Do film release dates still matter?   Leave a comment

winter soldierFor a superhero who can’t fly, Captain America sure is soaring at the box office. Since opening almost two weeks ago in North America, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest installment in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, has grossed over $170 million in our continent, as well as an additional $335 million (and counting) in foreign markets. The well-received film broke new records for April opening weekends, and it has kicked off the summer blockbuster movie season in style.

Wait, hold on a minute… summer blockbuster movie season? In April? How does that work? Well, maybe it isn’t quite accurate, but it’s not as big of an exaggeration as you might think. Film lovers (and film studios) have typically regarded the first weekend of May as the official start of the summer blockbuster season, and for the past four years, that weekend has featured the opening of an MCU film. This year, that release date has been claimed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, ironically a film also based on a Marvel property (albeit one that is owned by another studio). I’m not entirely sure if Sony snatched up that weekend first, thereby forcing Disney to release CA:TWS earlier, or if Disney always planned on an April debut, but some might have seen it as a bit of a gamble. April is historically one of the quieter months at the box office, so there was no guarantee of seeing returns comparable to the big summertime releases.

I’m not so sure it was much of a risk, however. When the brand is recognizable and popular, moviegoers will still turn out in droves, regardless of the time of year. March, for example, is generally regarded as one of the quieter months as well, but recent years have seen some incredibly profitable films debut at that time. Two years ago, The Hunger Gamesopened to a record-breaking $152.5, and went on to gross $408 million in North America – an amazing feat for the first film in a franchise. Similarly, two years before that, Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderlandopened in March with $116 million, and went on to become only the sixth film (at the time) to exceed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Read the rest of this entry »

University of Toronto Film Festival   Leave a comment

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Recently, several Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival executive members and I had the pleasure of attending the University of Toronto Film Festival at the end of March at Hart House. Despite the lack of a formalized film production programme at U of T, the film festival, organized by the Hart House Film Board, has helped in the effort to make up for this lack by providing a forum for emerging directorial hopefuls to fulfill their cinematic ambitions and get their films seen by the public. The festival is open to the public, but focuses on showcasing the work of the University’s many talented students, alumni, faculty, and Hart House members.

This year’s entrants were remarkably diverse. Touching personal documentaries rubbed shoulders with animated extreme surfers, experimental video art installations, and bleak observational relationship dramas. While U of T established their undergraduate degree in Cinema Studies over 35 years ago, the focus has remained on film history, analysis, and theory, with university level production degrees offered nearby at Ryerson and York Universities. That being said, the film’s screened showed no lack of professional polish and instead were a true testament to the accomplishments of amateur filmmakers and the talent that surrounds us in the city.

Furthermore, this is precisely what we are trying to accomplish at Toronto Youth Shorts. As a dedicated group of art and film devotees, we are very aware of the depth and range of talent available around us, especially among youth in the Greater Toronto Area. While professional film events are widely publicised and available, youth filmmakers and artists can often have a harder time getting their work seen. We hope to fill that void and bring the quality films we know are out there to the public. All in 20 minutes or less.

-Lauren

Submit! Submit! Submit! 18 days left!   Leave a comment

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At Toronto Youth Shorts we care about having a lot of great content to show. We don’t just want the best films the GTA has to offer, we need them. All of them. It’s not a matter of festival greediness, but a matter of recognition and encouragement for local talent. We exist not only to showcase films, but to also provide opportunities to enthusiastic emerging filmmakers and first-time storytellers.

Industry judging and filmmaker prizes – it’s what we provide to make a worthwhile festival experience. Past judges have featured the likes from of Academy Award nominated animator Peter Sander to  Norman Wilner of Now Magazine (see even more here). For prizes, entrants have had the chance to win equipment rentals, studio rentals, festival passes, and filmmaking courses all to put towards their next piece.

With our May 2nd submissions deadline approaching (19 days away), we encourage you to act now! Learn how to submit here. As hard as we work, our festival is only as good as its films. We’ll be scouring local showcases in the coming weeks looking to meet new emerging filmmakers such as yourself, and we’re going to do our best to make sure you’re excited to meet us.

Posted April 14, 2014 by TYSFF in Advice to Filmmakers, Festival

TIFF Kids Brings Cinema to Young Filmgoers   Leave a comment

 

TIFF Kids brings a range of films, exhibits, and workshops to entertain kids and parents.

TIFF continues to engage with children through the various events and programs they hold year-round. As technology evolves, children are becoming active users and TIFF provides an excellent platform for them to utilize their creativity and curiosity in a cinematic atmosphere.

The TIFF Kids International Film Festival takes place April 8-12 and offers a range of Canadian and international films that children can enjoy and relate to. Check out the trailer to view their excellent line up of films

The digiPlaySpace is another example of how TIFF engages and teaches children about emerging media technologies. The fun and interactive environment allows them to learn and share their artistic experience with family and friends.

It is great for kids to learn more about cinema and be interested in actively involving in some way. It contributes to their imagination and provides them with different perceptions. I hope that TIFF continues to extend their kids programming and I look forward to seeing what next year will bring.

- Michelle

The Televised Cinematic   Leave a comment

agent2Some of the most critically-acclaimed scripted television programs have been cable dramas because they don’t adhere to the same network formula of standalones, sweeps, specific hiatuses, etc.  They are more flexible with their episode count, length, and they tell an organic story rather than shoehorning certain elements (the obligatory Thanksgiving episode, the cost-cutting bottle episode, climaxes happening at certain points after sweeps etc).

