Thursday, September 15, 2016

Film Discussion

Since @mgny441 asked, I've created a post here in case anyone wants to discuss films they've seen at TIFF this year. Feel free to add to the comments, but please try to keep it a discussion of the films themselves.


So, I'll kick things off. One film I've really liked so far is Blue Jay, the Mark Duplass-Sarah Paulson film. Reminded me a bit of Before Sunset in that you have two former lovers running into each other after a long separation, and they spend the whole film talking and reminiscing. Both actors are great, and you really do get the sense they have this shared history.

The other I enjoyed was Colossal, with Anne Hathaway. Half Kaiju flick, half rom-com/drama, it definitely has some original flair and doesn't always go in the directions you would expect, which was a nice change.

Thanks for creating this thread! Here are all the ones I saw and my quick thoughts and ratings with 4 the highest:

1) Toni Erdmann - A German film about a daughter and her extremely strange father. Film was mainly the father trying to connect with his career driven daughter through wearing costumes and taking on guises w/in his daughter's circle of friends and co-workers. She recognizes him in his guises and is equally horrified and amused and sometimes, plays along. Very unusual , quirky and funny film - 3.2
2) American Pastoral - Ewan McGregor's director debut with him as the star. Not too bad of a first directorial effort. Ewan's a football star/family business man that marries Miss New Jersey (Jennifer Connelly) - a perfect couple. Dakota Fanning is their daughter who becomes a violent radical during the Vietnam war and how that affects the family. The best part of the film was the father trying to reconnect with the daughter after she goes underground. I didn’t really see how she became such a radical -she’s 10 in one scene and then a radical teen in the next. I wasn’t as emotionally engaged I was should have been- 3
3) Snowden - Joseph Gordon Levitt is excellent in this part. I didn't know much about Snowden’s background so that was interesting to see. The film flashbacks are framed around the time Snowden is locked in a hotel room with journalists from the Guardian, telling them what information he stole from the NSA and why. Obviously told from Snowden’s POV so could piss some folks off but that’s not surprising considering how polarizing he is - 3.1
4) A United Kingdom - True story about a former prince of what is now Botswana who marries a white British woman and causes an international stir with the British government and his African tribe. The romance itself seemed a little rushed, like this guy would give up his kingdom for her? But her voice becomes stronger as she gains acceptance from the African tribe. David Oyelowo is great and the scenery in Africa was beautiful. I enjoyed the interactions with him and British officials but the British officials he dealt were a little too obvious evil - 3.3
5) Lion - Loved it. Based on a true story. The first hour follows a lost impoverished Indian child, Saroo, who was accidently separated from his brother and then shows this child 20 years later, who was adopted and raised by parents from Australia. He seeks to find his Indian family. Watching this 5 year old boy wander and survive the streets of India is tough. The filmmakers support organizations to help orphaned Indian children. My only issue is I thought Saroo’s desire to find his biological family and become a hermit doing so (using google earth) came about suddenly because he seemed to be humming along fine. But that is minor - 4.

6) Planetarium - Dripping wet hot garbage and that’s a compliment. Worst film I’ve seen at Tiff in a long time. Natalie portman and Lily-rose depp (Johnny’s daughter) play psychics or something in Paris. I don’t even know it was so bad. I call this the “Natalie was living in Paris and was bored so decided to do this film” movie - 0

7) Queen of Katwe - such a pleasant uplifting film. About a girl in the poor region of Uganda who becomes a chess champion. The film focuses on her mentor/teacher and how her family supports her, along with fearing for her. Film did a great job taking us into the environment of the Uganda slims and her family’s poor conditions/struggles. The ending credits - stay for it. It was your typical emotional hits of will she or won’t she, rah rah rah but who cares, it was done very well. The local Ugandan actors (many were children) and Lupita/David were great - 3.5

8) Loving - Another true story of an inter-racial couple in Virginia that were jailed/banished from the state because inter-racial marriage was unlawful in Virginia. They were married in the late 50s and the ruling by the Supreme court of its unconstitutionality was in the late 60s, not too long ago. Hard to believe someone had to leave the state or be jailed for marriage but there it is. Joel and Ruth are wonderful as the couple who accept their fate for a while and try to live/raise children away from home. Though they were the catalyst for this ruling, they are just a quiet couple trying to live and function - 3.5
9) Nocturnal Animals - this film messed with my head a little. I didn’t know if I liked it after I watched it and now I like it but not sure I loved it, yet I feel like I’m missing something clever. So it’s great in that it has me processing things after, which many movies don’t. However, it’s a very tough movie because one story shows every family’s absolute worst nightmare of violence and that story parallels Amy Adam’s story, in that what happened to the family is how the arthur of the story feels about Amy. Personally, I was too shaken up by the family story to focus completely - can’t give it a rating yet.

