Issue: February 2015 - Love

Stealing scenes: interview with Adrian Martinez, star of Focus

If character actor Adrian Martinez was actually a thief in real life and not just playing one in the movie Focus (in theatres everywhere this Friday), he’d definitely find the honour among his fellow grifters. Charming and boasting a boisterous laugh, he’s the exact opposite of the more taciturn and drily witted character he plays in his latest big screen outing. Martinez plays Farhad, one of the chief accomplices of confidants of Nicky (played by Will Smith), a master con artist who starts training a potentially gifted young upstart named Jess (Margot Robbie). With some help from Farhad and several other career criminals, Nicky trains Jess for a multi-layered and wide-reaching bait and switch operation at the Super Bowl, but he abandons her at the end of the job when he starts to have heavy romantic feelings for her. The two meet again in Argentina by chance when an F1 racing magnate (Rodrigo Santoro) brings Nicky in to help exact revenge on his competitors. Martinez, who has most recently appeared in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, American Hustle, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (just to name very few titles in addition to the half-dozen or so he has in various levels of production now), chatted with us during a recent promotional stop for his latest in Toronto. We talked about how con artists and actors aren’t that...

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Small town, big lies: director Daniel Perlmutter and actor Ennis Esmer on Big News from Grand Rock

Big News from Grand Rock is a film that focuses on an idea that seems on the verge of becoming obsolete. The story follows small-town journalist Leonard Crane (Ennis Esmer) as he tries to keep the local paper running by creating news stories based on old films. The movie uses two objects that many of us live without at this point, the video store and a print newspaper, as the main focus. The obvious first thought is to wonder why anybody would use these things that many people would consider dead or dying. Director Daniel Perlmutter and star Ennis Esmer, both of whom were gracious enough to spend some time with Toronto Film Scene to talk about the film, realize that print media may be dying, but that it’s still an important part of many people’s lives. “I think in a lot of small towns, print newspapers really bring a community together.” explained Perlmutter, with Esmer adding “The idea of the video store and small-town papers, I think it’s something that there’s a nostalgia there but it’s sort of a weird nostalgia because they still exist, but they’re not as ubiquitous as they used to be.” The importance of a local paper for some of the smaller towns in Ontario was felt strongly as filming on Big News from Grand Rock began. “Midland, where we shot the film, lost its newspaper just before we...

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Elephant in the room: an interview with Elephant Song director Charles Binamé

Canadian writer, director and actor Xavier Dolan has seen an ascent to world cinema fame any filmmaker would envy. However, when Dolan said he wanted the role of Michael Aleen, a mischievous mental patient in a film adaptation of Elephant Song, director Charles Binamé had one request. It was for Dolan to remember that Binamé was the only director in the room. “[Dolan] is very pro-active of finding ways to express himself with film and with roles,” Binamé tells Toronto Film Scene. “We were exactly on the same page in approaching that character and how he should come alive.” Elephant Song, opening at the Varsity in Toronto on Friday, February 27, 2015, marked a new challenge for the two Québécois directors involved. For Dolan, it was his first English-language role. For Binamé, it was shooting a story mostly resigned to one room and two actors, Dolan and Bruce Greenwood. The psychological drama, based on a play from Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon, is a mental duel between the cunning Michael and the guarded Dr. Green (Greenwood). Michael’s shrink has gone missing and the bipolar patient was the last person to see the psychiatrist before he vanished. Dr. Green hopes Michael can help track him down, but ends up finding out some dark secrets about the missing person. Binamé, best known for directing the Maurice Richard biopic The Rocket, had seen Billon’s play many years...

