Sunday, February 10, 2013

Revisiting John Hughes; the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival

If you are based in Canada, and specifically a Toronto denizen, you are in for a treat.

Starting Friday, February 15th, the good people at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have organized the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival. And the theme for the fest is young movie lovers. It includes an enviably well curated selection of movies featuring the young in cinema. The full schedule can be found at All films will be playing February 15-17th at the festival flagship venue, the TIFF Bell Lightbox. 

In addition to the film screenings, there is even a 24-hour film challenge. According to the website, "TIFF Next Wave challenges teams of high-school-aged youth to make an original short film in just 24 hours, from 6pm on Thursday, February 14 to 6pm on Friday, February 15, just in time for Battle of the Scores. All films that meet the competition criteria will be screened at TIFF Bell Lightbox on the closing day of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, Sunday, February 17." 

No festival of films about the young can be complete without screenings from the John Hughes pantheon. And the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival has one-upped the stakes by a full on John Hughes Film Marathon as part of the fest. Even better, high school students can attend the Hughes marathon free.

2013 TIFF Next Wave publicity still for Ghost Graduation
One of the films I viewed at the 2012 TIFF was the Spanish language movie Promocion Fantasma (Ghost Graduation).  A half-hour into the movie, I stopped analyzing the film and surrendered to its silly, giddy charms. An homage to the John Hughes films from the 80s, Ghost Graduation is one of the featured films at the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, playing on Sunday, February 17th at 2:45 PM. 

Here is what I wrote about Ghost Graduation in my 2012 TIFF write-up

2012 TIFF publicity still, Ghost Graduation
"If your list of comfort-food movies invariably includes films from the eighties, you will be sure to love Ghost Graduation (Promocion Fantasma). This is a light-hearted piffle of a film that only exists to get as many laughs as possible as it (re)visits the John Hughes universe. The director of this Spanish-language film, Javier Ruiz Caldera, mentioned in the Q & A after the film that the plot emerged from the premise of what might have happened if the characters from The Breakfast Club never got out of detention but died and were stuck as ghosts in their high school for the next twenty years. In this film, a school teacher who can see the dead has to help these ghosts resolve unfinished business so they can move on and stop haunting the school. The reason why Joss Whedon was the apt choice to make The Avengers is because he is a geek about the universe of these comic books and he gets these characters. A filmmaker who taps into his own outsized love for a particular story or genre will always do a better job than another who does not have that love, no matter how technically accomplished the latter may be. Well, here is a filmmaker who gets those seminal films from the eighties and he nails that sensibility in his own directorial debut. At the TIFF screening, he got a long round of applause at the end of the film. Sometimes all you need to do is make a film about something you love, and the rest takes care of itself.

Incidentally, I wonder if John Hughes will be someone whose cache will continue to grow in coming decades. He is not typically invoked during mention of the cinema greats. We will find out, but I suspect time will be kind to the legacy of John Hughes films".

I am glad to see that the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival is already doing its part to keep the Hughes legacy relevant to a new generation of movie lovers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Best of 2012 : Oddities

An unscientific, biased and sometimes mean-spirited tally of cinematic observations from 2012
  • Worst film of the year: Wrath Of The Titans
  • If you didn't like this film, you can't be my friend: Life Of Pi
  • So sue me, I liked this film(s): Mirror Mirror, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
  • Worst film with monkey: The Hangover II
  • Best film with monkey: Chimpanzee
  • Best film awaiting distribution : Its A Disaster, 7 Boxes
  • Most self-important film: The Dark Knight Rises
  • Film I liked that everyone else hated: Cloud Atlas
  • Film I hated that everyone else liked: The Master
  • Most unhinged film (that is still oddly compelling): Holy Motors
  • Most underrated film: Celeste and Jesse Forever, Friends With Kids, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, People Like Us
  • Best film that should have received a better deal at the box-office: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
  • Most unexpectedly disappointing film: Trouble With The Curve, This is 40
  • Most unexpectedly great film: End Of Watch
  • Most unexpectedly somber film: Skyfall
  • Most unsettling film: Bestaire
  • Most offensive film: Crazy and Thief
  • Most unjustly deplored film: John Carter
  • Most inventively structured adaptation of a classic: Anna Karenina
  • Most uninventively structured adaptation of a classic: Les Miserables
  • Most ambitious film: Prometheus, Cloud Atlas, Looper
  • Best film you haven't heard of (but is available on DVD): Sleepwalk With Me
  • Most depraved (in a brilliant way) film: Killer Joe
  • Best reason to watch documentaries: Searching For Sugar Man, Queen of Versailles, How To Survive A Plague
  • Most redundant evidence that Ben Affleck is a considerable director: Argo
  • Better of two (!) films this year featuring, how should I say this, an actor's sexual tension being manually relieved by his female costar: Hyde Park On Hudson (the other being The Master)
  • Funniest use of nudity: Gina Gershon in Killer Joe
  • Most healthy inclusion of nudity: The Sessions
  • Most unhealthy lack of nudity: Skyfall
  • Most queasy sexual tension: Juno Temple and Matthew McConnaughey in Killer Joe
  • Best film with gratuitious violence: Hit and Run
  • Worst film with gratuitous violence: Django Unchained
  • Most unrecognizable actor: Hugh Grant in Cloud Atlas
  • Most unexpectedly impressive actor: Matthew McConnaughey (Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Magic Mike, Bernie)
  • Most unexpected acting revelation: Channing Tatum's comic timing in 21 Jump Street
  • Most tense seven minutes in cinema this year: Noomi Rapace's self-induced gestational termination in Prometheus
  • Most unappreciated actor: Rashida Jones in Celeste and Jesse Forever
  • Most overlooked actor: Kristin Scott Thomas and Rachael Stirling in Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
  • Most unforgivably underused seasoned actor: Debra Winger in Lola Versus...
  • Best use of a seasoned actor (female edition): Susan Sarandon in Jeff Who Lives At Home, Salma Hayek in Savages
  • Best use of a seasoned actor (male edition): Christopher Walken in A Late Quartet and Seven Psychopaths
  • Best actor deserving a better career (female edition): Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going)
  • Best actor deserving a better career (male edition): Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)
  • Best film poster: Promotheus