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Entries in TIFF (136)

Sunday
Sep182016

TIFF 2016: Winners & Review Index

TIFF just ended crowning La La Land with the coveted People's Choice Award (runners up: Lion & Queen of Katwe) and Jackie with their new juried prize. We haven't totally closed up shop - we've left the door ajar because there are a few articles left to come. It takes time processing all of this art that's rushing over us! Films give us so many feelings! The Toronto International Film Festival is my personal favorite film festival in the world:  easy to attend, friendly, well organized, less prohibitively expensive than other festivals. I saw and enjoyed 27 movies and would have seen a few more but for getting sick in the rain and rush. But the festival experience is such that even mediocre or bad movies can be remembered with positive associations.

Here are all the reviews and articles (thus far) in one place in case you missed any or would like a handy index.

my ten favorites from TIFF '16 (in no particular order)

Reviews from TIFF 16
The Apprentice - Singapore's Oscar submission
Arrival - Denis Villeneuve's gripping superbly crafted sci-fi journey
The Bad Batch - Ana Lily Armipour's cannibal wasteland satire
Blind Sun - Visual paranoia in Greece
Catfight - Anne Heche vs. Sandra Oh three times
Colossal - Anne Hathaway is a Kaiju in this cult oddity
The Commune -Thomas Vinterberg's wonderful 70s drama
Death in Sarajevo -Bosnia's politically fired up Oscar submission
A Decent Woman - Argentinian whatsit about a nudist maid
Elle - Paul Verhoeven & Isabelle Huppert serve up twisted cerebral comedy
Frantz - François Ozon's black & white drama of grief & guilt

Handsome Devil - coming of age at a rugby-mad boarding school
A Monster Calls - a visual fantasy about a young boy losing his mother
My Life as a Courgette - Switzerland's animated/foreign Oscar submission
Nocturnal Animals - Tom Ford's lurid meta movie
• Pyromaniac - a Norwegian thriller
(re) Assignment - Walter Hill's ill advised gender surgery noir
The Red Turtle - a mute magical beauty, sure to be Oscar-nominated
Sand Storm - an Israeli drama about female oppression and marriage
Santa & Andres -a Cuban political drama about LGBT oppression
Strange Weather - Holly Hunter returns!
The Wedding Ring - a Nigerian romantic fable 

Non Review Articles
A Cocktail with Sigourney - tall, beautiful, funny
Michael Fassbender Tribute - He has some regrets 
Moonlight's Oscar buzz - a note of caution 
Jackie Bought by Searchlight - watch out Oscar race 
• Hidden Figures Brunch Pt 1 - Glen Powell 

Still to Come
There are a few more articles coming, as stated and Oscar charts will be updated shortly to reflect all this new knowledge. We'll also have plenty of chances to discuss Moonlight, The HandmaidenLa La Land, and Jackie, (opening in that order October through December) since they'll all be up for either Oscars or our own prizes at TFE. I didn't review them properly (yet) because it's always hardest to write about films you love. You want to do them justice and festival schedules are rushed. But know this for now: they are all excellent and it's going to be an amazing Fall Film Season if any of the as yet unseen titles like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk or Fences or Silence (if that even opens) deliver on this level, too. That's got to be reassuring after that truly terrible movie summer we all endured. I purposefully skipped Toronto titles that will also be playing at New York Film Festival (which begins September 30th) or are opening during it but soon we discuss these films, too: Julieta, Aquarius, Birth of a Nation, Neruda, Queen of Katwe, Magnificent Seven, Manchester by the Sea, Certain Women, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, Sieranevada, The Ornithologist, Toni Erdmann, Edge of Seventeen and Personal Shopper

Sunday
Sep182016

What the hell did I just watch? A festival quartet

Nathaniel R reporting from TIFF. The festival ends today (I expect La La Land to win the coveted People's Choice in this non-juried festival) so I'm about to hit the airport. I'll be scrambling to finish telling you about the cinematic adventures screened from all over the world in the next couple of days -- and yes update the Oscar charts with all this new information -- so we can wrap up. And then NYFF begins!

Here are three films that go completely off the rails and one film that stays perfectly on track though the protagonist goes off it. Each have as many cons as pros so they're mixed experiences, presented in preference order. So click on for Argentinian nudist comedies (NSFW), Anne Heche and Sandra Oh fist-fighting, Greek paraonia, and the latest from A Girl Walks Home At Night's director who has graduated to bigger budgets and famous actors.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep172016

