That’s right. You read correctly: Roger Ebert. After several Ebert-free years in a row, and my fears that our paths would never again cross at a film fest of otherwise, it happened. Roger and me. Same theater. Across-the-aisle buddies. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I began the day very early, but not early enough. I arrived (admittedly about 15 minutes later than I’d originally planned) at the Ryerson to discover that the ticket holders line stretched around the Ryerson campus so far that it was almost a square. The movie that had so many festgoers up and at ‘em before 9am? Rendition (6/8), the movie known more for the alleged romance between Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal than anything else. Strangely enough, the two actors don’t share one second of screen time throughout the film – which deals with the U.S. government’s policies regarding terror suspects, and the torture tactics employed abroad to elicit confessions and/or gather intel from same. No one from the film turned up for the screening… which was probably for the best because the theater was frrrrrrrrrrrrreeeezing.
En route to the Scotiabank for my next film, I cut through the interior of Jorgensen Hall and stumbled upon a full breakfast buffet set up in a very deserted student lounge. The woman manning the table smiled and said, “Would you like something to eat?”
Um, hell yeah, I would!
There were crackers and cheese, assorted fruits, a bin of juices and pop and a full platter of untouched pastries. I asked what the occasion was, and she informed me that it’s the University’s alumni week. (Please note: I am an alumni but clearly clueless about school events.) I said, “I gather it’s been a little slow?” (because the food and drink were untouched). She said yes. So, I thanked her, grabbed an apple danish and counted that as lunch.
My next film was the documentary My Kid Could Paint That (6/8), a fascinating story within a story about (then) four-year-old “abstract painter” Marla Olmstead and her parents, Mark and Laura. Marla’s paintings sell for tens of thousands of dollars but, just as her fame was at its peak, skeptics began to question the paintings’ authenticity (i.e., did Marla really paint them?). The film itself starts out as a simple profile of the young artist and her family, but slowly morphs into that which it simultaneously criticizes – media attacking a little girl and condemning her parents. (It reminded me a lot of Forbidden Lie$, the brilliant doc about author Norma Khouri and her maybe-it’s-true-maybe-it’s-not book about a friend’s honor killing.)
I high-tailed back to the Ryerson – and just about everyone I know – to see actor Stuart Townsend’s writing-directing debut, Battle in Seattle (6/8), which follows fictional characters through the notorious WTO-related riots in the titular city back in 1999. The screening was the film’s world premiere, so everyone and their cousin showed up… though Charlize Theron appeared to be desperate to flee the venue. She, Stuart Townsend, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez, André Benjamin and Martin Henderson were all in attendance after the film for a Q&A, which was cool. And the film received a standing ovation, which felt a little undeserved. I mean, it was good but it wasn’t that good, IMO, and the biggest “OMG, holy crap!” moment comes in a scene where Theron is clubbed like a baby seal. (Now, that scene deserved some sort of recognition because it resulted in a big collective gasp in the theater.) And the film reinforced my long-held belief that Connie Nielsen needs to STOP WORKING IN AMERICA IMMEDIATELY. Just stop, Connie. Please. Once again, despite her proven talent in foreign fare, she clunks up the screen here. Though she does maintain perfect make-up throughout.
A film that was that good was my final, equally star-studded screening of the day, Jason Reitman’s Juno (7/8… very close to a full-pie rating, in fact). Centered on a 16-year-old girl named Juno (Ellen Page), who finds herself pregnant, the film examines the various relationships in her life: with her de-facto boyfriend (Michael Cera), with her father and stepmother (J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney), and with the young couple (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) who want to adopt the baby. Wonderfully written and beautifully acted, this film also earned a standing O at its conclusion and boasts the largest Q&A contingent I have ever seen in my 17 years of TIFFing.
Jason Reitman took the stage at the end of the screening and then ushered up a whopping TWENTY PEOPLE (yes, I counted), including the ENTIRE cast – Page, Cera, Bateman, Garner, Simmons, Janney and Olivia Thirlby (who plays Juno’s best friend). Note to anyone keeping score: Ben Affleck was also there accompanying the missus. A surprisingly long, given the late start, Q&A followed, which was a treat, and everyone kept commending the film’s writer (!), Diablo Cody, for her amazing screenplay. That won them all brownie points in my books.
Even more of a treat, though, was Roger Ebert, who sat across the aisle from me! Roger! Long time no see! I gasped internally when I saw him; it was wonderful and sad at the same time. Wonderful because I haven’t seen him out and about at TIFF for the past few diaries, so I was thrilled at his return. But also sad because Roger Ebert of TIFF ’07 is not the same Roger I remember. His cancer has dramatically altered his appearance and rendered him unable to speak. Still, there he was, sitting on the aisle (where else?), watching movies just like always. And I felt glad.
Celebrity Sightings: Stuart Townsend, Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Michelle Rodriguez, Martin Henderson, Jason Reitman, Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby and…
Roger Ebert Sightings: YES! (cue the Hallelujah Chorus)
Random Factoid of the Day: Juno is the name of Jupiter’s wife.
Weather For Tomorrow: Boo (though Eric will be happy). Showers. High of 20ºC.
Line Buzz: Good buzz for The Visitor and meh buzz for Michael Clayton.