block my view, I'm tired of slow walkers, I'm tired of het couples displaying obnoxious PDA in lines (get a fucking hotel room bitches!), waiting in long lines for long periods of time and having films delayed, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love TIFF, but the hassles sometimes are very, very annoying and stressful! Maybe TIFF shouldn't have so many films because I have never seen such foot traffic chaos in all my years. It makes no sense whatsoever to delay people from entering into their theater, after the lights are turned down to start the film. When 50 people still need to find seats because they were being held up due to mis-communication or ineptitude, this is not cool, it's poor customer service, and extremely disruptive to everyone.

TIFF Day 2, 3 and 4

My time here in Toronto is turning into a blur because I'm running from here to there, and strategizing this and that, but so far, so good. The highlight thus far is about '12 Years a Slave' (read 10/10 review here) and handing my favorite actor, Michael Fassbender, a small token gift on Friday. I'm so glad that stress is over and done with so that I was able to move on and focus on the rest of TIFF.

With that said, here are just quick comments about the films I have seen thus far:

The Fifth Estate - 7.5/10 - Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as Julian Assange, but some dots were missing in this connect the dots drama about a self-appointed cyber truth seeker. Sometimes, some things need to be kept out of the public domain, but other things we do need to know about. But when Julian's ego started to take precedence in the pursuit of truth, things go to pot and he is left as a man who cannot walk in public anymore in fear of being persecuted for his crime of... spilling some truths.

Cannibal - 8/10 - A very creepy loner who works as a tailor by trade, and a woman eater when his refrigerator needs to be restocked. This was a chilling and suspenseful film about a handsome cannibal who becomes conflicted about what to do to the woman he falls in love with. Eat her or let her live?
The film makers of Mission Congo
Mission Congo - 9/10 - A wonderful documentary about the how Pat Robertson's minstry falsly used the Rwanda refugee tragedy to pretend to help those people, but instead, used their missionary work as a front to really go diamond mining. Robertson's ministry is still accepting funds for this charity, but not a dime is going to help the refugee. Absolutely pathetic. Robertson's lawyers tried to place an injunction on the film to prevent it from showing at TIFF. Ain't that a bitch? He's going to hell for his greed and sins, and you read that here first!

Dallas Buyers Club - 9/10 - Matthew McConaghey (Ron Woodruff) should get a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of an IV drug user who develops AIDS and becomes frustrated with the gridlock created by the FDA in being slow to approve drugs to help AIDS patients. The creation of a drug buyers club help HIV infected people use alternative drugs and homeopathic regimens to treat themselves. Jared Leto is also excellent as a transvestite AIDS patient who befriends Ron and helps him establish the buyers club.

The Station - 7/10 - A midnight madness horror film about a remote weather research station in Austria/Germany that is overwhelmed with terror by a biological freak of nature virus. This film as elements of The Thing, and another 80's horror movie that is on the tip of my tongue (the ending reminds me of it). So it's half original, and half copy-cat, and just ok...entertaining, but ok.
 Sandra Bullock was incredibly gracious to all her fans. She's fantastic!

And the highlight of today was seeing Gravity and actually seeing up close and shaking the hand of the lovely Sandra Bullock, an actress whose films I have been enjoying since I first saw her in Speed. Sandra really impressed me as she exited out of the black sedan and literally spent about 30 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures. A true class act!

Gravity - 9.5/10 - Is an excellent space adventure that follows what happens to Bullock's female astronaut, Ryan, when fragments from a destroyed satellite destroys her space station and kills everyone else. I actually tensed up while watching it because it was so suspenseful and I was on edge in finding out how she would survive this. It was presented in 3D and the effects were spectacular! I love Alfonso Cuaron, and it was an honor seeing him on stage and explaining the process of making this film.

More images from TIFF13

Friday, September 6, 2013

TIFF 2013 Day 1

After what started out as an incredibly disappointing and stressful day at 5:31 am - I missed my train by 1 minute due to an overly chatty Border dude on the Canadian side. I wanted to cry but was too angry to do so. The ticket agent at the Train station just put me on the next train that left at 9:05. Those VIA Rail people are prompt as hell because they leave on the mark, no and ifs or buts.
My tickets to the 15 films I'm going to see!

I arrived at my host Glenn's house around 1:30 and we proceeded to start our day. We went to the Spring Day Spa to collect a gift certificate I bought for him for allowing me to stay at his place, then we went to eat at Aroma, an Indian restaurant directly across from the Tiff Bell Lightbox.