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Contributions of black women in film

With the announcement of the Oscar nominations, many were angry to not see Ava DuVernay’s name among the best director nominations, but most were not that surprised to see the omission. In an industry dominated by middle-aged white men, it can be difficult for anyone who doesn’t fit that designation to receive support and recognition for their work. It is particularly difficult for women of colour to break into the ranks. They often must work twice as hard to receive a fraction of the recognition afforded to men in the industry. This is to the detriment of film as a whole because while each individual filmmaker beings their own experience to a film, similarities between filmmakers who identify as part of the same group become very apparent the more films you watch. This is why diversity behind the camera is just as important as diversity in front of it. Films directed by women have a distinctly different sensibility than those directed by men and this difference becomes even more pronounced when you add race to the equation. So with that in mind, TFS would like to take the time to acknowledge some of the contributions of black women in film. Amma Asante Amma Asante is a British writer director born in London in 1969. Her first feature film, A Way of Life, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in...

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The honeymoon phase: can romance films affect real relationships?

When it comes to the topic of romance films, there are two main camps – those who love them, and those who cannot stand them. Similarly, in regards to the question of whether these films affect real life relationships, there are two main streams of thought, based on actual studies conducted throughout the years. The first stream asserts that romantic comedies set up unrealistic expectations for real couples and cause problems in relationships. The second stream suggests that this might not actually be true, and that in fact, watching romantic comedies can have the inverse effect. Here, we explore both streams of thought and question the extent to which these films ultimately have an impact. On one hand, there is a common belief that watching too many romantic comedies sets up unrealistic expectations in the mind of the viewer and this in turn discourages the practice of open communication in real life relationships. The viewer may become so used to the perfection of on-screen romances that he or she comes to expect the same level of perfection in his or her own life. The lack of open communication stems from the idea that since problems have an inevitable way of working themselves out in films, the same should apply off-screen. For this reason, avid romcom watchers might find it unnecessary to communicate openly about what they want from their partners...

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The death of a thousand cuts: director George Mihalka on My Bloody Valentine

Released in 1981, My Bloody Valentine is one of the greats of Canadian horror cinema, something that has been discussed at Toronto Film Scene before with Essential Canadian Cinema: My Bloody Valentine. That’s not exactly something that was apparent in 1981 though. A battle with the MPAA led to the film facing a number of cuts, leaving much of the violence and special effects on the cutting room floor. It wasn’t until years later that the film finally received an unrated cut on DVD, but even that is still missing some of the footage. When Toronto Film Scene had the chance to speak with director George Mihalka, it was this aspect that we explored in greater detail, while Mihalka offered some of his thoughts on why those cuts were necessary, and how he tried to make sure that My Bloody Valentine was as Canadian as it could be. If you’ve ever had the chance to watch My Bloody Valentine, the first thing that stands out is just how Canadian the film is. That is something that actually shouldn’t have been happening according to Mihalka. “The conventional wisdom was you had to hide the fact that it was Canada. In reality what they used to say was that Americans don’t want to see Canadian films.” explains Mihalka. “It was sort of a little subversive on our part in that we...

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Celebrating Canada: the importance of the Canadian Screen Awards

After Hollywood guilds and academies start giving out golden statues in late 2014, awards season can feel like a never-ending story. Each weekend, it seems like there is another ceremony bestowing praise on a nearly identical list of nominees. (The winners, meanwhile, also do not vary much.) As soon as the Oscar hoopla dies down after Feb. 22, though, Canadian Screen Week begins. It runs until March 1, 2015, when CBC will broadcast the Canadian Screen Awards from Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. There seem to be fewer reasons to turn into these glamourized opportunities for the rich and famous to give each other statues. However, the Canadian Screen Awards is not to be missed. The reasons to tune in are numerous. The nominated films and shows contain both mainstream hits and indie masterworks. Canadian talents are also now receiving more recognition in the United States and Europe for their work, and therefore, deserve even greater support from their loyal fans at home. 2014 was a big year for Canadian talent, as two big titles – Mommy and Maps to the Stars – premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won major prizes. The other Best Picture nominees are a varied, low-budget bunch. Some of the contenders include Cast No Shadow, a micro-budget coming-of-age drama set on the East Coast from Newfoundland native Christian Sparkes, and In...

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