Recap of TIFF 2017!

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So it’s been a week since the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival has come to a close. It was a wild ride, but I got to see a lot of truly remarkable films, some surprising gems, and yes, some piles of trash. So I just wanted to take the time to do a recap of the festival and talk about the best and the worst that TIFF had to offer this year. Here we go!

 

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MOST FUN FILM: “THE DISASTER ARTIST”

One of the most exciting things TIFF has to offer every year is their Midnight Madness section. The crowds are always enthusiastic and having the time of their lives, even when the movies aren’t particularly good. In the three years that I’ve attended the festival, I can safely say that the midnight screening for “The Disaster Artist” was by far the most fun of them all. It was a total blast just having the entire audience laughing hysterically, quoting all the famous lines from “The Room,” all culminating in the only time I’ve seen an audience give a film a standing ovation as soon as the credits began to roll. Sure does help that the movie itself was one of the biggest delights of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
“I, Tonya”
“Molly’s Game”
“Mom and Dad”
“mother!”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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BIGGEST SURPRISE: “MOLLY’S GAME”

As someone who is very much so an Aaron Sorkin fan, I was extremely cautious going into “Molly’s Game.” It’s often times very hard for someone who’s known for one aspect of filmmaking, in this case screenwriting, to transition into directing their first feature. Thankfully, Sorkin knocked it out of the park, crafting a relentlessly entertaining film filled with his signature style of writing as well as a fresh directorial voice. Admittedly, there’s still some room for improvement, but he’s already on far more solid ground off of his directorial debut than most first time directors are.

Honorable Mentions:
“Bodied”
“I, Tonya”
“mother!”
“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”
“The Upside”

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: “ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.”

Three years ago, Dan Gilroy wowed audiences with his stellar directorial debut, “Nightcrawler.” It was a film so full of energy and put the audience through such a relentless experience at the movies. With “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” it’s as if everything that made “Nightcrawler” so special just vanished. This movie was just a slog to get through, never keeping me engaged. Not even Denzel Washington was able to save this.

Honorable Mentions:
“Brad’s Status”
“Downsizing”
“Foxtrot”
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Suburbicon”

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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “A FANTASTIC WOMAN”

I admittedly don’t see enough foreign films, so it was nice that I got an opportunity to see a good amount during the festival. The one that really stood out to me was “A Fantastic Woman,” a film so filled with raw emotion that was as beautifully realized as the gorgeous cinematography. Daniela Vega’s powerhouse performance was one of the most captivating of any film I saw during the festival.

Honorable Mentions:
“Custody”
“Loveless”
“Redoubtable”
“Thelma”

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “THE SHAPE OF WATER”

This was a no brainer. Guillermo Del Toro is a visual master and “The Shape of Water” is yet another prime example of his amazing style. Each and every frame of this movie was a beautiful painting, as lively as the characters inside them. Easily one of the most stunning films of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
“Call Me By Your Name”
“A Fantastic Woman”
“The Florida Project”
“Thelma”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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BEST SCORE: “THE SHAPE OF WATER”

Alexandre Desplat does it again. While I personally believe he didn’t deserve to win the Oscar for his work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” I definitely feel like his magical score for “The Shape of Water” is Oscar worthy. I still find myself humming some of the musical cues from this film even a week after the festival has concluded.

Honorable Mentions:
“Darkest Hour”
“The Disaster Artist”
“A Fantastic Woman”
“Thelma”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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BEST SOUNDTRACK: “I, TONYA”

Man, oh man, I love the song choices in “I, Tonya” so much! From “Goodbye Stranger” to “The Chain,” this movie is just flooded with amazing music that not only fits the time period perfectly, but also is beautifully integrated into the film’s narrative.

Honorable Mentions:
“Battle of the Sexes”
“Bodied”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Disaster Artist”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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BEST SCREENPLAY: “LADY BIRD”

Greta Gerwig’s writing is pure magic. She writes characters with such depth and humanity while also giving them hilarious dialogue and “Lady Bird” is no exception. Lady Bird herself is one of the most engaging and human characters of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Disaster Artist”
“The Florida Project”
“Molly’s Game”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LAURIE METCALF, “LADY BIRD”

This was a close call. Allison Janney’s performance in “I, Tonya” was hilarious and pure, but I felt more emotionally attached to Laurie Metcalf’s moving performance in “Lady Bird.” She gave a performance so authentic and so genuine, really adding to the humanity that the entire film encompasses.

Honorable Mentions:
Edie Falco, “Outside In”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “mother!”
Andrea Riseborough, “Battle of the Sexes”
Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: WILLEM DAFOE, “THE FLORIDA PROJECT”

Before I completely gush over this amazing performance, I just wanna mention briefly the incredible performance Sam Rockwell gave in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” coming very close to being my pick. That being said, Willem Dafoe’s work in “The Florida Project” is perfection. Dafoe is the beating heart of the film, adding a gigantic layer of warmth.

