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.
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.
We return to Ryerson tomorrow for our third Midnight Madness screening – Not Quite Hollywood.
Here at the Culturepin I provide a form of virtual safari through the bleeding edge landscape of the world and contemporary society. Suffice to say it is a treacherous terrain filled with uncertainty and conflict that requires a certain mad bravery to traverse. Even more treacherous is attempting to predict what will unfold around the next bend or come to pass just over the horizon.
So I avoid being a soothsayer, but rather, an echo of what is going down on the frontier. Which brings me to today’s subject – the latest format war in the VHS vs. Beta legacy, namely: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD.
Here’s a very condensed version of what is one of the dirtiest and most agitated format wars in history:
Blu-Ray, a format developed by leading company NP Infotech and co-developed by Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung, and Sony (a collective that named itself the Blu-ray Disc Association as recently as 2004 – all this to say Blu-Ray does NOT=Sony per se), aspired to be the new high-definition playback and storage format for laser-based media.
On the other side of the proverbial laser-based media universe, was Toshiba with HD-DVD.
The shakedown was that Microsoft released an HD-DVD player for the Xbox360 and Sony went with Blu-Ray for its PS3 gaming platform.
Millions of emotionally charged discussion board posts later, Wal-Mart, that proverbial lynch pin of all things mass-marketable, announced it was phasing out HD-DVD and going exclusively with Blu-Ray. Just two nights ago – Valentine’s Day, 2008 I said that if Wal-Mart goes with Blu-Ray it’s all over.
February 15th, 2008, Engadget, a popular technology blog, thrust itself onto the global stage by boldly announcing the end of HD-DVD based on Wal-Mart’s announcement that it was going with Blu-Ray and citing reports from Reuters that Toshiba planned to stop production at its HD-DVD factories and thus the meme percolated throughout the format battleground.
None of this is absolute – however, for those who have been watching from the sidelines, wondering when they can start ordering their high-definition entertainment content from Amazon – you now know which way to hedge your bets.
Two things to ponder:
1) When a format wins, it is not necessarily because it is the superior format
2) When VHS killed Beta, there was no internet community
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the copious bonus features on my Children of Men HD-DVD from my Xbox360 and wait for the prices of the remaining HD-DVD catalog to plummet so I can get another 350 or so titles that were released in the US for pocket change.
Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of either company or format – I have a Sony Bravia screen and I use Sony Vegas software, while I am inputting this entry on my Toshiba m300 Satellite laptop.