TIFF day 4

As the festival winds down and my days are counted here at TIFF some movies are starting to stick with me more than others. Today was a quieter day and I had time to finally reflect on some of the stuff I had seen. Two films in particular seem to not be getting out of my head, those films are "12 Years A Slave" and "Prisoners". Both have been getting Oscar buzz over here and I am actually quite surprised the latter hasn't been mentioned as much by Sasha. Every person I talk to here says its chances come awards season are mighty high. Directed by Denis Villenueve "Prisoners" is an ambitious, sprawling, fascinating and -yes- flawed 158 minute movie about a missing children's case. Jake Gyllenhall and Hugh Jackman deserve nomination, so does Villenueve for his impressive direction.

I've already talked about "Prisoners" in a past post, so I won't go any further than that. Instead, I'm going to delve into other new stuff I've seen at the fest. Starting with Jonathan Glazer's much anticipated "Under The Skin" which -much to the delight of her male fans- features a naked Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress sent to earth to lure guys into her car and kill them. The film is going to be a love it/hate it kind of thing when it comes out. It caused the most walkouts out of any movie I have seen this year at TIFF. Johansson's alien drives her car for most of the movie, luring one male after another - the repetitiveness of the film's narrative might have turned off many but I had a blast watching Glazer's film. Its originality and absurdity is what I liked the most and of course I adored Johansson who seems to be having a deadpan blast here with her role. On a side note - it's refreshing to see actresses such as Johansson in this film and Winslet in "Labor Day" with a bit more weight and roundness to their bodies. They both look much better and healthier now.

"Joe" is yet another movie directed by David Gordon Green, after this year's "Prince Avalanche". Green has had a career of directing stoner comedies (Pineapple Express, The Sitter, Your Highness) and art films (George Washington, All The Real Girls, Snow Angels). "Joe" is clearly an art film and features a beefy Nicolas Cage. Cage's Joe is an ex con that is now a lumber merchant. He frequently visits the local brothel and is addicted to cocaine. An unlikely friendship happens when he meets a young 15 year old boy (Tye Sheridan of "Mud" fame) that is frequently abused by his drunkard of a dad. Even more trouble comes when Joe gets himself into debt with hoodlums visiting his small town. Green's film is quiet and devastating and Cage gives his best performance in a very long time (even though I have secretly admire for his absurd work in "Bad Lieutenant"). The film's small time Americana cliches are sometimes too apparent but the relentless intensity of the screenplay never lets up.

To conclude, a small note on Tsai-Ming Liang's "Stray Dogs" a polarizing film about a homeless Taiwanese family. Filled with long, endurance-worthy takes and not much plot, the film can sometimes be too much to handle but I dug it for all its weird, provoking madness. It's definitely a must see for anyone that is looking for cinema that pushes the boundaries and then some. It does say a lot about the poverty rates in that country and how the distance between rich and poor is enormous. You have been warned - it's not an easy watch. It has been chosen as official selection for next month's New York Film Festival, to not many people's surprise of course.