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Entries in TIFF (118)


September. It's a Wrap

We've reached the final quarter of the year? Unreal right? September was very rough off blog (personal crises for friends and family) and the movies kept us just as busy. Frankly your editor-in-chief has had a hard time remembering what day of the week it even is at this point. The head is spinning. So let October be a fresh new rebirth as we begin the march toward Oscar night. Just 151 days away! 

September often felt like a brick to the head

10 September Highlights
Best School Films - Team Experience went back to school by choosing the 10 all time best from 1955's Rebel Without a Cause through 2008's Palme d'or winner The Class
Fury Road's "Best Shots" - multiple tributes to John Seale's cinematography on Mad Max Fury Road
Fast Times - Anne Marie looked at the career of Amy Heckerling in Women's Pictures
Matt Damon's Foot in Mouth Disease - Oh Matt. Well meaning oblivious Matt
AHS Promos - Manuel argued that American Horror Story is better at the foreplay than the actual f***ing
Top Ten Summer - the Podcast team chose their favorite things about 2015's summer movies 
What's next for Jennifer Lawrence? - Murtada is keeping an eye on her 
Goodfellas turns 25 - David revisited the Scorsese classic
Jeremy Irvine talked Stonewall "no one ever sets out to make a bad movie" 
Liz Taylor's best Cleopatra looks - Abstew did the impossible choosing 10 from 65 costume changes! 

Oscar Mania
Tis the (beginning) of the season. We paid special attention to Best Picture movement, Original Song, Foreign Film, Actress, and Actor... but all of the charts are freshly updated.  

Other Happenings...
At TIFF Amir & Nathaniel reviewed 37 films (whew). But film festivals weren't the only happenings. In September we also learned that we'd get two Oscar hosts (but not who they'd be), were forced to say goodbye to master of horror Wes Craven, and celebrated Emmy night with several articles as well as actressy celebrations devoted to Regina King, and new triplecrowner Frances McDormand.

Lots of exciting new movies to talk about including Room, The Martian, Freeheld, Steve Jobs, Crimson Peak and Suffragette. We'll also have a mini 1963 celebration to include the final Supporting Actress Smackdown of the season featuring Tom Jones, The VIPs and Lilies of the Field (panelists tba very soon), a few spooky films, and more interviews, reviews, lists, and silliness. ANY REQUESTS?


Review: Stonewall (2015)

First screened at TIFF. This article was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

This one's for Judy!"

… so went a legendary scream (along with brick throwing) as the Stonewall riots began. We can’t know exactly what happened that night, but as the famous saying goes, “when legend becomes fact… print the legend.” Judy Garland, The World’s Greatest Entertainer, had died a week earlier on June 22nd, 1969. Her remains were brought to New York City on June 26th where tens of thousands of people lined up to pay respects, and her funeral, which barred the public, took place on June 27th. The theory goes that the gay community, which had always idolized her (as any sentient human with taste should, then or now) was even more on-edge than usual when the police came to raid Stonewall on the night of June 28th, 1969.

Fact: All hell broke loose. The rest is (much argued about) ‘history’...

Judy grief as combustive fuel is one of the legends at any rate. And one that I heard a lot as a baby-gay whenever people brought up Stonewall. Stonewall was not the true beginning of gay liberation (political groups had been forming since the 1940s to pursue our future rights), but it remains a super handy symbolic one. 

Click to read more ...


TIFF Review Index

Let this serve as the official TIFF Review reference guide since the festival closed up shop Sunday night after the Free screening of the People's Choice winner Room. We hope you enjoyed reading along with our reviews. Amir and I saw about 50 movies between us but we'll have to wrap up now as NYFF screenings have already started and Oscar charts MUST be updated and so on.

Fall Film Season is finally upon us!

3 of my favorites of the 29 I saw...

