Maple Leaf Rag | Bleader

Maple Leaf Rag

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Greetings from the Toronto film festival, where I've spent the last three days watching four to five movies a day and the rest of the time wandering the downtown area, threading my way through crowds of antsy people as they jostle for position behind metal barricades and point their cameras and cell phones at the front entrances of hotels waiting for God knows who to appear. Later on, eating dinner, I'll stare at the banks of TV screens in the restaurant and see an endlessly repeated loop of red-carpet arrivals and find out that it was Minnie Driver, and walking back to my hotel I'll try to remember what Minnie Driver has done since Good Will Hunting, and I'll draw a blank.

Jesus Christ, I'd better not write that. Hang on a second . . .

Greetings from the Toronto film festival, where I've spent the last three days watching four to five movies a day at the Scotiabank Theatre, a giant multiplex on Richmond street downtown. In previous years, press and industry screenings were held mostly at the Varsity Theater in Yorktown, a more collegial environment because the shopping mall where it's located has a little food court where you could buy a halfway healthy sandwich and chat with people between screenings. The Scotiabank is one of those movie concentration camps like our own River East 21: a continuous two-story escalator (word of advice: avoid looking up or you'll tip dangerously backwards) deposits you onto a giant lobby frantic with video games and TV monitors showing the same trailer of You Again over and over and over, and on every side are little fast-food franchises (Burger King, pizza, candy, etc). Inside the theaters, press and industry people frown at handheld devices, their thumbs working furiously, each of them wearing a lanyard around his or her neck with a festival ID that allows the staff to determine whether you're allowed in and the attendees to quickly evaluate whether you're worth meeting.

Shit, that's even worse. Let me give this one more try . . .

Greetings from the Toronto film festival, where I've spent the last three days watching four to five movies a day and almost all of them have been good to outstanding. Some of these you'll be able to see soon (Ben Affleck's crime saga The Town, which opens wide on Friday), some of them you'll be able to see in the Chicago International Film Festival (The Housemaid, a creepy South Korean domestic thriller by the guy who did The President's Last Bang), and some of them you may never get a chance to see at all (Pinoy Sunday, a low-budget comedy about two sad-sack Filipino immigrants in Taiwan trying to carry a beautiful red-leather couch they've found back to their dormitory on the other side of town). For me the real standouts have been Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, a tale of a ballerina (Natalie Portman) melting down as she prepares to make her starring debut in Swan Lake (Requiem for a Prima, I call it); George Hickenlooper's Casino Jack, with Kevin Spacey as conservative superlobbyist Jack Abramoff (not to be confused with Alex Gibney's recent documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money); and Gibney's own Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, which makes a compelling case that Spitzer was brought down not only by his own foolishness and hubris but by the secret machinations of the Wall Street honchos he mercilessly prosecuted while he was New York's attorney general.

I'd love to go on, but I've gotta get out of here and see four or five movies. Check back throughout the week and I'll post short reviews of what I've seen.

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