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There’s one thing that’s really bugging me this year. Previously, a press pass could be used to rush public screenings. That is, for any show that’s not sold out there’s a rush line, which allows people to buy tickets from 15 minutes before the film starts, and with a press pass you could get a free ticket.

This was a good gateway to the midnight screenings, since those are films you really want to see with a paying audience. But there’s no using a pass to rush this year — press can pull up to five public screening tickets, and we’ve got to wait in line to do so. Anyone who’s seen the line knows that’s a time consuming operation.

This seems shortsighted on the part of the festival. I know attendance is way up, to the point where it’s harder and harder to get tickets for the most popular screenings. And I can’t help but think that part of the popularity of the midnight shows in particular is due to a vocal press reporting how much fun the series always is. Now the press is resigned to seeing Romero’s latest with a press audience instead of the public fanfare it deserves. Sad.

Anyway. First things first, while I actually saw the film last week, there’s a review up of The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (read it here!) that serves as my festival review. It’s a wonderful flick, and when it starts to roll out in late Sept it’s going to blow people away. Those who never thought they’d dig a slow, quiet western are going to like it in spite of themselves, which is wonderful.

 As planned, I started the morning with Heavy Metal In Baghdad, the film produced by Vice magazine about Acrassicauda, the only heavy metal band in Iraq. (And, by the end of the film, probably the only one in Syria, too.) It’s not a great film, but it is a very good one. There’s a lot of time spent repeating the idea of being restricted while on the ground in Iraq, but when the film opened up to parallels of the repression of heavy metal and the perspective of the Iraqui refugee, it really strikes a nerve. The conclusion is particularly affecting and will be unforgettable for many people who see it.

Something is worth mentioning here, too. The four guys in Acrassicauda fled Iraq for Syria late last year, and in the film you’ll see them living there in a dingy, unheated basement apartment. At least one of the members has his wife and child there with them. They were planning to come to Toronto, but have been consistently denied travel visas — evidently Iraqui metal is the most severe form of terrorism. Their fate is currently uncertain; Syria wants to send hundreds of thousands of civilian refugees back to Iraq.

 I took some time off for a little email and decompression after Heavy Metal In Baghdad. After that, I sucked it up and caught Argento’s movie. What a terrible, hilarious disaster. Actually, I’m more than a little amused that my reactions to The Mother Of Tears and Neil Jordan’s The Brave One were basically identical. That is, general scorn mixed with a healthy dose of unintentional laughter. (I also saw The Brave One last week, and will have a review up soon.) I can’t remember the last time Argento made a good film (even a passable one) and this does not break the losing streak. It is fucking funny, though. See it at your own risk.

I needed something easy after that, so I went into one of the most hyped films of the festival: Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking follow-up, Juno. This is one part of Ellen Page’s World Domination Tour ’07; here she gets pregnant by Michael Cera, not recommended for those who want the strong seed, then decides to give the baby up to adoptive couple Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. No, Cera and Bateman don’t have scenes together, so calm down.

 This movie is so sweet and nice and fun, I think I actually ovulated during the birth scene. It’s got a post-Garden State soundtrack that’s entirely too twee and obvious, but is otherwise a really lovely flick. I’m not with those (like /Film) calling it the best of the fest; it’s a little early for that, and Page is just a tad too self-composed, even when she’s fraying.

But the rest of the cast makes the movie work, and Juno should continue the year’s fairly unbelievable ‘believable comedy’ steamroller.

 From there I went right into Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Ploy, which feels very much like his version of Eyes Wide Shut. A couple is shut in a hotel room, and the man brings a young girl up to crash with them, to the extreme consternation of his wife. Dream circles entwine and marital resentments gouge at each person. It’s an odd film that finally is too self-conscious and lets itself down. I liked Ratanaruang’s Last Life In The Universe a lot more, with last year’s Invisible Waves a in second place out of his recent three flicks. Still, Ploy is haunting and beautiful during the very slow, composed first hour.

I finished out the day with Frontiere(s) at midnight. This is the debut film from Hitman director Xavier Gens, and it’s a blood-drenched piece of awful tripe. Gut Saw, Hostel, Haute Tension, Texas Chainsaw and The Devil’s Rejects, hot glue the viscera together and you’d have this stinking, fetid waste. I really don’t know why I didn’t leave. I was masochistically hoping for some sort of redemption that never came.

 Reviews on all these are coming, I promise. I’ve got seven that are mostly done, but when I took two hours off after dinner to write I just fell asleep — that’s what under four hours of sleep the night before will do to me.

First up tomorrow will be the palate cleanser: Eastern Promises. There might also be some Greenaway and, if I can scam a ticket, new Romero at midnight!

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