Mark Wahlberg was my screening buddy for the festival

Mark Wahlberg was my screening buddy for the festival

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Tuesday, 9/16/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 7

It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from Toronto to Bethlehem – 9 if you try to clean out a duty-free store of its whiskey offerings and then explain why you did that to border patrol – so I only saw 2 movies in my last day of TIFF-ing.

A TIFF-goer has typically had to come to terms with what he or she will miss by about Wednesday, as choosing pieces to complete your screening puzzle leave some still on the floor. My list from this year includes Jason Reitman’s Whiplash, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, The Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, Beniot Jacquot’s Three Hearts (I didn’t see any French films, which is a bit strange), Edward Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice, James Franco’s The Sound and the Fury (nope, didn’t meet him either), Matthew Warchus’s Pride, Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle, and quite a few more.

I did get 26.5 movies in during my seven days at TIFF, however, at least 20 of which I’m sure will make it onto the FBAC screens in one way or the other. Here are the last two.
Sunshine Superman

Sunshine Superman

Sunshine Superman

  • Directed by Marah Strauch.
Hands down one of the most breathtaking films I’ve ever seen (with a last shot for the ages), Sunshine Superman uses exclusive archival 16mm footage and new interviews to tell the story of BASE-jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. Strauch did well to choose Boenish as a subject, as the man wasn’t nearly as into BASE-jumping as he was into filming it, which he did, a lot.
The old footage is seamlessly and beautifully mixed with the new interviews, making this an excellent doc that needs to be seen on the big screen, though that’s becoming harder and harder for docs to do lately.
  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderate.
St. Vincent

St. Vincent

St. Vincent

  • Starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts.
  • Directed by Theodore Melfi.
It is hard to imagine anyone else other than Murray playing the title role in St. Vincent, as the man has to be the patron saint of guys who just don’t give a damn anymore. And, with this film, we get Murray doing the pratfalls of his hey-day, delivering the snarky quips of his everyday, and showing a bit of the gooey inside that we’ve seen in recent days.
The supporting cast is just as good, too, with Watts’ Russian accent solid (much more so than Murray’s Brooklyn accent, by the way) and never over the top, despite the fact that she is playing a pregnant prostitute. McCarthy is at about a 2 on the Melissa McCarthy scale of ridiculousness, which is perfect for the movie. And Chris O’Dowd, playing the priest/teacher who gives the assignment that leads to the film’s slightly schmaltzy third act, is delightfully dry in a role that could have easily been a throwaway with a different actor.
I’m putting St. Vincent up there with Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher as my favorite of the festival, as first-time director Melfi does a good job of keeping his story (he also wrote it) moving without wallowing or preaching. In the end, Murray fans are going to end up feeling a little closer to the man himself, which may just be worth the price of admission anyway.
  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: High – we’re hoping for early November.



Younge-Dundas Square, a.k.a. Canadian Times Square.

Younge-Dundas Square, a.k.a. Canadian Times Square.

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Monday, 9/15/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 6

I was put on an emotional roller-coaster with the first three films I saw today. Typically, when we watch emotional movies, at least those we know will be so, we plan to have the rest of the night to process the feelings we’re hit with. We don’t immediately get in the line for another emotional movie. I did exactly that, however, this morning, and twice.

At least when I saw 12 Years a Slave at TIFF last year, I was able to follow it up with Enough Said, an incredibly lighter experience than what I had just seen. It looks like I’ll have to get better about planning my days emotion-wise if I want to keep doing this festival.

Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Games"

Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”

The Imitation Game

  • Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode.
  • Directed by Morten Tyldum.

Through the benefit of these updates coming to you a few days after they actually happened, I can tell you that The Imitation Game picked up the People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Fitting, as it is obvious that audiences will love this movie more than critics.

The story, about the way the brilliant Alan Turing helped the Allies to win WWII, and the unconscionable way in which he was treated afterward due to the fact that he was a homosexual, is epic on its own. It would be incredibly hard to mess this story up, the knowledge of which often leaves scriptwriters and directors to play it way too safe in execution, something I believe was done here.

Plot developments happen almost breezily. Turing isn’t the head of the team assigned to crack Enigma, the German code deemed unbreakable, so he lobbies Winston Churchill himself (which we don’t see), and, in the very next scene, Turing is in charge. No sweat. Many of the film’s crucial moments are handled as such, and at no point do we see Turing with a man in ‘that’ way, as Turing’s homosexuality is played out more through flashbacks to a childhood crush’s development – a very safe way to do so when you’re making Oscar-bait.

The Imitation Game does get incredibly interesting once Enigma has been cracked, however, as a deadly cat-and-mouse game now needs to be played, and not everyone is on board and it becomes very unclear as to who can be trusted. Through all this, Cumberbatch plays Turing with uncomfortable efficiency, in an effort sure to garner him an Oscar nomination.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Likely the highest of any film I’ve written about so far.