Honorable Mentions:
Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Michael Shannon, “The Shape of Water”
Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name”

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BEST ACTRESS: SAOIRSE RONAN, “LADY BIRD”

Saoirse Ronan should have won Best Actress at the Oscars a couple years ago for her amazing performance in “Brooklyn.” I hope they don’t make the same mistake again by overlooking her career best work in “Lady Bird.” She has such incredible comedic timing and does a beautiful job blending the comedy seamlessly with the more dramatic elements, crafting a character that truly stands out.

Honorable Mentions:
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Daniela Vega, “A Fantastic Woman”

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BEST ACTOR: JAMES FRANCO, “THE DISASTER ARTIST”

Yes, I know, everyone is claiming Gary Oldman to be the clear Best Actor frontrunner for “Darkest Hour,” but I don’t care. I was wowed by James Franco’s transformative performance in “The Disaster Artist,” the best performance of his career. What could have easily been just a simple impression of Tommy Wiseau is given so much more depth and humanity thanks to Franco making sure that the audience isn’t always laughing at him. You really grow to care for Tommy as the film progresses.

Honorable Mentions:
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Jay Duplass, “Outside In”
Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
Charlie Plummer, “Lean On Pete”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

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BEST DIRECTOR: SEAN BAKER, “THE FLORIDA PROJECT”

I didn’t see a movie more honest or more pure than “The Florida Project” and Sean Baker’s direction is a huge reason as to why it works so well. The entire film has a gorgeous color palate that perfectly compliments the life and pure innocence of its main character.

Honorable Mentions:
Guillermo Del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me By Your Name”
Martin McDonaugh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BOTTOM 5 FILMS OF TIFF:

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5. “ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.”

Like I mentioned before, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” was a massive disappointment. Dan Gilroy knocked it out of the park with his directorial debut, but now I think it’s entirely possible that it was a fluke. This movie was such a dull, uninspired mess that I can’t imagine that it came from the same director of “Nightcrawler.”

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4. “FOXTROT”

I know I’m alone on this one, but “Foxtrot” didn’t really work for me. I feel like there were times where the emotion was undercut by the use of comedy and the overall story felt inconsequential by its end. But hey, it’s still beautifully shot.

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3. “HOSTILES”

Talk about a complete bore. Yes, Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike give very committed performances, but the story never engaged me even for a second. I was struggling to stay up watching it.

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2. “DOWNSIZING”

This movie. This movie! I don’t think a movie frustrated me more than “Downsizing” did. Alexander Payne is obviously an extremely talented director, but this film is all over the place. Any creativity that the film had in the first half completely vanishes by the time the environmental message kicks in and brings the story to a halt.

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1. “VAMPIRE CLAY”

At Midnight Madness, you’re bound to have a couple duds. This year, we got “Vampire Clay,” a film that has clearly impressive stop motion animation and practical effects that the director never once cares to show in detail. It’s so horribly filmed and so atrociously edited, I couldn’t possibly enjoy the film on a so bad, it’s good level.

Honorable Mentions:
“Brad’s Status”
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Suburbicon”
“Who We Are Now”
“The Wife”

TOP 5 FILMS OF TIFF:

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5. “CALL ME BY YOUR NAME”

The first film I saw at TIFF still remains one of the best. Timothée Chalamet’s performance is one of the most emotionally raw of the year and Luca Guadagnino directs this film with such an incredible amount of passion, culminating in the best final shot of any movie I’ve seen in all of 2017.

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4. “THE DISASTER ARTIST”

I have never had as much fun in a movie theater as I did seeing “The Room” a couple years ago. Honestly, the midnight screening of “The Disaster Artist” might come close. Yes, it’s the funniest movie of the year, but Franco made this movie more inspiring than I expected it to be.

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3. “THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI”

I’m a huge fan of “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” Martin McDonaugh’s previous two films. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is better than both of them. It’s not just a hilariously dark movie, but one of the more layered stories I saw in all of TIFF. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell give outstanding performances that add so much to already beautifully well realized characters.

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2. “LADY BIRD”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Greta Gerwig is a triple threat. The amount of sincerity she pours into “Lady Bird” is just astounding, making the entire film a pure joy to watch. I can gush about this movie for hours, but I might wanna save some of that energy for my #1 pick.

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1. “THE FLORIDA PROJECT”

This was the movie that made me cry my eyes out more than any movie has since last year’s “La La Land.” I still had tears in my eyes as the post-film Q&A was going on. “The Florida Project” portrays the innocence of childhood in ways that I have never seen before. It really felt like I was peeking into the real lives of people going through real problems, but through the incredibly hopeful eyes of a child. This is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

Honorable Mentions:
“Custody”
“A Fantastic Woman”
“Molly’s Game”
“mother!”
“The Shape of Water”

And that’s it for TIFF 2017! I had a great time this year and it was great being able to share my thoughts on all of these amazing films. If you wanna stay updated with the latest films I see as soon as I see them, follow my Letterboxd here.

See ya next time!

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