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by Stuart Henderson

15 Sep 2009


Navigating through a major international film festival is never easy. First of all, it involves a great deal of planning if you intend to see a lot of stuff. The Press and Industry schedule for this year’s fest is a complex grid of competing screening times, multiple locations, and frustratingly few showings of key films. Many of the movies that everyone wants to see are playing only once in theatres not quite big enough for all of us to get in. There are, in fact, two lines for many of the movies: one for the Priority Press (which means, sort of by definition, not me) and one for the Other Press (including a correspondent for the Huffington Post who was decidedly nonplussed about finding herself there, and who made embarrassing noises about it, like, in front of the rest of us, as if she didn’t realize that what she was upset about was that she was being treated just like the rest of us, all of which led to an awesome moment when a youthful festival representative came over to deal with her and admitted that she wasn’t familiar the HuffPo. “Canadians have never heard of the Huffington Post!” the critic responded, indignant and amazed. “No, I have never heard of it.” Yeah!) And so but anyway you have to wait in line a lot, and thus you have to plan to be at screenings long before the scheduled start, which means that you can’t safely bump from one show right into the next. Though I have, so far, been able to get into everything I’ve lined up for, I certainly haven’t been able to see everything I wanted to see. I mean, one of the theatres is a subway ride away from the other two!

There are two basic ways to approach a film festival. On the one hand, you can go to a fest with the intention of seeing every major film that stars lots of famous folks and which will invariably set you up for the big releases for the next few months (which, for reviewers, is good because a head start is nice). On the other hand, you can go to a fest planning to see only little movies which might not find a distributor, and thus may never again play on the big screen, in the hopes of discovering some unwashed gem. This latter option happens to be the “cool” way to go to a fest, since all I have overheard from “cool” looking film people is how they didn’t go to see some Hollywood flick because they can “see that anytime” and instead watched something weird, quirky, and interesting, that hasn’t got a hope in hell of being picked up for distribution. And, while I am drawn to that approach, I am also acutely aware that the former option provides the best possible chance of catching Golden Globe and Oscar stuff before the rest of the world gets in there, which is kind of thrilling. Anyway, there are actually three ways of approaching a film festival, since you can also just plan your days around what stands out when you thumb through the program, and then do the math to make your day work time-wise. This is what I decided to do. I was told by some guy when I said that I sat through Jennifer’s Body instead of seeing a semi-obscure French film (that he adored) that I was going to “regret” this approach. Film people can be very weird.

by Stuart Henderson

14 Sep 2009


The Toronto International Film Festival, now in its 34th year, is a massive media gongshow that takes place in my hometown, right around the corner from my house. I get to bike to my first screening in the morning. I take lunch breaks and meet my wife and son for little walks between movies. I don’t have to sleep in some weird sterile hotel room, staying up late because I get to watch TV in bed which, for some reason, I always seem compelled to do. I don’t have to eat every meal at fast food joints (which means I don’t yet feel like a bag of dump, though all I have done for three full days now is sit in a dark room). And, finally, I can share in the whole, admittedly intoxicating, irrepressible thrill of seeing stars as they walk down my streets, the streets I’ve been walking along past nobodies and whocareses for my whole life. I mean, if I saw a celeb in New York, would that be weird? But, when George Clooney or Jennifer Connolly comes sliding by, all graceful and elegant and not-quite-human, I dunno. It just feels, electrifying. Is that lame? Probably.

Truth is: I haven’t actually seen celeb one this year. (Last year, I did way better. I even chatted with Tim Robbins. Well, the truth is that I actually had an astoundingly unnecessary conversation with him since the poor guy was just trying to get a drink and I accosted him, all 5’8” of me, and he, who is much closer to 18 or 19 feet tall, had to lean down so far he was basically assuming “the position” and looking for all the world like a big storky bird bending over to pluck up a teeny worm (me), and all so that he could be polite to this random dude who felt the unstoppable urge to waylay him. Also, I bumped into a guy I recognized from a car commercial.)  Instead of star-annoying, I have actually been watching films this year. As I sat down to write this, your first instalment of a five-part series of reviews and randomness from your humble(ish) correspondent, I had already sat through 12. By the end of the ten day festival I will have seen about 30. Dear God.

by Kirstie Shanley

10 Sep 2009


Shoegaze has evolved.  It now includes a lot more fun!  The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have just enough etherea and shimmer as a supplement to their ripe indie pop hooks with a bit of twee pop thrown in for good measure.  It’s truly impossible not to dance when you’re listening to their self titled album or seeing them live. Their blissful offering is heartfelt, as their name suggests, and delivered in a way to ensure that you know sincerity is behind all the catchiness.

by Mehan Jayasuriya

8 Sep 2009


Last Thursday night, I trekked out to northeast Washington D.C. to watch David Bazan perform in the living room of a row house for a crowd of 30 kids. It was easily one of the most intimate, powerful performances I’ve witnessed in a long time. Bazan might no longer identify himself as a Christian but it’s hard to avoid religious metaphors when describing his solo shows: he still delivers his songs like sermons, belting them out with his eyes squeezed shut and his head cast back toward the heavens. Though he focused mainly on songs from his latest solo release, the excellent and deeply personal Curse Your Branches, he reached as far back as Pedro the Lion’s 2002 album Control, introducing that record’s penultimate track, “Priests and Paramedics” by lamenting the fact that Americans don’t spend enough time contemplating their own mortality (“It’s a very healthy endeavor”). And in classic Bazan style, he found plenty of time for between song banter, discussing politics, the ethics of music downloading and Radiohead’s In Rainbows with the crowd throughout the evening (he even managed to turn in a surprisingly solid cover of “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box”). Unfortunately, Bazan’s house show tour has now concluded, though he’ll be embarking on a full-band tour starting next month. For those who missed the house shows, we’ve embedded a recorded webcast of Bazan’s Brooklyn solo performance below (courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan).

by Thomas Hauner

31 Aug 2009


Robert Glasper at le Poisson Rouge, NYC

Robert Glasper’s album release party was a study in the dynamics of contemporary jazz.  Flexing the genre’s malleability as well as his own, Glasper showed off his abilities as both trio leader and experimental hip-hop group collaborator.  As he often does on his new album Double Booked, Glasper would either seize each ensemble’s melodic reins or demurely diffuse his harmonies into the underlying cadences, as led by drummer Chris Dave and bassists Vicente Archer (acoustic) or Derrick Hodge (electric) depending on the outfit.  In fact, Glasper receded too regularly into the background while playing in the trio but it’s a tendency whose success depends on taste.  For fans favoring the Experiment, it allowed Dave to take commanding solos that inverted the possibilities of his small kit.  For fans favoring Glasper’s prominence, there were never enough moments of aleatory but refined solos.  Everyone, however, appreciated Glasper’s disarming approach to both sets (one with each setup.)  Not unlike le Poisson Rouge’s own dressing down of classical music and jazz, it was a reassuring approach to an ostensibly imperious art.

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