TIFF: Strange Weather and Handsome Devil

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

Despite the buzz from festivals usually circling around pre-sold films and major Oscar hopefuls, there are always minor gems to be found amongst the clutter which are still seeking distribution. Here are two I hope get picked up, a very accessible Irish boarding school drama (without the benefit of any big name to sell it) and an American indie starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Strange Weather
(Dir. Katherine Dieckmann, US)
Take a look at that still above. Now look way to your out of focus far right. See the girl in pink tank and jean shorts? That's Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers), one of the best actresses working who is still not a household name or an Emmy or Oscar nominee! But, yes, movie still providers to festival guides, Holly Hunter is the draw here. She plays Darcy Baylor, a bohemian mother of meager means (a Holly specialty - see also Thirteen) who lost her only child to suicide years before the film begins. She has never quite been the same and her fierce best friend (Carrie Coon), her best friend's girlfriend (Andrene Ward-Hammond who is also in Loving this year) and her ex-boyfriend (a soulful Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy) are concerned about her all over again when a couple of chance encounters reveal something she didn't know about the day he died. Though the plot can be (okay is) convoluted, the writing is otherwise strong with well defined characters, great conversations (it's partially a road trip movie), and a ineffable central arc that Holly Hunter has no trouble selling because she is Holly Hunter and goddamnit we don't appreciate her enough. Though there are a couple of bumpy patches in this road with wonky cuts, shots, and transitions -- perhaps budget trouble? -- and that aforementioned convoluted story might be difficult if you're not into the actresses. But if you aren't, your loss! I could have watched these characters/actors for another hour. I'll take a spinoff series with Carrie and her lesbian lover please! B/B- 

Handsome Devil 
(Dir. John Butler, Ireland)
This Irish boarding school drama about a redhead student who cares nothing for sports at a rugby-mad school is sweet goodhearted fun. It risks being a little 'This is a Teen Movie!' annoying and unrealistic in its construction (complete with occasionally snarky narration) but the friendship at its center between music-loving Ned (Fionn O'Shea) and strong and silent rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is really well done and fills up the heart of this accessible mainstream charmer about "otherness." The undervalued / always terrific Andrew Scott (Pride) plays the gay teacher who encourages Ned & Conor in their odd couple friendship and their off-sport pursuits. You know we've come a long way when a movie with a rather large LGBT element is not even listed with a key word of LGBT in the festival guide! (Director John Butler made one previous feature called The Bachelor Weekend which we reviewed a couple of years ago which also starred Andrew Scott. He's made a leap forward with this second feature.)  B

Saturday
Sep172016

Lovesick Brides to Be at TIFF

Nathaniel reporting from the last weekend at TIFF where brides-to-be are in the air. It's easy to see little mini-festivals blossom within the overall festival you're watching. Sometimes it happens quite by accident as with three films I caught recently (two of which might be fighting for Oscar foreign film nods). All feature female protagonists who pine for a man they thought they would marry before things went horribly wrong. We've already discussed François Ozon's Frantz. In that film the fiancee is already dead when the movie begins but in these next two films The Wedding Ring from Niger and Sand Storm from Israel, both of the young women begin the movie with a combination of dread and hope: will they be able to marry the man they loved who they met in a liberal university setting or does their conservative rural village community have other futures in mind? Both films are narrative debuts by female directors. In addition to their romantic dramas these two films speak to the clash of modernity and tradition, West and East, and especially to gender roles with young women chafing at the expectations placed on them to be subservient to whims of the patriarchy...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep162016

TIFF: Relating to Amy Adams in "Nocturnal Animals" and "Arrival"

Nathaniel R reporting from TIFF. The festival is winding down now but my mind keeps drifting back to the Amy Adams double feature on day two. If there were gif walls featuring all of Amy Adams close-ups in both of her movies this year, they would accurately describe this critics innermost thoughts about the movies they came from. Read on and I'll elaborate (without spoilers) though we'll obviously revisit and go into more detail when both movies actually...ahem... arrive in mid November which is unofficially 'Amy Adams Month' according to distributors.

ARRIVAL (Dir. Denis Villeneuve, US)
Paramount Pictures. Opens on November 11th

In this gripping and sensationally crafted sci-fi drama, adapted from the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks. Dr Banks is a prominent linguist who is recruited by the government to attempt to communicate with extra-terrestrials. They have arrived on Earth or, rather, are hovering above it in twelve space crafts each in a separate area of the world, appearing to do nothing at all. Will the world's fearful governments nuke the ships or can Dr Banks save the world (if it's even threatened?) by learning why they've come?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep162016

TIFF: François Ozon's Elegant "Frantz"

Nathaniel R reporting from TIFF

Frantz is dead when Frantz begins though everyone who knew him keeps willing him back to life through memories and the general refusal to let go. The movie has a terrifically simple plot generating event which reaps bountiful plot threads and emotions: In 1919 Germany, just after the first World War, a young girl named Anna (Paula Beer, Venice Winner Best Young Actor) repeatedly encounters a Frenchman named Adrien (Pierre Niney) while visiting her dead fiancee Frantz's (Anton von Lucke) grave. Then he comes knocking at her door. Why is he there? What does he want with Anna and Frantz parents? At first she and Frantz's parents (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber, both superb) are wary about him since the wounds between the countries are still fresh. Quickly they warm to him though, much to their town's disapproval, when they realize that he knew their beloved Frantz (who had always loved Paris before the war).

