I'm back in Brisbane after my action-packed trip through the United States and Canada - the main highlight of course being a trip to the Toronto Film Festival.

My daily video blogs were available on my website throughout the Festival and I was posting reviews of all the films that I'd seen through my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I thought it an opportune time to bring it all together in this week's Film Pie blog.  Below, you can see all of my video blogs (day 5 is a particular favourite), a few photos and a quick review of every film I was able to see.

It was an exhausting experience (I only went to bed once before 3am) but still heaps of fun.  I hope to be able to do it again sometime soon.

A few more photos are up on my Facebook group which you can view by clicking here.

You can also listen to my 45 minute show from ABC Digital which includes my inteviews with George Clooney, Seth Rogen, Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, Alexander Payne, Fred Schepisi, Fernando Meirelles and Jonathan Levine.  It can be downloaded from the 612 ABC website by clicking here.

On that note, here's my summary of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival...



Day 1 - Thursday, 8 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 1

It was an exciting start to the Festival for me. I flew in around 12pm, picked up my press pass and then had my first look around Toronto. You can find out more in my video blog above.    

Films seen on Day 1... 

Coriolanus is a great story. Ralph Fiennes (with his nose back) and Vanessa Redgrave are terrific. Sadly, the film's impact is lessened by the choice to use Shakespearean dialect in a modern day setting. Grade: B.

Restless is more greatness from Gus Van Sant. It's the story of two teenagers and their interest in death. It's a simple, heartfelt tale that Van Sant tells in a non-Hollywood manner. There are no unnecessary subplots or characters. It simply focuses on these two and their growing friendship. Grade: A-.


Day 2 - Friday, 9 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 2

Day 2 was my first full day of the Festival. I missed out on tickets to the media preview for A Dangerous Method but made amends by getting a spot on the red carpet at the world premieres of Friends With Kids and 360. It gave me the chance to have a chat with actor Megan Fox and director Fernando Meirelles. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 2... 

The Artist is so nearly a perfect film. Doesn't get much more original and creative. A silent film set in the 1920s about silent filmmaking and the transition to "talkies". The film gets a little too bogged down with drama in the later stages but the comedic elements more than compensate. Grade: A-.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is a poor documentary that offers very little fresh insight into the life of the 2008 Vice Presidential candidate. Many of the interviews were dull and the continual narration and references to himself left me thinking that director Nick Broomfield wanted to be the centre of attention (and not Palin). Grade: C.

Friends With Kids is a nice debut feature from Jennifer Westfeldt (who wrote and starred in Kissing Jessic Stein). It's a rom-com that does an admirable job in breathing new life into this familiar genre. The dialogue is intelligent, the cast is strong and the bluntness of certain characters will get plenty of laughs. Grade: B+.

360 is the latest from director Fernando Meirelles (City Of God, The Constant Gardener) and brings together a bunch of short stories to show how are lives are affected by the choices we make, both good and bad. It's a curious film but I felt a little empty at the end. Was hoping it would add up to more. Grade: B.



Day 3 - Saturday, 10 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 3

Day 3 was always going to be a big one. I had tickets to see 5 films that all looked excellent on paper. I also had a chance to meet my favourite actor, George Clooney, and speak with one of my favourite directors, Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election). Doesn't get much better. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 3... 

The Hunter is a compelling Australian drama about a guy in remote Tasmania in search of a Tasmanian Tiger. Not a lot of dialogue in places but the setting is beautiful and the story keeps building towards a moving climax. This film sucked me in quickly and Willem Dafoe is great (as always) in the leading role. Grade: A-.

The Ides Of March fits in a genre I really love - political dramas. The pieces fit together a little too neatly at times but the cast is superb (especially Ryan Gosling) and the storyline will hold your attention all the way through. Grade: A-.

Moneyball once again proves the value of Brad Pitt as an actor. He's not just a pretty face and he continues to pick good roles. He plays the GM of a baseball team and tries to turn their fortunes around through unconventional means. It's a touch long and a few parts are glossed over but it still left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Grade: B+.

The Descendants is a thing of beauty. Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) again proves his wizardry of mixing both comedy and drama to maximum effect. This is a touching story of a work-a-holic father who reconnects with his two daughters after their mother is badly injured in a boating accident. The best at TIFF so far. Grade: A.

Drive is a crazy action-thriller (and I say that in a good way). It starts out fairly innocuously and then takes a few unexpected turns (some of them quite violent). The soundtrack is one of the year's best and Ryan Gosling is perfect in the leading role. A shame his relationship with Carey Mulligan is underdone. Grade: A-.



Day 4 - Sunday, 11 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 4

Day 4 was where exhaustion started to set in. It was another early start and I was fairly weary when I saw my fifth and final film for the day at 10pm. Aside from seeing my favourite film at the Festival (Take This Waltz), the day's highlight came at the humorous post film Q&A for Shame. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 4... 

Take This Waltz was a funny, sweet, emotional and real experience. We've seen many films about people cheating on their spouses and whether it's the right thing but I love this level headed perspective from director Sarah Polley. Grade: A.

Dark Horse comes from the creative mind of writer-director Todd Solondz (Welcome To The Dollhouse) and is the story of a complete loser - both in his personal life and professional life. I laughed out loud a few times but I was expecting more from the story, especially the ending. Grade: B.