This is Where I Leave You

Yes, I do lump this film, a comedy, into my emotional roller-coaster of a morning simply due to the fact that the family it portrays is very similar to my own in build (they added one brother) and roles: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Adam Driver could easily have been portraying me, my sister, and my brother, respectively. My mom will be pleased to know, however, that the comparison falls off a bit with Jane Fonda’s character.

This is Where I Leave You, out this coming Friday already, has many of the big city grownups coming back to their small town stomping grounds trappings. It may not feel incredibly new to many people. I did find myself enjoying it, however, mainly due to Bateman, Fey, and even Driver, despite the fact that this character wasn’t too far removed from his While We’re Young character, which isn’t too far removed from his Girls character (though quite different from his Lincoln character).

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Low, it looks like Warner Bros have multiplex plans for this one.

Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”

Still Alice

  • Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart.
  • Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.

It took me typing in the words ‘Still Alice’ to realize that the title is one letter away from ‘Still Alive’, which could easily have also been the title of this story involving a Columbia professor being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Julianne Moore plays the afflicted professor, and the film does well to stay with her rather than to delve too deep into the feelings of her family, as other movies about degenerative diseases tend to. Glatzer and Westmoreland, the husband-and-husband filmmakers, the former of which was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, have obvious experience with how this sort of thing goes down.

Moore’s performance is excellent. There were serious feelings coming out of the normally-hardened film industry people in my screening. I’m really glad I had a lunch break after this.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: High.
Roger Waters' "The Wall"

Roger Waters’ “The Wall”

Roger Waters’ The Wall

  • Directed by Roger Waters and Sean Evans.

Many of the programmers who come to TIFF talk about making sure they get a movie screening in ‘for them’, meaning that the film is something they most likely won’t be screening in their cinemas, but they personally will enjoy it. And while programming two cinemas in a performing arts center has its share of challenges those colleagues won’t understand, that I can watch a rock concert movie and still call it work is a definite perk. Which is what I got to do in watching Roger Waters The Wall.

I was raised on Pink Floyd and have seen the first The Wall movie, the 1990 concert version, and now this, a film pulled together from three performances done during Waters’ tour of a few years ago, divided up by segments of a road trip in which he drives through Europe to visit the graves of his grandfather and father, who were killed in the World Wars.

While the concert rocks and I can’t imagine a Floyd fan walking away from this experience unhappy, some things did strike me as strange. Waters’ anti-consumerism stance is as strong as his anti-government stance in this version (look for the Apple-bashing in many a wall-plastered graphic), yet he’s driving through Europe in a Rolls-Royce. The angry Waters fans know (and maybe love?), is long gone, as the new Waters smiles and dances through Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2, and even introduces old Waters as ‘angry and f***ed up Roger’ before launching into Mother as a duet between new and old Roger thanks to the power of modern technology.

While people can (and should) change, it is strange to see a happy Roger Waters smile and groove his way through a magnum opus much the result of his anger and disillusionment.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: It may not get a weeks-long run, but it’ll be here. Someway. Somehow.


The Kensington Market section of Toronto really upped their Neighbourhood Watch budget recently.

The Kensington Market section of Toronto really upped their Neighbourhood Watch budget recently.

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Thursday, 9/11/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 5

Today was New York City day for me at TIFF. Back to a 5-movie schedule, 4 had the Big Apple as the backdrop, with the last one being a distinctly different portrayal of the city than the others.

I didn’t have a clear favorite today, though Top Five is likely the one I’d name if forced to (for reasons you’ll understand in a bit). None eclipsed Foxcatcher or Nightcrawler, however, which are still battling it out for TIFF supremacy in my head.

Tomorrow’s selections include The Imitation Game and Roger Waters The Wall. So, it’ll be back to the Brits.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in "While We're Young"

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in “While We’re Young”

While We’re Young

  • Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried.
  • Directed by Noah Baumbach.

Want to know how talented Noah Baumbach is? He put a Beastie Boy in his movie, had him play the lame guy, and made it work. Well. The Beastie (Adam Horovitz a.k.a. Ad Rock) is good.

Stiller and Watts are also excellent as the 40-something couple who navigate the ‘baby cult’ their friends (Ad Rock is one of them) are joining along with the energy of sudden new 20-something couple-friends, played by Driver and Seyfried.

I wish I saw this movie last today, instead of first, as I would have liked some time to process it, especially as a 30-something that definitely isn’t Driver’s character and maybe sees a bit too much of himself in Stiller’s.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: A24 just bought the film, but doesn’t have a release date yet. Nevertheless, chances are pretty good it’ll be on our screen sometime in the next 6 months.

Welcome to Me

  • Starring Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Joan Cusack, Linda Cardellini.
  • Directed by Shira Piven.

