Films seem to come in a myriad number of flavors and styles. Where better to sample all of these tastes than at the Toronto International Film Festival? This year’s TIFF proved to be one of the most competitive and entertaining festivals with more Oscar buzz-worthy films than ever before.
With hundreds of feature films from all over the world, there were plenty to please every film palate. Some of these films continue to gain critical acclaim and audience appreciation from other festivals, such as “The Kindergarten Teacher” and “Colette,” while others are shooting quickly to the top, such as “First Man” and “Widows.”
Seeing more than 25 films at this year’s fest, I’ve compiled my “Best of the Fest” list to share with you. Many of these films will be released in the coming months, just in time for Oscar consideration.
”The Old Man & the Gun”
Based on a true story, Robert Redford’s still got it as he gets back in the acting saddle as Forrest Tucker, an elderly gentleman bank robber. Planning heists and completing them in the most polite and charming way with his “Over the Hill Gang,” he’s got a twinkle in his eye for both bank robbery and a new acquaintance, Jewel (Sissy Spacek).
The cat and mouse game begins when Officer John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is on the case as both he and the audience are endeared with this “bad guy.” It’s an unusual script that reminds us to always do what we love.
”Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel in this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story about an out-of-work author searching for a way to make money by writing. Israel has a toxic personality, lashing out at the world, but finds a way to make a living — forging personal letters from bygone literary geniuses. Israel, forging an unlikely friendship with Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), discovers a sense of understanding and compassion as she spirals downward in lies and deceit.
There’s more to this film than meets the eye as writer Marielle Heller so eloquently depicts.
”A Star Is Born”
Bradley Cooper co-wrote, stars in and makes his directorial debut in this fourth remake of a timeless love story. Lady Gaga makes her premiere as a leading lady, proving that her skills as an actress equal her unparalleled vocal talent. Together, there is an instant energy fueled by all new songs and a story that will leave you in tears.
Sam Elliott adds one of his best performances as the conflicted older brother charged with resentment and duty to his younger brother. While the film is not without flaws, this might be the best version of “A Star Is Born” yet.
Steve Carell, while known for comedy, has honed his skills as a master of drama in his newest role as David Sheff, the father of a teen addict, Nic, played by Timothee Chalamet. It’s a brutally raw and honest look at how addiction tears a family apart, taking us on their journey. Carell and Chalamet find an emotional depth in portraying their characters that is beautifully yet disturbingly real. It’s a powerful story based on the memoirs of the real lives of this father and son.
”What They Had”
Alzheimer’s affects millions of people each year, a disease that has probably hit you personally. Elizabeth Chomko writes and directs this film starring Hilary Swank as Bridget, whose mother, Ruth (Blythe Danner), is slipping quickly into the final stages of the disease. She returns home to Chicago from L.A. to help her brother, Nick (Michael Shannon), and father (Robert Forster) make some decisions to help cope.
Their love is obvious, but the conflicts begin as they all have a different perspective on “what’s best.” Through the drama, there are touches of humor, but the film never loses its focus or its path as we see how this disease truly affects the entire family. It’s not just an entertaining story; it’s an important and poignant one as well.
”Giant Little Ones”
Josh Wiggins and Darren Mann star as Franky and Ballas, two teens and best of friends until Franky’s 16th birthday when an unexpected event derails their lives forever. The ripple effect is physically and emotionally wounding as the story addresses acceptance and understanding of what happened. Wiggins and Mann have extraordinarily nuanced performances, allowing viewers to completely understand their emotions and actions.
With strong characters and a conceptually clear vision of what teens go through in attempting to understand their own identity and sexuality, it’s a film that is timely and just might give you better understanding and even compassion.
The list of great films seems never-ending with “Viper Club,” “The Outlaw King,” “First Man,” “The Front Runner,” “The Hummingbird Project,” “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy,” “Colette,” “The Kindergarten Teacher” and many more. The Foreign Film category is also filled with winners, particularly “Working Woman,” “Everybody Knows,” “Rosie,” “The Factory” and “Mouthpiece.”
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