Eye Of The Storm has a superb cast but I found this story rather tedious. Perhaps it's because I can't relate. It's the story of a brother and sister and their attempts to reconcile with their eccentric mother in the final days of her life. Grade: C+.

Shame is a gripping, unflinching eye opener about a sex addict living in New York. The audience watched this film in stunned silence. The cinematography, editing and score are all excellent. Director Steve McQueen (Hunger) again shows he's not afraid to tackle issues which are kept from public view. Grade: A-.

The Student is an Argentinean film about a university student who gets caught up in the world of student politics. As an Australian, it was hard for me to understand their political system and terminology but I could follow it for the most part and it ends on an appropriate note. Grade: B.


Day 5 - Monday, 12 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 5

Day 5 at TIFF was all about interviews. I spoke with Kate Lawrie Van De Ven (a TIFF programmer), Santiago Mitre (an upcoming Argentinean director), Fred Schepisi (the iconic Australia director), Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling (about The Eye Of The Storm) and nabbed interviews with the cast and crew of 50/50 (including star Seth Rogen). You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 5... 

Albert Nobbs stars Glenn Close as a woman who dressed as a man in 19th Century Ireland to conceal her sexual orientation. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment), this is one amazing character study. Close portrays Nobbs as a person who has completely lost her identity and social skills after having suppressed her urges for so long. Grade: A.

50/50 received the first standing ovation I've seen at TIFF and for good reason. It's about a 27 y/o guy (played by the wonderful Joseph Gordon Levitt) who battles cancer. The film left me appreciating my life and the importance of having great friends. Can't ask for much more. Grade: A.

Ten Year has about 4,000 characters and revolves around a high school reunion. It felt like I sober at a party where I didn't know a single person. Everyone looked like they were having fun but I wasn't in on it. Grade: C.


Day 6 - Tuesday, 13 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 6

Day 6 began early with my first TIFF press conference (for Like Crazy) but I slowed things down after that to catch up on sleep. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 6... 

The Oranges features a large ensemble but this comedy about two families and their odd relationships felt too fake for my liking. It felt like I was watching a sitcom at times. The film deserves points for avoiding a cliched ending. Grade: B-.

Like Crazy is a nice, sweet, simple romantic drama about long distance relationships. It won the audience award at Sundance and the performance of Felicity Jones highlights her natural ability. I can't wait to see her in more roles. Grade: B+.

Sisters & Brothers is a low budget Canadian film that takes four short stories and uses them to illustrate the complex relationships that are shared between siblings. The film takes a while to warm up but the feel-good ending will resonate with audiences. Grade: B.


Day 7 - Wednesday, 14 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 7

Day 7 was quieter in terms of films but there was plenty going on behind the scenes. I went to a book signing to meet my all time favourite critic, Roger Ebert. I did two live shows for 612ABC Brisbane and ABC Sunshine Coast from the CBC Studios. I also caught up with a Twitter friend and made my way up the top of the CN Tower. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 7... 

Damsels In Distress marks the long awaited return of director Whit Stillman (Last Days Of Disco). It's a quirky comedy revolving around a group of moronic guys and girls at a college. The writing is sharp but the strange storyline makes it hard to go along with. Grade: B.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding isn't big on backstory but it's a warm, comforting crowd pleaser which sees a mother and her two daughters all find love in a short period of time. Jane Fonda is great as their hippy grandmother. Grade: B+.

Rampart is about an "old school" cop (Woody Harrelson) who becomes a PR nightmare for the LAPD after a series of indiscretions. It's a gritty drama from director Owen Moveman (The Messenger) but the lack of a resolution for most the characters left me empty at the end. Grade: B.



Day 8 - Thursday, 15 September 2011

2011 TIFF - Day 8

Day 8 was my final day at the Festival and it was about squeezing in as many last minute films as possible. I was able to see 5 in total including my first at the Festival's gala venue - Roy Thomson Hall. Having seen 30 films in total over the 8 days, the time had come to reflect back on my favourites. You can find out more in my video blog above.
Films seen on Day 8... 

Anonymous puts forward a theory that Shakespeare was never a playwright. Rather, it was another man who penned the famous works in an attempt to undermine the Queen. I didn't like this. The story jumps back and forth in time and I struggled to keep up with each character and their motives. Grade: C+.

That Summer is a sleepy French couple about two couples and their differing relationships. When I use the term "sleepy" I mean that the film almost put me to sleep. Zzzzzzzz. Grade: C.

Breathing is a German film that focuses the camera lens on a 19 y/o who is trying to get his life back on track after serving a lengthy stint in a youth detention centre. I found this honest, real and uplifting. Glad I found the time to see it. Grade: A-.

Violet & Daisy marks the directorial debut of Geoffrey Fletcher (the Oscar winning writer of Precious). It's about two teenage girls who kill people for a living. Mixing a myriad of genres, I'm not sure what to take away from it. The post film Q&A didn't help either with Fletcher very coy about his answers. Grade: C+.

Hysteria is a safe comedy set in the late 19th Century and centres on the man responsible for creating the vibrator (yes, that's right). The writers have tried a little too hard to make this a "feel good" flick but the charm of Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal will win the hearts of many. Grade: B.