2012 Toronto Film Festival – DAY ONE.Part 1

September 9, 2012
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The Toronto Film Festival – Day One

Is it okay to start off by complaining about the wi-fi? Probably not. But it’s the reason I haven’t been blogging in real-ish time and why my tweets (follow me at JephM)appear in erratic spurts. Even Starbucks has been unreliable. And so, as South Park encourages…. Blame Canada.

That said, this year has presented a more challenging game of schedule hopscotch for me than last year. A preliminary list of “want to see” films generated well over 50 titles. I’ll barely get more than half that number.
Still, the first day made for a sizeable dent. I saw five films today and while there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, nothing had me raving.

Last year kicked off with an 8am screening of MELANCHOLIA Nothing like Lars Von Trier to get you to puke up your Wheaties and put a razor to your wrists. First up this year was Rian Johnson’s (Brick, Brothers Bloom) much ballyhooed LOOPER. And the truth is, this time travel yarn delivers the entertainment goods.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a hit man of sorts, one whose victims are sent back from the future… which is all Jim Dandy until the day his future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back to be terminated. As they say in the biz: complications arise. While never mind-blowing this is a solid scoff thriller with clever plot turns and one of the best make up jobs I’ve seen in quite a while. Whoever was responsible for making Levitt look like a plausible Willis should have been hired for Cloud Atlas (more on that film in a couple if days).

I decided to turn morning #1 into a time travel double feature and checked out THERMAE ROMAE, a Japanese manga-inspired tale of a discredited Roman Bathhouse architect who mysteriously zips back and forth thru time to visit modern Japan where he steals their bathhouse designs. It’s pretty silly stuff and for roughly the first 45 minutes it’s entertaining. But eventually the predictable plot mechanics kick in as the chuckles peter out.

Ben Affleck’s ARGO was next and I suspect this movie will get lots of Oscar buzz… Not so much for the acting (which, except is solid) but for the film in general. I won’t regurgitate the entire plot but suffice to say it’s a caper set during the Iran Hostage Crisis of the late 70s. In an attempt to smuggle 6 Americans out, Affleck’s concocts a CIA plot that includes a fake Canadian-funded sci-fi film scouting locations in Iran. Tense, entertaining, and greatly benefited by the presence of John Goodman and Alan Arkin, I suspect this dram will play very well with American audiences. Don’t expect anything deep or profound with regard to characters. The film is like a straight-faced version of Oceans 13 set during a very tense time in recent American history.

What will be really interesting is how audiences (and especially Islamphobes) react to Affleck’s opening the film with a short history lesson that indicts the US for inciting many of the problems that continue to this day.

Equally fascinating was the conversations I heard from Canadians, who had been taught in school (and were proud) that Canadians had executed the Argo rescue mission… Until Bill Clinton declassified the documents in 1996, revealing that it was a CIA operation.

More on Day One to come…(including DREDD and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS)

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