Another year, another festival in the bag. My second year at TIFF, I saw 16 films within the 11 days, and I’ve been trying to beat that record ever since. 3 years later, I beat it with 21 films. So let’s get this over with and have TIFF finally be over because this writer is exhausted.
The films will be written in order that I’ve seen them.
Full review here.
I went blind into this film, no background information. No trailer, and I really enjoyed the period piece that Knightley is so good at.
Birds of Passage
Full review here.
The team behind Embrace of the Serpent is back with a 5-act Shakespearean rise-and-fall. It’s authentic, spiritual, and also very wonderful.
Full review here.
What a fucking war cry of a film. Sam Levinson started writing this film right before his wife gave birth and it makes total sense. He is angry and scared at our culture right now, and he’s aware of how much that women, and specifically, teenage women have to suffer through. And how fucking strong they can be. I saw this at a 9am press screening the week before the festival, and I wish I saw it during the Midnight Madness premiere. But you can bet, you can find me at the theatres this Friday watching it when it’s released officially.
Ben is Back
The first three films were watched before the festival at press screenings, but this was my first festival screening. And what a way to start my festival, on a Sunday morning at 930. This film is about Ben (Lucas Hedges) who returns home from rehab far earlier than expected. It’s directed by Peter Hedges (from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and also, Lucas’ father). The film is a great statement at the States issue with opioid addiction. It was the first of three films with Lucas Hedges I saw at the fest, and it made me believe he’s going to win an Oscar one day.
Holy shit. A few years back I saw Love at the festival, as the film played then. I liked Love a lot, and Climax looked intense, and I’ve gone on record at my love for A24, so I had to see it. This is a film that is incredibly made, but it’s definitely hard to say that I enjoyed or even liked it. It’s a descent into darkness that makes you want to look away, but you really, really can’t.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Full review here.
Two years ago, I learned who Barry Jenkins is, and my life has never been the same. Moonlight has changed my life, so his follow-up was my most anticipated film of the festival. It felt like I was transported back into that world, with his poetic lens, and the lyrical words he took from the James Baldwin novel. This is my favourite film of the festival, I fell in love as it began and I was in tears for the majority of the film.
Ouch, sorry Paul Dano. I love your work and I was really looking forward to this, and I’m more than ready to re-watch it when it’s officially released, but this just wasn’t for me. Or at least, not right after Beale Street. This wasn’t necessarily the film that I expected from the trailer. I loved many things about it, but somehow it felt a bit cold, and brash to me. It also felt too personal. I’ve spent many years of my childhood being the messenger between parents when I just didn’t understand my parents relationship. It felt authentic, and maybe the love and warmth that radiated the same venue a few hours prior thanks to Jenkins put a bad taste in my mouth. Once again, sorry, I will definitely give this a re-watch in the first.
The Old Man and The Gun
For two years in a row, David Lowery had put two of my favourite films of the year. Between Pete’s Dragon, and A Ghost Story, I had fallen in love with Lowery’s simplicity. The lack of the extravagant is always welcomed to me. After hearing the story at how Lowery was approached by Sundance Kid himself, Robert Redford to make this film, which would be his retirement film, I was ecstatic to witness it for myself. The film is the perfect film to go out on, it feels like the real life story mirrors Redford’s work in cinema, so much so that they’re able to use old footage from his previous films. We aren’t really shown much of the robberies or the dirty work, that’s because David Lowery isn’t interested in that, he’s interested in Redford’s smile. And what makes people happy. Unfortunately, I had a bad taste due to not being sure if we’ve ever forgiven Casey Affleck, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Full review here.
The new Karyn Kusama film was one I could not miss. After loving The Invitation, and recently really liking Jennifer’s Body, I was really looking forward to see what she’d do in the Noir genre. And just like in her past films, she redefines genre as she plays with the narrative and shows us pure tension – and talent – in this story we may have seen a bit a few times prior. Nicole Kidman is also one of a kind, and you can feel her pain that she carries with her every step.
Controversy time. I’ve been a fan of Damien Chazelle since I first saw Whiplash at TIFF four years ago. It immediately became my favourite of that year, and I was obsessed with the festival ever since. La La Land was something I completely adored as well. And then the Oscars came around, and the hype for Chazelle’s smash musical lowered down, and I realized maybe I didn’t like it as much anymore. That being said, I still think it’s very well made and was gladly looking forward to the Best Director had next, and First Man sounds interesting on all counts. And it is, or it can be. It’s fairly sluggish at moments, but I think that’s the point. As well as being aware of the gravity and weight of this whole mission has caused. But I was too preoccupied with the shaking cam that homages to home video, but in fact it is a bit tiresome, especially if you’re asking people to go see it on IMAX. Also, where’s your voice? Nothing – outside of Jazz – really distinguishes what a Chazelle film is like, and that’s not a bad thing as many “journey men” filmmakers are still wonderful and successful. I just want a bit more of Chazelle injected into his films.
