Category: HDTV

We headed through the heavy Queen St. traffic for Film Lounge to jump in and see our friends at the pre-party for Deadgirl.  Turns out they meant the other Film Lounge on Dupont, and not the one across from the AGO.

Maneuvering past the R.I.D.E. cops (Saturday night spot-checks) towards the Scotiabank theater (wtf happened? – every goddamned building in the City of Toronto is a corporate advertisement.  No I am not old fashioned but its fucking ridiculous.  The O’Keefe Center is now the SONY center?  The Skydome is Rogers Center!  I know William Gibson predicted this, writing on his typewriter from Vancouver, but does anyone care? Is there any opposition whatsoever to this awful pattern?)  to see Steve McQueen’s (at last someone who will never change their name to McDonald’s Man or Old Milwaukee “Microsoft” McQueen) unbelievable first feature “Hunger”.  Festival vice prez of picking movies Cameron Bailey introduced the film, trying desperately to put the brakes on his gushing over its merits, but failing, before bringing Mr. McQueen himself to the stage.

Pic is amazing.  Intense, measured, perfect.  A little too much to take.  It was so quiet in the theater that the mouth-breather beside me almost stole the show.  The actors are all selfless and utterly engaged, the dialogue, the music, the framing.  See it if you have the nervous system to handle it.  On a small screen at home, I doubt it will be as challenging (in a good way) to watch.  The Dolby systems in the TIFF screenings seriously intensify these films.  Films that my never again be seen at forums this size.

And that really is a big part of TIFF isn’t it?  Large, full surround Michael Bay-ready venues playing hard-core independent films that pull no punches, prepared for today’s high-def standards that may never again be scene the way they were meant to.

Anyway, we left just before the credits, I, fighting near anxiety resulting from the combination over over-stimulation from Scotiabank cinema’s epileptic seizure inducing bing bing playground of Buy Me lightshows, the mayhem of T-dot club district, and trying to make our next screening at Ryerson in 15 minutes.

Despite this time-challenge, we did jog past the Imperial pub – enjoying a renaissance now that TIFF has triangulated the Yonge/Dundas quadrant – where Pontypool was throwing its festival bash.  Only had time to give music writer Karen Pace a hug and the producers of the film a brief congratulations before booking it up the street to the world premier of Deadgirl.  Lynh Haaga, wife of Trent, the writer of the film, and also the film’s wardrobe designer, confided that the screener’s hard drive didn’t even arrive in Toronto until earlier in the day, leaving the fest’s programmers absolutely twitching.  The film was shot entirely in Los Angeles (wait, they still shoot movies in Los Angeles?) on a Thomson Vipre – a D-Cinema – so there was never actually any film or tape – the whole movie, which looked pretty close to 35mm celluloid (except for the occasional outdoor shot or underexposed early evening shot that introduced some digi-noise when they had to bring up the levels) was shot directly to hard drive and projected at the festival via Christie digital projection.

Lynh and Trent-Haaga - Deadgirl world premiere

For the most part the movie works.  Despite its insane subject matter – that is, raping a dead girl who isn’t quite dead in the basement of an insane asylum – somehow, and you’d have to see it to understand – doesn’t ever fall to exploitation or even chastisement of the “protagonists,” but rather affords the viewer an intriguing examination of character, virtue, karma, and some really cool plot twists along the way.  Some actors fare better than others, but to be fair, I won’t name names since I had just walked out of one of the most harrowing and powerful performances (Michael Fassbender in Hunger) since David Thewlis in Mike Leigh’s Naked.

Deadgirl keeps you on the edge of your seat and does alright for itself.

By the time we walked back to the Pontypool party, the bar had been cleared out.
Actress Aimee Lynn Chadwick outside the Pontypool party at the Imperial

We return to Ryerson tomorrow for our third Midnight Madness screening – Not Quite Hollywood.


“At E3, Microsoft and Netflix, the world’s largest online movie rental service, today unveiled an exclusive partnership to offer the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to your television via Xbox 360®.”

Netflix recently introduced its Watch Instantly program that allows subscribers to view selected (that is, the titles already converted) titles instantly on their PC. A plan costing as little as $8.99/month allows unlimited viewing during that month.

Well here is the trump card Microsoft was holding as it took egg in the face over the loss of the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war. This is not another Xbox vs. Playstation post nor is it an HD-DVD vs. Blue-Ray treatise – it is a celebration of the fact that at long last a massive high-definition video-on-demand solution exists backed by two of the respectively largest players in the world.

Yeah it’s too bad it’s an exclusive grab for Microsoft because it means not everyone will be happy; investors in Playstation will punch all sorts of holes in it, and lots of finger pointing will happen. But every time I go to NAB show and see the big TV players scrambling for what is going to happen next and we all wonder when Broadband random-access, full resolution, full-length programming video will be available (yes is cool and looks nice but really, do you want to watch 3 minute programs for the rest of your life?) well its now. Actually, it is technically this holiday season (2008).

I was already radically changing my movie-viewing habits by staying home to purchase whatever might already be up on the respectively meager offerings from XBOX LIVE Marketplace – it was worth it for instant on-demand on my 46″ HDTV. But with the introduction of Netflix and an $8.99 a month subscription to Netflix (with a $7.99 monthly Xbox Live Gold membership) – thus a total of under US$20 – I have access to tens of thousands of titles for unlimited use directly through my Xbox 360 with HDMI out to my HDTV.

But hundreds of questions arise as we contemplate the implications of this announcement. With Sony launching its video-on-demand (VOD) service on the Playstation 3, with portability to the PSP, are we caught once again in a format war – this time between Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360?

What will the new console-based VOD universe mean for distributors?

How will actors, producers, film composers/musicians and the rest collect royalties?

What will differentiate legitimate films from indie YouTUbe fare? Surely studio releases will qualify as “legitimate” films and television, but what differentiates them? As a film studio, Sony and all of its subsidiaries has a direct interest in the films in makes available, whereas Microsoft simply wants to push as much traffic through so that it can participate in the home entertainment lexicon.

One may argue that the audience that doesn;t yet own an Xbox, may not be so excited about having to commit to the platform just to take advantage of the exclusive Netflix opportunity. But look at the inverse – with the Xboxers super happy with this seemingly limitless and convenient option, the advertisers and studios should be asking – how will they get the Xbox/Netflix viewers if they aren’t in that catalog?