Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

An audio program about movies. Listen with your iPod or computer.

Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

Other Recent Podcasts


Favorite Recent Tweets

via Twitter


Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.


Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve in Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale

Fridays are normally reserved here at Daily Plastic for new reviews. And unlike the last few weeks when almost nothing good was released, there are some interesting possibilities for today. But we’re having too much fun in Toronto to wax poetic about Burn after Reading and Righteous Kill. But to make it up to you, we’re posting TWO days of TIFF reflections. Cuz you really didn’t want to work today anyway, did’ya? This is Day 7, while Day 6 (due to the brilliance of blogging technology) is farther below.

Today was a strong day, with three winners out of five and only one bad film. The best was Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale. Festival co-director Piers Handling introduced it as a movie “about a dysfunctional family par excellence,” and he’s exactly right. The mother Junon (a wonderfully cold Catherine Deneuve) is openly hostile to her son Henri (Mathieu Amalric, delightfully unstable), whom she blames for her eldest son’s death at the age of six. No matter that Henri was still in diapers at the time. Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) detests Henri as well and even went so far as to banish him from the family. Elizabeth’s son Paul is in the midst of a nervous breakdown. And I could go on and on. Only the patriarch Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon as the doughy moral center of the film) and the youngest son Ivan seem to get along with everyone, but maybe not.

Continue Reading

A shot from Jia Zhang-ke’s 24 City

I’ve realized over the last couple years that sold out doesn’t always mean sold out at TIFF, and I’m not just talking about the possibility of rush lines. Tickets are reserved in advance for publicists and other festival guests, but obviously not all of those seats are needed. So often by the fourth or fifth day, when TIFF has a better perspective on what it requires, it releases more tickets. Furthermore, the lines to exchange tickets are often significantly lighter by Monday than they are over the weekend. So today I walked into the box office at 9 a.m., strode confidently to the open agent, and proceeded to get all four movies for which I had been shut out of in the lottery. Woo hoo!

The morning just keeps getting better when I meet up with Ken Morefield for a delicious breakfast at Cora’s, which includes lots of discussion about college teaching, academic writing, and of course movies. And then we’re off to one of the more difficult films of the fest. But I’ll save that for the end.

• • •

The Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke made one of my favorite films of the decade with Still Life/Dong. Though those are two different movies, I saw them both at TIFF ’06, and their similar subject matter makes them a natural pairing. He followed that up with last year’s Useless, which was interesting and well made but didn’t scale anywhere near the heights of his previous work. Even still, I had high hopes for his latest, 24 City.

Continue Reading

Michael Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s Hunger

You’d think that having done Toronto for six years now that I’d have it all figured out. But somehow I forgot what five-film days are like and scheduled three of them in a row. Not smart by me. So I wake up this morning tired. No, exhausted. Yet the first movie is one of the more acclaimed films to come out of Cannes. How can I pass that up? So I roll out of bed for a 9 a.m. screening. Somewhere the scheduling gods are chuckling.

In a more miserable world, the movie would stink, but not this time. Hunger earns its praise with a strong, unusual narrative and striking directorial choices. The movie is about Bobby Sands’s hunger strike in 1981 when he was imprisoned for crimes he committed with the Irish Republican Army. Interestingly, though, Sands is rarely onscreen for the first third of the movie. Instead, director Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen) focuses on a British prison guard, then two other I.R.A. prisoners. In this way, he conveys what a horrible situation this is for prisoners and guards alike.

This also removes every pitfall over which bio-pics often stumble. This isn’t hagiography. It’s also not an attempt to encapsulate all of Sands’s life or even find great inspiration in his deeds. Instead, it’s a capsule of the bitter conflict between the I.R.A. prisoners, who demanded political status and the rights that went with that, and the British government, who considered them terrorists and refused to give in. And by focusing exclusively on the prison, McQueen shows how those two positions created a cycle of violence that had ramifications well beyond those cells.

Continue Reading

Anne Hathaway as Kym in Rachel Getting Married (Demme)

With three more days left in the festival, my sense of the films I've seen -- as a whole -- is starting to take shape. I'm posting very quick reactions at Twitter (140 characters or fewer), and I'll be posting about the best English-language features shortly at Paste; I'll put a link here at Daily Plastic.

But looking at the whole lot, if I list them in order, they'd probably break out as shown below.

Some films take more time and consideration than a festival allows, and many of these could grow or shrink in my regard as I noodle on them. I've only been able to see one of these films a second time (35 Shots of Rum), for instance. Also, I've broken the list into sections, and within these broad swaths there's no sense in fine-tuning. I mean, is Rachel Getting Married better than Wendy and Lucy? Or is The Burning Plain worse than Burn After Reading? Could be, could be, burn 'em both, burn 'em both. But there's no time for such nit-picking today.

Continue Reading

We like this photo, but it might be time to find a new one. Publicist?

Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum is one of those films that I hesitate to say too much about for fear of breaking the spell. It’s a marvelous story of a father, a daughter, and ... I don’t know. Friends. Lovers. Co-workers. It’s about a place. It’s about growing old. Falling in love. Family, both the blood kind and the neighborly ones. It’s about Life. That may be a cliche with some movies but not this one.

