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United, the people can never be divided 

Or something

What an interesting day this has been so far.

First of all, I woke up to high teens and rain, just how I like it.

Even though I have been dinged on approximately three Sunday-morning Toronto-to-Halifax flights in the past, I forgot until I was already out the door at 8am that the subway doesn’t start running until 9am on Sundays. Consequently, my 9am screening plans went out the window (but I got a streetcar ride out of it. So it balances out).

I’d initially planned to see Man of Cinema, Variety critic Todd McCarthy’s doc about the guy who runs Cannes, but ended up at Battle in Seattle, Stewart “Mr. Charlize TheronTownsend’s writing and directing debut. (He’s an actor, normally. They met on the set of Head in the Clouds.)

It’s about the five days of protesting at the WTO conference in Seattle. Now I am an apolitical person who believes in barely anything, so this movie is not up my proverbial alley. However, it’s extremely well-made, and while it clearly sides with the protestors, it does a good job of showing the police/bureaucrat perspective of the event. Ray Liotta turns in a balanced performance in a difficult part as the beleaguered mayor of Seattle, who wants and supports a peaceful protest amid increased pressure from the White House to start taking demonstrators out.

On the activist side are Michelle Rodriguez, Martin Freeman, Andre “3000” Benjamin and, accidentally, Connie Nielsen as a reporter who ends up finding her political voice while chasing the story. On the police side are Woody Harrelson and Channing Tatum, who are each forced into understanding the other side through unfortunate acts of violence. Theron appears as Woody’s pregnant wife who gets caught in the middle of it all.

There’s lots of do-gooder messaging at the end, but it’s a damn fine picture.

I have a chunk of time until my 2:30 screening so I fill it with Man of Plains, of which I know nothing about except it was directed by Jonathan Demme and is possibly a documentary.

It turns out to be about Jimmy Carter’s 2006 book tour, supporting the controversial Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Sounds not remotely exciting but is in fact an incredibly compelling, if a touch overlong (like Scorsese, Demme has never met a running time he couldn’t extend half an hour), portrait of a former leader who still fucking has it. Dude will turn 83 on October 1, and throughout this film he takes a tonne of flights (always commercially) all over America defending his book and his character against charges of anti-Semitism and pointless provocation. He never misses a beat (or says a swear), and very subtly but systematically takes the Bush government to task for fucking up the Israel-Palestine situation. (A trip to New Orleans underlines the fact that the US is as much a domestic failure as it is a world power.)

Now that my political awareness is at a high not seen since the Quebec referendum when I was in high school (and still had hope for the world, apparently), I hit my 2:30 which is called Chop Shop. (I sign in under Roger Ebert.) A political drama of a different kind, it follows Ale and Izzy, a brother and sister whose parents are absent – it’s never explained – who make ends meet by working at a local chop shop and turning tricks, respectively. It’s a spare, barely there narrative that’s nonetheless compelling, sitting as it does on the very young shoulders of its star Alejandro Polanco, who roams through the movie priming cars, jacking wallets, selling DVDs and stashing all the profit away for a chip truck he wants to buy so he and his sister can have a legitimate life.

Nine movies in and I have yet to stand in a line, by the way. Part of this is because at some theatres they’ve instituted a scanner to check passes (except at the Cumberland, where you had to sign in with a pen, and the woman explained “We old school”) but the other part is because TIFF has instituted the dreaded tiered press system. Sundance has about five levels that I can figure, but one of the perks/detriments of Toronto ha been that everyone is on the same level. Unfortch this meant industry people were lumped in with press people, and there was never room for everyone, hence the hour lines last year.

Now they’ve introduced “priority press” screenings which means more important journos (not me) can attend special screenings that are restricted to them. With pre-fest screenings, public showings and this, it means the numbers are way down for the regular P&I schedule. It’s hard for me to bitch about it, really.

A note for home: the Atlantic Film Festival has announced its new closing gala, Sleuth, starring Michael Caine and Jude Law, directed by Kenneth Branagh from a screenplay by Harold Pinter. Head over to atlanticfilm.com for that shit.

I still have two damn movies tonight.

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Vol 25, No 20
October 12, 2017

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