Montreal, 2007

Convinced my friend Chris to join me on a weekend road trip to Montreal to take in as many movies as possible at the Fantasia movie festival.

Fri Jul 6, 2007

I decided to work from home to save the time taken getting to and from my office. Everything was going well until about 1pm, when a co-worker emailed me about a problem with the web site. A long gone support guy had rewritten the scripts that I'd taken over, and they were gone after the server migration. Another admin dug them up, but we went back and forth a few times trying to debug them (wrong paths, missing perl modules). I got more and more stressed out as 2pm and my pick up time approached, and finally emailed the admin my cell phone number. Chris arrived, and I packed my stuff into the car, and did one last check on my email - nothing. So, deep breath, and let it go, no call on the cell so it must not have been that urgent. We went up 16 toward 93, stopping for gas on Broadway, and then diving into a minor traffic jam. It kept moving, slowly, and cleared out once we got past the tolls in NH (scrambling a bit for quarters, as I'd cleaned out my US cash to lighten my wallet for the trip to Canada). Minor panic as I realised that I didn't have a map (totally forgot that I had foldable ones, just knew that the book was in Cris's car at work), just the cryptic notation "93 to 91". We stopped at a rest area in NH and realised that 89 forked off well before to join up with 91, before 93 hit it in Vermont, so we were fine. We were bombarded by two heavy rain storms, but drove through them in about 10 minutes each as we skirted the edge of the White Mountains. Through Franconia park, slowing down on the short 2 lane section, and then a clear shot to the border. The crossing was ridiculously easy, no cars in front of us, one in the other lane, and a minimal grilling. Then the quick jog up 55 and 10 over the 100+km to Montreal. The sun came out from behind the rain clouds as it was setting, and I took some pictures of the rays with Chris's camera.

Our hotel, the Maritime Plaza, was only two blocks from the BNB I've stayed in before, so finding it was a breeze. We actually went past it on Guy up to De Maisonneuve to Concordia to see if we could get our tickets (it was literally 8:05 as I ran up the escalator toward the box office, which was supposed to close at 8), luckily it was still open, and a line formed behind me as I presented my credit card and got the printed tickets. For a loonie, she let me trade in my extra short features ticket for Arch Angels at noon the next day. I scurried back to Chris's parking spot on Guy, and declared victory. We circled back down to the hotel, pulled up in front, unloaded, checked in, dropped stuff in the room, and then went out again to find street parking, electing to not pay the $15/night for the hotel garage. Found a spot down on St. Antoine and walked back up to Rene Levesque where we popped into the Maharaja Buffet for a quick meal. The food was plentiful and decent, though the melon sangria wasn't really to my taste (cloyingly sweet). Chris paid for me to offset the tickets I'd bought for him, and we went back to the room to unpack, clean up a bit, and then headed back to Concordia to join the line for the 11:20pm showing of Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane. I stopped in at the Second Cup to get a chai at one point, as I was fading. We chatted a bit with the guy in front of us, who looked vaguely familiar from previous festivals, and he gave us a translation guide for the reviews in the program that were written by Mitch: if it includes "beautiful" bring a barf bag, if "beautiful beautiful" it's probably been banned in several countries. :) The wait stretched out longer and longer, the line compressing every so often but not actually moving, and by the time we were in the theatre, it was over half an hour late. I hadn't seen Snakes on a Plane, so I had nothing to compare it to, but Chris said that this was done much better. It was honestly my favourite movie of the weekend, starting on a high note. :) They start off on the plane, establishing characters, and showing the cargo box (guarded by a man with a machine gun) that soon breaks loose due to turbulence. The contents are a scientist who's been infected with a virus that revivifies dead organs indefinitely, and things would be fine but for that she gets shot and goes all zombiefied. The gun man bites it, and then of course the scientists have to go down to see what's wrong, and the survivor totally negects to seal the hatches behind himself. Gore ensues, with a filip of romance between a cop escorting a con and a flight attendant. A golfer gets to use his putter for good, personal sacrifices are made, and the lying cheating assholes bite it but good. At one point a nun is rocking and praying in her seat as zombies run back and forth down the aisles, chasing screaming passengers. It was neat to see some of the guts of a long haul airplane, but I'll be nervous using a bathroom on a plane from now on. :)

