TIFF!

Entertainment

I debated whether or not to post about my TIFF experience. On the one hand, all of the movies I saw are being released relatively soon (as early as this past Friday, and as late at Christmas Day ’09) and are being reviewed by more relevant people than me. On the other hand, I always have fun at TIFF, even if (to my dismay) I don’t end up seeing any movies that end up being “important” (i.e. ones that don’t generate critical OR popular buzz). Frankly, it’s always really hit-or-miss at TIFF. But in the end, I decided that since I invested so much time researching and standing in line, it at least warrants a post.

Creation

Creation

Creation (release date: Sept. 25, 2009): This is the British movie about Darwin that opened the festival (instead of a Canadian movie for the first time!),  starring Paul Bettany and real-life wife Jennifer Connelly. Like 3 out of 4 of the movies I saw, it was based on a book: Annie’s Box, by one of Darwin’s great-great-grandsons. Like a lot of other movies that end up being Oscar bait, I thought it was a perfectly well-made and interesting movie, but it wasn’t nearly a masterpiece. Admittedly, it weighed too heavily on the emotional trauma and religious controversy surrounding The Origin of Species and neglected an opportunity to explore his actual theories – despite an adorable scene with Bettany and a monkey. Also, don’t marry your first-cousin. Grade: B.

The Informant!

The Informant!

The Informant! (release date: Sept. 18, 2009): The new Matt Damon movie based on – you guessed it! – a nonfiction book by journalist Kurt Eichenwald. The marketing for the movie makes it seem like Damon is just a bumbling informant – including the 40-year-old Virgin-esque poster – but his character is actually a lot more interesting than that. As the movie unfolds, I would wager that you end up being surprised by how carefully they reveal what kind of guy this Mark Whitacre is. Considering some of the other movies trying to be funny these days, this was pretty funny. Grade: B+.

Youth in Revolt

Youth in Revolt

Youth in Revolt (release date: Oct. 30, 2009): The new Michael Cera movie based on the visually-awesome epistolary novel called Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp. Like Superbad, there was too much sexual humour for my taste, but, unlike Superbad, it was interestingly absurd and included a lot of really good secondary characters (ex. Fred Willard on ‘shrooms!). Unfortunately, it felt a little rushed at times, especially when trying to include some characters from the book, but that always happens with adaptations of giant books, I suppose. Michael Cera was his usual self – awkward nice guy who gets the girl – but an imaginary and devious incarnation of his dark side named François Dillinger (with a mustache and tight white pants!) was funny insomuch as it was a change for Cera. The worst part was how much I thought it was kind of stupid and lame for (SPOILER) the characters’ young love to actually work out in the end. Boo-burns. (END SPOILER). Grade: B+. Side note: Saw Cera at the premiere and he was exactly like his characters. Found out later that Kevin Jonas was also at the premiere in the audience! *high five*

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (release date: Dec. 25, 2009): This may not be based on a book, but instead it’ll be known as the last movie Heath Ledger starred in. It should also, however, be known as the latest Terry Gilliam film (of Monty Python fame, as well as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys and Brazil). As you may know, Heath Ledger died during production, so they had Johnny Depp, Colin Ferrell and Jude Law fill in for his character (every time his character enters the fantastical imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus through the magical mirror, which happens 3 times). All that aside, here’s what I think of the movie itself: The concept is pretty good, the visuals are great, Verne Troyer’s acting is terrible, Heath Ledger/Colin Ferrell has sex with a 16-year-old, and the plot is confusing. For whatever reasons you want to speculate, the movie is pretty slow for the first half and then picks up and tries to fit in a lot of plot in a short space of time, which makes it a bit confusing. Pacing and editing, therefore, could use a lot of work before being released (although it’s being released in the UK and elsewhere very soon on Oct. 16). Could be a lot better. C+

And that was TIFF ’09. ‘Til next year…

On Teaching

Culture

Teaching is harder than it looks…. well, harder than it looks to me, at least. I’ve been tutoring the kids of a friend of the family (with math for grades 3, 5 and 9, mostly) for a couple of months now, and they’re going back to school next week. When I started, my assumption was that it was just a matter of showing them how to solve problems and talking them through the questions when they were having a hard time. But now that I’ve been doing it a while, I’m totally humbled and I have a newfound respect for teachers (good teachers).

For the most part, trying to decide how to show the kid how to do something is harder than it seems. Then, I have to figure out why the kid doesn’t understand, which is mad hard because you can’t count on them to communicate these things on their own. Even knowing when to shut up and let them figure out and when to help them is tricky. And you can forget about knowing how to motivate them, or how to get them to try when they just don’t think they can do it.

Oddly, I also tutored kids in grade 9 and 10 with the Pathways to Education program this past winter, but it wasn’t as difficult. I think it was because I was just there to help them with their homework when they needed it, and the teachers were doing the actual teaching during the day at school.

In any case, I really liked working with them (plus I enjoy doing math). It’s so rewarding when they understand something. (And not very rewarding when everything you’ve taught them seems to just fall out of their heads.) One of the little girls gave me one of the “good job!” stickers in her activity book and said I deserved it! I bet you don’t get stickers in your job.