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Thursday at TIFF — AKA Passive Agressive Meltdowns

Today we had 4 movies on the docket — everyone knew it was going to be a long day, but just how long is another story entirely. My day started with Scott waking me up sometime around 7:20 to the best of my recollection. Our first movie was at 9:00, so to catch it we needed to get on the 7:44 train, which would arrive in Toronto at 8:07 and allow us a little less than an hour to traverse the several blocks to the Rhyerson University Theater, where the movie was playing. After Scott showered very quickly, I jumped in and took maybe twice as long as he had, but it was still a pretty quick shower. I already had my contacts in from when Scott had showered; as I got out Scott and Dan were leaving for the train; it was about 7:33 at that time.

I dressed, gelled, collected my belongings, and dashed out the door and down the stairs with 6 minutes to go. I caught up to Dan about a block away — he had taken the elevator. I tried urging him along with countdowns and such, but it didn’t work out so well. Soon I was sprinting ahead as the train pulled in with three minutes to go. I made it to the stairs to the platform where Scott had stopped about a minute before the train would depart. The train stayed for a couple of minutes because it had arrived early, but it pulled away just on time, about a minute before Dan would have made it. Scott had already decided to drive, which I guess pissed me off a little because I had just sprinted in the early morning to catch the train and would have made it. But at any rate, the car wasn’t far away, so we turned around and headed back, but not before the accusations started flying every which way.

Well, we got in the car and hit the highway, which was slow all the way into Toronto. Scott doesn’t like driving in the city so much, as I found out on Saturday, so he wasn’t too pleased. I was pissed off because by the time we got the the first exit on the highway, I could have already been in Toronto. Dan was pissed because there had been a bus which appeared to him to be headed to Toronto that we could have taken. Scott was pissed off because he was the first to the train station and had told everyone to be up on time, which technically I was. Anyway, it was a tense drive in.

We barely made it, pulling into an all-day parking place just as the movie was starting. We took our seats a few minutes late to watch Silk. Unfortunately, it was a terrible movie. Poor acting, poor directing, poor cinematography, a poor script, terrible dialog, and an unreasonable and unreasonably poor plot. It was pretty much a high budget, faux classy softcore porn film. Just about the only redeeming factor was that the detestable main character tool felt bad at the end. Too bad he wasn’t destitute and mauled and dead to boot. Oh well. I give it a 0.5/5, and just barely at that.

After the travesty of a movie, we grabbed food while headed north to the Varsity theaters to watch All Hat, a late addition to our docket. It was, fortunately, a lot better than the first.movie of the day — the acting was good, the idea was fun if imperfectly executed, and the scenery was good. Just about every shot had the actors drinking, which was a flaw (they apparently never eat), but overall it was nice to have what was probably a lower budget movie destroy what was probably a higher budget movie on the primary strength of a good story versus a bad story. Story matters. Anyway, I’d give All Hat, as in “All hat an no cattle” a 3.5/5.

As a bonus, the producer, director, and lead actor were at the movie before for an intro and after for a Q&A session. We were pretty sure the actor was as high as a kite on something pretty strong. He was clear for brief moments, but he also took about 2 minutes to collect himself enough to answer the first question, banged his head on the microphone after answering a question, and at one point was seen examining the wall rather closely with his hands, while still in the spotlight. It was an interesting, awkward time, to say the least.

At this point we had a pretty decent break, and since we were fairly far north compared to where we’d been before, we headed more north. We started going up Yonge Street (the longest street in the world!) at Bloor street. Scott decided he’d had enough walking without a cause a little after St. Claire’s street and turned around. Dan and I continued North to Eglington, stopping at a market for me to buy berries (yummy!) and at a pro audio store for Dan to salivate over some expensive headphones. At Eglington, we bummed around the mall for a few minutes until it was 5:00 at which point Dan jumped on the subway and I headed back south because by then I needed some alone time.

We convened back at the Ryerson for the 6:00 showing of Death Defying Acts, at which the producer (whose name I don’t remember) and lead actor (Guy Pierce) were present. He spoke briefly beforehand and was a bit funny, but nothing much of substance that I remember. Anyway, the movie itself was alright — it was about Harry Houdini and a psychic woman; it was a bit like a poorly done version of the Prestige, but with a love interest (Catherine Zeta-Jones) thrown in for good measure. It was not a terribly strong movie, but at least it didn’t suck — I’d give it a 2.5/5, and maybe thats a little generous but then it was definitely better than atonement, which I may have to downgrade to a 1.5… who knows.