By the time we got out and back to the hotel, it was 2am, and we scuttled our tentative plans to go out to a club that night (it was our backup plan if the box office was closed and we couldn't get our "Flight" tickets). I'd picked up a bottle of water at the Pharmaprix around the corner and hydrated a bit after taking a hot shower and before lying down to sleep. Unfortunately, my roomie snored for a bit, I had to wake him up once, and then sandwiched my ears between two pillows for a semi-restless night of sleep. The chai also kicked in and kept me staring at the ceiling for a while as well. We were right across from the elevators as well, so once a group woke me up as they talked loudly in front of them. I didn't dream about zombies, just that the wall next to my bed was falling on me.

Sat Jul 7, 2007

Woke up at around 10am, and headed out to find breakfast. We were aiming for a place that the clerk at the hotel mentioned, but ran out of steam when we hit Ruben's on Ste. Catherine. Turned out to be a good choice, a deli that did a kick ass breakfast. Lipton's earl grey tea was enough to kick start my brain. I had really good pancakes smothered in a mixture of preserved and fresh strawberries. It was late enough when we finished to head back to Concordia, and Chris read the synopsis for and bought a ticket to the noon showing of Arch Angels and then we joined the line up. He'd picked up a program as well, so he read through a lot of the other movie descriptions and kept us entertained. We found Rachel and Kingsly and Gabe in the line and stuck with them for the wait, settling on a bench near the line up. This one went in on time, a nice surprise. The premise was that three rebels at a Japanese boarding school developed super powers and had to solve the abductions among rich families. Throw in dealing with cliques of rich girls, teasing friends, "low class" chicken ramen, white gothic lolita outfits, and a sinister Italian nun and it made for a fun romp. The CGI dog was a bit out of place, but every so often the girls would turn into partial CGI cats, so it sort of evened out in terms of oddities. :) Not quite consistent all the way through, the scenes with Fumio's brother and his girlfriend were a serious break in the fun. I enjoyed it, though.

We had over an hour before the next movie at 3pm, so we all trooped down to Mad Hatter's on Crescent. We got a long table up on the patio, under a sun shade (since despite dire warnings of heavy rain, it was still mostly sunny), and I ordered us a pitcher of sangria, and Chris and I split an order of fries. The sangria was perfect, just what I'd been craving. The fries were really good too, skin on the ends, and seasoned with sea salt and rosemary and thyme I think. R&K shared Nachos, A shared our sangria as well. Then it was time to head back, this time to a different line up for the theatre in the basement, newly added to the venue line up this year. Turned out we were the first in there, as a quick french intro let us know. They also did a quick contest to win t-shirts, people winning for having bought 50 movie tickets for the festival, having gone to the first one, trivia, and just getting their hands up first. Then the lights dimmed, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society started to roll. This was the ticket that I'd nabbed first, determined to catch this showing. It was very much what I was expecting: beautiful animation, convoluted plot, and subtitles that went by way too fast. :) Togusa and Batou are trying to track down the Puppeteer, who seems to be causing terrorist agents to commit suicide by hacking their cyber brains. The major is involved somehow and Section 9 has to figure things out with the hinderance of the Mayor who wants things hushed up as an important bill is in debate. Throw in 20,000 missing kids and a conspiracy surrounding the elderly nursing system and I'm still not 100% sure what was behind it all. :) Definitely worth seeing, though!