37 Films Reviewed
45 Years British marital drama (Nathaniel)
3000 Nights Palestinian prison drama (Amir)
Anomalisa Existential stop-motion dramedy (Nathaniel)
Arabian Nights: Vol 2 Portugueuse art film with politicial satire vignettes (Nathaniel)
As I Open My Eyes Tunisian music drama (Nathaniel)
Baba Joon Israel's immigrant family drama & Oscar submission (Amir)
Bang Gang French teen sex drama (Nathaniel)
The Clan Argentine true crime drama (Nathaniel)
Closet Monster Canadian LGBT drama (Nathaniel)
Dégradé Palestinian hair salon set female drama (Amir)
Demolition Canadian grief dramedy (Nathaniel)
Desde Allá Venezuelan LGBT Drama & Venice winner (Amir)
Dheepan French Immigrant drama, Palme d'or winner (Amir)
The Dressmaker Australian revenge dramedy (Glenn)
Embrace of the Serpent Black & White Colombian Amazon journey (Nathaniel)
Eva Doesn't Sleep experimental Argentine corpse drama (Nathaniel)
The Family Fang US Dramedy about a performance art family (Nathaniel)
Girls Lost Swedish LGBT Teen Drama (Nathaniel)
Granny's Dancing on the Table Swedish animated/live-action hybrid (Nathaniel)
The Here After Swedish School Drama (Nathaniel)  
Homesick Norwegian incest drama (Nathaniel)
I Saw The Light US musical biopic (Nathaniel)
Invisible Filipino immigrant drama (Nathaniel)
Love French 3D sex drama (Nathaniel)
Much Loved Moroccan docudrama on sex workers in Marrakech (Amir)
Mustang Turkish coming of age drama (Amir)
Phantom Boy French animated adventure (Nathaniel)
Room US family/crime drama, and People's Choice Winner (Nathaniel)
Spotlight, US journalist drama (Nathaniel)
Stonewall US gay history drama (Nathaniel)
Taxi Jafar Panahi's comedy & Berlinale Winner (Amir)
Truth US TV news political drama (Nathaniel) 
Victoria German continuous shot crime drama (Nathaniel)
The Wave Norwegian disaster epic (Nathaniel)
The Witch this year's Sundance horror sensation (Nathaniel)
Youth Showbiz drama (Nathaniel) 

upside down, VICTORIA turned me, inside out. and round and round

Other TIFF Articles
Best Actress Contenders (Nathaniel)
Red Carpet Opening Weekend (Jose)
Red Carpet Post-Venice (Jose)
Victoria's Single Take / Birdman Comparison (Sebastian)
People's Choice and Other Awards (Nathaniel)
Women He's Undressed - The Interview (Jose) 
IndieWire Critics Poll (Nathaniel) 

TIFF Juries of One
I polled the podcasters who stayed the whole fest. Here's what they said...

  Nathaniel R Joe Reid Nick Davis
Film Room Son of Saul Arabian Nights
Director Cirro Guerra, Embrace of Serpent Ridley Scott,
The Martian
Laszlo Nemes,
Son of Saul
Actress Charlotte Rampling,
45 Years
Cate Blanchett,
Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Dheepan
Actor Jacob Tremblay,
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation Frederick Lau,
Supp. Actress Kate Dickie,
The Witch
Julianne Moore, Maggie's Plan Ghalia Benali, As I Open My Eyes
Supp. Actor Stanley Tucci,
Scoot McNairy, Our Brand is Crisis Abdella Didane,
Much Loved
Craft Contribution Sound,
Son of Saul
The Assassin
  Cinematography, Embrace of Serpent Art Direction,
Son of Saul
 The Danish Girl
Camera Operator, Victoria

TIFF: Baba Joon, Dégradé, Much Loved

on the set of Baba JoonAmir files our last TIFF report on three films, one of them hoping for Oscar...

Baba Joon (Israel)
Israel’s Oscar submission is quite a unique experience: the lives of Iranian Jews who have left their homeland to live in Israel—and are consequently not allowed to re-enter Iran because of the two countries’ bitter relationship has never been portrayed on screen. In Yuval Delshad’s debut feature, the titular character and his clan—a son, his wife and their son—all live on a small turkey farm in rural Israel and live with very modest means. The tensions between multiple generations of the family, and the melancholia of living at once at home and away from home are the film’s central themes.

Baba Joon’s storytelling and the emotional beats are familiar. There is nothing in the strained father-son dynamics, troubled by decades of repression, that we haven’t previously seen on the big screen. The film’s abrupt but rather predictable ending lends it a saccharine flavour that might sit well with the Academy, but undermines the film. When the story’s resolution is presented so neatly with a gift wrap, very little is left for the audience to ponder. Still, this is a heartfelt film of genuinely well intentions, with a sizable novelty factor, whose fresh look at ethnic minorities in the Middle East is quietly delightful.