The only movie I was scheduled to see Friday was 'Blue is the Warmest Color', a beautiful and striking film about a young girl, Adele, brilliantly played by  Adèle Exarchopoulos who is only 19, and her coming of age in discovering her inate lesbian desires when she sees a gorgeous Emma, played by Lea Seydoux, crossing the street one day. Love at first sight? For Adele, yes, for Emma, she's already in a relationship, but open to exploring something more. The girls lead two different kinds of lives, Adele is just a shy high school student and Emma is an out lesbian art student. The two eventually fall in love and it's so fast, next thing we know they are living together. A clue to the short-lived romance is demonstrated by Adele's introversion when she sees Emma with her art friends, and being very friendly with her ex and other lesbians.

Feeling not fully loved by Emma, Adele explores other avenues in secret, but once Emma finds out, game over and Adele's world is destroyed. The sex scenes were very detailed and thoroughly exotic. Both girls have beautiful bodies and put everything into making them look like they were actually in love and in a very private moment. In fact, in today's The Guardian article, it is said that both actresses felt they were so mistreated and exploited in the making of the film, especially the 10 day shooting of the sex scenes, that they will never work with director Abdellatif Kechiche, again. And he has hit back by saying, "How indecent to talk about pain when doing one of the best jobs in the world." Well Abdellatif, you didn't have to be the one participating in the marathon choreographed sex scenes.

I'll be curious as to how this film will play out in the States.Will the sex scenes be edited down by several minutes? If so, that will be indicative of just how pathetic the MPAA would be if lesbians having realistic sex is something people should not see, yet, decapitations and other horrendous ways to die on celluloid just get an R rating.

Do yourself a favor and watch 'Blue'... it is long, I feel that this could easily be a 2-hour movie instead of nearly three hours. And Adele and Lea are stars to watch from this moment on. But actresses did excellent work and they should be recognized for their efforts in this film.

Grade: 9/10

Images from TIFF Day 1:
Roy Thomson Hall has added an interview section and the images from the interview will be capture on that big screen.

If you have a 'P' on your ticket, you get to stand in the Priority Line, and get to enter the Princess of Wales Theatre first! 

The film roster for Princes of Wales Theatre.

Me on the red carpet at the Princess of Wales theater, Michael Fassbender's '12 Years a Slave' will have its world premiere at this theatre Friday night, and he'll walk on this very carpet.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Tenth TIFF!

I'm heading towards Toronto today in what will be my tenth year in a row of attending the Toronto Int'l Film Festival. I'm going to watch 15 films beginning with tonight's showing of Blue is the Warmest Color, and then 12 Years a Slave for Friday. Keep watching the blog for daily updates, and you may also want to keep an eye on my Instagram too.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Superman - Batman Movie Will Film in Detroit Michigan!

As you know, I LOVED Man of Steel, I gave it a 9/10 score! So you know I'm geeked out beyond imagination in reading a tweet from the Detroit Free Press this morning, confirming that the Superman - Batman movie will be made in Detroit and the surrounding area in early 2014. I will devote a 3-day weekend to scouting out filming locations so that I can be a part of the magic of making this movie! This is so exciting! With Ben Affleck being named as the new Batman last week, this news has made me find more value in his selection. Henry Cavill is the best Superman by far, so this is going to be an excellent adventure. Read the article in full by Julie Hinds.

