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culture

Our Top 11 TIFF Canadian Film Picks

Hey! You! See more Canadian films! Here are some at TIFF 2011 that look good.

Hey Seann William Scott: there are too many n's in your first name! Why don't you come reinvest some in Canada's national film and television industry?

One of the great things about TIFF is how they, for better or worse, serve as gatekeepers of Canadian cinema. Between their year-long mandates and their annual Canada’s Top Ten programme, TIFF makes a genuine effort to screen the best homegrown movies. (And if you’re reading this, TIFF, we’re only being a bit snipey. You do a pretty good job, especially as an Incendies delivery mechanism.)

In a big way, TIFF is pretty much the Can-Con watchman. But we watch the Can-Con watchman. And so here are our top 11 Canadian film picks, culled from the selections at this year’s festival. As always, in no particular order, other than how they occur to us.

1Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo II (Masters): At first, like the rest of you, we were all, “What? They can’t make a Hard Core Logo II! Hugh Dillon’s character kills himself at the end of the first one!” (Oh. Spoiler alert.) And we even went into HCLII with eyes set to roll. But damn if it didn’t work. A knowing bait-and-switch, the “sequel” (we’re putting it in quotes to suggest it’s something other than a “proper” sequel!) had all the flash-cut rock ‘n’ roll stuff, sure. But because it’s about Die Mannequin, who are about as close to real rock ‘n’ roll as that rock ‘n’ roll–flavoured ice cream with the little chocolate guitars in it, all its punkish gestures seem even more cynical than those of the original. And out of this cynicism (which seems more like scepticism, which is just cynicism mellowed and aged for a few years), a subject more interesting than Die Mannequin emerges: Bruce McDonald.

2Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo (Canadian Open Vault): Oh yeah, the original Hard Core Logo is playing this year as part of the Canadian Open Vault programme. Be sure to stick around for the shocking surprise ending!

3Ingrid Veninger’s i am a good person/i am a bad person (Vanguard): Vanguards, which slots in films that defy convention and attempt to redefine the possibilities of the medium itself, time and time again is one of TIFF’s best programmes. A lot of the time, these experiments prove fruitful. (Other times, you get L.A. Zombie.) And really, Vanguards is the perfect programme for T.O. actor/writer/director Ingrid Veninger, whose latest film sees her casting herself as struggling indie filmmaker Ruby White, and her daughter, Hailee Switzer, as Ruby’s daughter, Sara. Collapsing the fiction/docu-fiction/autobiography/nepotism barriers (intentionally or not), good person/bad person is Veninger’s most interesting film to date.

4Guy Maddin’s Keyhole (Special Presentations): The last time Winnipeg’s Guy Maddin (who is, no doubt, one of our era’s essential filmmakers, Canadian or otherwise) made a feature-length talkie was way back in 2003—The Saddest Music in the World, which cast Mark McKinney (formerly of The Kids in the Hall) alongside Isabella Rossellini in what remains one of the most compelling pieces of bogus national historiography ever committed to celluloid. Keyhole, Maddin’s latest, reunites Rossellini with another Kid in the Hall, Kevin McDonald. It’s a recipe for success! It can’t miss! Maddin flick among top picks! Boffo!

5Mike Dowse’s Goon (Special Presentations): Granted, we haven’t seen Mike Dowse’s ’80s throwback American studio comedy Take Me Out Tonight (did it even get a Canadian release?), but his track record is otherwise unimpeachable. Between It’s All Gone Pete Tong and two whole FUBAR movies, Mike Dowse hasn’t made a bad film. And pairing him off with screenwriters Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg and actors like Seann William “Stifler” Scott, Liev “Mixed Nuts” Schrieber, Alison “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” Pill, and Eugene “Guys-We-Swear-Eugene-Levy-is-Funny-He-Wrote-Waiting-For-Guffman-for-Christ’s-sake” Levy in a bloody hockey comedy seems just about right.

6Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café de flore (Special Presentations): After cashing in on the success of 2005′s C.R.A.Z.Y. to make 2009′s blunted British period drama The Young Victoria, Vallée returns to his native Quebec (and his native tongue) with his latest, which weaves together a story of a woman living in 1969 Paris and a DJ working in present-day Quebec. Can someone say “remix”? (Sorry.)

Scott Speedman plays the Canadian Second World War vet-cum-bank-robber Edwin Boyd.

7Nathan Morlando’s Edwin Boyd (Special Presentations): There aren’t many Canadian folk heroes: William Lyon Mackenzie, Louis Riel, Puck… there may be more. But our point is it’s a short list. And Edwin Boyd, famed 20th-century Toronto bank robber and leader of the Boyd Gang, is on it. (Some say his ghost haunts the Don Jail. Others say we just made that up.) Likewise, Canadian capers are few and far between. Though 1978′s The Silent Partner is one of the better bank-heist flicks ever made. And Owning Mahowny is also really good. And The Wrong Guy is… a movie. In any event, seeing the smirking, hunky Scott Speedman (who stole the show in both Barney’s Version and Good Neighbours last year) star as the charismatic crook Boyd bodes well.

8Darrel J. Roodt’s Winnie (Gala Presentations): Well, okay, technically this biopic about Winnie Mandela (played by, arg, American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson) is a Canadian and South African co-production. But Elias Koteas is in it. And we like to think that the presence of Elias Koteas in a movie makes the movie Canadian. Which is why we also consider The Thin Red Line to be the third-best Canadian film of all time, after FUBAR and The Peanut Butter Solution.

9Léa Pool’s Pink Ribbons, Inc. (Real to Reel): More than just a provocative, highly intelligent critique of the breast cancer industry, Pool’s doc functions as an engaged, fiery takedown of capitalism and globalization, writ large. This is the kind of film the NFB should air on every TV channel and then disseminate for free on DVD, just so people see it.

10David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (Gala Presentations): David Cronenberg making a movie explicitly about psychoanalysis and S&M, the subtext that has coursed through most of his films and launched a hundred thousand undergrad film studies papers, is about on par with Atom Egoyan just screening a bunch of his home movies. This is shaping up to be the eXistenZ of late-game Cronenberg. There’s no way this won’t be an exquisitely costumed, spank-drunk disaster. And we can’t wait.

11Nothing by Denis Villeneuve: This must be the first year in like a thousand that TIFF hasn’t rolled out a new film by Quebec’s number-one Gemini and Jutra collector. This is bad news for anyone hungry for some more overwrought thematic pandering. But maybe now people will realize that other filmmakers actually make movies in Canada.

Stills courtesy of TIFF.

The 35th annual Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8 to 18, all over this movie-loving town. Get your tickets!

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