Take the most uncomfortable character Kristen Wiig played on SNL (I know, hard to choose, but try) and then take my word that her character in Welcome to Me, Alice Klieg, is many times more queasy to watch. Ironically enough, Alice – an Oprah devotee with borderline personality disorder –  buys her way to her own TV show after a huge lottery win and is on-air for much longer than all the Gilly sketches put together.

Similar to King of Comedy in its pitch-black tone and message, Welcome to Me does well to not veer the film into the well-worn territory of undeserved celebrity. It also doesn’t get sentimental with Alice’s mental disorder, though it does walk a fine line some may find disconcerting.

All this said, I found it to be a good film. Just please now that this sure as hell ain’t Bridesmaids.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Low, as my guess is that this finds its audience on VOD platforms before (or while) it hits theaters.
Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson in "Top Five"

Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson in “Top Five”

Top Five

  • Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, JB Smoove.
  • Directed by Chris Rock.

You need to know that Chris Rock, who plays standup-turned-actor Andre Allen, is a major reason that I do what I do. I watched his special Never Scared non-stop when I was first starting out in standup comedy, and I will argue to the death that he’s one of the top 5 funniest people to ever walk the Earth.

And, true to the brother/sisterhood of standup comics, there are about 80 of them in this movie, either playing themselves or other random roles (Brian Regan is especially funny in his not-himself role) as the casting director for Top Five essentially just played eeny-meeny-miney-moe with Rock’s iPhone contact list.

So yeah, I loved watching Top Five. I loved what it was trying to accomplish, I loved Rock’s trademarked mix of smart and dirty comedy (comedy nerds like myself will know that the nasty flashback featuring Cedric the Entertainer is based on a real-life experience that Rock recalled in the book I Killed), and I even made the deep stretch to believe all the things that happened did so in a 24-hour period while navigating at least two boroughs’ worth of NYC traffic, one of which was Manhattan. There are very few directors I’d make that stretch for.

Maybe you should just know this: Jerry Seinfeld, playing himself, makes it rain in a strip club and then insists that a stripper stole his wallet and is hiding it in her hoo-ha with a line that’s as Seinfeldian as eating a marble rye while wearing a puffy shirt.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Actually, not great. Paramount just won a reportedly vicious bidding war for Top Five, and Paramount is a major distributor. The FBAC hasn’t played many Paramount titles in its short existence because those titles are typically at all the surrounding multiplexes. We’ll see.

The Last Five Years

  • Starring Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan.
  • Directed by Richard LaGravenese.
  • Music (and based on the musical) by Jason Robert Brown.

I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did. It’s almost entirely sung through; there is very little spoken dialogue. The couple is doomed to split – we know that from the start – as her storyline starts from the end of the relationship and goes backwards while his starts from the beginning and goes forwards in an inventive move that helps the movie a lot but does hurt it at least a little.

Because each song trades off perspectives, and, therefore timelines, someone not familiar with musicals may not know when one song has ended and another’s begun, so you do have to pay attention to some visual cues (rings, mainly look for the rings) to keep up. The storytelling approach does also put some emotional peaks and valleys in spots movie-goers aren’t quite accustomed to, making the film feel uneven in spots.

That said, Kendrick and Jordan are great. They’re counted on to carry a lot more than your typical romantic leads, and they do it well.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderate, depends a lot on what distributor lands the film.
Richard Gere in "Time Out of Mind"

Richard Gere in “Time Out of Mind”

Time Out of Mind

  • Starring Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone.
  • Directed by Oren Moverman.

The last film of the 5-film day, this was definitely a test of my patience. Gere plays a homeless man in New York City who stubbornly refuses to admit that he is homeless.

Moverman never makes this film a indictment of how the system treats the homeless (although Gere’s character’s disbelief at the fact that NYC is legally bound to give him a bed for a night seems to say at least a little), he instead seems to just want to get across what being homeless is like. And he does so by spending the first half of the movie with Gere not doing or saying too much of anything. It’s all just tone and feel, which wasn’t easy to sit through during my 9th hour of movie-watching today.

  • This film will be (and is becoming) a critical darling, but it will be a hard sell to theater audiences.



The line to get into the screening of Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater”

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Wednesday, 9/10/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 4

It was only a 2-film day in TIFF-land today, as this festival-goer hit a bit of a movie-watching wall.

I plan on getting back to 5 films tomorrow, including 3 in a row I am really looking forward to: Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Welcome to Me (starring Kristen Wiig), and Chris Rock’s Top Five, a film that has sparked a major bidding war amongst studios after strong reviews from the festival.

I also did much less Canadian stuff today, as I kept it American by napping, watching Dr. Phil (my girlfriend made me), and totally over-eating at dinner.

Still didn’t meet James Franco.


Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”

The Theory of Everything

  • Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones.
  • Directed by James Marsh.

In the official TIFF program guide, the description for Theory claims that Redmayne’s transformation into renowned scientist Stephen Hawking is on par with that of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot or Mathieu Amalric in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I couldn’t have said it better myself (which is why I’ve mentioned it); Redmayne is another quite-likely Oscar nomination for what is incredible work in this film.

