Sunday September 11th. 10 years ago today I had a unique experience at TIFF. I was standing in line on Yonge St. outside the old Uptown theatre just before 9am with my buddy Jason and I think we were going into see a screening of Shadow of the Vampire. Word was spreading through the line that a bomb had gone off at the World Trade Centre. As we walked into the theatre, rumours became facts and we found out that two planes had crashed into the buildings. The movie played and one of the TIFF programmers came out after and said that because of the tragedy the rest of the screenings that day had been cancelled. The only other film that day that I had a ticket for was The Believer with Ryan Gosling. I met up with my friend Kelly and we went over to the Burgundy Bar & Grill and watch CNN for a bit and I couldn’t believe what was happening.
People were freaked out. Here we all were at a world renowned event. People were wondering if something like that could happen in Toronto that day. With a small panic in Toronto, you couldn’t even fathom what it must have been like in New York or the entire U.S. Throughout the day, I watched hundreds of first responders try to help people. NYPD, FDNY, doctors, nurses, soldiers, common citizens. I’m glad they cancelled the Fest for that day as I was in no mood to watch a movie. I was watching history. A dark history, yes, but history nonetheless. I remember I called my Mom that night and she had been sick all day and had no idea that anything had happened. I bet we all wish we could have had that feeling.
The next day TIFF started right back up again and I still have never seen The Believer.
I only had two TIFF screenings lined up, but I always like to check out other films in town that I’d like to see, so I had some planning to do. First thing I needed to do was find a sports bar, so I could watch some of the Ti-Cats game. I had forgotten that everyone else on the planet was watching the first Sunday of the NFL season, so finding a TV was going to be tough. I finally found a place that would put the game on the TV at the back. Throughout my lunchtime there I endured ridicule for watch the CFL. It’s the Canadian Football League. I’m in Canada. That shouldn’t be a stretch to think some people like it. The CFL is fun. Doing the Ti-Cats rally chant with 18,000 people is pretty damn cool. All together now:
Oskee wee wee. Oskee wa wa. Holy Mackenaw. Tigers, Eat ‘em Raw!
Hmm, I suppose that is ridiculous. However, Pigskin Pete just gets you riled up.
Anyway, I ate my lunch (cobb salad) and went to my first screening. It was called Dark Horse and was directed by Todd Solondz. He’s a weird guy. He directed Welcome to the Dollhouse (which I saw 16 years ago at my very first TIFF) and Happiness. Check those odd birds out. Dark Horse is about a guy named Abe. He’s kind of a loser. His bedroom is decorated with action figures and Simpsons memorabilia. He works halfheartedly for his Dad and doesn’t seem to have any friends or allies outside of his mother or his Dad’s secretary who finishes up all of his work for him.
Things get strange when he goes to a wedding with a severely depressed girl and not only gets a second date, but somehow she accepts his out of the blue wedding proposal. Things take a turn for the worse when his new wife to be reveals a secret to him and Abe’s life spins out of control. Now, that synopsis does not make it sound very funny, but this made me laugh a lot. There’s a ton of visual humour which is great, but I’m not sure how much re-watchability there is to this film. I fully recommend a DVD or Blu-ray viewing of this movie.
I went to check out the new Steven Soderbergh film Contagion which stars Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslett and Larry Fishburne. It’s a virus outbreak film and it’s friggin’ amazing. This is something that most of you can go see in a theatre right now. Go. Now. Trust me. Also, I don’t care what anybody says or what that dumb ass South Park movie says, Matt Damon is fucking awesome. He might be the best actor in Hollywood.
Immediately after Contagion, I went to go see Attack the Block. This is Goonies meets Aliens meets New Jack City. A group of thug kids who hang out with a big bad drug dealer come across an alien in their South London neighbourhood and take it upon themselves to fight off the alien invasion. This movie is what Super 8 could have been. It was very well done and the action was decent. My main issue is the teen gang who are the heroes of the film. Sometimes it is tough to get behind the main characters when they don’t show any redeemable qualities. However, it didn’t spoil the movie too much and it was still pretty entertaining.
Finally, what I think could be the hottest ticket in town – Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. This is third part of the documentary series about the West Memphis 3. Quick recap: Back in 1993, an Arkansas court found three teenagers – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly. Jr – guilty of the murders and mutilations of three 8 year old boys. During the trial a number of questionable things came up. Most notably that they were convicted with no evidence. None at all. The evidence against them was that they wore black, listened to metal, drew pictures of skulls and one read books on the wiccan religion. That’s it. No eyewitnesses, no murder weapons, no ties to the boys, no evidence of any kind that these kids were anywhere near the boys. The young boys were mutilated and there was no excess blood at the crime scene. Nothing seemed to add up. Evidence of jury misconduct and DNA evidence that proved that the teenagers were not involved in the crimes and linked other uninvestigated people to the murders were all brought up to the courts over the last 18 years that they were in prison were all dismissed by the original trial judge. An insane miscarriage of justice happened.
The third part of the series dealt with the work by some individuals who were trying to get the West Memphis 3 freed from prison, including the Dixie Chicks and Eddie Vedder. Experts from the FBI and other organizations were brought in to look at the evidence from the trial and it was discovered that the state coroner from the trial was mistaken on his testimony. It always seemed that no evidence of their innocence was ever allowed at the trial. Finally, towards the end of the movie, the Arkansas Supreme Court decided that they would hear all of the evidence this December and make a decision on whether a new trail was ordered. That’s how the movie was supposed to end as it was completed on August 15th, 2011. On August 19th, the West Memphis 3 were released from prison. Why? The filmmakers believed the Arkansas court, prosecutors and police were scared that a new trial would be granted and that these kids would be found not guilty and wanted to avoid embarrassment. It was a bittersweet ending as a condition of their release, the WM3 had to change their plea to guilty of a lesser charge and be granted time served. Yes, they are free, but they still are convicted child murderers and the state of Arkansas will not be pursuing the real killers of those three 8 year old boys.
A long day. Only one film tomorrow, but I’m going to see Pearl Jam!