Three days and nine movies in, and the free stuff well ran dry today.
When you wait for a screening to start, you generally have to wait outside (except at the Scotiabank Centre), and if you want to get a good seat you have to wait outside for awhile. Companies looking to push samples of their product on people thus have a captive audience, which has led to us receiving a lot of free shit, some good, some bad. So far, we’ve gotten two free cans of Red Bull, a couple Dole Fruit Sparklers, a mini-bag of Starbucks coffee beans, a couple other coffee-related samples (I didn’t pay attention since I don’t drink coffee), two t-shirts, a bag of rice chips (sucked), some stupid hand puzzle, and a pair of mini binoculars (which we haven’t needn’t since we wait in lines to get good seats and all, but could come in handy for the upcoming Neil Young concert I suppose). But nothing today. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end and is merely a result that we tended to stay indoors today because of the rain (both subway stops had indoor entrances to where we were leaving and arriving). I’m still hoping that the Sun Chips people are trying to expand their influence… I love those things.
Read on for musings on Food, Inc., Slumdog Millionaire, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno…
Director: Robert Kenner
Starring: Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Gary Hirschberg, Joel Salatin
Food, Inc. is a slickly packaged piece of agitprop documentary that has a shot at being the next big doc to capture the popular zeitgeist… if it finds a distributer. I wish it luck, as it is a very good documentary, managing to be entertaining along with informative, covering an important subject that demands more attention than it’s been getting. The film borrows from books such as Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma in its examination of food industry in America, with appearances from both authors to back it up (Fast Food Nation‘s Eric Schlosser attended the screening along with director Robert Kenner). The way the industry promotes poor food choices through cheaper prices, while engaging in terrible practises (particularly when it comes to the production of meat) affects us all, yet no one pays attention to things like agriculture bills when they pass through Congress.
Of late, my wife and I have been paying more attention to our food choices, particularly as it involves how far our food travels and who produces it, choosing to shop more at farmer’s markets when available. After watching this movie, you can bet we’ll be doing more. Food, Inc. takes the best elements of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me (his examination on the effects of cheaper bad foods vs expensive good foods on the population), without any of the self-promoting stunts that lessened his argument.
The movie isn’t anti-meat, pro-veggie per se (which is good, cause I’m a full-on omnivore), although my main criticism of the film is that it chose to focus more on the problems with meat than non-meat (although there was a focus on corn, it quickly segued into corn feed in relation to animals). The message to take away from Food, Inc. isn’t to avoid eating meat, but rather to avoid eating meat that is less humanely harvested, as this is the sort of food that can lead to disaster in our food supply (i.e., ecoli outbreaks and such). I understand why they did it, in that seeing chicklings manhandled on a conveyor belt or cows bred with so much weight that they can barely walk makes more of an emotional impact than does footage of diseased spinach, but I worry that people might end up getting turned off from the message of the movie and dismiss it as some vegan propaganda. Which it is not.
Verdict: Success – An entertaining, informative, topical documentary that makes you think about the way you live. I highly recommend this film.
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
Danny Boyle is fast becoming a favourite director of mine, even though this is only the third of his films that I’ve seen (28 Days Later and Sunshine are the other two… while three more, including Trainspotting sit in my queue). Above all else, he is a stunning visualist who produces memorable footage that helps his films overcome other narrative weaknesses. I wasn’t sure if his latest film, Slumdog Millionaire would appeal to me as much as the other two, given that it is a complete departure from his tense zombie film or his hard sci-fi adventure. The film is a decidedly more human and more earthy tale about a young man who grew up on the streets of India, who finds himself a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, having to face accusations of fraud for his ability to make it to the final question. The film follows his life through flashbacks, allowing Boyle to show off his ability for making dynamic images with the bright colours of Mumbai, without losing the humanity of his characters. And it works. This might be my favourite Boyle film yet.
Verdict: Smashing Success – Easily my favourite movie of the festival so far, this one is a real crowd-pleaser, with emotional highs and lows, some genuine laughs, some tears, and a tense finale. Put this one on your to see list, and make sure to stick around during the final credits.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Jeff Anderson, Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe, Justin Long
The tough part of seeing a lot of films in one day is that you don’t always get to leave on a high note. The day started off well with Food, Inc. then continued on an even higher note with Slumdog Millionaire, which had us leaving the theatre with that endorphin high you get from watching a great film. Too bad Kevin Smith had to ruin it with this sub-adolescent offering that somehow has him taking a step backwards in terms of creativity from his last film (Clerks II) and even more baffling, marks a step back in terms of professionalism from his first film (Clerks). There was a time when I would have proudly named Smith as one of my favourite filmmakers, but given that he’s now had two movies in a row proving that he’s little more than an sloppy man-child, I think it’s time I pass him by. (I will allow that he did make me laugh during the Q&A session, but not all that much during his movie).
Verdict: Fail – Just a serious of pained, clunky jokes about dicks, shit, tits, race, and gays (with the black and gay stuff being the clunkiest, with Smith trying to identify with the minorities, but coming off like someone who gets his knowledge from movies and television… and of course the internet). Elizabeth Banks was good, but probably too good for the material and the rest of the cast.