Saturday, September 11, 2010

TIFF: Day 2 (Friday 9/10)

Note: I'm having trouble with pictures on this blog, so I'm abandoning them for now. But, you can check me out at The Metro Times for the version with photos!

Today I went to my first volunteer shift and my first gala premiere. My volunteer shift was about five hours long and I was stationed at the Scotiabank Theater complex. This, I found out, is the site of the majority of the Press & Industry screenings, which I didn’t even know existed. Apparently, the huge schedule that’s given out to everyone which has the times & locations of nearly 1,000 screenings ONLY lists the public screenings, and there are another few hundred screenings just for Press & Industry. So, my job for this shift was to help with line control and crowd organization inside the Scotiabank complex for the P & I crowd.

A bit of knowledge I gleaned from this experience: people with Press & Industry credentials DO NOT like waiting in lines. They seem to think that, even though there are probably a few thousand people with the exact same P & I lanyards, they should be able to go directly to the front of the line. But what fascinated me was that it wasn’t the true media big shots that were disgruntled about the crowds; they, clearly, have done this before and know what to expect. Instead, it was the people who write for some paper in Delaware that’s surely about to go belly-up, or some website that maybe gets ten hits a month, and they think they’re P & I lanyard is a free pass out of ever waiting for anything. I solemnly vow that once I’m successful enough to be lanyard worthy, I won’t be that guy.

The best part of this experience was that two of my true writing heroes, Roger Ebert and Lisa Schwarzbaum, went through the line I was working and I got to check their credentials (as though I didn’t know they belonged). I was really thrilled to see Ebert, jawless, unable to speak, having difficulty moving around, and yet still doing what he loves. I once read an interview with Dustin Hoffman, where Hoffman said, “people retire from a job, but you never retire from your work.” Ebert’s livelihood is about seeing movies and helping to guide the public decision of what is worth our time and money, and he’s still doing it, no matter that it’s become infinitely more difficult, and he certainly doesn’t need the money. You gotta respect that. And Schwarzbaum, it should be noted, was one of the few P & I people through the entire day who took the time for basic social graces; she said hello to the volunteers, and said thank you when we let her in. Sometimes it’s the little things.

After the volunteer shift, I started to get ready for the big gig of the night, the world premiere of the film Trust, much of which was filmed locally in Ann Arbor this past spring (The Gandy Dancer is visible at one point, and Clive Owen & Catherine Keener spin the cube sculpture in front of the U of M administration building). This event brought out the full red carpet, paparazzi, and a line that was the longest I’d seen yet. The general demeanor of the crowd made it seem like we were about to enter a New York opera. Everyone was decked out, and the feeling that we were at something important was inescapable (even if inaccurate). The screening started about 20 minutes late, and I’ve a hunch that’s going to be a frequent occurrence with the gala screenings. David Schwimmer, who directed, was on hand to introduce the film, and stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener were also present, but apparently just to wave and elicit applause, as neither were given an opportunity to speak.

Movie: Trust

What is it? A domestic drama about fourteen-year old Annie, who starts a romance with a boy online she believes to be sixteen, but who turns out to be a sexual predator in his thirties. Clive Owen and Catherine Keener play the parents trying to handle Annie’s emotions, and their own.

Director: David Schwimmer—Ross from “Friends,” who’s lately turned to directing. His first film, Run, Fatboy, Run, starred Simon Pegg and played at TIFF a few years ago.

Notable Cast: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis (an Oscar nominee for Doubt), and newcomer Liana Liberato as Annie.

Notable Crew: The screenplay was co-written by Robert Festinger, who also authored 2001’s Best Picture nominee In the Bedroom.

The Grade: B

Thoughts: I won’t lie—I was prepared to completely write this movie off about 1/3 of the way through. It had the feel of a Lifetime movie whose purpose is to be shown in seventh-grade health classes, and Annie makes so many horrendously illogical decisions in the film’s first act that it’s actually difficult to sympathize with her character (even when taking into account that fourteen-year olds are illogical by nature)

But, to the credit of David Schwimmer and his cast, and a subtle shift in focus from Annie to her parents, I got pulled back in to what turned out to be a pretty decent movie. The acting is a huge part of it; Keener is one of Hollywood’s most reliable actresses, Clive Owen is a master of domestic rage (which he harnessed wonderfully in 2004’s Closer), and Liana Liberato is a revelation as Annie, who makes what initially felt absurd actually sort of resonate. Schwimmer hasn’t developed much of a visual style yet, and for the most part he plays it safe, but he does two things here that may point the way to a good career behind the camera: he draws a wonderful performance out of his cast, and he has the balls to end the movie at a place one might not think an ending ought to go. One of the most important abilities a filmmaker has is to control what their audience feels as they leave the theater, and Schwimmer does that quite well with Trust.

On Tap for Tomorrow: My first full day of film going, with tickets to movies starring Marion Cotillard, Keira Knightley, and Zach Galifianakis… but it didn’t quite go off without a hitch.


  1. That movie looks really good. When does it hit theaters?

  2. Daniel, it sounds like you are having a fabulous experience in Toronto! I really enjoy reading your reviews-you have a great style and bring so much background info to the table. You clearly describe the characters and the plot with insight and then add your own funny personal ad libs!! I can't wait to see all the " good" movies!!