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When TIFF’s year-round Cinematheque took place at Jackman Hall in the AGO, it consisted of only a few retrospectives a season, which primarily catered to the art film crowd. The opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010 with its five cinemas allowed TIFF to get more creative with its year-round programming. While the artsy Cinematheque retrospectives still happen, TIFF has also programmed some more unique film series, which tend to focus more on genre films and cater to a *GASP* mainstream audience.

So for my year in movies list, I am going to run down, in chronological order, five of my favourite unique series that played at TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2013.

Whoa. The Films of Keanu Reeves


Hot on the heels of TIFF’s 2012 series on Nicholas Cage, another cult actor was chosen for a retrospective. This look into Keanu Reeves’ career featured many cult classics, including Bill and Ted’s Excellent AdventurePoint BreakSpeed, and The Matrix. As an added bonus, the series attracted the attention of Reeves himself, who offered to record a series of video introductions for the films. I have to say that I probably saw more films in the series, than I initially planned to, solely to see Reeves’ very entertaining introductions.


Comic Book Heroes


Inspired by the current superhero craze, TIFF’s family friendly March Break matinee series tracked the progression of comic book style films over the years. The series was headlined by a chance to see Richard Donner’s Superman on the big screen.  However, I personally relished the chance to theatrically see, one of my childhood favourites, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as finally seeing what all the fuss was about, regarding Brad Bird’s cult favourite The Iron Giant.


Swordsmen, Gangsters and Ghosts: The Evolution of Chinese Genre Cinema


Playing as part of TIFF’s summertime showcase of a century of Chinese cinema, this series featured everything from beloved kung-fu films to John Woo action spectaculars. As part of this series, I enjoyed seeing Jackie Chan in person, as he discussed his 1978 classic Drunken Master. I also got to see other Chinese/Hong Kong genre classics, such as A Chinese Ghost Story and A Better Tomorrow.


TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy


As a comedy lover, this summer series was a dream come true. I stuck mostly to the classic comedies shown, including The Blues BrothersCaddyshack, and Trading Places. There were also in-person appearances by Ivan Reitman and John Landis, both of whom helped to revolutionize American comedy in the 1980s. Sadly, I missed the Animal House reunion, which headlined the series.


Psychoplasmic Panic! Cronenberg and the Rise of Body Horror


The very fact that there was an entire exhibition and film retrospective on David Cronenberg can probably be considered off-the-cuff enough, however Colin Geddes’ sidebar traced the entire grotesque history of the body horror genre, including Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, and Brian De Palma’s Sisters. I enjoyed checking out James Gunn’s alien slug film Slither and I also relished the chance to finally see John Carpenter’s The Thing on the big screen, which also played at the Bell Lightbox this year as part of “Endless Summer: The Birth of the Blockbuster.”