So today started with me getting up at 6:30am in order to watch my team take a 5-0 beating in a dawn-opening Toronto Sports Bar. But it got better...
Unarguable genius Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin premieres here in Toronto, a brilliant satirical send-up of the final day of Stalin’s life and the immediate aftermath of his death, with his cronies portrayed superbly as a bungling pack of sarcastic and self-serving plotters and imbeciles by Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse and others. An expertly curated cast also includes Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, and Jason Isaacs as a bombastic general with a Lancashire accent who nicks many of the best lines (“I took Germany, so I think I can handle a flesh lump in a waistcoat”, etc.). Based on a French graphic novel, Iannucci’s effectively In The Looped mid-20th century Soviet politics, with well-crafted period, a sophisticated and playful sense of farce and a generous helping of his signature foul-mouthery. I loved how clever it all is, an almost Avid Merrion-like reimagining of historical personalities, events and behaviours that’s absurd in its distortion - but rings truer as a result. The film plays Curzon Cinemas from 20 October - get in the mood for this 5 star satire by reading the Guardian review from here in Toronto.
Today I saw the film I was most excited about, and it didn't disappoint; Downsizing. Alexander Payne’s latest is the dramatic extrapolation of a perfect idea, of an alternative contemporary reality in which science permits humans to shrink to 5” tall to access a range of logical benefits. 'Downsizing' as a concept helps save the planet, reducing the waste and carbon footprint of small people to a fraction; and people who choose to shrink down can liquidate their full-sized world assets and live in a big (dolls?) house and in luxury for far less dough. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig pay the couple contemplating the procedure. The first part, which sets out the extraordinary world of downsizing, its discovery and the idea, its effect and allure on the world and the process, is beautifully controlled satire - pure Truman Show. The second half freestyles with the narrative and is more screwball by comparison, a journey of unexpected surprises. A genuinely unique experience from a great filmmaker. Read its 5-star Guardian review in advance of its January release in the UK.
To complete my hat-trick of world premieres, I'm hitting the back of the net with Molly's Game, legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s confident first stint behind the career from his own adaptation of ‘poker princess’ Molly Bloom’s autobiography. It stars Jessica Chastain as Molly and Idris Elba as her lawyer. The film is based around her legal defence under indictment by the FBI for running America's richest illegal gambling house, and the life events that brought her there. And it oozes class - a welcome post Star Wars release for us all to enjoy in December. Like in The Social Network, Sorkin’s chatty style permeates through the material (or is it the other way round?), using an approach that is non-linear and at times seeming casual and unstructured, but all the while skilfully pulling you into Molly’s world. In the lead role, Chastain’s masterstroke is to draw out the humanity and vulnerability in the character, while still keeping her strong and defiant within the male dominated world in which she operates.