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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 6, 2014 at 4:45 PM

At TIFF: musicals, journeys home, and red carpets everywhere

TORONTO — Here at the Toronto International Film Festival, even the phone booths have red carpets. See?

phonebooth

This is King Street, the main festival thoroughfare that’s closed for the weekend, creating a nice street-party atmosphere (you can see the orange picnic tables, and the crowds swelling, just beyond the phone booth). There is, of course, no purpose whatsoever for this phone booth, though there does appear to be an actual phone in it; not that anyone here needs one. The chronic problem of People Falling Up the Stairs at the Scotiabank multiplex, which I’ve noted in past years, seems to have gotten worse as nobody’s looking up from their iPhones, and today there was an audible gasp from the crowd in Cinema 3 when a young woman took a scary-looking tumble before a screening. (She appeared to be fine.)

The etiquette of press/industry screenings, which make up the majority of what I see here, is a tad mysterious; it’s considered quite reasonable to go to a movie when you know you can only stay half an hour or so (and, for that matter, to check your email throughout), and even the biggest-buzzed films are filled with people gathering their things and leaving. You can’t necessarily judge that early departures mean that the film’s a dud (though I hear that was the case with James Franco’s “The Sound and the Fury,” which had a “mass walkout” according to somebody in front of me in line). But in “The Last Five Years” this afternoon, I think the fair number of walkouts early on had a reason: maybe not everybody had heard that this is a musical, and an almost entirely sung-through musical at that, based on the off-Broadway hit by Jason Robert Brown. (There’s a bit of spoken dialogue in the movie, but I’d estimate that it’s 90 percent sung.)  But if you like this sort of thing — and I do — the film’s quite charming and even moving, with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan (of the late “Smash”) giving it their full-voiced all as a young couple in and out of love. The backwards-and-forward structure isn’t always clear, but the performances are vivid and it doesn’t have Russell Crowe in it. (Cheap shot, I know, but it’s a joke in the movie.)  “The Last Five Years” got picked up for North American distribution yesterday; my guess is we’ll see it in Seattle sometime next year.

At this point in the festival (I’m into double digits now in terms of films seen), you start seeing odd similarities between movies; for example, both “This Is Where I Leave You” and “The Judge” are about men going back to their hometown upon the death of a parent, re-connecting with siblings and an old flame back home. “TISILY,” based on the excellent novel by Jonathan Tropper (he also wrote the screenplay), is the better of the two; it’s less sentimental and more funny, and Jason Bateman finds a believable wry chemistry with screen siblings Adam Driver, Corey Stoll and particularly Tina Fey. Speaking of Driver, he just won the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival, for “Hungry Hearts” (also here at TIFF but I haven’t seen it).

Still pondering what I thought of Jason Reitman’s ambitious “Men, Women & Children”; a sprawling tale of interlocking stories in which some work better than others. (Though I can’t help but like any movie which uses Emma Thompson as a voice-over narrator.) And still a little melancholy from “The Drop,” a fine crime drama based on a Dennis Lehane story (Lehane also wrote the screenplay; I’ll be talking to him about it tomorrow) that’s inadvertently poignant as it features the last big-screen work of James Gandolfini. So perhaps it’s time to get some dinner. More tomorrow.

Oh, in case you were wondering how Bill Murray Day went yesterday, a swell time seems to have been had by all — there was even a baby who showed up dressed as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man — and Murray, asked at a Q&A what it’s like to be, well, Bill Murray, shared a bit of wisdom, as reported by the Toronto Star.

“There’s one thing that you are, you’re the only one that’s you,” he said. And the only way to know what it’s like is to constantly work at knowing you, Murray added. “That’s where home is.”

 

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