The Festival Experience: One Blogger, One Day @ TIFF

by Shala · October 6, 2013 · Featured · No Comments

Hello. It’s Shala from Life Between Films. As a collaboration project between fans of film and film bloggers attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, three people (Daniel, Sean, and myself) documented our personal experiences, constructing a diary of sorts to chronicle the festival from the perspective of one person for one day. This may include all that we did, saw, and screened around Toronto on that particular day. Here are some of our highlights of TIFF 2013 through our eyes:


Shala (@ShalaThomas) from Life Between Films

My Day 2 continued with a film screening that was kinda of ticket package filler, a movie I didn’t really have any intention of seeing but decided to take a chance on it and a special event that I just couldn’t wait for.

Hateship Loveship: Adapted from Canadian writer Alice Murnro’s short story Hateship Friendship Loveship Courtship Marriage, the story follows a socially-inept, unsophisticated caretaker-housekeeper Johanna (Kristen Wiig) who falls victim to a cruel prank involving carried out by Sabitha (Haille Steinfeld), the teenage daughter of her employer (Nick Nolte). Though there is seemingly a certainty of devastating consequences for Johanna, this situation allows her to open up, create a life for herself, and touch the people around her.

The movie revolves around the journey of Johanna. Wiig takes on the role of the soft-spoken, barely smiling Johanna in stride; her face remained blank, her mouth tight in a line. She is the embodiment of homely, wearing frumpy, unflattering clothing, no makeup, and dull, lifeless hair. Even with this, there wasn’t enough of this character for me in action or in words to give her dimension. Guy Pearce, who plays Ken the drug-addicted, irresponsible father of Sabitha who unexpectedly gets pulled into the prank, was good enough but had to also make due with a role that wasn’t craved out with enough care. I will say that there are some laughs (a certain make-out sesh with a bathroom mirror comes to mind) and cries (you just can’t help but feel sorry for Johanna at times) that sometimes make this unbelievable story worthwhile.

As always though, Kristen Wiig was funny and endearing at the post-screening panel.

Boogie Nights – On Screen and On Stage: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) had always been my great white whale; something I had spent alot of time agonizing over but had yet to conquer. It was a movie that I had always planned on seeing but never got around mentally dedicating my time to sitting down and being transported back to the sex-craved, porn pinnacle that was the 70s (not to be confused for sex-craved, social-media porn pinnacle that is the present). I find it somethings hard to sit and watch movies of the past; I’m stuck on a contemporary kick. I get motivation in big revival events so when it was announced that this was the film pick in Jason Retiman’s Live Read series to be held at TIFF, I knew this was the kick in the pants I needed.

So the morning before the event, I found the two and half-hour movie (didn’t know it was quite that long) online and proceeded to watch. What I learned from Anderson’s perspective of porn industry of the 70s and 80s is that is it is both satirical and sad, tacky and touching. 

The cast is led by a young Mark Wahlberg who plays the awkwardly naive yet well-endowed Eddie Adams. Eddie is a 17-year old high school dropout who works varies jobs out of town to get away from his tumultuous home life catalyzed by his abusive, alcoholic mother.  He meets porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) who convinces him that porn is where he belongs. He soon joins others in the porn industry who are looking for the same motherly attention and family that he seeks – Rollergirl (Heather Graham) who does EVERYTHING while wearing skates, Reed (John C. Reilly) who becomes his sidekick, Scott J (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Buck (Don Cheadle) who is constantly searching for ways to fund his actual dream of owning a stereo store. That mother figure comes (no pun intended) in the form of Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), a porn star who, after losing custody of her own son, puts much of her energy into caring for the new generation of “actors”. Soon, he takes on the persona of Dirk Diggler, the bright star he thinks he was born to be.

That begins a hilarious yet very introspective look into a makeshift family of people who use made-up identities to hide themselves and bury their shames while at the same time convincing themselves that what they are doing is “art” and that they are “actors”. They move through life using drugs and sex to keep themselves from cracking under the pressures and embarrassments of life as we move into the less glamorous 80s, only Little Bill (William H. Macy), the lowly assistant director, not fully being able to. Between Dirk’s fluffy hair and sweet, sweet karate movies, Buck’s persistence in wearing cowboy outfits, and Scott J’s inept passes at Dirk, movie solidifies itself in cult movie history. 

Boogie Nights is also a movie that has roots at TIFF, causing a shutdown of Yonge Street when it premiered back in 1997 at the festival. As common with his live reads, 10 actors sat in black chairs on stage behind lecterns that held the film script, Reitman himself on stage as well to read the script direction and descriptions. Some of the actor portray some of the lesser characters as well to full round out the entire screenplay. To say that famed film director Jason Reitman assembled an interesting cast of actors for his Live Read of Boogies Nights was an understatement (even more so than last year’s American Beauty: Live Read). The cast included Jesse Esienberg (Dirk), Josh Brolin (Jack), Olivia Wilde (Amber), Dane Cook (Reed), Jason Sudeikis (Buck), and Dakota Fanning (Rollergirl).

