Feature Blogs

Who Is Matthew Toomey?


USA: Here I Come


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was off to the Toronto Film Festival in September.  The pieces are slowly fitting into place and I’ll now be away from August 31 to September 26 taking in New York, Washington DC, Toronto, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.


Accommodation has been booked in Toronto just 750m from the TIFF Bell Lightbox (the new cinema complex that hosts the Toronto Film Festival) and I can’t wait until they release the program in late July.  English language films that screened in Toronto last year included 127 Hours, Hereafter, Black Swan, Barney’s Version, The King’s Speech, The Town, Another Year, Blue Valentine, Buried, Easy A, Let Me In, Made In Dagenham, Never Let Me Go, Rabbit Hole, Tamara Drewe and Inside Job.


I’m currently sorting out accommodation for the other legs of my journey and it should be one exciting trip!  I’ll keep you posted.


Who Is Matthew Toomey?


A fellow film blogger in Sydney, Mat Whitehead, kindly offered to do a Q&A with myself to see what worldly wisdom I could pass on to himself and others.  I’m usually the one asking the questions so it was a fun opportunity to be on the other side of the interview.


Mat has a knack for writing some hilariously scathing reviews.  As an example, I provide a link to his review of Your Highness (see here) – a film that deserved the criticism.


Make sure to add Mat to your internet favourites or you can follow him on Twitter at @matwhi.


Now, let’s get the attention back on me! :)


We did the interview a few weeks ago and you check it out on his blog by clicking here.  You can also read it below.  I hope I haven’t revealed too much about my self.  Enjoy!



Let’s start with a really obnoxious question- on your blog www.thefilmpie.com, you’ve reviewed over 3,000 movies. What would you say is your all-time favorite, and why?


How is that an obnoxious question?  It just gives me free reign to talk about Billy Elliot.


I love asking people this question myself because I’m often surprised by the answer.  The fact that we all have different favourites says a lot about the filmmaking.  It is most definitely an art form and every once in a while, a film touches us (hopefully not literally) in a way we won’t expect.


So yes, Billy Elliot is my all time favourite film.  I saw it back in 2000 and loved it so much that I went back 4 more times to see it in cinemas.  It’s just a beautifully told story about a simple kid with a dream to make something more of himself.


The fact that it’s grown to become one of the world’s most admired musicals (winning the Tony Award in 2009) validates my appreciation for the story.  I was lucky enough to see the musical in London with its original cast in 2005 and it was amazing!


Do you have a least favorite that instantly springs to mind?


The easiest reviews to write are those for films that I really love and for those that I really hate.  I can sit at my computer and let my heated emotions do the typing.


Since 1996, I’ve always pulled together a list of my top 10 and bottom 10 films for the year.   It’s a great way of encapsulating the year of cinema and honouring / trashing those films that truly deserve it.


There was a film I saw in 2006 called A Sound Of Thunder that starred Ed Burns and Ben Kingsley.  In my review I described it as “the worst film I’ve seen in ten years on the big screen.”  It’s a shame the studio didn’t use that quote on the poster.  They might have sold more tickets purely for the curiosity factor.


It was a fun experience though.  So bad were the dialogue, story, acting and special effects that the audience was laughing openly during the final 20 minutes.  Ed Wood would have been proud.


Have you always been a film fanatic?


Nope.  I hardly watched any movies during high school and it wasn’t until I landed a job in a video store at the age of 17 that my fanaticism began.  I actually spent the first year at the store working with Darren Hayes (ex Savage Garden).  I remember Darren letting me listen to his first single, “I Want You”.  I told him it was pretty good even though I knew nothing about music.  A few weeks later, his music career took off and gone were his days at Rainbow Video Kedron.


A month after I started working at the store, I entered a pick the Oscars contest in Who Weekly (it was a friend’s copy, I swear).   I picked 10 out of 10 (from Restoration for costume design to Braveheart for best picture) and won a year’s worth of free movies.  I guess that’s where things really took off.  I’d made more than 150 trips to the cinemas that year and my wallet was none the wiser.


Has there ever been a time where you’ve watched a movie, and can’t make up your mind if you love it or loathe it?


