First with the footie. We've had four games since I last posted, the last four of the season. The first two were disappointing, including a loss to the team of one of Ros' best friends. We had (cruelly) been hoping we could beat them since they were the only team below us on the standings, but they had a good night and we had a tough one. At least we could be happy for their win.
Last week's game was heartening. We played a pretty good team and managed to hold them to a tie.
This week's game was awesome. We were playing another team in the middle of the pack, but our girls seemed to really figure out how to play together. There was passing, and working together, and actually playing of their positions. Ros managed to score a goal by really sticking with the ball in front of the net. And another girl, who's always game but hasn't yet scored, got in a really nice goal as well. Add in two more goals from one of our best players, and we managed a 1 - 4 win! A nice way to end the season.
That's the regular season done, but next week we have Cup Weekend, which is our club's house league playoffs. We play four round robin games, and the top four teams play in finals a week Sunday.
It's been over a week since BistoCon 2016, our little biannual Pros con in charming Romulus, MI. We had 22 people attending, and the feedback is that everyone had a fab time. I know I did! There were panels and episodes and games (provided by the brilliant Krisser) and lots of laughter. And we've agreed to do it all again in 2018!
Rejuvenated by the con and by spending time with such passionate fellow fans, I've finally started writing again. I've got over 1,000 words of a Pros story done, and a more or less complete idea of where it's going. This has all been helped by getting stuck in meetings at work that don't really concern me, thus giving me found time to scribble as I like. Very exciting!
The last thing that's taken up a good chunk of the last week, and will take up 11 days starting next week, is the Toronto International Film Fest, a.k.a. TIFF. The schedule came out last week, and we had to have our picks for tickets in this past Sunday, so I got home from BistoCon in time to spend days poring over descriptions of the nearly 400 scheduled films and narrowing them down to the 21 I want to see.
I'm hopeful it's going to be a good year. I'm most excited to see Free Fire, a '70s crime film. I saw this pic from it, with Cillian Murphy and Armie Hammer rocking these '70s threads, and it shot to the top of my must see list.
Yeah, that didn't go well.
Both the Sweetie and I remembered it as being light and funny.
Ros will no doubt remember it entirely because the R.O.U.S.s (Rodents of Unusual Size) scared her witless.
Okay, so it is a bit scary looking, for a little dude in a mangy costume.
She didn't do so well with Wesley being tortured or the final duel between Inigo and Count Rugen either.
Our plans to show her Star Wars are now on hold for a bit. (I'm betting Aunt Beru's death would do Ros in.) Though I'm seriously considering pulling out my old Star Wars novelization to read to her ahead of time, since she seems to be less scared when she knows exactly what's going to happen from the start. (She knows every Harry Potter spoiler there is.)
So, it's back to slapstick, screwball comedies and sports movies for a bit. Oh, and Gilmore Girls, which I have hooked her on. (I'm going to try original Trek next time, The Trouble with Tribbles and A Piece of the Action. I suspect if I showed her the salt vampire one she'd never forgive me. *g*)
I have to say, seeing only 11 films, and taking a few days off to do that has resulted in a nicely relaxed festival experience. Usually by the end of the fest I feel like a brain-damaged zombie. This year, I feel almost refreshed. And I ended with two films that, while not spectacular, were engaging in radically different ways.
( Reviews this way... )
That's all she wrote.
For my next adventure, I'm off to see Benedict Cumberbatch do Hamlet in London with a bunch of mates. This time on Wednesday I'll be in a plane over the Atlantic. Yikes!
( Reviews this way. )
In other news, while the Sweetie was out at his own screenings tonight, I managed to talk Ros into watching the first episode of Gilmore Girls. (I was trying to stave off yet another episode of Lego Friends on Netflix.) She quite enjoyed it, but I'd forgotten quite how much Lorelai talks about getting pregnant when she was sixteen.
Unfortunately, I haven't run into any stars yet. I was especially gutted to find out after the fact that one of my faves, the Bean, was in town in support of The Martian. He's one of exactly two actors I would actually stalk on the red carpet. The other, Viggo Mortensen, I did track down a few years back and got his autograph. Ah, well. At least it led to fun photos like this. The Bean and Donald Glover in the same picture is sort of awesome.
I'm only seeing eleven films this year. I was originally supposed to be up to my eyeballs in training at work this week, so I only got eleven tickets. But then the project I was working on imploded, which meant I could take a few days off to see films rather than cramming them all into the evenings, and take it all at a more leisurely pace. Which is nice for a change.
I've seen four films so far, two British, two Chinese. The Chinese ones have been...interesting, but the British ones have both been amazing.
( This way to the reviews... )
Now I'm seriously considering grabbing a ticket to see the band tonight. Hmmmm.
There were also Take That hijinks in our household this weekend.
