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Festival Watch 2006

Festival Watch 2006: Day Six

A brief look at the some of the films and events happening at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Today, as I was walking out of the Interncontinental Hotel from an interview, it was interesting to see hordes of people all swarming the front of the hotel in order get a hello from Brad Pitt or a cameraphone photo of Penelope Cruz. As I approached the exit door at the hotel and began to push outwards, it was clear to see every single person outside the hotel lean forward and try to peer in and see who was leaving. Upon coming through the doors, the crowd gasps of disappointment are almost audible: that guy's not famous! Humbling, but also amusing to see how much energy people put into celeb-gazing.

And now for some movies:

The Missing Star
Gianni Amelio, Italy
I have a few questions for The Missing Star's director Gianni Amelio: why would a lowly maintenance worker spend his life savings to travel halfway across the world to China where he doesn't know anyone and doesn't speak the language, all just to show someone how to fix a part of a machine that his company sold over three months ago? Why is there no real point to this story? Why is this film screening at the festival?

The Missing Star is a languid, slow film that's obviously supposed to be a character study between two unlikely companions, but instead it is an annoying film with few redeeming qualities other than the great shots of the Chinese landscape. So here's my final question for Amelio: what were you thinking when you made this?

For Your Consideration
Christopher Guest, USA
What would be funny is if For Your Consideration, Christopher Guest's new satire on Hollywood's obsession with the Academy Awards, starts getting some Oscar buzz. After all, Guest has assembled his favorite actors — the same collection of talented eccentrics that he has worked with for over a decade — in this hilariously funny film. Guest and Eugene Levy's storyline, coupled with amazing improvisation by the actors, makes for some serious comedy material.

Vaguely reminiscent of Waiting for Guffman, For Your Consideration is well-paced, well-acted, well-shot, and never fails to deliver the laughs. Parker Posey's overdramatic and unstable performance is a stand-out, but in the end, it's Guest's ability to satirize his own industry with comedic deftness that sets this film apart from many others, and makes it almost (dare I say it?) Oscar-worthy.

The Last King of Scotland
Kevin Macdonald, United Kingdom
Too early for Oscar predictions? Maybe, but here's the honest truth: the reace for best actor has already been wrapped up. Give that golden statuette to Forest Whitaker and save everyone else the agony of the nomination process. I fully believed that Whitaker was Idi Amin during The Last King of Scotland, to the extent that my fists were clenching, ready to punch the screen.

Sure, the film is a little disjointed and often forces to audience to make a few leaps of judgement, but the acting of both Whitaker and James McAvoy — who interact on screen like they've been working together for years — makes any on-screen shortcomings seem trivial. Director Kevin Macdonald, with the help of Whitaker, exposes us to Amin's stengths and vulnerabilities, but in the end it is the sheer terror that East Africans (like my own family) had to face during his regi

Christian Volckman, France/Luxembourg/UK
An animated film set in a dystopian Paris in 2054, Renaissance is visually stunning. Sadly, Christian Volckman's film has very little going for it other than the visual aesthetic. The plot is chock full of cliches and adds nothing to the action-thriller standard storyline, while the dialog is excuciatingly pedantic.

Which is not to say that the animation won't take your breath away and mesmerize you. Volckman and his animation designer waste no time in throwin absolutely wowing visuals at you. Maybe next time, they'll wokr on the script a little longer.

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