Chris had grabbed a ticket to "Yellow Fellas" that they were handing out free as we went into our movie but the line up for that was insane, but we opted to stick with the break before our 6:45 movie, and Amanda and Chris and I went searching for sushi. We ended up at Sushi Stop, a newish chain of fast food restaurant. Which didn't turn out to be all that fast, as we ordered from the menu rather than taking already prepared stuff. I had the smoky roll, smoked makerel and avocado and tempura bits, quite good. Chris and Amanda had more, but I wasn't horribly hungry. I ran back to the hotel to change into jeans from the shorts I'd been wearing, as it was getting a bit cooler. I grabbed my rain coat just in case, but the sky was still sun and cloud mixed. Back yet again to the line up outside Concordia, and they'd let people into The Banquet earlier than I expected, but Chris found me and guided me to where Amanda was sitting. Mmm, lush sets and costumes, inspiration from the plot of Hamlet, and Ziyi Zhang playing the young empress who was in love with the prince but was married to his father and then his uncle. Assassination plots abound, the full face helmets on the Imperial Guards make them really sinister. The prince retreated to a dance and theatre company who all performed masked, and the masks are used to hide identities and emotions. Xun Zhou as Qing was wonderful, purely in love with the Prince and taking the brunt of the Empress's jealousy. I found it very reminiscent of "The Curse of the Golden Flower", familial drama at the highest levels of the court, with lots of sword fights. :) It was a bit slow in places, but gorgeous overall with impressively huge sets. The ending was a let down though, leaving something important unresolved. The woman next to me kept covering her eyes at the violet bits, but the only part that really bugged me was the scene where an official is beaten to death. :/ The emperor came off as fairly sympathetic, while the empress was clearly going insane. Ziyi Zhang had one sword fight in her bath gown that made wonderful use of the fabric. The masked helmet of the old emperor would bleed from the eyes when his ghost was upset, a nicely sinister touch.

This break before our 11:45 movie was used up by waiting in line for a chai at the Second Cup right across from the movie building, and then walking down to the car and taking a drive up over Mont Royale. We were turned around a bit due to no left turn intersections, but made it up eventually. Amanda's plan to direct us to a look out was thwarted by cops turning people away. We finally figured out that there was a fire works display and that's why so many people were at the look outs. I caught one burst as we made our way back downtown, but we were generally thwarted. Parked the car again, and again stopped in Second Cup so Chris could get a chai and I got a scone. Amanda headed home and Chris and I lined up outside the smaller theatre, J. A. de Seve, in the other building. "Adams Apples" was late getting out and they had a Q&A after it, so we were sitting for a while, trying to stay awake, and keeping our place near the front of the line. They finally let us in for Ten Nights of Dreams. It was a series of 10 short films based on stories by Soseki Natsume, a Meiji era writer. This was on my schedule because of a segement done by Yoshitaka Amano, which turned out to be a 2D+3D animated segment about a dream featureing Vampire Hunter D (thought the voice was way off from the dubbing I've heard previously, very stilted). The 3D character animation was weak, but the fantasy ship and especailly the goldfish were breathtaking. There was a nightmare scenario that had me covering my eyes, and a creepy child one that was disturbing, but in general it was really enjoyable. Dream logic seemed consistent, and the offerings were varied enough to keep my interest. The early chai helped keep me awake too, which was good, as we got out close to 2am. I grabbed a towel from the front desk (they only gave us one when they cleaned the room) and went on a search for water (the Pharmaprix wasn't actually a 24 hour one, it had closed at 11) in the hotel vending machines - no love, empty slots and the higher floors didn't even have water in them. Drank some tap water to re-hydrate, and took a shower and then had a good night's sleep.