After the movie, we took off for the Elgin for our final movie of the night. It was an evening showing and I have a Platinum Visa card (although the account is currently on hold because of my expenditures in Toronto), so I was able to use the card to gain early entry with Dan into the theater, as the screening room was sponsored by (and named after) Visa. We saved seats for Scott who was actually not far behind us, but at any rate we had pretty good seats. The show was “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” — it was a gratuitous and calculated look into the darkest deeds of some very evil people. Beforehand the director, who is apparently somewhat famous though I had never heard of him, gave a brief introduction in which he introduced a rather pretty lady that we would almost immediately see naked on the screen. During the introduction someone from TIFF also said that this was a movie as good as any of the movies that this director was famous for, and it was relevant because of America’s current moral crisis (referring to the Iraq war), just like the previous movies had been relevant during the Vietnam war.

Anyway, I guess what this movie proves quite well is that you can be very good at the science of making a movie while completely missing making something worthwhile watching. The movie was grotesquely in every important way that , but very well done at the same time. It was a masterpiece of sewage, perhaps. It revoles around two brothers who have very much achieved what might be called the American dream but are in the middle of screwing it all up with a salvo of bad choices and worse choices. It spirals out of control as all of the characters grow uglier and uglier souls. No one is redeemed, and I guess the moral of the story is that everything sucks, and don’t do drugs. I can’t really recommend it, and I really don’t want to — 1.0/5.

So after the last movie, we headed back to the car. Scott was stressed out due to driving once again; it didn’t help that the car was locked inside the garage for about 5 minutes either. It also didn’t help that Dan and I both had ideas about how to drive and which way to go. I mostly hummed a Christmas tune and brushed my teeth on the way back. Dan asked about 10 times if we wanted to do laundry. Seeing as I brough enough clothes for the trip, the answer has been no since the beginning and it continued to be no. When he asked again right before I left to find internet to blog, I kinda blew my top and yelled. Scott isn’t really talking to anyone right now. So hopefully the sleep will help everyone get along again. But with a 9:30 movie tomorrow, I’m not sure how well things will work out with the schedule — at least I know I’m taking the train and not waiting for anyone.

Well, thats the news I guess.

Wednesday in Toronto

Today we started the ramp up in our movie schedule towards tomorrow’s climax of four movies by watching two — the first at the Ryerson University Theater was a Samuel L. Jackson movie called “Cleaner,” a fun little whodunnit movie about a cop turned legitimate crime scene cleaner who gets involved in a less-than-legitimate job and has to extricate himself and his family. The plot was not-quite guessable, and it was fun, but it didn’t feel great — I’ll give it a 3.0/5.

Next we traveled South the the Elgin Theater for Atonement, a well-done but depressing movie about the overactive imagination and misunderstanding of a young girl royally screwing over a bunch of people. It was well-made, but not any fun, and not terribly thought-provoking either. I want either entertainment or thought; this unfortunately provided neither. I’ll give it a 2.0/5.

Next came the CN Tower, which I have been looking forward to this whole trip. We decided to try our luck with 360, the rotating restaurant at the top of the tower. I ordered a Caesar salad and came close to picking up my third grilled Atlantic salmon of the trip, but went instead for what I thought would be a safe steak fillet with a somewhat adventurous foie gras, which I have never had. The bread that arrived first was excellent. The salad was among the best I’ve ever had. The vegetables that came with my dinner with also very good. Which makes it all the more the mystery why the main course was so terrible. The meat was tough, unseasoned, unsavory, and really quite bad. The foie gras was not to my liking either. So basically everything was perfect except for the main course which sucked balls. I wasn’t the only one — Scott didn’t like his cut of meat much either, although he, unlike I, was able to finish his meal.

After the meal, we visited the glass floor, which gave a very real sense of incredible vertigo when I ventured onto it and peered straight down over a thousand feet. Now that is trusting an engineer! It was exhilarating and amazing and wonderful and awesome all at the same time. Of course, looking straight down into the Yankees-Blue Jays game going on in the Sky Dome (aka Rogers Centre) was pretty cool too. After the glass floor and a loop around the observation deck, we headed up another couple hundred feet to the tallest observation deck in the world, the Sky Pod, to watch the sun finish setting along with a panoramic view of all of Toronto and its environs. Scott and Dan wanted to go, but I wanted to bask in the feeling of being on top of the man-made world (until the tower in Dubai is finished, at least), so I stayed up on top for another hour or so, just soaking it all in. Despite the meat meal mishap, I am going to say that the experience was well worth it — nothing really compares to being on top of the world, physically or metaphorically.

Nine Eleven Two-Thousand Seven

A Canadian flag at half-mast today. I like these people.

TIFF 2007 Movies — Monday and Tuesday

On Monday we saw the movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a slow, methodical drama with a long title and a deep, refreshingly textured outlook on the event of it portrayed. Two and a half hours of deliberate film making — good, but not terribly exciting.

4.0/5

Today we saw Into the Wild, a self-discovery movie about a young man’s existential quest away from his plush life into the Alaskan Wilderness. I started out not liking the main character, but I gained respect for him — a theme that was repeated throughout the movie with many of the characters. It felt like it was showing people in all their glory and agony — the good, the bad, and everything in between, just as all of us really are.