The movie itself, which details Hawking’s personal life much more so than his professional, isn’t quite as brilliant, but it’s still good, and very much worth a watch.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: High


  • Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Haluk Bilginer, Shohreh Aghdashloo.
  • Directed by Jon Stewart.

Smack the person that tells you Rosewater is an episode of The Daily Show without the jokes. There are, even in this, the 2nd film I’ve seen at TIFF regarding the controversial Iranian elections of 2009, jokes. Really funny jokes, including a New Jersey slam, complete with a callback later in the movie. And, my favorite line of the festival, which would have fit in any Mel Brooks movie, involves dialing 9 to get out.

Sure, it is possible that Rosewater is getting the attention it’s getting because Stewart wrote and directed this movie (a move that essentially cost him Jon Oliver, so let’s not say the man didn’t sacrifice mightily to make this film), but it’s not like he didn’t know what he was doing. Bernal is proof enough of this, as a first-time director should know to get a first-rate actor to dance (literally, at times) between the heavy and the light of this hard story.

I loved the movie and have a lot more to say about it, but I leave you with this: the best part of the TIFF program guide is the fact that Stewart’s role in Half Baked (you know, as the guy who claims everything is better… ON WEED) is included in his director’s bio.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: I will unapologetically show my stand-up comic bias and say high. Quite high.


The most Canadian thing ever?  Maybe.

The most Canadian thing ever? Maybe.

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Tuesday, 9/9/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 3

All of the movies I saw today – all 3.5 of them – were based on true stories. Some well known, like that of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, some known moreso by those of us who live in Eastern PA, like the story behind Foxcatcher, and some probably closer to not true than true (*ahem* Escobar: Paradise Lost).

And before you think that I hated Wild, the film I only saw .5 of, you should know that the only way I was going to see Love and Mercy was to bail on Wild. And since I’m pretty sure that we’ll get Wild whether I like the film or not, Love and Mercy, a film I knew much less about, had to take precedence. These are the hard decisions ArtsQuest pays me to make, people.

In addition to seeing these movies, I saw a Blue Jays game, ate vegan poutine, and found Bryan Adams’ ‘star’ on the Canadian Walk of Fame. I’m ready for my Mountie training now, so long as they’re cool with the vegan thing.

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Steve Carell as John du Pont in “Foxcatcher”


  • Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo.
  • Directed by Bennett Miller.

There has been so much hype around Foxcatcher coming into the festival, and it is much deserved. Based on the events that led up to John du Pont’s 1996 murder of a man he had hired to coach wrestling on his family’s estate, Miller (who had previously directed Capote and Moneyball) builds the tension perfectly and makes sure the actual killing is portrayed as random and senseless as it was (though some liberties – as per the usual – are taken with the timeline and circumstances).

People will tell you that Steve Carell is amazing in this film. He is, you can safely bet on an Oscar nomination for his work here. But people will also tell you that it’s ‘serious’ acting, something they didn’t expect from Carell. It’s always been serious acting for Carell, the same incredible commitment that obviously went into Brick (Anchorman) went into du Pont. Plus, the packed crowd laughed quite a bit, a credit to both Carell and Miller in not overplaying the drama.

Easily my favorite film of the day.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Provided there are no delays in the distribution timeline, look for it around Thanksgiving.


  • Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski.
  • Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.

The hour of Wild I got to see (the first half) was promising, and somewhat surprising. I went in prepared for Oscar-bait fluff, but got something a bit closer to Cheryl Strayed’s raw story than expected, though the term Oscar-bait still very much applies.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: High.

Paul Dano as John du Pont in "Love and Mercy"

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in “Love and Mercy”

Love and Mercy

  • Starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti.
  • Directed by Bill Pohlad.

A biopic for those of us who are sick of biopics. Two key times in THE Beach Boy, Brian Wilson’s, life, specifically, his time making Pet Sounds and his time under the thumb of a manipulative psychiatrist, are cut together with Dano as the young Wilson and Cusack as the middle-aged version.

Beach Boys fans will be beside themselves; the sound design is incredible, as masters and such are deftly used so that we hear individual Boys cut their vocals on Good Vibrations and the studio musicians work their way through God Only Knows. And Cusack doesn’t sing. Much.

I hope the Beastie Boys are next.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: It’s as if ArtsQuest execs pitched the movie. Of course.

Escobar: Paradise Lost

  • Starring Benicio del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Moritz Borman.
  • Directed by Andrea Di Stefano.

As mentioned above, this one wasn’t easy to believe. Cursory research says nothing about a lily-white Canadian who becomes part of infamous drug lord Escobar’s inner circle in the year leading up to his surrender to authorities, but hey, I can let that slide (I have to, otherwise, there’s no movie).

