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Friday, Sep 17, 2010
The presence of queer directors at this year's TIFF is strong, as is the presence of women, both in front of and behind the camera.

The presence of queer directors at this year’s TIFF is strong, as is the presence of women, both in front of and behind the camera. In this edition of our TIFF coverage, I discover that sometimes, as much as you would like to support your people, you must also have a clear-eyed view of the finished work and be critical of the poor choices being made by some of them. Unfortunately in film criticism there is no free pass for the gays and the ladies.


What’s Wrong with Virginia? (dir. Dustin Lance Black, 2010)

This albatross is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black title and it practically begs for a snarky answer to the title question by being so completely ridiculous. What’s Wrong with Virginia? What’s right with Virginia is a better question and the answer is: zilch.


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Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010
PopMatters checks in on the latest fare from Woody Allen, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, while seeing a few mediocre new films, including the adaptation of Kazou Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go and the Paul Giamatti vehicle, Barney's Version.

This year, I haven’t been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off like almost everyone else, mainly because there isn’t anything that has played early on in the festival that I was super-excited to see and what I did see—other than a few key exceptions that I will detail later this week—failed to impress. All of the goodies wait at the end of this week’s rainbow for me, so for Day 2’s coverage we are looking at a decidedly mixed bag, sadly.


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Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010
When should a film critic get up and leave the theater? Do you see the big studio movies that will be released in December or later? Do you choose foreign indies that will never play on any even remotely big screen close to where you live?

As I mentioned earlier, it is practically impossible to decide how best to spend one’s time when so much is being offered at this festival. Do you see the big studio movies that will be released in December or later? Do you choose foreign indies that will never play on any even remotely big screen close to where you live? Do you opt for covering round tables and press conferences where you will be privy to the same rehashed, recycled information as everyone else? Or do you accept the task of conducting private one on one interviews, should you be fortunate enough to be chosen, during the middle of screening madness?


These are all tough questions, but there is an even more pressing conundrum that we writers here at TIFF must eventually face: to walk out of a film screening or not to walk out of a film screening. This is the eternal, burning question of every film critic here whose time and energy is precious. Today’s film writer has to be a juggler, and almost impossibly flexible, but when it comes down actually deciding to get up and leave a theater before the movie is over, what you have is a knotty ethical issue. On one hand, it is incredibly disrespectful to the people involved with making the movie. On the other hand, I’ve done it myself in the past and probably should have done it a lot more often considering some of the trash I have actually sat through.


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Friday, Jul 2, 2010
In this documentary about boys exiled from Warren Jeff's fundamentalist Mormon cult, one notes that, "For [my family] it would have been better for me to die than to leave."

The Utah border town of Colorado City is a dusty and isolated collection of homes surrounded by scrub brush and soaring desert buttes. It’s there that the fundamentalist Mormon splinter faction FLDS, headed up by the currently jailed would-be messiah and convicted sex criminal Warren Jeffs, is headquartered, and from there that a steady stream of boys have escaped or been exiled from. For the crime of going against the will of Jeffs they are termed “sons of perdition.”


For their sometimes rambling, but continually heart-tugging documentary Sons of Perdition, filmmakers Jennilyn Merten and Tyler Measom (former Mormons themselves) followed what happened to three teenaged boys who left “The Crick” once they couldn’t stand the polygamist cult atmosphere any longer. Although the three boys run the gamut of personality, they share both a fierce independence as well as a drifting sense of being lost in the world.


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Wednesday, Jun 30, 2010
Some of the most deeply emotional films at this year's Silverdocs couldn't help but seem like stories somewhat created rather than simply observed.

The invisible hand behind the camera was very prevalent in two of the most touching films at Silverdocs; whether or not this was an issue depends on how you like to take your nonfiction filmmaking. Both Steam of Life and Familia were gripping works that maybe had little in common besides their potent emotionality and Scandinavian directors (Finnish in the former, Swedish the latter), but it was hard to escape the sense that the stories being offered up had been shaped all too readily for the viewers.


Mika Hotakainen and Joonas Berghäll’s comic Steam of Life is less a documentary than it is a dry comic rumination on the pains and pleasures (mostly the former) of life, all set within the Finnish saunas where a succession of naked and sweating men tell stories in between beers. The locations are as different as the men themselves, from the functional municipal saunas where two seemingly homeless men grouse about their lives to the jerry-rigged one fashioned out of a rustbucket trailer in the backwoods. One man even fashions a sweat chamber out of a glass phone booth at a country crossroads.


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