Michigan is getting the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader.
The upcoming Superman-Batman movie has been approved for the state’s film incentives, the Michigan Film Office announced today.
The Warner Bros. film featuring the two biggest superheroes of DC Comics expects to begin shooting in metro Detroit and elsewhere in Michigan sometime in the first three months of 2014.
The movie, informally known as the untitled “Man of Steel” sequel, has been approved for $35 million in incentives on an anticipated $131 million of in-state spending.
That would represent a higher percentage of spending for the incentives awarded than Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which was filmed in Pontiac’s Michigan Motion Picture Studios in 2011. The origin story of Oz’s wizard had a projected spending of roughly $105 million and was awarded nearly $40 million in incentives.The movie, which will star Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman, expects to hire 406 Michigan workers. The MFO also said it would use about 500 Michigan vendors and spend $5.1 million on local hotels.Thousands of extras are expected to be needed.
The Superman-Batman movie will be directed by Zack Snyder, who also helmed the blockbuster “Man of Steel.” Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, the Ann Arbor native who is writing the screenplay.
“Detroit is a great example of a quintessential American city, and I know it will make the perfect backdrop for our movie,” said Snyder in a MFO statement.
The Superman-Batman movie has been the subject of worldwide buzz ever since the on-screen combination of the two DC superheroes was announced at this year’s Comic Con.Recently, the official Warner Bros. announcement of Affleck’s casting as Batman ignited heated debate in the social media world. So did a story from that Bryan Cranston would be Lex Luthor, a report that lit up the Twittersphere.
Last week, the Free Press reported that the Superman-Batman movie would be coming to Detroit.
The incentives for the project will be allocated from the fiscal 2014 budget, which, like fiscal 2013, is $50 million, according to the film office. Any leftover money from the fiscal 2013 incentives will be directed to offsetting the full amount approved for this project.
So far in fiscal 2013, $36 million in incentives has been awarded to 26 projects.
Superhero films on this scale typically use several locations to complete their production. But the MFO announcement indicates that Michigan will be a substantial location for the sequel.The movie could raise Michigan’s profile as a potential filming location. The state’s filming schedule had slumped after the 2011 revamping and reduction of the film incentives, but was revived this year by productions like AMC’s “Low Winter Sun” and “Transformers 4.”
The award also leaves enough for the state to draw a few smaller studio or TV projects or many small independent films, a mix that the local film community considers important to sustaining opportunities here.
For instance, the Superman-Batman incentive would still leave enough for the return of “Low Winter Sun” if the series is renewed. It was approved for nearly $9 million in incentives for its 10 episodes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

This Sums up the VMAs

I haven't watched MTV's VMAs since 1997, and this manip/photoshopped picture perfectly sums up the sad circus of bullshit that the video music awards is all about. Miley Cyrus, you are a stupid girl for slutting up for attention. Pathetic, I'm sure that in your family, they are proud of you.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Now if we yell Miley's name three times, can she just go away?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Music Video: City and Colour - Thirst

I absolutely dig this song. I have been listening to it on the radio when I'm driving around, and I always turn up the volume. There's something about the lyrical voice of Dallas Green, the lead singer, with the drums and synthesizers in the background. I get a 90's vibe from the song. And when you see the video, Dallas looks like a store clerk, in a sweet and gentle, nerdy way. The video for Thirst has a James Bond opening quality to it. Check out this Canadian, I'm totally going to download the song and listen to it on my iPod in route to Toronto. They are coming to Detroit on Nov 7th.


When I think of
Fates worse than death
All I can think of
Is something you said
You said we were golden
Bright like the sun
And now I am stranded
Knowing I'm not the one

An ocean of anger
Flowing through me
Blood-stained and broken
From what I failed to see
And just like a snake charmer
You led me astray
Living in distress
Hoping help was on the way

In the midst of a storm searching for shelter
I came upon one single feather
A half-hearted wish for something better
Gracefully cursed
I thirst

Attached to the soil
I'm dyed in the wool
There's iron in my blood
Yet so vulnerable
But after I'm gone
Once I finally leave
You will be left alone
To the wolves and the thieves.

In the midst of a storm searching for shelter
I came upon one single feather
A half-hearted wish for something better
Gracefully cursed
I thirst

Gracefully cursed
I thirst

Gracefully cursed
I thirst

I thirst

Friday, August 23, 2013

Around town: AnnYpsi

In the span of 5 days, I have done two new things near home. Last Sunday I went to the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival for the first time, and this evening, a new shopping strip mall opened up across the street called Arbor Hills. It's a very posh place with Lulumon, MadeWell, NorthFace, my beloved Anthropologie, Paper Source, and Glass Box Cafe. Several other stores plan to open and two restaurants over the next few weeks. It's going to be insane at this place for the next month or so when the college kids come back into town. And shopping here is going to be a mad house and cause traffic congestion. Glad I can just walk there.

They served h'orderves and sparking water and wine at the Anthropologie Grand opening. Proceeds from all sales went to the school of design at U of M.

And scenes from the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival a few days ago -

Fresh apples from a small farm a few miles North. I bought a few.
 This woman is modeling Rosie the Rivetor to save the Willow Run Bomber Plant to create a new home for the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Mi.
 The Eyrie is a gift shop in Depot Town in downtown Ypsi, and they also serve tea in their garden. When I buy a house from the lottery I'm going to win one day, I'm going to model my back yard like this!