First I found a few pics of a small secret gig that band did on Friday.
Which led to this conversation.
Me: Wow, Howard looks like he just did a gig in his jammies.
Sweetie: Let me see! ::looks a pic:: You go Howard! ::said very admiringly::
Then on Saturday I followed a link on Tumblr to a gallery of Take That pictures from the past 25 years. Ros insisted on going through all of them and seeing if she could identify the boys. She consistently got Mark ("because he's the shortest") and Howard, mostly got Robbie, but regularly mixed up Jason and Gary. I am sort of disturbed that she managed to successfully identify both Howard and Jason in ( this picture )
FYI, Howard's in the orange; Jason's in the blue.
The Sweetie decided he was going to get in on the game, and successfully managed to identify all five members of Take That in ( this picture )
In order he managed to get Howard ("because he's a handsome, handsome man"), Mark ("because he looks like a waif that a strong wind would blow away"), Robbie ("because c'mon, he's Robbie"), Gary ("because he looks like a jerk"), and Jason ("because he's the only one left"). He loses points for the Jason jab. (ETA: Okay, he loses a little for the Gary jab, too. Though I have to admit that while I don't think Gary is really a jerk, I can never entirely warm to someone who's an avowed Tory supporter.) He also ended with this comment:
Sweetie: I'm blaming you for the fact that I can now identify all of Take That.
We took Ros to a Saturday afternoon kid's screening of the original Bad News Bears at our favourite local rep house and she enjoyed it. Though, man, there's more tough stuff than even I was expecting, including a coach/father hitting his kid on the field and a tough little kid who uses the N word. Repeatedly. (Yikes!)
At the urging of franzeska, I've started putting pages up on AO3 for my vids, including non-password protected links. The vids up there so far are:
This has led to the shocking realization that I made I Would Die for You, my first vid back in 2002! Where has the time gone?
I started my Saturday with a 6:45 a.m. black belt training session at our martial arts school. And promptly started having an anaphylaxis attack after we'd completed the run at the start. Mouth swelling, eyes swelling and, most alarmingly, throat swelling. Which meant taking Benadryl, hightailing it home, waiting to make sure that my throat had stopped swelling, and then letting the drugs knock me out for over four hours. Not the way I'd planned on spending my Saturday morning. And annoyingly, it meant missing the martial arts part of the class that I actually enjoy.
The Sweetie: You know, some people would take this as a sign that they shouldn't be exercising.
Me: But I like exercising! I don't want this to keep happening!
Nor was that the end of it. I woke up both Sunday and Monday with my eyes swollen again, and the Benadryl hangover was giving me a persistent headache that finally tipped into migraine territory today. Joy. Adding to the fun, the cold that's been nipping at my heels finally caught me today, so I bowed to the inevitable and took the day off.
Since I was stuck at home anyway, and the headache wasn't quite enough to require a dark, quiet room, I decided to park myself on the couch and mainline six of the Legends episodes I had sitting on the PVR. That was...interesting. I wouldn't call it good, but it's at least amusing seeing what accents The Bean attempts each episode when he's undercover. Worst accent so far: Texan. (Who the hell thought Sean Bean doing a Texan accent was a good idea?) Most amusing: a Liverpool accent that never drifted past the outskirts of Sheffield. Oh Sean, never change.
( The Very Good )
( The Not-So-Good )
( Here's the poster )
The film start out with a boy's voice narrating the story of Markov and Hamilton, two soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. Markov and Hamilton are the best scouts in their unit.
They're devoted to each, and work together in perfect harmony.
But then Hamilton is caught in an ambush when they're on an unauthorized attempt to hunt a leopard they'd seen, and Markov abandons their weapons to save his friend, breaking the rules of the Legion.
And that's where the story really starts. Markov and Hamilton turn out to be Mourad Massaev, a Chechnyan, and Michaël Hernandez, and they both end up leaving the Legion. Because he broke the rules, Massaev is not given the French citizenship he'd been counting on and chooses to stay in France as an illegal. And because he's been wounded, Hernandez is not allowed to re-enlist as he wants to do. Adding to the complications, Massaev has a young son in Paris he now must look after.
The film follows these two supremely competent soldiers as they struggle to deal with the ordinary details of civilian life, and while that doesn't sound too exciting, it's a really exquisite film. Massaev is very matter-of-fact with his son, grilling him on the protocols of what to do when his father leaves him alone to work a night job. Hernandez is committed to working hard at his recovery. And both men maintain their connection with each other, in spite of the difficulties they're having.
I won't say any more, because there's a second half revelation that's gutting and takes the film into new territory and makes me love it even more. If you have a chance to see the film, definitely grab it.