What I couldn’t let slide are the circumstances that keep the Canuck (I ate the poutine, I can use the term) within that circle, and the paint-by-numbers feel of the thriller’s script. While tense, it isn’t memorable, and the always captivating del Toro is under-used. It made me wish the film was like the two-part Che biopic from a few years ago. Same thing, but with del Toro as Escobar; that’s worth the time.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Low


This is a photo of a theater that I’m never sent to, but is crucial to TIFF. It looks pretty.

This is a photo of a theater that I’m never sent to, but is crucial to TIFF. It looks pretty.

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Monday, 9/8/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 2

Still no famous people run-ins on Day 2 of TIFF, despite the fact that some of my heroes are here: Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Wayne Gretsky (I just assume that he’s always here, and he’s only a hero in that the line ‘I made Gretsky’s head bleed’ from Swingers is maybe the best line in cinema for this Flyers fan).

The day overall was somewhat weak, definitely so in comparison to yesterday. Let’s just get into it, in order:


  • Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine.
  • Directed by David Gordon Green.

I liked Green’s Joe, which played at the festival last year but did a whole lot of nothing in theaters this past summer. Manglehorn, however, shows Green trying to be experimental in a film where I don’t think he needed to be; the same touch that benefited Joe would have helped this film rise beyond Pacino’s capable acting and Paul Logan’s only-okay script.

A couple pluses: Korine is allowed to be the annoying guy we all know him to be, and the last shot is maybe my favorite of the festival so far.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderately low/lowly moderate

Adam Sandler in The Cobbler

The Cobbler

  • Starring Adam Sandler, Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith, Steve Buscemi
  • Directed by Thomas McCarthy

I have a soft spot for Thomas McCarthy; he directed Win Win, the first film I ever physically watched in the FBAC, in addition to The Visitor and The Station Agent, two also-amazing movies. So, I now scream into the sky for hopefully all to hear, including Mr. McCarthy: WHY???? Why direct a movie wherein the line “we are the guardians of souls” can also (and purposefully) be read as “we are the guardians of soles”?

Listen: every time Adam Sandler’s character puts on a pair of shoes mended by a certain machine, he becomes the owner of those shoes. That’s the deal. By no means is it You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, but still… GUARDIANS OF SOULS/SOLES. C’mon.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: only if I’m mad at all y’all.

Infinitely Polar Bear

  • Starring Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana
  • Directed by Maya Forbes

My favorite movie of Day 2. Easily. It’s a film that handles a lead character with bi-polar disorder (Ruffalo, in an incredible performance) and handles it honestly and evenly. It seems over the top in the beginning, but settles in to a well-toned, well-handled piece on a family so far from the idea of the norm, especially in the setting of the late 70s.

At this point, I am struck by the fact that my two favorite movies of the festival (Nightcrawler, Infinitely Polar Bear) come from rookie directors.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: I hope Sony Classics (the distributor) puts a little muscle behind this. If so, high. If not, moderate. Ruffalo should be a dark horse Oscar nom.


  • Starring Fettah Lamara, Thekla Reuten
  • Directed by Jan-Willem van Ewijk

I ended Day 2 with two foreign films, as things needed to be shaken up, especially with Foxcatcher and Wild slated for tomorrow. Atlantic (there is a period at the end for one reason or another), while beautiful to look at, feels like a meditation. Literally. I felt like I could close my eyes and get the same vibe I got from having had them open.

The story centers around a young man (that’s what’s in the description even though he’s tabbed in the movie as being in his early 30s so SUCK IT Mom and Dad) who lives in Morocco and is an incredible windsurfer. Coincidentally enough, so is the director. The young man decides he wants to windsurf over to Europe to chase after a friend’s girlfriend. That’s it.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Low. Unless a hypnotist rents the cinema.

Red Rose

  • Starring Mina Kavani, Vassillis Koukalani
  • Directed by Sepideh Farsi

Go ahead, try and tell me that, out of the 10 films I’d see in the first two days at TIFF, the one with the most sex would be set in Iran. Just try. I still don’t believe you, even though it happened.

Red Rose, an unexpected jewel in an otherwise rough Day 2, details an affair between a 50-year old man and 25-year old woman in Tehran during the protests of 2009, marked by their generational differences especially in respect to the different revolutions each was part of. Cut with cell phone footage from the actual protests, this film is as important as it is good.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Sadly, low. I can’t see this having quite the draw of 2013’s Oscar-winning A Separation.

Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas at the TIFF -or- Ryan Goes to Canada, part 1

Oh, Canada.

Oh, Canada.

Ryan Hill is ArtsQuest’s Programming Manager for Cinema and Comedy.

This year, we sent him to the Toronto International Film Festival to do some recon on the up coming film season.   Below is his journal from the Great White North.

