Hello NEON Fans,
A lot came together today. Tickets for tomorrow fell into line and I squeezed in a film that I wasn’t anticipating.
My first film of day #4 was A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. “A jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys) reluctantly accepts an Esquire assignment to profile the children’s television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), and encounters a profoundly empathetic world view that changes his life forever.” (taken from TIFF catalog) This film, though a little uneven, works in mysterious ways. I found the opening to be rather upsetting – as though there was a tongue-in-cheek approach to the reverence of Mister Rogers. Were they praising him while slightly mocking him? My initial thought was “this isn’t working”…and then the film strikes. I saw this film with a jaded press/industry audience, and there were numerous signs of sniffles and crying…and even a splattering of applause at the end (something that almost never happens at industry screenings). Tom Hanks is wonderful, and Heller (DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL and CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? both played at THE NEON) works some magic (though it certainly lacks some of the edginess that her earlier indies displayed). One really nice touch was a cameo (blink and you might miss it) of Fred’s wife in a restaurant scene…she arrives at just the right moment. Even though the Focus documentary about Rogers was our highest grossing film last year, being a big studio film, this one likely won’t make it to THE NEON.
Next up, I managed to wiggle in a screening of GREED. “Festival favourite Michael Winterbottom skewers the fast-fashion industry in this scathing farce about the grotesque inequality between a retail billionaire (Steve Coogan) and the female garment workers who toil on his trendy clothing line.” (taken from TIFF catalog) This film is problematic. It’s a farce. The set-up is comedy, and the writing is scathingly good…perhaps too good. Instead of laughs, I found most of it cringe-worthy. The main character’s true lack of compassion seemed a little too probable – and thus quite hard to laugh at. That said, the film supplied a great deal of education as to how someone in this particular industry can make money – all legally (though drenched with moral irresponsibility). Title cards at the end of the film provided statistics as to how much money people in the textile industry make…and how the rich keep getting richer. It’s such an interesting piece on so many levels – and perhaps the only way to get people to see the statistics is to lure them with a comedy…but I was hardly laughing. (That said, there are some really great moments and material here.) There’s no trailer yet, but here’s a clip.
1982 “During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon at a private school on the outskirts of Beirut, 11-year-old Wissam tries to tell a classmate about his crush on her, while his teachers — on different sides of the political divide — try to mask their fears, in this poignant debut feature from Oualid Mouaness.” (taken from TIFF catalog) I went to this film namely because it stars Nadine Labaki – a director and actress I greatly admire. (We’ve shown three films she has directed, including last year’s Oscar nominee CAPERNAUM.) This film is a slow burn, but when the war keeps creeping closer and closer, it becomes rather terrifying. There’s a strange device regarding Wissam and his drawings that I didn’t really feel was needed, but the performances and tone are strong.
Before my last film, I came back to the apartment and caught up on some NEON-related items and then I stopped by a gathering for The Art House Convergence. I ran into a couple friends there, but I had to quickly scurry to the Princess of Wales Theatre.
JOJO RABBIT was my last film of the day. This was the world premiere, and many people from the cast and crew were there. “Taika Waititi (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS) directs a riotous cast — including Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Thomasin McKenzie, and newcomer Roman Griffin Davis — in this daring, touching, and comedic satire about a young German boy who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his home and consults with his imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler (Waititi).” (taken from TIFF catalog) This film has raised a lot of eyebrows. I’ve heard numerous people chatting about how this film shouldn’t be working…it’s irresponsible…with sentiments the likes of “How can we have a comedy about Hitler Youth?” “How can Hitler be funny?” “This is sacred ground and we shouldn’t be laughing.” But satire about Hitler has been around for decades – from Chaplin’s GREAT DICTATOR to Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. And one interesting fact is that Waititi (the director) is Jewish, and he’s the one playing the absurd imaginary Hitler. This film does tread a very risky line, and some may find it in poor taste. But ultimately, it’s a film about family and realizing that hate is a learned behavior. Waititi talked about how in 1933, Hitler came to power and little by little, he made changes. People realized the changes weren’t good…but they didn’t seem “that bad.” But he continued to make more and more changes…and citizens never revolted – they allowed the changes to happen until it was too late. Waititi believes that we have to find different ways to tell these cautionary tales – because we need to learn from mistakes. The production design, costumes, photography and performances are all fantastic, and this little film is an off-color gem.
Tomorrow is quite a full day.
Thanks for checking in,