91. Smoking week for medicinal purposes is sociably acceptable… even in cinematic reality. Also, it’s so much easier to get your stoner best friend to tell off your horrible significant other for you.[50/50]
92.You just can’t trust doctors. [The Good Doctor]
93. It can be all too convenient to avoid emotional attachments but being connected to others only makes us better people. [Detachment]
94. Being the maid of honor for your frenemy while you’re in love with the groom is just… awkward. Oh, and resist the temptation to try on a wedding dress that’s not yours. [The Romantics]
95. Letting someone else into your relationship is just asking for trouble. [The Freebie]
96. Watch out for those who are trying to change who you are. [The Shape of Things]
97. As the saying goes, it is better to have loved and lost as to never to have loved at all; it changes you for the better. [Mercy]
98. Take responsibilities for your actions no matter how easy it would be to get away with it. [The High Cost of Living]
99. Our minds can play tricks on us to protect us. [Keane]
100. The unexplainable can terrorize, influence, and invoke us to question our perception of reality. [Take Shelter]
I’m here at the Toronto International Film Festival for opening weekend. Yes! The official twitter of TIFF had hinting at a special event on the first day of the festival which turned out to me a new “Live Read” in the series put on by Canadian film director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult). If you’re not familiar with the series, here are the basics: Reitman gets together some of his actor friends and colleagues to do a live table read of classic/cult scripts. Some of the actors know each other; others just meet at this event for the first time. There is no rehearsal of the script beforehand so we as the audience get to experience hear not only stage directions and fragments of the script that may have change, been left out, or represent thoughts of the characters we don’t experience when watching the movie, but also get to witness the actors as they develop chemistry between each other and fill out the dimensions of the characters they are playing. Reitman has done several of these in the past (The Apartment, The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs), all starting when he was asked for new programming ideas by the film society of Los Angeles. For TIFF, he pulled together his celeb friends for a live reading of the 1999 Oscar winning (and TIFF) film American Beauty. I got tickets to this unique, once in a lifetime experience (as it is not formally recorded/released). Here is my experiences on the first day of TIFF 2012:
On Screen: I can remember really enjoying American Beauty when I saw it years ago (though I can’t remember exactly when I saw it). Since I wanted to have a better grasp on the film and its character before attending the Live Read, I re-watched it. Though I was a little hesitate on whether the movie would hold up after all these years my fears were unfounded. I was reminded of just have great a movie it is and how much it deserved its Best Oscar win in 1999. In American Beauty, we largely follow the Burnham family - Lester (Kevin Spacey), an office drone who is depressed with his life and is in the midst of a midlife crisis, Carolyn (Annette Benning), a real estate agent who is obsessed with perfection and image, and their teenage daughter Laney (Thora Birch) who is insecure about her physical appearance and would do anything to be beautiful - and their interaction with the new family that moves in next door, the Fitts - Sergeant Fitts (Chris Cooper), an ex-military with anger issues, impossible expectations, and a secret, Barbara (Allison Janney), a woman with serious mental problems, and Rickey (Wes Bentley), their troubled, drug dealing son with an obsession with finding the beauty in things around him including death. The movie begins as Lester begins to re-evaluate his life, something that is catalyzed by his newly formed crush on his daughter’s best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), a girl who loves the attention afforded to her by her looks and eggs it on. He decides to stop being a push-over and doing things that are expected of him and begin to live his life on his own terms. Carolyn, ignoring Lester’s unhappiness, is lost in her own strife towards perfection, begins to have an affair with a fellow real estate agent, Buddy (Peter Gallagher). During the same time, Ricky develops a crush on Angela, who he videotapes through his bedroom window. She in turn is drawn to him as she thinks she has find a kindred spirit, someone else who feels on the fringes of suburban society. As explores the ins and outs of the relationships between the characters, we get to see the consequences of obsession, denial, and unfocused anger. As the title suggests, the film leaves us to ponder what is truly beautiful - living your life honestly and without regret or putting forth an image of convention and normalcy. The standout among the cast for the Academy was Spacey (and for good reason), but I think some recognition should also have gone to Wes Bentley who does such a great job with creating such an oddly dark and sad character in Ricky.
On Stage: Going into the live read, I was excited about a couple of things - to see how a new cast would affect character development, to hear alot of the stage direction in the original script and also to witness how this group of people interact with each other. As we entered the theater, the stage was set with stands and seats for the actors, labeled with character names and the screen held the single title American Beauty. At the start of the read, Reitman came on stage solo and discussed his reasons for putting on this series and why he feels it’s a treat for the audience. He explained how the process would work, the actors portraying their characters while he read the stage directors and how iconic shots from the movie (like that well known red door and shots of rose petals) would be projected on to the screen during the read. He then introduced the cast who included actors of movies and TV - Paul Scheer (Buddy), George Stroumboulopoulos (Jim, the gay neighbor & various other parts), Nick Kroll (Fitts), Christina Hendricks (Carolyn), Bryan Cranston (Lester), Mae Whitman (Jane), Adam Driver (Ricky), Sarah Gadon (Angela/Barbara). After we were off to a rocky start (with audio issues no less), the cast really filled out their characters which was amazing to see in action. My favorites on stage were Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, and the awesome Adam Driver (I would like to take a moment to say that the choice of Driver to portray Ricky was perfect from the start; he has that creepy edge to him that reminds me so much of Ricky). Cranston took a more convention take on Lester the came close to Spacey’s portrayal, though with his own little touches (his “high” laughs, his awkward banter with Hendricks, the sexual innuendoes with his smiles and nodes). Hendricks brought alittle more uptight bitchiness to her portrayal of Carolyn that I loved more than the original. Driver took alittle time to find his groove but eventually nailed Ricky’s haunting monologues and found some true chemistry with Mae Whitman’s Angela. Because I just watched the movie and because we got to hear all the intentions of the script, it became easy for me to pick out things that were changed (i.e. how Jane was written to be nude more often, how the actors modified their actions or placement) as well as it was very interesting to see how things were specially described (i.e. the dance team’s routine described as being like a Vegas routine, “even asleep, Carolyn looks determined”, Lester kneels in front of Angela in the bathtub “like a man in church”, Carolyn looks at Buddy “like a Christian come face to face with Jesus”).
Have you seen American Beauty? What are your thoughts on the film?
Argo / I love this latest film directed by Ben Affleck already. I’m not one that is too into political films but this story really intrigues me. Part suspense drama, part comedy, the film focuses on the true events of the “Canadian caper”. During the 1979 Iranian hostage crises,a joint covert rescue by the Canadian government and the US CIA was conductedto retrieve six U.S. diplomats held hostage at their embassy in Iran. A CIA agent concocted a plan to convince Iran that the hostages were apart of a film crew sent there to film a sci-fi film called Argo. Sounds funny but its all so true. I think we are in for some great acting, a great story, and some great 70s fashion with this one. Watch the trailer for this film which also stars Kyle Chandlar, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and Chris Messina:
Detachment/Trailer for one of my favorite movies from Tribeca Fest 2011. This film stars Adrian Brody as a substitute teacher who conveniently avoids any emotional connections by never staying anywhere long enough to form a bond with either his students or colleagues. He finds himself at a new but all too familiar public school dealing with students who don’t care and teachers who have given up. But it is here that he comes to open himself up to those around him and decide to no longer be so detached. Though this has been receiving mixed reviews, I loved the mock-documentary style approach and emotional honesty from the cast (welcome back, Adrian; where have you been?) and director Tony Kaye (American History X). Detachment is currently playing On Demand. Do yourself a favor and check it out.