Not too often.   There have been plenty of times when I’ve watched a movie and gone “meh” and then appreciated it much more a second or third time.  I have a policy never to change my original grading on my website however.  So for anyone who is reading, please ignore my reviews for The Big Lebowski, Office Space, Boogie Nights and Fight Club on my website.  Those films are awesome!


One of the best pieces of advice I can give as a critic is to see movies with friends / colleagues and then talk about them afterwards.  It’s a great way to collect your own thoughts whilst opening your mind to other perspectives.  If I’d done that with a few of the abovementioned films, perhaps I would have gained a quicker appreciation for their brilliance.


I honestly can’t think of a time where we’ve ever disagreed on a film – which begs the question, and it’s an important question – have you ever seen Under The Tuscan Sun, and if so how much do you love it?


I understand the importance of this question.  You watch that film on a far too regular basis!  That said, I admit that it’s pretty good.  The credit must go to (1) Diane Lane for being one of the world’s most amazing actresses, and (2) Italy for being one of the world’s most beautiful countries.  How could anything go wrong with that combination?


On the topic of guilty-pleasure movies, do you have one movie that you love even though you know you shouldn’t?


When it appeared the rapture would take my soul a few weeks ago, I confessed on Twitter to having a soft spot for Meet Joe Black.  It prompted one follower (the always amusing @petertaggart) to respond with “you should’ve taken that to the grave” so I’m going to assume I’m in the minority with this one.


I really liked it.  The idea of a rich guy finding out he has a few days left to live tugged at my curiosity.  How would you spend the time?  What loose ends would you tie up?  The fact that Death looks like Brad Pitt and falls in love with the rich guy’s daughter is a bit of stretch but what can I say.  The heart wants what the heart wants.


Is there something you look for in films, or something that really makes you appreciate a film more than others? How does a film gain your seal of approval?


It becomes harder and harder each year but originality is what I look for most in a movie.  When you see over 200 films a year, you get tired of the same stuff over and over.  It’s like being forced to eat at McDonalds every day for a month (Super Size Me style) – you’re being provided with sustenance but your stomach will eventually crave something different.

The sad reality is that big studios are taking fewer and fewer chances.  They rely on sequels, remakes and comic book adaptations.  My favourite film of 2010 was Inception and I loved the audacity of director Christopher Nolan to risk $160m on a movie that, god forbid, would challenge the audience.  I was glad to see it rewarded with a huge box-office return and 4 Academy Awards.


If you could change one thing about the film industry – what would it be?


I touched on it with the last question but I can’t believe how powerful studios have become with their marketing campaigns.  Even if a film is awful, they can sucker people into seeing it on opening weekend thanks to an endless barrage of movie trailers, television advertisement, bus station ads, magazine covers and celebrity interviews.


This makes it very hard for the smaller films to compete, which are often just as good if not better.  I try to promote any worthy film but it’s sad to see the box-office takings for the weekend and find out that a decent new Aussie flick got slaughtered by the 15th sequel in a seemingly endless franchise.


I can’t offer any workable solution to this problem but I wish there was a way for smaller movies to get their deserved share of the market through better promotion and advertising.  If anyone has an answer, please let me know!


The Australian film industry has had its ups and downs recently. Do you think there is a need for films that conform to an ‘Australian cinema’?


Not at all.  Diversity is important within any film industry and I hope Australia continues to make a wide range of movies going forward.


As we’ve seen over the past two years, the Aussie public is willing to get behind many different kinds of films – Tomorrow When The War Began, Animal Kingdom, Mao’s Last Dancer, Bran Nue Dae and Samson & Delilah.


My point is that people don’t worry that much about the genre or style.  Rather, people care about whether it’s any good.  We’re always going to make a few bad films (as any country would) but if financiers know how to spot a good script, the industry should thrive.


Finally – Is there a upcoming film you’re particularly excited for?


I’m heading off to the Toronto Film Festival for the first time in September and can’t wait for that.  It’s my favourite festival to follow and it’ll be cool to see many of the Oscar contenders before everyone else.  I’ll hopefully be able to nab some interviews too.


My favourite director is Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) and I hear he’s working on a new film called The Master with Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It’s not due for release until 2013 but just thinking about those three working together is exciting.


Thinking more short term… I’m looking forward to Super 8, Bridesmaids and The Tree Of Life.  They all look to be offering something a little different and hopefully they’ll deliver!