Awake: 8:00 a.m.
Movies:* 9:15 a.m.: Woman On The Beach (A-); noon: Renaissance (B-); 2:30 p.m.: The Half Life Of Timofey Berezin (B-); 4:45 p.m.: Trapped Ashes (C-); 8:30 p.m.: The Last King Of Scotland (B-)
Food: ham and cheese sandwich on multi-grain bread; large hot and sour chicken noodle soup; braised pork short ribs in sesame sauce with rice, broccoli and kimchee; handfuls of snack mix and chips
Drink: bottle of apple juice; glass of water; glass of sauvignon blanc; half-bottle of Coke; bottle of water; half-can of apple soda
Gum: 4 squares Eclipse spearmint
Music: iPod shuffle
Print Media: Entertainment Weekly
Conversations: the usual crowd**
Bedtime: 2:30 a.m.
*The beginning of a film festival is like the beginning of a diving competition: don't overrate, because you're bound to see something really great later. I have to admit, some of my grades over the first few days have been a little off. With this note, I officially change Volver from a B- to a B, and Babel and For Your Consideration from Bs to B-s. That may seem like splitting hairs, but in one of my alternate grading systems–the PRO/pro/Mixed/con/CON grading system–a B- is a "Mixed" and a B is a "pro." Significant changes, gang.
**Poker Night at TIFF! Two tables of degenerate critics, minus me. I have a moral objection to the game. The objection is that I suck at it.
Movie notes: Hong Sang-soo has hardly been the least accessible Asian filmmaker–or even South Korean filmmaker–but his films before Woman On The Beach have been a little rarified, which isn't intended as an insult. Woman On The Beach isn't as slow or obscure as some of Hong's earlier work, but it's no less assured and artful. The simple story, about a movie director who strings along two women during a seaside vacation, works as a kind of anti-love story, illustrating the virtual impossibility that any one man or one woman can reasonably settle on each other, because there are just too many other choices. The film is full of imagery that speaks to the idea of replacement and/or abandonment, and Hong's main stylistic trick is to zoom in or out suddenly, revealing (or concealing) a third person, ever-hovering on the periphery of a couple. It's not an innovative move by any means, but it speaks to Hong's wit and storytelling intelligence. This movie's a real winner. … I hesitate to say much about Renaissance, since I'll be interviewing the director Christian Volckman tomorrow, but in brief, this French animated sci-fi noir is visually dazzling, with some stunning action sequences, and it takes its genre seriously enough to deliver a story as complex as anything in a live action blockbuster. My two strongest complaints are that the story lacks some resonance, and that one of the chief pleasures of noir–watching intense actors play off each other–is almost entirely lost in a cartoon. Renaissance is still an impressive achievement, but not an especially rich one. … The best that can be said about The Half Life Of Timofey Berezin is that its intertwined story of an exposed-to-lethal-radiation technician (well-played by Paddy Considine) and a sensitive Russian mafia thug (equally well-played by Oscar Isaac) is unusual and gripping, and really gets to the way things go to hell when people in charge decide that power plays are more important than taking responsibility. The worst that can be said is that it's unimaginatively staged, and feigns a warning about the ready availability of nuclear material that's not really supported by the kind of movie this is. … The great thing about anthology films is that they can be absolutely crappy for a solid hour, and there's still always hope that the next filmlet will turn things around. In the inert horror collection Trapped Ashes, the star of the show is Monte Hellman's only-a-little-horror-y short, about a young filmmaker's friendship with Stanley Kubrick in the '50s. (And about the mysterious forces that keep a Monte Hellman from being a Stanley Kubrick.) It's a bittersweet piece, unmatched by anything else here, though the other films have scattered moments of coolness: a breast with teeth, a slimy bout of zombie sex, etc. But the best of it never tops the worst of it. … For a time, Kevin Macdonald's The Last King Of Scotland takes some bold chances with its story of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's chummy relationship with a young Scottish doctor. The movie really swings in the early going, bubbling with exuberant Afrobeat and heady montages of the doctor (played by James McAvoy) getting seduced by the promises and power of Amin (played by Forest Whitaker). But Macdonald can't figure out how to make the inevitable loss of innocence look and feel any different than any other story like this. For the last hour, the movie basically hits its marks, though Whitaker does brilliant work throughout, turning on a dime from happy dude to scary dude. He earns all the awards attention he's bound to get.
Awake: 8:00 a.m.