The second film I saw this day was The Face of an Angel, Michael Winterbottom's take on the Amanda Knox murder case. The Knox case is the sort of sordid tabloid drama I generally avoid reading about, but I thought Winterbottom might be able to make something interesting out of it. The film stars Daniel Brühl, who I'm fond of, as a filmmaker trying to create some sort of story out of the case. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a bit of a mess, and it all gets rather silly as Brühl's character goes out of control on cocaine as he's trying to find an angle that will allow him to film the story. I'd definitely recommend giving this one a miss.
First up was Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh's biopic about the painter. ( Which has a striking poster )
I knew Turner's paintings, but nothing about the man, so it was fascinating. The film shows Turner as a rough character (he was the son of a Covent Garden barber) but as it goes on you get more glimpses of his vulnerabilities. One thing I found stood out was how much death is shown to be a part of everyday life in 19th century England. Every single character is shown to have dead children, spouses and siblings. And as Turner, Timothy Spall does a bang up job, doing much with just a look or a growl. It's not a perfect film, and does perhaps drag a bit, but it worth a watch.
My second film was Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2, a Hong Kong rom com directed by Johnnie To. To is prolific and works in all sorts of genres, and he's produced a number of masterpieces. (If you want to see a brilliant Chinese action film, check out his Drug War.) This is not a masterpiece. It's not even very good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's bad. The film is full of wacky misunderstandings that make even less sense than usual in this genre, and at the end, when the main female character dumps her fiance at the altar for the bloke who's been pursuing her throughout the film, it comes off as creepy and dumb rather than at all charming. If you're looking to check out a HK rom com, this would not be the one to start with.
Next up was Far from Home, the first film with Viggo. It's set at the start of the Algerian war for independence. Viggo plays a teacher, Daru, in an isolated area who's given the job of transporting a young Arab man accused of murdering his cousin to the nearest town. Knowing he'll be taking the young man to a guaranteed death sentence, Daru is reluctant to carry out his assignment, but his hand is forced when the man's relatives arrive to try and kill him. He and the young man make a run for the town, and are caught between the rebels and the French forces fighting them.
( Here's a couple of still from the film )
In spite of the fact that both the above stills show Viggo with a gun, what's so refreshing about the film is that the character keeps trying to avoid bloodshed, and what's truly important to him is teaching his students. (The final scene, with Daru back in his school, had me in tears.) And Viggo has wonderful chemistry with the actor playing the young man, Reda Kateb. All, in all, I'd highly recommend it.
My last film for the day was In the Crosswind, an Estonian film about Stalin's deportation of people from the Baltic states to Siberia during World War II. I picked this one for its connection to my family. My dad was Latvian, and two of his cousins were deported to Siberia during this time. (Astoundingly, they survived. When I went to Latvia with my dad ten years ago, they were still alive, and were two very sweet, very tough old ladies.)
The way In the Crosswind is filmed is extraordinary. The director set up a tableau for each scene, with the camera tracking through the actors and the scenery, gradually revealing what's going on as on the soundtrack an actress reads the letters of a woman who was deported and also survived. At the Q & A afterwards, the director said he decided on the technique when he was reading letters from deportees at the national archive and found one where the writer said he felt that time had stopped for them in Siberia. The director also said that it took between two and six months to film each separate scene, and four years to complete the film.
( Here are a couple of shots of tableaux )
This technique could have fallen completely flat, but it works incredibly effectively. In each scene, the camera travels through the set and actors to only gradually reveal the horror of the scene. The whole thing was very tense, and very affecting, and if you get a chance to see it, I'd highly recommend it.
Skipping back to the first day of TIFF.
My fest had a rather inauspicious start with The Valley, an international co-production from a Senegalese director working in Lebanon. It sounded potentially promising. It starts with a heard but not seen car crash in the desert, from which emerges a man with a head injury and no memory. He goes in search of help and finds four people whose car has broken down. When he fixes their car, they feel they have to take him in. But as is gradually revealed, they're not innocent travellers. They run a drug lab in a desolate area of Lebanon. And a war is gradually closing in around them.
You could make an interesting film with that premise. The Valley is not that film. It's full of people staring into the middle distance while not much happens, or sitting tensely together while not much happens, and one character is occasionally seen creating ominous charcoal drawings that I'm sure are meant to be highly significant but don't really do much. But ultimately, it doesn't amount to much more than a line voiced by one character after war finally breaks out: "The Middle East is fucked."
On the positive side, the director knows how to compose an image, and he does incredible things with sound. (He manages to create a complete invasion with only sound and a few distant CGI effects.)
Fortunately, my second film of the day was a huge improvement.
The Dead Lands is an epic set in pre-colonial New Zealand, with dialogue entirely in Maori. It starts off with two rival tribes meeting years after a war between them to honour the bones of their dead ancestors. But the visiting tribe desecrates the bones and accuses the son of the other tribe, and uses this as an excuse to come back and massacre all the men of the tribe. The only male survivor is the teenage son, who feels he then has to track down the killers of his tribe.