Sent: Sunday, 9/7/2014
From: Ryan Hill
Subject: Toronto International Film Festival – Day 1 for me

It was Day 1 of Year 2 of the Toronto International Film Festival for me. This year, I’ll give daily updates on the films I’ll see – I only have 65,162 to choose from (an unofficial, but well-estimated by the weight of program I’ve been carrying around, number). I’ll also take a stab as to the likelihood that each title would end up at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas sometime in the next year or so, though please understand that it is nothing more than a guess, as there are certain films (Labor Day, Begin Again) that I saw at last year’s festival that I for sure thought would never make it to our screens, whether due to distribution, availability, or quality concerns.

Also, please understand that I have just an Industry Pass to the festival, meaning that they keep me relatively far away from the celebrities, and, instead, mainly in one multiplex where I shuffle back and forth between long lines and packed cinemas. So no, I have not met James Franco. Yet.

I did, however, sit 4 seats away from a producer on Sharknado at the last screening tonight. We were next to each other in line. He threatened to hit me upside the head. And soon after he defended Sharknado 2 as genuinely funny. Long story. But true.

The Riot Club

  • Starring Max Irons, Sam Clafin, Jessica Brown Findlay
  • Directed by Lone Scherfig

The Riot Club, a not-necessarily-new portrait of British class played out in a secret but legendary Oxford club, has 3 distinctly different acts. In the first, you’re led to believe you’re getting a British Dead Poets Society, a belief smashed to pieces (literally) in the second, which includes the 10 of the most nihilistic minutes of film I’ve ever seen. The third, a morose and somewhat clunky combination of the last two, didn’t quite pay it all off for me, but I doubt that’s what Scherfig was going for.

There’s a pivotal supporting role from an actor I’ll just call British Chip Kelly. His character’s defense leaves something to be desired, also.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderate

The crowd prior to Boychoir in the ScotiaBank Theater


  • Starring Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard.
  • Directed by Francois Girard.

The voices are beautiful. Eddie Izzard is funny. Kathy Bates is funnier. Should that be enough for me? Maybe. Boychoir is, in the end, a by-the-book sports movie for those who don’t like sports and prefer their competitions to be duked out over renditions of Handel’s Messiah.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: High


  • Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
  • Directed by Dan Gilroy

I made a last-minute adjustment (literally – I was sitting in another cinema waiting on a different movie to start) to see Nightcrawler solely on some major Twitter buzz, and I wasn’t disappointed. Favorite movie of the day. It’s easy to call it a modern update on Network, so I will. It’s late and I’ve seen 5 movies today.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderate

Elephant Song

  • Starring Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, Catherine Keener
  • Directed by Charles Biname

I wanted so badly to believe that the long mental game being played on-screen and off (the nutty guy has both the lead actor and, therefore, the audience by the balls for 90% of the movie) would pay off. It didn’t. Superbly acted, but miserably directed.

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: I’d have to be desperate.

Black and White

  • Starring Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie
  • Directed by Mike Binder

I didn’t go into this movie expecting to like it. And while I didn’t love it, I definitely didn’t hate it, as I appreciate that the title is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the fact that matters of race are rarely as simple as black and/or white. That I think standup comic turned actor as of late Bill Burr is amazing (he plays a great supporting role as a co-worker, and later legal counsel, of Kevin Costner’s character) helped this a bit. I do acknowledge that this is very white of me.

This all said, someone needs to tell Costner that channeling Christian Bale’s Batman as his vocal choice may not have smart as 98% of the audience will spend the movie thinking “is that Batman?” instead of “how do I let race influence my choices on a day-to-day basis?”

  • Probability of coming to the FBAC: Moderate to high.

Popcorn for your eyes… um… yeah, sure… That’s the headline we’re going to use.

Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
By Jon Lunger, Marketing Manager, ArtsQuest

First things first – thanks for a great Musikfest, everyone! We took a bit of a blogging hiatus during the ‘fest this year, because -well- Musikfest… but now, as Labor Day approaches, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  High-fives all around!

So, where to begin…  how about at the movies?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve quietly been announcing a metaphorical ton of awesome film screenings coming to SteelStacks’ Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas.  So many, in fact, that the legitimate news media even picked up on it!   And rightfully so- we’ve got our very first world premiere screening, Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall flicks, vampires, Indiana Jones, Gremlins and… well, just keep reading below.

NOTE:  this is not a complete list of all the special programming happening at Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas through the end of the year… it’s just what we know as of 8/27 at 3:12pm.





As always, you can find out the latest features we’re screening, buy tickets in advance and all the good stuff at

7 Must-See Artists Playing Musikfest’s Metro Beauty Academy Main St. Stage


That’s right: Another stage, another seven. This time we’re checking out the who’s who coming to the heart of the city of Bethlehem during the ‘fest…  Musikfest’s Metro Beautry Academy Main Street stage! Let’s take a look:

P.S. Click the band’s name to see their website!

