Day 10: September 13

A frustrating day - lots of people with little sleep deciding today would be the day to make my life a bit difficult. Some promises were broken, some agreements went out the window, and it looked a bit ugly for a while. Still, in the end, everything worked out reasonably well.

An unrelated frustration was standing in line for 2 hours to see Zatoichi, only to not be able to get a ticket. Still, this was my first rush event that I missed out on, so I probably shouldn't complain.

The Danny Deckchair screening was interesting, with many gala attendees convinced they were in the last screening of the uptown, oblivious to the MM schedule. Silly, silly gala people.

Once all the unnecessary silliness calmed down between the gala and MM, the evening went by perfectly. This is probably the last theatre I'll ever have a favourite seat that I'm so passionate about. At the York it was 6th row, 6th seat, one that I lived in for several days' worth of consecutive screenings when the Star Wars films were re-released. At the Uptown, however, the middle seat, with its extra arm rest and sprawling leg room was quite simply the best cinematic location I'll probably ever have.

The final show was simply perfect. The crowd was highly motivated, Colin graciously accepted the champagne we bought for him, and we held a moment of silence for the closing of the theatre.

When it was all over, there was a good half hour of milling around, a quiet shock, a sense that this kind of thing simply would never happen again in this city. Sure, MM will continue at another venue, but there is such an intimate connection between the crumbling majesty of the giant theatre and the MM crazy crowd.

While video taping, I asked a really difficult question that I'm loathe to answer myself - what's your favourite memory of the uptown? For me, I'll certainly never forget this closing night, the drama and the joy of it all. I saw Janet Leigh present Touch of Evil on that screen. I saw the Versus guys do some kung fu demonstrations. I was there for Crouching Tiger when it blew the audience away and went from here to international acclaim. I stumbled on the stage once to give $20 to the director of Wild Zero so that he could make another film. I met good friends in that theatre, and saw some incredible movies.

I didn't grow up going to this theatre. The first time it became a regular thing was when I started doing the festival quite regularly about 6 years ago. At that time, I basically would see anything that played on that huge screen. During the year, I'd try to see stuff there, but, for obvious reasons, it never really got the big pictures to show. It's a surreal experience to be in that giant space with only a couple dozen fellow movie goers. The Uptown thrived during the fest, and then basically would lay dormant until the next Labour Day when she'd rise again. As early as last Wednesday they started the process of stripping away the vestiges of its operation, when the Famous Players ticket computers were summarily ripped out of the box office.

The fest will go on, MM will continue to thrive, but this festival lost its heart and soul with the closing of this theatre. What sets this festival apart from almost any other major festival is that at its heart it's a public festival. Many don't know how lucky we are - you can't buy tickets for screenings at Cannes, you have to have a pass for press or industry just to see a film. The thousands of people lining the red carpets never see a film and are there simply to be star gawking. With the Elgin and Roy Thompson, elegant spaces to be sure, there's still a sense of removal, of not being connected between the theatre space and the viewer. The Uptown's shabby grandness was perfect for this little festival of festivals that grew into this monster of international proportions.

The second question that I asked people was what they'd miss most about the Uptown. I'll miss the people, the sense of space, the incredible sound, the giant screen, the sticky floors, the ridiculous urinal situation, the patient volunteers, the overworked FOHA and supervisors, the bench behind the box office, the THX neon signs, the collapsing seats, the mirrored canopy over the entrance, the line up around three corners stretching back north to Bloor, the dungeons that were Uptown 2 and 3, and the lovely stage where all the introductions took place. Of course, what I'll miss the most are the two seats, front row, dead center. My legs up on the stage, only screen in front of me, while yet another cinematic moment was about to unfold.

Uptown, I'll miss you. Thanks for the memories. I feel that I've lost a friend.

    

Hollywood North
Directed by: Peter O'Brian

A forgettable fluffy Canadian film about runaway production during the heady days of Tax Credit filmmaking in the late 70s. Back in the day, investors would get giant write-offs for investing in Canadian film. To recoup their money, they often demanded U.S. stars. What they got were usually actors washed up or unemployable back home. The film works for about half an hour, then it just turns silly. Too bad they didn't make the Porkies bio-pic we've all been waiting for.
Grade: C-

    

Danny Deckchair
Directed by: Jeff Balsmeyer

A fine film for the final Gala screening - light, fluffy, the kind of movie for the large group of people for whom this is their only fest screening. Basic story of a guy in a dead-end job in suburban Sydney who wants to get away from it all, tying giant balloons to a lawnchair and launching himself to the heavens. Landing in a small town, he finds his voice and his calling, while back home his escape has become a media event. Scruffy Rhys Ifans shaves his gnarly beard to uncover quite a conventional leading man. Light enough for everyone, not crap enough to put off the cineastes in the crowd, it's a pretty straightforward and competent little film.
Grade: B-

    

Undead
Directed by: Michael and Peter Spierig

What an excellent film to close out the Uptown! Zombies galore, buckets of blood, and a non-stop action flick with quirky characters. The story of the film is even more impressive, with the twin brothers basically doing all the effects and sound design themselves on their home laptop. Dealing with broken trucks and crashing computers, they nonetheless have produced a glossy, big-screen worthy flick for less than the budget for Ben Affleck's entourage on Pearl Harbour. A really fun redux of the zombie genre, this is an inspired choice by Colin to close out the fest. Kudos to all.
Grade: A

Epilogue

The Sunday awards brunch went well. Although I blearily showed up a good hour early, it was nice to catch up with a couple of people from festivals past that I missed during the week. The big Canadian award went, not surprisingly, to Barbarian Invasions. Arcand flew back for the award (I'd hope so - it's $100,000 or so) after having left the fest, flown to Paris, London and Berlin, then back to Quebec. The critics' prize went to Rhinoceros Eyes, a film I missed and had heard great things about. The people's choice (the big award, really) had The Corporation and Go Further as runners up. Nice to see Canadian docs do so well, but can't help but be cynical in that if the people who liked these films so much actually voted in these numbers in a real election the world just might be a different place.

Top prize went to Zatoichi. The film I tried to get into and didn't. Meh. Still, it's likely to find a larger audience now, and I can't wait to see it.