However, it seems that traditional networks are taking notice and are changing or adapting in order to stay relevant, especially with the vocalized trend of binge-watching thanks to Netflix.  Fox did this with 24 by airing all episodes in a single run.  ABC has done this with Lost.  Even our own national broadcaster, the CBC, is commissioning program that’s “very raw” and “sophisticated” such as Strange Empire to break out of the traditional family programming mold.

Those who saw last night’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will notice the ever integration of the show into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Besides numerous references to The Avengers and Iron Man 3, they tied specific episodes and their air dates so it coincides with Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Warner Brothers and DC Comics are also doing something similar, introducing the Flash in this season of Arrow as a backdoor pilot as some incarnation of the character will undoubtedly be a part of the eventual Justice League that their films seem to be hinting toward.

Television and cinema are becoming more and more blurred.  The advent of Netflix has made it so watching a traditional television show is no longer necessarily a week to week affair.  Even from a production standpoint, the lines between content is becoming increasingly harder to define.  Steven Spielberg has stated that Lincoln almost became a HBO production instead of a theatrical release.

What I’ve noticed is that the students from television/broadcasting schools in the GTA, like Centennial College and Ryerson’s Radio and Television program, are producing more and more “cinematic” work and a lot of traditional film school students, such as those from York or Humber, are using television as inspiration, creating online episodics complete with a pitch pilot.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t – thanks to The Office, we’re getting an increasingly higher number of lazy films that likes to present themselves as “funny mockumentaries.”

It will be interesting to see what comes out of these continuously blurred lines between the two screen mediums and this doesn’t even account for more and more of those who are producing online content.

-Henry

Prop Culture: Wes Anderson and the Price of Fancy   1 comment

tumblr_muvmv3nenL1qa7ne1o1_500Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” stars a laundry list of big names: Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, and Bill Murray to name a few. But there are two integral names you may not have heard of.

The film’s lynchpin “Boy With Apple” is not actually a Renaissance masterpiece by artist Johannes Van Hoytl The Younger (gasp!), but a hero prop painted by contemporary English artist Michael Taylor, and achingly endured by a modern day child. We can all thank the tweenaged Ed Munro for swapping his smart phone for produce in the name of art.

Reading an interview with Taylor and Munro on TheWeek.com, I began seriously considering  this notion of “fictional” art. Of course the painting is a part of Wes Anderson’s vast and seemingly never ending internal universe, but it also exists in the real world. “I realized,” said Taylor, “that maybe he wanted something that felt like it might have existed, but in some slightly parallel place.” As it turns out, this type of object, one that straddles fiction and reality, may be as priceless as the painting it was created to represent.

A single Sports Almanac used in Back to the Future sold at auction for $15,000. Marty McFly’s iconic jacket sold for $75,000, and a replica of the Delorean sold for a whopping $95K. An internet wormhole of research led me to a show called Hollywood Treasure, where a man named Joe Maddalena and a team of “investigators” (a well-rounded mix of movie nerds and sexy “communications consultants”) scour the globe for Hollywood’s most lucrative artifacts. Don’t be fooled by the show’s TMZ-like format — a single, broken Mockingjay Pin from the Hunger Games can be sold for $2000 and auctioned for a lot more.

My theory is that the ephemeral nature of Hollywood means that people will pay big bucks to get their hands on a concrete piece of its history. Or maybe we hold on to these pieces as a chance to play in the places we escape to.

Neither Michael Taylor or Ed Munro have seen “Boy With Apple” since it was handed over to Budapest’s production two years ago: “[The original "Boy with Apple"] could be anywhere. One of the charms of making paintings is that you create this thing, and then send it out into the world where it has to make its own way.”

Only time will tell how much “Boy With Apple” will eventually be worth. The most valuable objects tend to be icons of alternate realities (think Harry Potter or Star Wars), things that become meaningful once they have tumbled around in the moss of other worlds. I think the all-encompassing theme park of Wes Anderson’s mind will be worth the price of admission.

-  Maggie Clapperton

 

 

Trying to Find Vivian Maier   Leave a comment

I cannot comment on Finding Vivian Maier, because I have not seen it. But I can say that Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary by directors John Maloof and Charlie Siskel that delves into the life and mystery of the late American street photographer, Vivian Maier.

I first read about Vivian Maier in the newspapers, and her story captivated me. She was a recluse who worked as a nanny, and took photographs as a hobby.

Her photographs remained hidden and unseen, until boxes containing nearly 100,000 negatives—many undeveloped—were discovered by John Maloof. Maloof acquired them from an auction house that received the negatives after the contents of Maier’s unpaid storage locker were sold. Luckily, her images ended up in the right hands. Maloof saw something in her photos. Needles to say, Maier had talent, and her work has caught the eye of many around the world.

Her photos are intimate and perceptive. She uses oblique angles, reflections and shadows to create images that are dynamic and somewhat haunting. I had the pleasure of seeing some of her images at Stephen Bulger Gallery this past summer (2013) in a show entitled Out of the Shadows. They were stunning.

Indeed, Maier has come out of the shadows. But it is her personal life, and her mystique that I find really intriguing. Her devotion to photography, and yet the fact that she kept her photos a secret is something many artists would find unfathomable. And this is why I want to see Finding Vivian Maier; I want to know more about her. Apparently I’m not the only one. I tried to see the film last weekend at TIFF Bell Lightbox. I arrived half an hour early, only to find that it was sold out. So, until I go back and try again (which I will), Vivian Maier will remain a mystery to me. I’m guessing she’d be okay with this.

Finding Vivian Maier is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until April 10th.

- By Sarah Gladki

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