Sun Jul 8, 2007

Woke up at 10:20 and quietly changed and packed, trying not to wake Chris up. We were up and checked out at around 11:15 or so, and carried our stuff down to the car, then headed down to Notre Dame to walk to the restaurant where we were to meet people for brunch, Qui d'un Oeuf at Atwater. It was again warm and sunny, I was regretting wearing jeans (decision based on the weather channel temp) as we didn't have much shade on our walk. Went past a lot of antique shops. We got to the restaurant at around 12:10, called Amanda to get her ETA, assured it was 20 mins, so we got in line for a table. Got seated and fobbed off the waiter after I got my tea, until 12:50 or so when we gave in and ordered (I'd had a luna bar but was about to tip over from hunger). Amanda and Rachel arrived as our food did (I had a spinach omlette where they didn't trim the stems very well from the greens, but the toast and fruit were wonderful, plus I splurged on a glad of fresh grapefruit juice), but they were able to order and eat fairly quickly and finished soon after I did. I split off from them to walk back, Chris was going to go shopping and I just wanted some down time by myself before heading back into a theatre. I walked up Atwater to St. Antione and back across to Guy, I popped my head into a kitchen supply house but resisted the lure of sales on Le Crueset casserol dishes and Global knifes. I wanted to get a tea, but the shop on Bishop was still closed, so I went into Liquid Nutrition and got an acai and strawberry smoothie and sipped it in the movie line. I was back in the new theatre, and they let us in on time, and I was able to sneak my cup past the staff (no drinks allowed). I sipped from it during dark segments of Courts-métrages québécoi1. Only one movie had English subtitles, but I was able to follow them fairly well, and quite a few had no words at all. "Comme neige au sommeil" continued the dream theme, a pj clad man wandering around wearing snow shoes in summer - pretty funny in spots. "Deaddolls" was quite disturbing, a young child's voice narrated a short clip about a puppet hunter killing living dolls in a post apocalyptic city. "L'ecouteur" was disturbing due to the obsession and detachment of the lead character (who never said a word) - he listens to a fight in the apartment next door, and doesn't help the police solve the crime. "Möbius" was a pretty high budget sci fi flick (using lots of modern style props that I've seen in stores - I liked the wall mounted light disks), but the acting was a bit stiff and the story thin. "Nightwatch" was about a security guard at a dark factory who sees something on one of the monitors and goes to check it out. Great lighting and sound design on this one, it was pretty scary. "Passe sous silence" was tightly shot, following a young man who is attacked, kills his attacker, finds everyone in his dorm/apartment dead - except for the ones still killing someone, and a young woman who defended herself with a shard of glass. They try to escape the building, and the film highlights what people will do for survival, as well as how we take comfort in others. I don't think there was any dialogue in this one either, the actors did a great job of conveying fear and confusion and connections. "Scène primitive" was just barely my favourite ("Nightwatch" won that I think). 2d animation, side scrolling slowly across a desolate plane showing eggs, the multiples of a suited man who hatches from them all, the huge birds who attack the figures, the zepplins that the figures climb up to (pushing each other off the ladders), and the aerial battle that follows. No words, but it was really neat seeing how the elements (many scaled replicas of the figures) interwove and progressed.

They offered to let us stay for free for the next movie but it was time to get going. I did get a free program + dvd as I left the theatre, though. I gave Chris a call and found that he was at the Second Cup we'd agreed to meet at, so I headed that way and ran into him on the corner. Back to the car, stowed our stuff, and began the quest for bagels. The street map came in handy, I got us up to Parc and we stopped just before Fairmont. We walked across to the bagel place, Chris got some while I waited on the bench outside (still sunny!). We then backtracked and went up a long block to St. Viature bakery for me to get my half dozen sesame bagels (I'd used up my cash on my smoothie, was kicking myself for not realising that, I wanted to get a full dozen or more). We also stopped at a convenience store on the way back to get snacks for the road (water, apple, juice, grapes). Back to the car, and sucessfully navigated us back to 720 west and onto highway 10. We ended up retracing our steps from the trip up, despite a quick debate on going the alternate way. There was a backup at the border, though, and with a short stop in the duty free to use the washroom, we eased back into the line where we'd left it, but it took us 45 mins to get up to the gate. Once there, they had Chris pop the trunk, but didn't grill us at all (maybe due to changover of the guard). Free and clear, we accelerated onto 91, headed home. The weather was clear (at least the sky was, we saw lots of low lying mist in the mountains) and we made good time. I played stuff off my mp3 player and the Alphamatrix "F*ck the Mainstream" collection of CDs that I'd brought and we chatted (read: had long involved discussions). I requested a rest stop about half way through NH, but one gas station was closed up tight, and we missed the rest stop, but finally found an exit in Concord that lead to an open gas station. Grabbed some trail mix to supplement the bagels and fruit and continued on, hitting Boston just at midnight. I unpacked enough to realise that I'd left my toiletry kit in Chris' trunk, but was thankful that only the brush was unique and I had enough of everything else to get ready for bed, and shower.

6 movies in 3 days, with not a dud among them, it was a great trip overall. :)

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