Smells Like TIFF Spirit
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

TIFF ’09: The year of Oprah worship, celebrity photo etiquette and Tom Ford’s cinematic home run

altStalkers stalked. Photogs snapped. Girls shrieked. Publicists rolled their eyes. And the stars casually smiled back, for the most part (Colin Farrell still in dire need of coaching here). Another year, another TIFF gone by – the 34th edition boasted big names (the Duchess of York, Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, Penelope Cruz, George Clooney), big drama (the John Greyson-led boycott of the Tel Aviv spotlight, which never died down as organizers hoped) and most importantly, big movies.

Fucked-up families, run-of-the-mill zombies and money woes

With 335 films from 64 countries unspooling over a frenetic 10-day period, there was a lot to take in. But the most stellar works quickly rose into prominence: expect to hear lots about A Serious Man, the latest by the Coen brothers, and Up in the Air by Juno helmer Jason Reitman. The latter stars George Clooney in an emotionally wrenching turn as a man who fires people for a living. Dysfunctional mother/kid dynamics were also explored with incredible finesse thanks to filmmakers Andrea Arnold with Fish Tank, about a dangerous mother/boy toy/daughter love triangle set in working-class England, and Xavier Dolan with I Killed My Mother, about an artistically inclined teen’s deep-seated aversion to his mom’s general tackiness. Arguably TIFF’s worst entry, the heavy-handed Survival of the Dead (evil twins included!) was yet another underwhelming offering from George A. Romero.

Ripping into disgruntled bigwigs

The biggest (and most side-splitting) PR gaffe came courtesy of John Riley, president of Astral Media’s television networks. At his opening night party for the tepidly reviewed big bang romanceCreation, Riley was visibly shaken by the absence of the film’s two leads, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. In announcing they wouldn’t be able to make it due to travel delays, he held up their pictures and most dramatically ripped Connelly’s in two. “This is my former favourite actress,” he cracked. But Connelly clearly didn’t pick up on Riley’s strange brand of humour, as she interruptedCreation’s press conference the following morning to issue Riley a tearful apology. “I just have to say, we did go to your party, and I would have loved to stay longer, but it was… the first anniversary of my father’s death. [Choking up.] I’m sorry.” Way to bring out a fine performance, Riley!

Oprah’s magic touch

Any lingering doubts over Oprah’s world dominance were quelled upon seeing Precious’ behemoth marketing machine in full swing. (It took home the Audience Award.) Of course, Lee Daniels’ masterful, gritty and profoundly devastating tale of an abused, illiterate African-American teen overcoming the most insurmountable odds is an accomplishment in and of itself. But there’s nobody like the Queen of Daytime (and the world?) to set an Oscar campaign in motion. And let’s face it – Mo’Nique’s harrowing performance as Precious’ abhorrent mom calls for no less. Thanks for the tip, Harpo.

Megan mania

Obsessive interest in the overhyped screen vixen Megan Fox was all you could hear/eat/breathe during TIFF’s first few days, as an armada of horny pubescent boys and not so pubescent potbellied men scoured the city for clues as to the whereabouts of their lady love. Fox frenzy took a funny turn, however, when crew members from the Transformersset took a few pointed jabs at the Jennifer’s Body actress via an online letter. Defending their film’s director Michael Bay (whom Fox had previously referred to as “want[ing] to be like Hitler”), they described Fox as “dumb-as-a-rock” and her acting as “cringe-able.” Priceless, especially when keeping in mind that these qualifiers come from people working on a Michael Bay film.

Red carpets are the new catwalk

“For me fashion is creative, but it’s a commercially creative expression. Film is something else. The two things mean very different things to me,” said fashion god Tom Ford at the press conference for his directorial debut, the inspired A Single Man. In a money-crunching year where TIFF was more effective at building Oscar buzz than prompting distributors to open their pocketbooks, Ford’s powerful meditation on lost love – adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 classic about a middle-aged gay man in mourning (a haunting Colin Firth) – became the first big acquisition of the fest, with the Weinstein Company prepping a release just in time for awards season. Who knew Ford was capable of such emotional resonance?