Awake: 10:00 a.m.*
Movies: 12:15 p.m.: …So Goes The Nation (C-); 6:00 p.m.: Syndromes & A Century (B+); Belle Toujours (C)
Food: three oatmeal cookies; spicy Italian sausage (with mustard, onions and sweet pickle relish); handfuls of roasted red pepper potato chips and multigrain Tostitos**; hot and sour chicken pad thai; three chocolate cookies; half-piece of beef jerky***
Drink: half-can of gingerale; can of Dr. Pepper; can of apple soda; can of Mooshead; bottle of Coke; can of gingerale
Gum: 4 rectangles Eclipse spearmint
Music: iPod playlists****: The Young Rascals, David Crosby, The Doobie Brothers, Jackson Browne; iPod shuffle: songs of 2006
Print Media: The Onion; Entertainment Weekly
TV: channel-surfing: the last few minutes of a Seinfeld episode (the one with George reading the book in the bookstore bathroom), the first few minutes of a Friends episode (the one the morning after Ross and Rachel get married in Vegas), and a musical sequence from Crybaby
Conversations: the usual crowd*****, plus random guy in line who was trying to decide what to see, asked me what I was seeing, then asked me what it was about, and when I said I couldn't really explain it, grabbed my magazine out of my hand, apparently thinking it was a programme.
Bedtime: 4:00 a.m.
*At this point in the festival, I've seen most of the significant movies, or at least someone has seen them, so there's less chance of a real discovery. Friends have started to leave–farewell Jim, Ken. Sam, Chris, Missy and Ruben–and I'm starting to think about next week's deadlines, and getting itchy to get started on them, as I usually would about this time in the week. A kind of melancholy has settled over the city. In short, I'm just about done with TIFF, literally and emotionally.
**Every year at TIFF, I look for packaged snack foods that haven't made it to the states yet. In the past those have included Lemon Ice and Cherry Ice chewing gum (later sold in stores in my hometown) and Sprite Ice, which is basically Sprite with a tinge of mint flavoring. This year I've tried Curry Spice Lay's potato chips (not so good) and the above-mentioned chips, both of which are pretty good. I wish I could buy Multigrain Tostitos locally. Are you listening, Tostitos people?
***Mike D'Angelo gave me this piece of jerky, just so it would get listed here.
****Tired of shuffling, I spent several hours this afternoon listening to light-rock favorites of the '60s and '70s. Remind me to tell you all sometime about how awesome The Young Rascals' album Groovin' is.
*****Final poker night, this time including me. I busted out in sixth place in a nine-person tournament when my A5 off-suit went down to an A6 off-suit, with a flop that fell A65 rainbow. I also had one re-buy early in the tourney, for a total loss of 20 bucks Canadian.
Festival notes: Last year I complained about some minor irritants in a usually smooth-running festival, namely the disorganization and officiousness of the volunteers, and the annoyance of having to sit through overlong sponsor reels before every movie. This year has been much better on all counts. Maybe it's because I've been going to press screenings and not big public premieres, but the volunteers have been herding audiences through crowded lobbies with admirable efficiency. As for the sponsor reels, they're shorter and snappier this year, and have provided two pieces of consistent pre-show entertainment. One is actively rooting for certain Motorola Talent Lab excerpts to pop up. (Favorites include the one about the guy who "needs to explore the urban underworld" and the about the lady who "left Trans-Carpathia" … both those phrases have become part of everyday conversation around here.) The other is scanning the crowd of extras in the "lets applaud our volunteers" reel and picking out a different person each time to focus on. (Favorites include the red-haired lady who nudges her son and points at the volunteer, and the guy who gives a little thumbs-up and a knowing nod.) It's saying something that we're not sick of these yet.
Movie notes: I've been fascinated by possible election fraud in Ohio in 2004 ever since I read this Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy Jr., and when I heard that TIFF was going to be presenting a documentary, …So Goes The Nation, about this very subject, I was hoping to find a well-organized restatement of the charges, along with some even-handed refutation of the most damning accusations. Not so, sadly. First off, directors Adam Del Deo and James Stearn bury the lead, waiting until the last 20 minutes of the movie to really get into Election Day itself, and the attempts to keep certain ballots from being registered and/or counted. Instead, the filmmakers follow the strategizing and organization of both presidential campaigns, and discuss the more esoteric reasons why Bush won and Kerry lost. Some fascinating information comes across about the country's political shift from economic populism to cultural populism, and some of that material serves as a de facto response to Kennedy's article. (In short: it wasn't the votes the Republicans refused to count that mattered, it was the ones they went out and got on their own.) But structurally and stylistically, …So Goes The Nation is disappointingly soft. A lot of purposeless footage of people marching with placards, not a lot of investigative journalism. … Got shut out of Bamako and elected not to use my ticket for Jindabyne, so I had a long layoff before Syndromes And A Century, one of the movies that "the usual crowd" has been uniformly digging this year. I've been kind of avoiding the films of Thai neo-master Apichatpong Weerasethakul (a.k.a. "Joe") because I didn't much like his first major feature Mysterious Object At Noon, and the descriptions I've read of Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady make them sound like the kind of obscure, languid Asian cinema that I don't dig. But I really liked Syndromes, which recounts a set of loosely connected anecdotes about friendships and romances in a rural hospital in the recent past, and then sort-of re-tells them in a modern urban hospital, where the relationships are partly corrupted by the introduction of technology and industrial contamination. Whether any of the movie's brief, allusive sequences really fit together or mean anything is an open question–and is keeping me from going for Syndromes whole-hog–but those individual scenes are frequently lovely and mesmerizing, and not really all that inaccessible in and of themselves. Time to pop in that Tropical Malady DVD I bought last year, I guess. … On the other hand, I can't back my friends who liked Belle Toujours, Manoel De Oliveira's trifling homage to Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour. It's handsomely lit, and features some of the artful repetition that made De Oliveiria's I'm Going Home so cumulatively moving. But Belle Toujours visitation with two of Buñuel's characters, now elderly and still thinking about their youthful lusts, doesn't seem all that necessary or affecting. Imagine a sequel to Casablanca that consists of Louie looking for Ilsa during the day and then spending his nights in a bar recounting the plot of Casablanca, and that's more or less Belle Toujours.
Awake: 10:00 a.m.*