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TIFF Next Wave Celebrates Teenage Classics

February 14, 2014

By John Corrado

TIFF Next WaveThe TIFF Next Wave film festival is happening this weekend, a celebration of old and new high school movies, all programmed by a group of teenagers.  This year the lineup includes ten new films and five classics, as well as screenings of all the shorts that were submitted as part of last weekend’s 24 Hour Film Challenge.

Things kick off tonight with Battle of the Scores, where six high school bands are set to perform their own compositions alongside an original short film.  But things really get going on Saturday afternoon with an epic marathon of five coming of age classics, a lineup that includes four of my favourite modern high school films, and a sharp comedy that is shockingly celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.  Among the films premiering this weekend is the charming A Birder’s Guide to Everything, which was the runner up for the Audience Award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Below are my thoughts on all five films playing as part of the Teen Rebels Movie Marathon and a brief review of A Birder’s Guide to Everything, which opens in theatres this April.  I hope young film lovers across the city will unite this weekend for TIFF Next Wave, and you can find more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here, which are free for high school students.  Enjoy!

Juno: Pregnant by her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), wise beyond her years teenager Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) makes the choice to give the child up for adoption.  Enter Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) who is anxiously awaiting becoming a mother, and her husband Mark (Jason Bateman) who never moved past his teenage years.  With an Oscar-winning screenplay by Diablo Cody, Juno is a pitch perfect dramedy from director Jason Reitman, an entertaining and deeply touching film that remains one of my personal favourites.  I’ve made no secret of my love for this one over the years, but what many don’t know is that I would also credit the 2007 film with inspiring me to become a writer, and I hope this screening of Juno reaches a whole new group of fans.

Saturday, February 15th – 2:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: When Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) becomes infatuated with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he is tasked with defeating her seven evil exes before they can start a relationship.  Directed by the genius Edgar Wright and filmed around iconic locations in Toronto, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an absolute blast, a hilarious and highly stylized adaptation of the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley that was among the most entertaining movies of 2010.  I first saw the film with a wildly appreciative Toronto audience a few years back, and I’m sure the TIFF Next Wave crowd will have an equally raucous reaction.

Saturday, February 15th – 4:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Mean Girls: Entering high school after being homeschooled all her life in Africa, Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) finds herself observing a different kind of social order when she joins a group of popular girls led by the backstabbing Regina George (Rachel McAdams).  The biting screenplay by Tina Fey sheds light on teenage bullying, and the messages presented in the last act feel just as important now as they did in 2004.  It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the initial release of Mean Girls, but the film stills holds up as a sharply observed and often very funny satire of high school politics, that is proving invaluable with a whole new generation of teens.

Saturday, February 15th – 7:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Rushmore: Director Wes Anderson’s second movie, Rushmore is an instantly memorable and incredibly detailed coming of age film.  Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is an overachieving high schooler, but his world is turned upside down when he is put on academic probation, developing a crush on elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) and befriending wealthy industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray).  Max Fischer is one of the most iconic high school characters of all time, and Rushmore is a great film filled with humour and heartache, that has deservedly gained classic status since first being releasing in 1998.

Saturday, February 15th – 9:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Donnie Darko: The first genuine cult classic of the last decade, Richard Kelly’s 2001 directorial debut Donnie Darko is a film that defies easy categorization, but immediately cements itself as part of your consciousness.  When a plane engine mysteriously crashes into his bedroom, depressed teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is told that his world will end in under a month, a prophecy revealed through bizarre visions of a demonic rabbit, leading him to commit a series of crimes with bigger ramifications.  With a perfect soundtrack and an ingenious ending that reinvents our interpretation of the entire movie, Donnie Darko is a brilliant and unforgettable film, both a fascinating science fiction story and a haunting metaphor for mental illness, carried by a stunning performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

Saturday, February 15th – 11:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

A Birder’s Guide to Everything: When young birder David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spots what could be the extinct Labrador Duck, he takes a road trip with his buddies Timmy (Alex Wolff) and Peter (Michael Chen), along with their photographer classmate Ellen (Katie Chang), to try and prove their claim.  But David’s father (James Le Gros) is getting remarried the next day, and the trip becomes a bonding experience for the group of relatable teenaged friends.  Although the story takes a few bumpy turns along the way, there are plenty of charming scenes in director Rob Meyer’s nicely written A Birder’s Guide to Everything.  The young cast has an easy chemistry together led by a solid performance from the talented Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Ben Kingsley makes a nice addition to the cast as a veteran birder.

Sunday, February 16th – 4:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

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