Dégradé (Palestine/France/Qatar)
This debut film from eccentrically named brothers Arab and Tarzan Nasser, shows similar irreverence in depicting ethnic tensions with Israel. Part Almodovar-esque comedy of women on the verge of nervous breakdowns, part a thriller revolving a hostage situation, their film, which stars Hiam Abbas and Maisa Abd Elhadi, is based in a hair salon in Gaza, where the clientele hail from different social, religious and political backgrounds. As they wait their turns to be beautified, the salon becomes increasingly like a microcosm of Gaza’s society, and the world beyond the confines of the building is engulfed in violence.

Dégradé is an interesting look at life in the occupied territories because it broadens the conversation beyond the Israel-Palestine binary. In the film’s view, the community is rife with tensions and chasms, all exacerbated by the atrocious limitations of living in occupation. Yet, the image is much richer and layered than normally shown on screen, breaking the monolithic view of Palestinians in favour of a more complex perspective. That the film manages to convey these intricacies while remaining consistently entertaining is a significant accomplishment, and one that promises much more from the filmmaking duo.

Much Loved (Morocco/France)
The most daring film among the bunch comes from the more experienced hands of Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch. Ayouch surveys the night club scene in Marrakech, a world filled with sex, drugs and rampant decadence. Home to tourists from Saudi Arabia and Europe, the city’s nightlife is bustling and its sex industry is ever active, almost completely removed from the crisis-ridden country that surrounds it. Almost.  Following Noha (Loubna Abidar) and her entourage of less experienced escorts, Much Loved is as intimate a film as it is provocative.

Ayouch has had to field a lot of controversy, mostly due to the explicit displays of sex in his film; and while the murky release prospects of the film in the Arab world are understandable, it’s unfortunate if sex becomes the only talking point. This is the rare film that intertwines the lives of sex workers with socio-economic issues without becoming patronizing. Morocco’s complicated relationships with Europe and other Arab countries, and its tenuous political situation are subtly worked into the plot of the film. It’s intimate and superbly acted—mostly by amateur performers— and a film that's heartbreaking, humorous and evocative in equal measure. In a festival that is never short on big films from big directors, Much Loved was a true discovery.


TIFF's Most F***ed Up Families

The everyday bloody evil of a clan in Argentina or public event provocations via a performance art brood in New England? Here are two more TIFF films for your consideration that focus on deviant nuclear families.

The Clan (Argentina, Pablo Trapero)
This true story thriller is based on an infamous series of crimes in Argentina in which a seemingly respectable but cruel upper middle class family who kidnapped members of even wealthier families (some of whom they were actually friends with) for huge ransoms. The central characters are the patriach and his eldest son, a soccer star, who feels increasing guilt about their paterfamilias activities. As a result of the grim crimes, and the sick complicity of all the characters, this is often an unpleasant and chilling watch, but the performances are strong (particularly the father who is cooly sociopathic in his entitlement and manipulations) and it builds to a strong and shocking 'how did they film that?' finale. Unfortunately, for non-Argentine audiences,  the storytelling often assumes that you'll understand particulars which aren't well layed out such as dates, political environments and sidelined characters that are all clearly more significant to the happenings if you already know the story. B

Oscar Trivia Note: Argentina has not yet selected their Oscar submission for 2015 though this one seems likely since it's a big hit at home. They've been nominated at least once a decade since the 1970s winning for The Official Story (1985) and Secret in Their Eyes (2009, which gets an English language remake this next month with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the leading roles.) The Clan's popular director Pablo Trapero has been submitted twice before for Lion's Den (2008) and Carancho (2010) but neither were nominated. 

Release Note: According to IMDb, Twentieth Century Fox has US distribution rights though no US release date has been named.

Christopher Walken, Maryann Pluckett, Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman are The Family Fang

