Register Thursday | December 13 | 2018

TIFF Update: Cody, Herzog, Romero and Moore

Two weeks ago I posted here about the first round of Toronto International Film Festival announcements. While the initial curtain call had plenty to get excited about, even if much of it is Cannes fallout (or Cannes-me-downs? No?), TIFF is slowly revealing what’s shaping up to be one of the richest festivals in years. Over the past week, TIFF has announced several other programs. While the full press conference isn’t until next Tuesday (so stay tuned for another update), here’s another roundup of stuff that you might be interested in.

Last week TIFF announced its Midnight Madness lineup, a selection of genre fare catering to fanboys (and gals) whose tastes run toward splatter and sci-fi. While TIFF likes to boast that this programme showcases work “from directors who prefer to work in genres not usually seen in a festival context,” this is a bunch of bull, considering that plenty of great festivals, from Montreal's Fantasia (currently underway, for the next 24 hours anyways) to Toronto After Dark dedicate themselves to genre pictures. But anyways. There’s a good deal of buzz around Jennifer’s Body, Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody’s follow-up to Juno. The film stars babe o' the week Megan Fox as a high school student slowly making the transition from the Rachel McAdams-in-Mean Girls kind of evil to the possessed-by-a-demon kind of evil.

Next on the chopping block is veteran goremeister George A. Romero’s latest zombie epic, Survival of the Dead. In his latest, Romero pits two rival clans with differing views towards undead rights in the same post-apocalyptic context he's been mining to varying degrees of success since 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. The premise alone promises plenty of headshots, decapitations, cannibalism and arterial spray, but considering that 2007’s moronic Diary of the Dead proved that Romero has been reading his own press and taking all the claims for social commentary in Night and Dawn of the Dead (1978) way too seriously, I can only hope that Survival moves away from the director’s recent heavy-handedness and back to the cheap thrills the more legitimately endeared him to his shuffling legions of fans.

Also, Muay Thai martial arts master Tony Jaa makes his directorial debut with Ong Bak 2, a prequel to 2003’s old school action spectacular. Jaa proved himself Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan’s heir apparent with Ong Bak. But while his ability to elbow-drop the living shit out of anything with a pulse is undisputed, whether or not he can passably direct a film remains to be seen.

TIFF also added a whole mess of films to the Special Presentations lineup. Chief amongst these (for this guy at least) is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Directed by Werner Herzog and based upon Bad Lieutenant (which Herzog claims to never have seen), the seedy 1992 crime flick from uber-moralist Abel Ferrara (who Herzog claims never to have heard of), Port of Call stars Nicolas Cage (!!!) as a N’awlins homicide detective who busted up his back during Katrina, leaving him addicted to Vicodin, cocaine and unprotected sex. There’s no question that Ferrara’s film doesn’t need to be remade, but who can deny potential for kooky on-screen chemistry between Herzog and Cage, who does for explosive quirkiness what Klaus Kinski did for volatile madness? If I see only one film at TIFF 2009, this is the one. Big time.

If anyone still bothers paying attention to Michael Moore’s condescending rhetoric, he’s got a new doc premiering at TIFF. Moore’s latest, Capitalism: A Love Story (a title about as provocative as College or Fighting) promises more biased liberal squawking, half truths and a soundtrack sculpted to offer his images a degree of barely clever ironic counterpoint. Quoth the press copy: “From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan, Michael Moore will once again take film-goers into uncharted territory.” There’s no way this will be a mess.

Still no word on the new, sure-to-be announced Egoyan film. Though some guy I know (an admitted Egoyan sympathizer) told me it’s great.

Again, this is just a sampling of the recently announced films. Check out the developing programme lineup here. Tickets for TIFF 2009 are on sale now, and many of the best packages are already selling out. So if you're at all into taking in North America's premiere international film fest, grab your tickets here. And check back here next week for more commentary as TIFF pulls back the curtain on the full festival programme.