Told in roughly two acts, the first in Germany is superb with a fine curtain closer if it were a play. (In fact, Frantz feels nearly like a full movie right then and there.) The second act in France, is perhaps too much of a good thing as the film suffers from repetition. Still the emotional arcs and tough emotional questions (is it better to lie than to cause more suffering?) are beautifully rendered. Ozon's hand is assured and elegant throughout. In fact, his queer gaze makes Frantz a more complex journey than it would have been with another director. Flashbacks to the young soldiers as friends are highly romanticized, nearly erotic. And this idealization is at fascinating odds with the film's feelings about romanticizing war and what the characters lives otherwise tell us about them. (In black and white with shifts to color a few times, always when Frantz appears in flashbacks, but more mysteriously on two other occassions.)

Grade: First Act: A / Second Act: B
MVP: François Ozon
Oscar Chances: France has four finalists for the Oscar submission this year. We're rooting for Elle but I think either that film or Frantz is likely to make the finals (9 films) at least with Oscar's foreign committee should it be the one that's selected.
Distribution: Music Box Films will release Frantz in the US. No dates have been announced yet but I suspect first quarter of 2017. 

Thursday
Sep152016

TIFF on Fire: "Pyromaniac" and "Death in Sarajevo"

Nathaniel R, reporting, still at the Toronto International Film Festival where you'll notice I tend to give dual grades. This is the way to go in the mad rush of festival going. As nourishing as festivals can be from a cinephile, they aren't actually the best climate in which to generate definitive feelings because when you're done with one piece of art you have to rush on to the next one. Here are two films I saw this week that were quite combustible.

Dag lights up a small Norwegian town... unfortunately it's with matches.

Pyromaniac (Dir. Erik Skjoldbjaerg, Norway)
One of Norway's best known directors (Pioneer, Insomnia) is back with another unsettling thriller. The peculiar dichotomy of a fireman who also sets fires is the focus. Create your own dream job, they do always say. Dag (Trond Nillsen, King of Devil's Island) is the son of the local firechief and when he returns to his hometown after military service a small town is suddenly plagued by arson, first in the woods but slowly closing in on actual residences. As fires go this thriller doesn't build to an inferno, as a more traditional movie might, so much as it threatens to consistent. Like someone waiting with gasoline by a small fire. The result is a discomforting slow burn, elevated considerably by artful intuitive detours with female characters. These don't serve the plot so much as bring humanity up face-to-face with inexplicable evil; some see it for what it is (one scene with a piercing scream and a lit match is absolutely terrifying), others flippantly dismiss it. Dag's own mother (a great Liv Bernhort Osa) is handed the painful evasive denouement. [Trivia Note: Strangely Norway has yet to submit Skjoldbjaerg for the Oscar race in Best Foreign Language Film though he's been a finalist before and was again this year. They didn't even submit him for his international breakthrough Insomnia (1997) famously remade by Christopher Nolan a few years later.] B/B+

a talk show host and her volatile guest come to fascinating verbal blows

Death in Sarajevo (Dir. Danis Tanovic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Bosnia & Herzegovina's Oscar Submission
Danis Tanovic came to fame with the anti-war drama No Man's Land (2001) which took the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in its day. Fifteen years later Tanovic is still committed to deeply felt statement films and still righteously angry about senseless wars. The entire film takes place within a cash-poor luxury hotel in Sarajevo that will soon host a meeting of European dignitaries. Everyone is on edge, nobody is getting paid, the workers are ready to strike, and guests are arriving. Though the film beguns with the taping of a talk show on the violent cycles in South Slavic history, fears that this might be little more than educational history lesson were quickly assuaged by strong storytelling and multiple interesting characters like the hotel's laundress, a lovelorn cook, an ambitious female manager, and the cerebral but fierce talk show host and a guest she berates as a "thug" who fits this description but is multi-faceted, too. In one witty but distressing bit another guest of the talk show praises the affect of all the civil wars on the Bosnian people  'it protects us from uniformity of thought.' Uniformity of thought is not a problem with these characters. We know that all the separate stories with their personal dramas and opposing agendas we'll eventually collide (that's what happens in this subgenre of drama) but it's still fascinating to watch them braid together and Tanovic does this artfully. Some of the political content still went over my American head -- especially the story of a man rehearsing a political speech (the film is based on a one man show "Hotel Europe" and this section seemed to be the most direct lift). But as with all fine political dramas, this one understands that politics is personal and vice versa. B/B+ 

more TIFF reviews

Wednesday
Sep142016

TIFF: Michelle Rodriguez & Sigourney Weaver in (re)Assignment

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

We must ban the use of the word "problematic" so that it may be deployed to describe pop culture offerings which are PROBLEMATIC in all caps. (re)Assignment is one of those, even if its too dumb to capitalize on its sophomoric provocations.

A hired hitman named Frank (Michelle Rodriguez...with prosthetic dick because her figurative big one wasn't enough) is drugged and operated on by an amoral vengeful doctor (Sigourney Weaver) and wakes up with breasts, vagina and a smoother more beautiful face...

Click to read more ...