The highlight of the live read for me was the sitting block of Wilde-Cook-Sudeikis who adapted the voices much like their characters. Wilde embodied the breathless whisper of Amber Waves, Cook (who also portrayed Luis Guzman’s character Maurice) did a very funny and spot on Puerto Rican accent, and when Sudeikis had to voice a pimp, a role his character is portraying in a porn movie, he fully delivers (“Hey Cracker Jack, what are you doing to my woman!?”). Josh Brolin was also great in his own right, adapting an authoritative, heavy rasp similar to Burt Reynolds. 

As you can imagine, much of the sex-ladden, innuendo-heavy script was met with collective laughs and giggles. Anyone who knows the movie also knows that a couple of the characters break off into song, and the cast, especially Dane Cook and Jesse Eisenberg in a memorable duet, went with it. We applauded them for their commitment to the role. 

The biggest disappointment was Esienberg’s Dirk who wasn’t much more than lines on the page. All in all though, it was a great experience and shows just how much the actors contribute to bringing the script to life. 

–> Check out reviews from all the films I screened and my TIFF recap including photos here


Daniel (@DanielPrinn) from Daniel’s Film Reviews

I had a 12:30p.m. screening of Parkland to go to, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. The screening was at Winter Garden Theatre; I had gone to the lower deck of that theatre the night before, Visa Screening Room (Elgin). It’s a beautiful theatre, the ceiling was pretty stunning. I didn’t really like the film I saw there last night (All is By My Side). It’s a nice theatre, but I didn’t get the greatest seat, and it was really uncomfortable. Next time, I’ll go earlier – especially because there are SO many reserved seats. Anyway; instead of going to my afternoon screening, I stayed back at my hotel and wrote reviews for the film I saw on Friday night (a South Korean thriller called Intruders), and the ones I saw on Saturday (The Last of Robin Hood, Therese, All is By My Side). I ate some lunch, and that helped my stomach a bit. 

So thankfully, I was feeling better – and up to going to my late afternoon screening, which was Ti West’s The Sacrament, over at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. It paid many homages to the infamous mass suicide at Jonestown, led by Jim Jones. Sacrament was West’s interpretation of the events at Jonestown. As a person who is fascinated by suicide cults, and as a lover of horror films, this film was a bit of a treat. It married the intelligence of documentary features to the sheer terror, suspense and shock value of great horror films. 

My thoughts on the theatre: I liked it. I wish the stairs were a different colour from the carpet, because it’s really easy to miscount the steps and almost trip – especially in an unfamiliar theatre. I was stuck in the balcony, which wasn’t bad – but my preference is the ground, and comfy seats. Next year I’ll line up earlier for everything. I think the screening was @ 5:15p.m. and I got there around 4:55p.m., so, it’s no wonder I didn’t get on the ground level. I went with my mom, and I saw two single seats not in the same row, but close together, so maybe next time we’ll just have to take the singles and meet after the film. 

I got back to my hotel at about 8 p.m., had supper – and then left my for my final screening of the day (and what turned out to be my final full screening of the festival!), an Australian WW2 survival thriller called Canopy. It’s a short experience, but an engaging one. It’s almost wordless, but never silent. It doesn’t feature conventional character development. The sound design and cinematography are some of the best I’ve seen this year. This is a flawed experience, but I think it’s very memorable because it’s so different – and the direction from Aaron Wilson is just great. It’s definitely one of the stand-outs of the six I saw. 

Overall, it was a very enjoyable day – and I loved both “The Sacrament” and Canopy, but The Sacrament was my favourite. There’s my coverage for my third day at TIFF. 

–> Read some of my reviews from TIFF here.


Sean (@SKonMovies) from Sean Kelly on Movies

My seventh day of TIFF began with an afternoon screening of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon. With the film having just premiered the night before, I was half expecting Gordon-Levitt to show up for a Q&A, though that sadly wasn’t the case. As disappointing as JGL’s no-show was for me, it was probably much worse for the many females in the audience. I have mixed feelings about the film itself, since the title character starts off as so shallow and misogynistic that it’s hard to sympathize with him later in the film when he begins to learn the errors of his ways.

Next up for me was the world premiere of Ingrid Veninger’s The Animal Project. Over the last few years, Veninger has become one of the independent Canadian directors, whose films I will always check out. I can definitely say that the film did not disappoint.  It was touching father/son bonding story, which just happened to involve people dressing up in animal costumes. I can definitely say that the film was the highlight of the day.

Then comes Midnight Madness. This is actually my first year, in which I put in the commitment to see most of the Midnight Madness films at their proper midnight screening time. I can say that I have been enjoying the line-up so far, with my favourite film being Sunday’s screening of the haunted mirror film Oculus.

Last night’s screening of Hong Kong vampire film Rigor Mortis was marred early on by the fact that I had to stand in line during a thunderstorm, which was not fun at all. Sadly, the film turned out to not really be worth the wait. I didn’t think it was a terrible film, it was not marred by a slow pace (never great for a late night screening) and some not-so-great CGI effects. Despite that not so remarkable screening, I’m looking forward to returning for my 6th and final Midnight Madness screening on Saturday for the Spanish horror-comedy Witching & Bitching.

And that was TIFF Day 7 for me.

–> Check out all my TIFF coverage here.


You can read the previous collection here -> One Blogger, One Day @ Tribeca 2013.I hope to continue this ‘One Blogger, One Day’ collaboration series across a number of film festivals so if you are planning on attending a major festival in 2013, please contact me at or hit me up on twitter (@shalathomas). I would love to help share your experiences with everyone!

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