1) Skunkmello – 8/1, 8:30-10:30pm


Looking for some good straight rock and blues? Skunkmello can help you out with that. These NYC natives just released a new single, “Stars & Stripes” in June 2014 that channels the roots and soul of the rock n’ roll music world. This particular track really highlights lead singer Matt Bartlett’s thick, raspy, American rock vocals and all the hard beats of drummer Jono Ori. If you’re a fan of bands like the Black Keys, you gotta check these guys out; Their 2nd EP “Lowlife Dreams” was mastered by Grammy Award Winner Brian Lucey – the same dude who worked with none other than the Black Keys themselves.

Revolutionary 360, an arts and entertainment webzine, couldn’t help but rant and rave about these guys. R360 blogger,Jamez Kirby, deems them to be amongst some of rock n’ roll’s greatest: If you are too young to recall the birth of prog-rock (Nazareth, Floyd, Zappa, Zeppelin) but are curious to see what the hype is all about, you can find nearly every reference to its development within Skunkmello.” Kirby also makes a point to note the strong Reggae vibes that Skunkmello flawlessly mixes into their hard rock guitar work. These funky Reggae undertones are particularly strong in the video below. Have a look!

2) Tall Tall Trees – 8/2, 8:30-10:30pm


This is the story of one very talented man and his banjo. And every one should start flipping through the pages. That’s right, Tall Tall Trees is a solo artist act lead by the one and only Mike Savino. This is an impressive guy. He took the initiative to create his own start-up label and has already completed two awesome records. He is no ordinary indie-folk act for his loyal cult following has even developed nicknames for him that range from “space banjo” or “banjotron.” The reason I’m guessing is because his banjo work is out-of-this-world impressive. Any folk lover is bound to put his singles “Waiting on the Day” and “Highwire” on repeat.

3) Wild Adriatic – 8/3, 8:30-10pm


These SXSW-vets just came out with their debut album, “Big Suspicious”, this past January. But to be honest, it sounds like they’ve been doing this for a while. Wild Adriatic is straight from Saratoga Springs, NY, and they are an American-rock n’ soul group with funky undertones and bluesy grooves. And for just coming out with their first record, these guys are receiving some early recognition and praise. Rolling Stone featured their track “Woe” as one of their Daily Downloads and USA Today deemed their song “Mess Around” a “rock n’ soul stomper”. And rightfully so. Both songs rock.

4) Midnight Spin – 8/4, 8:30-10pm


You know what I like most about these guys? They often say that in a world where electronic music is becoming more and more prominent and progressively becoming the majority their main goal is to keep guitar based music alive. To keep rock alive. Like okay, right on, Midnight Spin. Take a listen to their song “Cochis Bliss” and you’ll be reminded of bands like the Foo Fighters mixed with the early Killers mixed with Weezer mixed with The Strokes. It’s a solid mix of influences. And it’s awesome. Plus their album, “Don’t Let Me Sleep” has just recently been awarded an Independent Music Award for Rock Album of the Year. Nice! Check out a song for said album below!

5) Chronic Wolf – 8/7, 8:30-10pm


For our fifth band, here’s a group that fits right into this general rock n’ roll theme we have going. These guys got together in Perksaie, PA  and found their musical passion resides primarily in blues rock (and in my opinion, mixed with a hint of indie). Listen to any one of their songs -may I suggest “Those 11″ or “Affection” – and you’ll be able to catch some edginess mixed with a grooving flair. They’re super funky, channeling into the blues side of the genre. For a better idea of their sound, just think of some of the bands that Chronic Wolf deems some of their most powerful influences: Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Black Keys. Check out the video below and you’ll pick up on what I’m putting down, trust me.

6) Nick D’ & The Believers – 8/9, 8:30-10:30pm

nick d' & the believers

I know I said we had a general rock n’ roll theme going for this blog post. But here’s where it stops. And in the best of ways, don’t fret! I gotta say, when I took a listen to Nick D’ & The Believers, I was super pumped to have found them. They remind me entirely of some of my favorite bands including Passion Pit, MGMT and Churches. Driven by the sounds and beats of the synthesizer, this band is onto something. They’re like this cool, hipster, electro-pop/rock act that you hear more and more on radio stations like Radio 104.5. As in, I could completely picture these guys hitting the big time and playing at one of Radio 104.5’s summer block party concerts in Philly. They’d fit right into that whole vibe. Now I know I said they’re like electro-pop/rock but the band themselves deem their genre as “garage soul”. I mean that’s pretty cool (and not that I actually know what that means but I can take a guess their hinting at the gritty undertones and soulful rhythms found in some of their songs.) Speaking of their songs, be sure to check out “Find A Little Love” from their EP “Throwing Stones” and their newly released single “Bang Bang” (below!).

