It’s hard to believe that it’s already this time of year again. No, not the end of summer, or back to school. It’s the week when I try to see as many movies as possible within a short tight week. And no, I’m not talking about the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s PIFF! The Philadelphia International Film Festival (trademark pending) remains one of the most exclusive events of the year. Returning for its third year, we are proud to say that attendance has once again tied for highest attendance on record: One person. Incredible really.
Although TIFF and traditionally PIFF has typically run for 10 days, my film going experience was a bit limited this year with a few other beautiful commitments (way to go Elton John… scheduling your Philly concert during PIFF!). It was a focused 3 days – 5 movies program this year (Movie Pass really cut back this year’s PIFF budget). For me, having my own PIFF has been a nice tradition to build and experience. Even though no one else knows that it’s happening, it brings me a little closer to the TIFF and film world.
Sporting my vintage 2015 TIFF volunteer shirt, I head off to this year’s 3 day festival to catch two double features, and a classic right at home. Roll picture! … and pass the popcorn!
Day One: Main Stream Movies
Searching: There’s no need to go searching for the praise for Searching. It’s really that good. This is a clever, fresh, and personal movie. The first 5 minutes lets the viewers know that this movie has way more heart than the previews would set you up for (think the montage from the beginning of Up… Bring your tissues). This tells the tale of a missing girl and the investigation that follows. It could have settled for a typical entertaining yet forgettable crime movie, but instead it keeps its characters, relationships, and emotion front and centre. Searching is shot entirely through phone and computer footage, which is surprisingly effective (although at times my wandering eyes got caught up reading the non-consequential facebook wall). If you want a clever, intriguing, thought out, human film, stop looking and find Searching today.
The Nun: Going to mass would have been scarier than this film was. This is the newest spin off in the Conjuring universe. It’s gorgeously shot (who says that about a horror movie?). The actors are pretty decent (again, who says that about a horror?!). One of the major characters is a French Canadian (who says that about any movie, eh!), and…. that’s about where the good ends. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it could have been so much better. Anyone involved in the making of this should go to confession immediately and admit that they chose to make a paint by numbers – almost boring – horror movie that falls back on very little plot or originality. I wanted big fresh scares. I wanted plot development outside of the “Surprise! The Nun is a demon from hell sent out to get us alllllll!” It plays like a slowly bleeding corpse confused as a period piece. I won’t even give a sarcastic “bless your heart” to the Nun. It should have been better.
Day Two: Independent Films
Juliet, Naked: This was my most PIFF Philm: It wasn’t on my must watch list, it wasn’t main stream, and I knew practically nothing about it. It just aligned well with my schedule, so I went to see it. I went in naked without any expectations. Juliet, Naked is beautiful, real, and funny. A little predictable, but entirely charming. Kind of a perfect British seaside snapshot of just how messy we humans are, and how we’re often at our most alive when we let ourselves get in a little trouble. If you’ve followed any of my movie reviews, my soft spot is flawed likable human stories. This film is exactly that: It tells the story of a couple who have normalized their unhappiness. The husband is obsessed with a obsolete rock star, who (the obsolete rock star) ends up connecting personally with the wife. The relationships all go off track of course, with humor, heart, and reflection to follow. Rose Byrne doesn’t know it (and neither does Derrick), but she is my soul mate. It’s a feel good, feel alive kind of movie.
The Wife: I’m really grateful that this was not only a movie about a husband cheating on his wife, which allows it to break out from those cliche storylines and write in an entirely fresh and deeper direction. It’s a film more about the choices we make, the decisions we must own, and the roles gender play in and out of a marriage. It’s a bit sensational, which effectively keeps the audience intrigued right up until the end. Glenn Close is subtly brilliant (almost as good as her Cruella days!) and the PIFF audience fully endorses her for PIFF’s Best Actress award. Overall, The Wife partners flawed, (mostly) likable characters with heavy anchored drama.
Day Three: Home Viewing Classic
The Breakfast Club: No, this isn’t a remake. It’s just a movie that Mike The Movie Kid has never watched before (!). It felt like it was time. So for the final PIFF movie this year, I made my own breakfast club of eggs and sweet potato pancakes, and sat down for a morning viewing of this 80’s classic film. There’s something oddly nostalgic about watching a movie for the first time when I already know the music, the quotes, the characters, the references, and the sentiment. One question I’m left with: Why is it called the Breakfast Club? Anyone? Bueller? Really though, I liked it. I giggled a few times. I appreciated the little details like the license plate on the car that “The Brain” is dropped off in: EMC 2. I thought the messages mostly still translated to today’s misunderstood world. It captured perfectly how an ordinary moment can be the most memorable and the most life changing, if we let it. I actually think that today, more than ever, we should learn from this movie and reexamine the assumptions and the labels we put on people, and find a little bit of everyone in ourselves.
And this year’s PIFF’s Person’s Choice Award goes to…
*Ballot being counted*
Juliet, Naked! For it’s surprising charm, it’s grounded characters in a larger than life story, it’s beautiful scenery, and for reintroducing me to my soulmate Rose. It’s a small movie with a huge heart. I smiled the whole time.
So until next year’s PIFF (which we/I promise to be bigger than ever), see you at the movies!
After Credits Bonus Scene: For The Breakfast Club nostalgia’s sake, writing this post inspired me to look back on my last year volunteering with TIFF in 2015. I thought I’d share a few moments (TIFF, don’t you forget about me!), including a shot of Tom Hardy in the rain, and a bizarre dance video that we took part in.
Song of the Day: Don’t You Forget About Me