Something I worked up last week when Team Sam & Gabe hit the road with some gifts for our honouree kids. The part where we were stuffed into the car and drowning in balloons was my favourite. I love my job!

You can make a direct donation to Make A Wish Canada in support of Team Sam & Gabe right here.

Watched: Grab ‘Er By The Tiptoes

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With Daniel Eustace Cockburn and Demetre “Thunderdome” E. in attendance, it was contended that we should watch a movie where a bunch of drunk Irish people try to evade sea monsters (Grabbers), followed by a romantic comedy in which Gary Oldman played a dwarf (Tiptoes). These were not, strictly speaking, Good Ideas, but hey, you only live once.

Prior to the movies I tried to have a conversation with Daniel about why I don’t need movies to be good (using Monsters as collateral) but it was a non-starter. Better to have stuck to the original pre-show entertainment, which was this crazy shit:

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Getting To Know (Me). A little 6-minute video I put together for my team day last week. In case you wanted the story till now.

*spoiler warning: contains Star Wars

**and a bunch of shit from my movies when I was a teenager

***and at least six mistakes but hey, one step before perfection amirite?

#TrueDetectiveSeason2

The Conversation: Cronenberg vs. Mortensen, TIFF Bell Lightbox Jan 13 2014

David Cronenberg doesn’t storyboard. This hit me like a thunderclap at the “In Conversation With…” session at the Lightbox on Monday night, where Cronenberg took the stage with Viggo Mortensen to discuss their three collaborations together - A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method. I think Violence and Method are terrific pictures; I could take or leave Eastern Promises, and Cronenberg generally, except that he’s such a fascinating speaker and writer on his own work. Cronenberg on Cronenberg is essential reading for any filmmaker or film fan - and heavens, he gave as good as he got last Monday night.

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Don’t take this frost quake ice vortex shit lying down. Visit the ice planet of Hoth with your friends, Admiral Ackbar and General Veers!

SNOW CRASH

The movie of my life

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In the movie of my life, I’d play myself. Why not? I’m young enough, and with this Avatar CGI shit, they could paint a lot of dots on my face and create a digital puppet version of myself at ages sixteen, and thirteen, and even ten. I would love to step some poor Weta digital modelling technician through my own pubescence in reverse. I’ve got the field notes, Adrian Mole style, going back to the ten centimeter range. I’ve been dying to try out a MoCap suit, or a MoCap stage, or a MoCap anything, really. That would be all of the great things about acting (freedom of experimentation; focus on the task only; craft service) all coalesced into one experience, with all the crappy stuff (pancake makeup; other people) taken away.

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New short video: Yay-Honh (2013). Just discovered in the Tederick archives as I continue to work towards a complete digital collection of my movies. This is one of the numerous attempts on my part to do a rip-off of Daniel’s Monopedal Joy, in this case with clips from my unfinished production of Centipede ‘97, which got about 2/3rds of the way through principal photography before crashing into the jungle. I started editing this in 2002 and finished it this week. I’m fast like that.

So Now Then

I’ve been making movies for, what? About exactly 25 years? I must have started when I was 11 or 12, or earlier. It’s become increasingly clear to me in the last little while – in the most comforting, serene, wonderful of ways – that I may be done. What does “done” mean: it means only that for the majority of my life, a quarter of a century even, there was a persistent “pull” in the back of my mind telling me that I should be making a movie, which alternately inspired or tortured me with flights of creativity / a profound sense of failure as I went along. That “pull” seems to be gone.

A few things are clicking into place. The first is the absolute absence of ideas – I have none. There is nothing “in the basement,” as Rocky put it. Nothing kicking around in the back of my head on the (till now) ceaseless laundry list of things I’d like to put on tape someday. It’s not a lack of drive or ambition; there is nothing being suppressed or unexpressed here, which used to be half the problem. It’s just that there’s nothing waiting for me to work on it. I think maybe those things died with Who Remembers How It Ends? Not because that was any kind of final work of anything. It just happened to be the last one. (The title, at least, finally has a purpose.)

There’s an obvious catalyzing factor, too. I am transitioning, and have been for a while, from one phase of my life to another. It took a frustratingly long time to get here. I think I have been leaning towards this new lifestyle for a few years now, unable to move any further than “leaning,” for a variety of reasons beyond my direct control. Now, all of a sudden, the gate is wide open – and I see a possibility, a strong, bright, golden one. It excites me all up and down, but it has nothing to do with the thrilling pull inside me that used to slowly, one by one, tease movies out of my unconscious and into formless shapes that slowly became less formless over the months and years it took to commit something like them to tape, and show them to a crowd.

And it was always something like them, as I guess every content creator on the planet is well aware; nothing ever came out of my efforts that was anything more than, say, 15% similar to whatever pure energy it represented at its inception. That made the final products seem frustrating and rudimentary, like I was fumbling for a language I couldn’t speak, based only on the street signs of a foreign city I was visiting for the first time. I got to a point, a place in my ability to express myself in visual ideas, and got no further - and even allowing that everyone must feel this frustration to an extent, I also know for a fact that there are people who do get further. And I’ve been aware, and have been for a long time, that there was a line between me and the people who really oughta be doing this for a living. Before the pull went away, that awareness drove me crazy, made me feel awful about myself, made me feel like a Failure with a capital F that struck down right to the bottom of my soul. My inner 16-year-old self was screaming at me, all the time, and especially for the first five years of my thirties.

And then, thank goodness, thank the stars, thank all the good things under the bright brilliant sun, the pull went away - and it stopped.