7) Stone Cold Fox – 8/10, 5:30-6:30pm & 7:00-8:00pm


Calling all fans of Cold War Kids, Walk the Moon and New Politics because Stone Cold Foxes are right up your alley. They have a sound that channels rock, indie, punk and eletectro-pop among other genres. They mix the genres to a perfect combination or as they like to call it, “blending the old and the new”.  Which is true: they continue to hold a strong grip to their American roots while bringing in the newly popular electro beats of today’s music world. They just recently debut their LP “Memory Palace” in May 2014 and it is jam-packed with some upbeat tracks. One of my favorites, “Seventeen”, is posted in the video below which has already gotten close to 22,000 plays on SoundCloud. The song is catchy and fun and it is this one in particular that reminds of the indie-rock songs from bands like Cold War Kids and the early Killers and Grouplove. Be sure to check it out!

Another round of must-sees is a wrap! More to come on Musikfest bands and information. Check out the rest of the Metro Beauty Academy Main St. lineup (and the entire Musikfest lineup) at And get caught up to date with our previous must-see platz picks:


MF Map Highlight Metro Beauty Main St

7 must-see artists playing Musikfest’s Red Stag Pub Liederplatz


By Bob Gallagher, ArtsQuest Intern

Red Stag Pub Liederplatz is tucked away in the beautiful Sun Inn Courtyard, right off the hustle and bustle of Main Street.  The musical lineup features everything from folk and Celtic to Americana and rock. Here’s just 7 of the amazing performers coming to play at the Red Stag Pub Liederplatz this Musikfest.


1) Anna Rose – 8/1, 8pm

Anna Rose

Music runs in this girl’s blood.  Her dad, Alan Menken, is an award-winning composer who wrote the scores for just about every Disney movie of the last 10 years including “Tangled,” “Enchanted,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”  That being said, Anna is not your typical Disney princess. Her latest album “Behold a Pale Horse” takes its name from the book of the Apocalypse and several of her songs deal with the inevitability of death. You know what; I take that back about Disney princesses. Anna would make a great Elsa.


2) Seamus Kennedy – 8/5, 5pm | 8/6, 1:30pm

Seamus Kennedy

This is one crazy Irishman. My parents bought a Seamus Kennedy CD when I was 6 years old, and it was an instant family favorite. Even though the CD broke 15 years ago I still remember all the songs. We would put the CD on repeat for road trips until my parents couldn’t take it anymore. Kennedy has some of the funniest original songs I’ve ever heard, and his stage routine and wit is incredible. He is a master of the more solemn Irish ballads as well, although his rendition of Danny Boy is less than reverent.


3) The Badlees – 8/4, 7pm

The Badlees

The Badlees are one of many bands with origins in local Pennsylvania that went on to the big time. What started out as three Mansfield University students meeting in music class developed into a band with several national top 40 hits and album sales in the hundreds of thousands. Their first big album “River Songs” was inspired by the daily commute along the Susquehanna River to their recording studio in Harrisburg. These guys definitely qualify as hometown heroes.


4) Solas  – 8/5, 9pm


Much of the Irish-American band Solas’ music dedicated to telling the story of immigrants who came to America seeking a better life.  Never afraid to use their music for social commentary, “Pastures of Plenty” and “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” are part of their core repertoire, and they’ve covered some of the more politically “controversial” songs by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Josh Ritter.


5) Paleface – 8/9, 9pm


Paleface is a legend. This folk hero has been claimed as an influence and inspiration by everyone from The Avett Brothers to Beck. He now tours with his drummer-turned-girlfriend “Mo” Samalot, and sees huge fan turnouts wherever he goes. Paleface took up painting several years ago, and unlike fellow painters Sylvester Stallone and George W. Bush, is actually considered not terrible at this second calling.


6) The Revival – 8/8, 7pm

The Revival

These guys don’t have too much in common with Creedence Clearwater. For one thing, the band’s originally from Winnipeg, Canad-eh. But despite their country of origin (which isn’t really their fault), The Revival has built a cult-following in the States with the same almost-overnight speed that rocketed CCR to fame. Growing out of the underground party scene, the band hits on the perfect mix of classic-rock riffs, reggae, and modern EDM.



 EDITORS NOTE:  I picked/wrote #7 because I haven’t written anything in a while and was feeling left out. – Jon Lunger, Marketing Manager, ArtsQuest

7) The Defibulators – 8/6, 9pm

The Defibulators

Their official band bio is pretty accurate with its assessment that The Defibulators can be “described alternately as ‘Hee-Haw on mescaline’ and ‘CBGB-meets-Grand Ole Opry.'”  Nothing I write here is going to do them more justice than that.  With that in mind, I am going to continue to write about them in what I’ve just established as a fool’s errand.

I love that Americana traditions are finding their way back into our collective pop culture consciousness.  Some purists might say it’s a fad, but to them I say hogwash!  Hogwash!  Even if that may be the case, self-absorbed music snob, just chill the heck out and enjoy the glory that is a Defibulators frenetic, rock-fueled hoedown.


That’s it for now!   Check out the rest of the Red Stag Pub Liederplatz lineup (and the entire Musikfest lineup) at  And get caught up to date with our previous must-see platz picks:


MF Map Highlight Liederplatz