THE FAMILY FANG (US, Jason Bateman)
Some stories are not universal. This extremely specific dramedy is about two adult siblings Child A (Nicole Kidman) and Child B (Jason Bateman) who were raised by performance artists (Christopher Walken in a great bit of 'OF COURSE' casting and Maryann Pluckett who is possibly the film's MVP as the mother who is always trying to pacify her excitable husband and excite her reluctant children). The children grew up in this mandatory performance environment as the stars of most of their parent's most famous pieces. We see them as children in elaborate flashbacks of their "art" which generally involved pranking the public somehow sometimes with mock arguments in public parks other times with more elaborate scarier setups like a faux bank robbery.  Naturally the kids are fucked up as adults, when the story begins but both are artists: Child A is an alcoholic movie star whose career is on the skids and Child B a novelist and the most "normal" of the family member though he has his own problems, like the inability to say no to really foolish dares and offers. [SORTA  SPOILER] It's a difficult film to describe as the tone shifts from oddly funny to darkly satiric and then just sad and dramatic as the sudden bloody disappearance of the parents has the actress angrily convinced that it's another performance piece and the novelist sadly convinced that their parents are gone for good. [/SORTA SPOILER] What sells the film through its tonal shifts and logical loopholes are smart and tetchy performances from both Kidman and Bateman, who read as both too close and not close enough in a weird act of sibling chemistry, and the film's strange sense of humor. It doesn't always nail it's more ambitious attempts to be about the emotional cost of art for artists but it's highly watchable and interesting. B

A Note for Kidmaniacs: I'll never figure out why they de-glam Kidman with a bad frumpy wig when she's actually playing a movie star and it's really disconcerting to see her take off a wig that looks like her normal Nicole Kidman hair in her first scene to reveal the characters real hair (also a wig) for the remainder of the film.

Release Note: The Family Fang has no distribution as of yet but it's only a matter of time with famouis actors in three of the four key roles and solid if unspectacular reviews. That said the topic makes this a rough sell so a smaller indie who relies on VOD if they get nervous about marketability seems more likely.


An IndieWire TIFF Poll

We'll wrap up our TIFF coverage tomorrow with the full index of reviews for now I wanted to point you to IndieWire where they've published their "best of TIFF" critics survey and the results are interesting but also disheartening since they remind us that US critics rush to films that are about to open rather than to films without distributors when they hit festivals. (I'll never understand this really.) They also don't seem to care about foreign language films - only one picture from their entire top collective top ten is in a foreign language (Hungary's Son of Saul) and you have to go down into the #13 before you see them crop up with regularity.

The already wildly overrated Charlie Kaufman joint Anomalisa is #1 just barely in a photofinish with the only marginally overrated Spotlight. Hee. Lots more on the actors and a distinct Oscar possibility after the jump...

Click to read more ...


"Room" is the People's Choice

Great News: Room won the People's Choice award at TIFF! 
It couldn't have happened to a more deserving film and I mean that literally since it was the best of the 29 films I caught there. Confession: I really thought that Spotlight would take it since festival goers wouldn't shut up about that one. In the past twenty years the People's Choice Award has been a very solid indicator of a future Best Picture nomination. In fact, with one exception only (Hotel Rwandaif the winner was from the States or the UK, it was nominated at the Oscars. Canadian winners (Eastern Promises and The Hanging Garden) as well as most of the non-English language winners weren't so lucky. A Best Picture nomination would be a very big deal for A24 as a young distributor but they've already released so many fine and daring films they've earned one, don't you think? 

How high would you rank the film now in your predictions? 

Winners List
People's Choice Room (Lenny Abramson)
    1st Runner Up: Angry Indian Goddesses (Pan Nalin)
    2nd Runner Up: Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)

FIPRESCI DiscoveryEva Nová (Marko Skop) 
FIPRESCI Special PresentationDesierto (Jonás Cuarón) 
NETPAC Asian Cinema AwardWhispering Star (Sion Sono) 
Toronto Platform AwardHURT (Alan Zweig) 
    Honorable Mention: Neon Bull, The Promised Land, The Clan
Best Short Maman(s) (Maïmouna Doucouré)
     Honorable Mention: Rate Me (Fyzal Boulifa) 

Best Canadian Feature Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn)
    Honorable Mention: My Internship in Canada (Philippe Falardeau)
Best Canadian First Feature Film Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino)
Best Canadian Short Overpass (Patrice Laliberté)
    Honorable Mention: Bacon & God's Wrath (Sol Friedman)

The odd thing about the Canadian prizes is that Closet Monster, my favorite LGBT movie from the fest, which won the "Canada Goose" for Best Canadian Film is also a First Feature; there's another prize for that that it did not win! Of the other award winners, I only managed to catch Spotlight, Room, and the Toronto Platform Honorable Mention The Clan. It's a gut-wrenching true crime drama about a notorious family in Argentina who kidnapped members of other upper class families, some of whom they knew personally, for ransom money. I suspect it will be Argentina's Oscar submission but they don't announce until the end of the month.