That autumnal feeling that walked me through Sherwood Forest when I was a teenager, dreaming up shots for The Hunt or Fate of Dietrich; the pulse-quickening drive that propelled my feet independent of my body as I walked into the womens’ washroom at York University while inventing Light & Magic. Even whatever slow, eggshell-dry artistic certainty held strong enough to defiantly, if meekly, see Who Remembers? through to the end. Finally, that inexorable need - by which I was judging myself, rightly or wrongly, every day - became a need for something else, and altogether warmer, and more loving, and better.

I thought of something last week, while riffing with Rajo on Twitter, called The ABCs of Puberty, a better sequel to The ABCs of Death than the re-run ABCs of Death 2. I immediately called “C is for Cum Rag” – because I could write, and make, a hell of a 3-minute cum rag short, based on my own, real-life experience. I’ll tell you about it sometime. But for the purposes of this story, on the night in question, I felt a bit of something like that pull. And was then aware, just as quickly, that a) it was real, authentic pull, just like all the others, and yet b) I could put it away, and live the rest of my life without ever acting on it. Because other things make me happy now, and that old pull just passes through me, like a friendly, comforting old sigh.

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Only God Forgives the Bling Ring: #TIFF13 Dispatch #3

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Sunday, 8:05 p.m. - The Lightbox - The BLB has calmed down considerably, as evidenced by the fact that I actually snagged a table outside the Canteen without a fistfight, and even up-jumped to a *better* table ten seconds later with only minor negotiation. Today I am wearing someone else’s lanyard, which isn’t even TIFF orange, but it is getting me places. (No nefarious intent in my putting it on; but a pass is a pass.)

Monumental Tumblr difficulties posting my entry last night nearly made me late for The Double, which - given the film’s construction - might have created a catastrophic narrative hole from which I never would have emerged. Certainly I would have missed the best part of the screening, which was Richard Ayoade cracking wise prior to showtime about how the film was, in fact, written. Of that I have no doubt - it was also filmed, and edited, and all sorts of other wonderful filmmaking-related things. It was not, in point of fact, interesting to me; but I don’t deny that the movie does exactly what all concerned intended it to do. I have made it something of a rule, however, to never attend a sophomore film from a director whose breakout took place at TIFF; TIFF will always program the follow-up, but sophomore triumphs are rare birds.

I did better with Fat, because Fat was a breakout - by Mark Phinney, in this case. It was a hard film to watch and doesn’t have as conclusive an ending as it needs - making a bed is a lovely first step but it’s hardly catharsis - but the lead performance by Mel Rodriguez is SO good that it scarcely matters. The movie is raw to the point of having badly-muffled location audio in some crucial scenes, but for bootstraps filmmaking, it has a scintillating honesty that overcomes the physical defects. It’s more a study of depression than a study of addiction, though as either, it’s credibly delivered.

And then having STILL not recorded a podcast it was a rough cab ride over to the Ryerson to gatecrash The Green Inferno - the environment within the theatre being appropriately jungle-like after a humid day and a lot of rain. I went straight to the crow’s nest, stretched out my legs, and enjoyed the film a HELL of a lot more than I expected to. The setup 20 or 25 minutes is excruciating - “Get to the island faster,” as a young Jurassic Park fan once notably wrote to David Koepp about the sequel - but once the blood-red cannibals show up, that movie is the precise definition of what you want from a Midnight Madness movie. It even, in a bizarre but heartily appreciated example of restraint, does NOT perform a clitoridectomy upon its lead character after spending nearly the entire film setting up the idea that it will. The kills are gross and grand, the pot-addled cannibals are hilarious, and pretty much anytime a bunch of naked children start chowing down on fat white Americans, you know there’s gonna be ha-ha’s. It was a brilliant 25th anniversary celebration for the MM program, warmly received.

Monday, 3:31 p.m. - at work - Film is a language of visual ideas, per Mark Cousins, which is why I think I’m becoming less and less interested in making them. I can admire - “admire” meaning “be whalloped through the back wall of the theatre by” - ideas like the final shot of Stalker or, for that matter, any ten shots in Pacific Rim, but my thoughts and ideas always seem to come out in words, not moving pictures. There’s room for both in the story of film, certainly, but we tend to balance in the wrong direction more often than not, quibbling about the dialogue in Prometheus when we should be exalting the intense visual connections of the editing in Cloud Atlas. All of which is not intended in any particular direction vis a vis TIFF 2013, only that it was on my mind, and more so last night, when our late-evening podcast break gave way to a screening of Canopy, which does not have a visual imagination, but was followed by OCULUS, which definitely does. 

It’s a brilliantly conceived script in the first part, and a brilliantly executed visual piece (the editing alone is like a scotch and a hand job) in the second; it’s also scary as fuck, which few horror movies are (to me) any more. Top marks to Karen Gillan for selling an unholy mouthful of exposition in the first act, and to Analise Basso for being the redheaded 12-year-old I would most like to see get her own superhero franchise. And as a moment in the fest, OCULUS at midnight on Day 4 was just what I needed to jumpstart my entry into the second act of the festival. 

Kat G. continues to offer the best hugs in the business, and told me I looked like a million bucks when I saw her in the lobby of the Ryerson. I later learned she was drunk and starving when she made the pronouncement, which doesn’t dint the honour on my end. It has been a weekend of high compliment.

Some show notes:

- Are we finally nearing the death of the TIFF “Arrhhhh”? With the exception of any of the Midnight Madness screenings, the years-past-its-stale-date meme is showing the limpness of old vegetables.

- The L’Oreal Special Effects ad haunts my dreams.