4.0/5

Lightning Biking in Toronto

After our one and only movie today, followed by a late lunch, Scott and I returned to the hotel for a bike ride. Dan remained in Toronto for some shopping and to catch another movie. Scott and I actually headed back towards Toronto this time (a few days ago we went North, deep into Mississauga). Our target was a peninsula that we thought would give us a unique view of downtown Toronto, without actually going all the way to the Islands (which we considered doing yesterday, after finding that the CN tower was booked for the evening). At any rate, we made it where we wanted to go, but it turns out that the best vantage point was on the way there. It was also getting late, so we turned around and began hightailing it back in the fading light. Just as we started, I thought I noticed a flash of lightning off in the distance, where, of course, we were heading. Hooray, an adventure, thought I. Scott was less enthusiastic. At any rate, it was lightning, and we rode straight into a flashing, thundering rain storm. By this time all was dark, and the rain was coming down so hard with strong headwinds that we couldn’t keep our eyes open, so we took shelter under a nearby building until the rain died down a little. Soon after we took off again, we passed a huge group of about 30 bikers. At a fork two passed us; we decided to follow and ended up having to turn around after about a mile down a wrong road. Still, it wasn’t so bad, and the rain had stopped, so despite cold feet and many miles (kilometers?) to go, we retraced our steps and got onto the right road.

Like so many other places, Ontario has many good drivers and a few jerk-offs. On the four lane road we shared on about half the ride, a lot of drivers got out of our way and passed on in the left lane, an easy task as traffic was light. A few decided it would be better to honk at us and look at us with evil eyes while they (eventually) passed us in the left lane. Some of them got fingers. We made it back, wet but happy. Quite the ride; quite the adventure. This town is pretty nice.

For the Want of Internet

Somewhat to my surprise and chagrin, we are checked into a hotel that doesn’t have the internet readily accessible. While there is a single computer in the lobby that is connected to the internet, there is no wireless or wired connectivity provided by the Ports Hotel. There is some “interspot” company offering wireless access, which we have been sporadically able to use, but their hours of operation are extremely limited and so far we haven’t been in the area when they are open to attempt to purchase connectivity from them. Of course, they have to automated system, which Dan and I would have both readily used. So tonight, I wandered around with Dan in search of internet. The first trip yielded some temping morsels, but no luck. So now that everyone is asleep or headed there, I took off again in search of the internet. And, as the last post and this one makes clear, I found it, to the tune of 18 Mbps on the Linksys Community Network.

At any rate, it is nice to be able to check my mail again. I just hope Canada is as safe as it is cracked up to be. Actually, I’m not worried — after all, I biked through the lightning today. For reals (see next post).

Stuck In First

Last Saturday, after Frisbee, a few of the gang hopped into my car to head to Jamba Juice, a nearly weekly tradition. While the 1996 Saturn SL1 sedan I drive had been working fine on the way to frisbee, when leaving I quickly noticed that it was not shifting into second gear, a gear I use very frequently. It felt like something the shifter connected to had come loose — somewhat like the connection between a sink drain plug and the knob used to set it, had fallen off. The problem quickly grew worse — after Jamba Juice, the car would no longer shift into any of the gears that involved pulling the shifter down — namely second, fourth, and reverse. Needless to say, getting out of the UVilliage parking lot was difficult — thankfully, Ananth and Boby were both there to push. Nevertheless, I managed to persevere for the first half of the next week — I park on an upward incline and can therefore back out without reverse. At work and around town, I parked in a way that allowed me to exit by pulling forward. Nevertheless, things were still worsening. On Wednesday, I was beginning to have trouble shifting out of gears. Wednesday after work, I found that I could no longer shift out of first gear at all. So, it was definitely time to visit the shop. The drive to Saturn of Bellevue was a bit painful — I couldn’t shift out of first so the trip involved a lot of slow, high-rpm travel. On flat areas of the road, I would bring the engine up to about 5,000 rpm, which would bring the car up to about 35 miles per hour, then I would coast down to about 15 and repeat. Up hills, I just let the engine run at about 3,000 rpm and took the hit in speed. I finally made it — and even managed to park the car backwards into a stall by using gravity and a little bit of fancy footwork. My Dad picked me up and I ate dinner with the parents before heading into Seattle to pack for the trip to Toronto that I am currently on. On my way out of Cleveland to Toronto, I talked to my Dad and recieved the happy news that the repair cost only $65 — $60 for labor and $5 for the piece that had broken.

Meanwhile, to coincide with my trip, I took my mountain bike, a Giant DS2 ETX into Recycled Cycles for some more planned maintenance. The estimate came to a cool $265 for a new cassette (rear gears), a new middle gear on the front (the old one was bent), a new chain (the old one was stretched and worn), a new rear wheel and tire (both practically falling apart), and a new cable and cover for the rear derailleur (the old one had become frayed and kinked). The repairs will actually total more than I paid for the bike originally, just about a year ago. With the use its seen since then, I think this maintenance is well worth the price.