10) The Promise - this is one of those films that I hope gets an audience. It’s about the Armenian genocide before and at the fall of the Ottoman empire, an event not shown on the screen or discussed much. There is a romance that frames the story but though it didn’t really bother me, not sure it was needed. Christian Bale is an American reporter in Constantinople who has an Armenian girlfriend and Oscar Isaac is an Armenian medical student who falls for the same girl. I think just having an Armenian whose whole family is affected by the genocide and an American reporter trying to let the world know about it is fine. Thought it was very well done and educated me - 3.5
11) La La Land - what a delightful, joyful film. For those that don’t dig musicals, give this a chance - it mixes in song and dialogue beautifully and while it does follow the lines of old school musical and stories, it also feels modern - 3.8.
12) Arrival - The score for this film, wow. It’s still in my brain. A movie that doesn’t dumb down the audience by making everything obvious or expected. Amy Adams is a lindquist called in by the government to communicate with aliens, where 12 space ships that look like those shiny black rocks on a beach, are hovering in 12 different parts of the world. The alien’s method of communicating is quite cool. This movie is based on a book that I now want to read. Overall, the theme is how we all communicate - Amy is trying to communicate with the aliens while the world governments are trying to communicate with each other - 3.8

13) Bleed for This - The story of Vinny Pazmainian is remarkable - a world boxing champion who broke his neck in a car accident and comes back to box and win more titles. An against all odds story. Overall a well done film, has some of those typical boxing cliches while in the ring (What are you doing? Punch him! Get him!) but you can’t help but get sucked into this incredible story - 3
14) JT and the Tennessee kids - Yeah, I saw this film because I couldn’t get the Manchester by the sea premiere and nothing else looked interesting that evening. Don’t follow JT other than knowing maybe 3 songs? So watched it totally as a concern film and eh - 2.5

15) Manchester by the Sea - one of the best movies of the year. So natural, so real, dialogue great, acting excellent. Casey Affleck - best performance of the year so far (at least from what I’ve seen). The movie doesn’t wrap up everyone’s story in a bow - things are left at a certain point where you don’t know where they are going, like real life - it’s sad, funny - I really connected with everyone in this film - 4.
16) Jean of the Joneses - A very funny story of a family in New York with all females and how the males in the their lives influence them but do not control them. It centers on one member who is a writer, at times, and how a family secret and her funny mother, grandmother and aunts interact with her - 3.2
17) The Headhunter calling - a film where you can see the ending the minute it starts. Gerald Butler is a headhunter in Chicago who huffs and puffs and competes to be #1, ignores his family, and guess what? His son gets very sick and he has to realize what’s important in life - why is this original? And the scenes where Dad and sick son go around Chicago trying to connect - Dad gets a phone call and walks away, sick son just looks at him sadly. There is a place for these films but man, everything was so obvious - 2.8.
18) In Dubious Battle - I skipped this film to sleep and shop :). If anyone saw it, let me know if I missed anything.
19) The Exception - Christopher Plummer plays the former German Kaiser exiled during WW2. He has the protection of German officers and then the Gestapo discovers a British spy on the premises. I thought the kaiser seemed a little ...goofy? Something range false with me. I didn’t really connect at all with this film - 2.8.
20) LBJ - Woody Harrelson does an excellent job as LBJ. If LBJ was really how Woody portrayed him (his toughness, his no bullshit, his intelligence), then applause. It focuses on LBJ’s negotiations on the civil rights act while VP under Kennedy and ends with him taking over as president. The Kennedys’ definitely mean-girled LBJ at times but it shows how he gained the respect of everyone during difficult days. The story was going at a good clip and all of a sudden, it’s over and left me kind of unsatisfied. Didn’t focus at all on his role in the Vietnam war but in Rob Reiner’s introduction, he did say that he hated LBJ because of his decisions in the Vietnam war but over many years, realized his other major accomplishments. Maybe that’s why he didn’t focus on Vietnam - 3 for the film - 3.5 for Woody’s performance because it’s such a stand out.

This year I will have caught 32 screenings (after my last film tonight) and am very pleased with my selections. Most years, I count on at least 25% of my choices turning out to be a complete waste of time, but in 2016 almost every single one of my screenings was worth while. I could list 14 features, plus a few shorts, that I really loved, but I think my overall favourite was Divines, on account of the tour de force performance by Oulaya Amamra. This is the sort of film that should win Oscars but never does, full of energy with a plot that kept me enthralled from start to finish. It seems to have been picked up by Netflix, so watch for it there.

Thanks for the reviews. I saw 12 in all - agree with @mgny441 on American Pastoral, Arrival, Planetarium, Lion and A United Kingdom.

I did not like Jackie (with Natalie Portman) although she's getting Oscar buzz. The timeline jumps around too much, I felt like she was imitating her, not inhabiting her and the use of actual newsreel mixed with the film was too jarring. Oddly enough, I enjoyed Larrain's other feature, Neruda, with Gael Garcia Bernal.

I loved Nocturnal Animals, thought Ford did a great job getting the 3 narratives to gel, not a wasted frame in the film. Acting was strong particularly from supporting actors Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor Johnson.

Other standouts were Julieta (Almodovar's latest), A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies biopic of Emily Dickinson w/Cynthia Nixon) and Citizen Jane (doc about Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses).

Was disappointed in Their Finest, Lone Scherfig's ode to women's movies as WWII propaganda. Lovely cast including scene stealer Bill Nighy, and while it has humorous moments, it's not a romantic comedy (as it was billed) when you SPOILER, kill off one of the romantic leads.

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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