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
At one point before Climax began, programmer Peter Kuplowsky had compared missing the premiere of this film would be like “missing Reservoir Dogs in 1992″ and I knew I needed a ticket immediately. I’ll formally thank Mr. Kuplowsky because it did not disappoint. There are similarities between the two and I immediately understood what he was referring to, and I loved it. The dialogue is so quick and witty – and not “movie smart and witty” like Tarantino can do from time to time. It is intense, yet slow and while I can expect some people not be into it, I was wide awake and ready for it, even at a midnight screening.
Hold The Dark
The new Jeremy Saulnier film. I’m a huge fan of Blue Ruin and Green Room. Both films, and this as well are about violence, or is surrounded around it, but never ever makes it gratuitous. It’s what makes Saulnier works so well. He’s never giving answers. In Hold The Dark, he plays with the abstract while painting a vivid and dark story with some beautiful cinematography. It’s going straight to Netflix (bless you Netflix), but here in Toronto, TIFF Bell Lightbox is going to play it on the big screen so if you get a chance, watch it on the biggest screen you can find. This film needs to be experienced.
Steve McQueen goes mainstream. And yes, I’m aware that he won a Best Picture Oscar, but this is the most accessible film he’s made, and easily allows multiple viewings. This film is utter badass at an extreme level as we get a Gillian Flynn script about incredible tough and strong women, but real women. Some of the intensity and talent in this film is incredible
Monsters and Men
Full review here.
A film that recalls The Place Beyond The Pines in terms of how we see and follow our protagonists. Monsters and Men is interested in the aftermath of a police shooting on an innocent person of colour, and how it changes our communities. This is crucial watching.
This was a great surprise. As a fan of skate culture, up-to and including the skate compilations that directors like Spike Jonze excelled at, this film felt resonated deeply with me. I missed some of the 90’s culture, but Canada always holds onto a bit longer, so I felt it even at the turn of the century. Jonah Hill makes an excellent debut that him and his cast should be proud of. This was one of my favourite films of the festival.
I can’t wait to see this again, but to bring my family with me. And that’s on my choice who that is, because this film re-taught me something I’ve known for a bit, sometimes the family we choose are better than the ones we are born into.
Joel Edgerton’s second film he directed is very different from his first, The Gift. Here, he tackles the real life story of Garrard Conley being enrolled into conversion therapy by his fundamentalist family. The film is very timely, and very intense at moments. It’s supposed to be in your face and upfront about the attrocities that can with thinking that homosexuality is a choice, but Joel’s passion for the story is clear and evident. With a great supporting cast in Troye Sivan and the under utilized Xavier Dolan (sporting a semi-believable American accent), the film elevates itself and makes it feel more realized. This was my third Lucas Hedges film at the festival, and I noticed how great of an actor he truly, truly is. But, in this film, Hedges is our surrogate. He gives minimal action and response so we can live through his issues and we feel the anger as much as he does.
The Front Runner
I love Jason Reitman. I’m sad I missed out on yet another live reading at the festival. Tully is one of my favourites of the year, and possibly has my favourite final shot of the year. This film did virtually nothing for me. It’s a good story, and it’s super well-made, and not to attack Reitman’s style, but stylistically, it didn’t feel like one of his films. I felt more attached to the B-plot of the film, where what this event meant in terms of changing how the media approaches politics. Because in some sense, yes, Hugh Jackman’s (who is obviously great) character Gary Hart is right, we shouldn’t be concerned with our politician’s private life, but maybe we’ve become so desensitized that Presidents can proudly claim their sexual abuse charges and still remain to be in command. The world is very troublesome.
Wow, wow, wow. This movie is fucking electric. I walked out of my theatre teary-eyed, but also with a pain in my cheeks from smiling throughout it’s run-time. Feeling like it was visually inspired by The Neon Demon (a love of mine, for those paying attention) but slid into an accessible music video. When the film opened with Tegan and Sara, I knew I was into it. I need this soundtrack immediately, and I need to see it many more times.
An incredible slow burn of a film. Yes, it feels like it’s two films in one, and it takes it’s time for it’s two and a half hour run time, but I could not look away. I lived in this awkward, but beautiful film. Steven Yeun proves how charming he truly is, even when it terrifies you to your core. You can’t help but smile but see him, even though Burning begs you to think about walking away quickly as you smile.
The People’s Choice award-winner, and it was the perfect choice. I would have liked Roma (for the opportunity to see it) or Beale Street (for it being my favourite) but this film made the most sense. Peter Farrelly (of The Farrelly Brothers, yup. That same one) directs this film with love. It is the right film for our policitical climate, and teaches us to ignore differences, and just respect one another. Viggo Mortenson’s Nick is just enough of lovable scum, that you want to side with him. He may be dumb and behind on the times, but he truly doesn’t know any better. Until Mahershala Ali’s Don Shirley meets him. The friendship between the two keeps you smiling and laughing, and to know they remained friends is just a beautiful story. A crowd-pleaser for sure.