He's outnumbered and outclassed, but then the rival tribe decides to take a short cut home through the dead lands, a place where another tribe was killed, and now said to be the home of a flesh-eating demon. The son seeks the help of the demon, who turns out to be the last member of the missing tribe, and a great warrior.
The film is gorgeously shot, and has a number of well-choreographed fight scenes. And the demon warrior is played by Lawrence Makoare, who amongst other roles played Lurtz, a.k.a. the Orc that killed Boromir in the first LotR movie.
As an added bonus, the entire cast came out and did a Maori haka during the credits. And someone filmed it!
Now I really want to go back to New Zealand...
I've got a few spare minutes before I've got to dash off and pick up Ros, so I thought I'd put up at least one quick film fest review. And I thought I'd pick the one that might be most relevant to the interests of people on my flist: Pride.
This is a fictional account of the true story of LGSM, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a group of London activists who decided to support a small Welsh mining village during the miner's strike in '80s Britain.
Here's a shot of the activists in question:
With the exception of Dominic West in the middle of the back row, (ETA: And Andrew Scott! I forgot Andrew Scott!) they're mostly young, unknown actors, but they're all wonderful. The people in the mining village are more recognizable faces (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine), and are also wonderful. The movie is smartly written, funny and heartwarming, but also has some bite, given the politics involved. I loved it, and I wasn't alone. The entire audience rose to its feet during the credits to give the filmmakers an extended standing ovation. And while Toronto's film fest audience has the rep of being enthusiastic, we're not always that enthusiastic. The film really is quite special.
Making the screening even more special was the fact that three of the real people involved (two of the gay activists, and a miner's wife who ended up getting a degree after the strike and becoming a Labour MP) joined the filmmakers for a Q&A at the end.
Consider this an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
The film is basically a fictionalized version of Cave's 20,000th day on earth, and has him talking about the creative process with friends and collaborators.
Where else are you going to get Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone, and Nick Cave in the same place? (And there's apparently a very interesting scene where Nick meets up again with Blixa Bargeld, his former, very long-time collaborator whom I still miss seeing on tour.)
I haven't been this keen to see a film in a long time.
If you heard high pitched squealing tonight, that was me watching this trailer.
This picture happens after Gene Kelly's Victor has been tortured for having a sassy mouth, and Aumont's Paul agrees to take a job he doesn't want interpreting for the Germans to get him out of the dungeon he's been thrown into. It is entirely indicative of the vibe of the entire film:
I know, right?
I basically spent the entire film wondering why I'd never heard of it and where it had been all my life.
( More hurt/comforty goodness (and spoilers) this way )
But I did do one awesome thing last night that's a bit worthy of a post.
Lightbox, the film fest's year round home, has been doing conversations with David Cronenberg as part of a big retrospective and exhibition they're doing on him. (This has resulted in crazy things like this picture of Jeremy Irons and a mugwump from Naked Lunch.) Last night, they finally had Viggo Mortensen in for a talk, and then he and Cronenberg introduced a screening of A History of Violence. (The Sweetie gets major bonus points for noticing immediately when they'd scheduled this, and getting tickets for me and a couple of friends.)
It was amazing.
The two of them get along really well for a start--Cronenberg always shows up at Viggo's film fest screenings, even if it's not his film, and they usually snog on stage—which meant lots of joking around about how Cronenberg first asked Viggo to star in A History of Violence because he was cheap and available. And also malleable, they added later. Joking aside, they're also both really smart and articulate, and they're thoughtful about the work they've done. So they're not just fun, they're fascinating to listen to, and it's clear how much working together for them is a true collaboration.
One of the most telling anecdotes Cronenberg told was about talking to another director who told him that Viggo had given him notes, and said it like it was both unthinkable and horrendous that an actor would do such a thing. Cronenberg told him, to paraphrase, "Look, not every actor wants to do that or can do that, but if you have an actor with a good brain who wants to contribute that way, why wouldn't you listen to him?" It made me want to hug them both.
Although, I'm not sure he'd look like an Alison, even as a girl. *g*
In other news, the film fest continues apace. Ten films down, eight to go, and no time at all to do reviews yet. But the score so far is:
And that ain't a bad average, really.
It didn't hurt that I ended up this close to Tom Hiddleston when I got out of my first screening at the same time he was getting out of his limo and hitting the red carpet. I'd show you my pic of him, but he's more of a fuzzy, Tom Hiddleston-shaped object in it. (I was running to get in line for his film and just got a quick snap with the iPhone.) But here's a good pic of him at the press conference for the film:
I have to say, in person he's even taller and skinnier that I'd expected. And he was even smarter and more articulate than I'd hoped during the Q&A.
( This way to my thoughts on the night's films )