The story is obliquely told, Denis assuming that we can keep up, that the actors are good enough to convey with just small glances and smiles what we need to know. Of course they are. This creates moments of incredible beauty and power, as it dawns on us what’s about to happen or maybe what happened twenty years before, as we fully understand what we only partly guessed.

Continue Reading

Red West and Souleymane Sy Savane in Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo

I unfortunately feel a bit of pressure early on in a festival if I haven’t seen any great movies yet. I start to wonder if I’m expecting too much, given the time and money it’s taken to get here. I ponder if seeing five movies in one day is conducive to fair judgment. And then I see a movie like Goodbye Solo.

Directed by Ramin Bahrani, who also made the fantastic Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo is about a friendly cabbie from Senegal living in Winston-Salem, NC. As the movie opens, a curmudgeonly old man (a wonderful stoic performance from Red West) has offered Solo a large amount of money to take him on a journey in a couple weeks to the top of a mountain. Solo’s playful curiosity about the trip’s purpose soon reveals that the man plans on committing suicide. Solo being who he is, he decides to persuade the man not to go through with it. How? By drawing the old man into his own life.

What follows is an exquisite story, with rich characters, spot-on dialogue, and beautiful pace. Unlike other movies I’ve seen at the festival, where I wondered why certain scenes hadn’t been left on the cutting floor, every moment of Goodbye Solo is integral to the story, every scene propels the narrative forward. Grounding it all is a star-making (and Oscar-winning, if there were any justice) performance from Souleymane Sy Savane, who is absolutely charismatic as a man persistently trying to save another man. But Bahrani has such a way with actors that the non-professionals, especially the young Diana Franco Galindo as Solo’s stepdaughter, keep up as well.

Continue Reading

Zana Marjanovic (left) stars as Alma in Aida Begic's Snow

In an earlier post, I wrote that I wasn’t going to discuss all the films that aren’t here at Toronto, but most critics agree that this year’s lineup is unusually thin. At least when it comes to big-name directors, whether that be Hollywood prestige types like Clint Eastwood or hardcore cinephile such as Lucretia Martel. Some have blamed it on the writer’s strike, others point to the lack of quality films at Cannes and especially Venice. Of course, one doesn’t preclude the other.

That lack of high-profile films can be seen in my choices for today. While I’m excited to see both the Coen brothers and the Wavelengths program of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jean-Marie Straub, my other three films are selections I probably wouldn’t have made in previous years; they would’ve been superceded by something more interesting. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be bad, and there are few things more exciting than discovering gold where you expected bronze. Would I strike gold today?

Continue Reading

I'll be posting quick film reactions to Twitter. Because why not? I haven't used Twitter extensively, but it's like the status feature of Facebook. Nothing more. It might work well for this sort of trickle -- don't want to hammer my Facebook friends with these.

Consider it an experiment on my part. Vials around me are bubbling, and you're welcome to sip from them with the link above. I'll also be posting here alongside J. Robert and over at Paste.

My schedule got a bit horked today for various reasons, so I've ducked into some movies I probably wouldn't have otherwise (like Cold Lunch), but I'm getting back on track.

See all of our Toronto 2008 coverage here.

I began the festival proper with a screening of Claire Denis' new film, 35 Shots of Rum (35 Rhums). This wasn't by design, but if I could choose a way to kick off a festival, this would be it. Now if there were a way to end the festival the same way -- short of skipping three dozen movies -- my trip would be complete.

Like all of her films, this one confounds me in a good way. I have to learn how to watch each one, which is why a second viewing is so important. The music, much of it by the Tindersticks, is a hypnotic force, both in the theater and in the lives of the characters, and Denis continues her knack for finding gems at a rummage sale of discarded pop LPs. As ever in her films, dances say more than words.

But what put a surprised smile on my face was discovering that 35 Rhums is a strong homage, almost even a remake, of one of my favorite films of all time. There's an allusion to that director's movies fairly early in the film, highlighted (and, in some ways, counterposed) by a tracking shot in a doorway, but that just lays the groundwork for the plot that follows. (The list of favorite films, by the way, is due for an update, and Denis's Beau Travail will surely go onto the list, not because I hadn't seen it in 2004, but because her films grow and grow. That's how they do.)

Continue Reading

Now That’s a Provocative Image ... The Movie, Not So Much

The festival gets started on Thursday, but it’s not exactly a full day of movies. There aren’t any afternoon screenings and a relative paucity of evening ones. I suspect a lack of available theaters is to blame, but what it means is that the few available films are hot tickets. Since I always seem to have bad luck in the lottery, the result is that I rarely get an opening day ticket. On the first try, that is.

One of the things I love about TIFF is that the festival organizers usually set aside a certain number of tickets for each film’s rush line. This is where you can wait as long as you want, if you get there early enough, for however many rush tickets become available. A few minutes before the show’s about to start, the people in charge figure out how many empty seats there are, and then give that many people a chance to purchase a ticket. The first people in line obviously get the first tickets available. So if you really want to see something and you can’t get a ticket the regular way, you just have to be willing to wait in the rush line for a second chance.

Continue Reading

⟨ Later PostsEarlier Posts ⟩