TIFF 18: Reviews and rankings

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival seems like it was two months ago … but in reality, it just ended on Sept. 16. There is more#TIFF18 coverage to come from yours truly, including a feature in the November issue of Buffalo Spree magazine, but here’s a quick round-up of my festival coverage. (And enjoy the photo of Jamie Lee Curtis I took at the HALLOWEEN premiere.)

A review of Barry Jenkins’s exquisite James Baldwin adaptation, I BEALE STREET COULD TALK, forThe Film Stagehttps://thefilmstage.com/reviews/tiff-review-if-beale-street-could-talk-is-an-exquisite-painful-and-timeless-love-story/

A review of Steve McQueen’s entertaining and powerful heist film, WIDOWS, for The Film Stage:https://thefilmstage.com/reviews/tiff-review-widows-is-a-timely-tremendously-entertaining-heist-drama/

A review of DESTROYER, a dark police drama starring Nicole Kidman, for The Film Stage:https://thefilmstage.com/reviews/tiff-review-destroyer-is-a-ambitiously-pitch-black-showcase-for-nicole-kidman/

A review of JEREMIAH TERMINATOR LEROY, a fun take on the JT LeRoy literary scandal starring Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, for The Film Stage:https://thefilmstage.com/reviews/tiff-review-jeremiah-terminator-leroy-features-a-charismatic-kristen-stewart-tricking-the-literary-world/

A review of the well-acted but disappointing love story TELL IT TO THE BEES, starring Anna Paquin, for The Playlisthttps://theplaylist.net/tell-it-bees-review-20180909/

A review of FREAKS, a pleasantly surprising sci-fi flick starring Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern, for The Playlisthttps://theplaylist.net/freaks-emile-hirsch-tiff-review-20180908/

And lastly, I ranked the 20 TIFF18 entries I saw before and during the festival for http://www.buffalospree.com/Blogs/Talk-about-Arts/Annual-2018/Beale-Street-A-Star-is-Born-Widows-and-more/


Final thoughts as TIFF18 approaches (for BuffaloSpree.com)

Natalie Portman in Vox Lux; courtesy of TIFF

When I wrote this final Toronto International Film Festival preview post for BuffaloSpree.com, TIFF18 was eight days away. Now … it’s tomorrow! Watch for my coverage on BuffaloSpree.com, in the November issue of Buffalo Spree magazine, for websites The Film Stage and The Playlist, on Twitter, and right here.

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival is now just over a week away. Starting on Sept. 6 and running through Sept. 16, TIFF18 will feature a staggering 343 films (255 features and eighty-eight shorts) and draw audiences, actors, filmmakers, industry folks and press from around the globe.

In recent weeks, I’ve contemplated what might make the lineup, looked at some standouts from the first batch of announcements, and made a few under-the-radar picks. Now, the schedule is completely set. Here are some final thoughts.

Any standouts just added to the lineup?

There is one recently-added biggie, and that’s Vox Lux, starring Natalie Portman. The trailer for Brady Corbet’s Venice and TIFF entry centered around a music superstar dropped this week and looked positively stunning.

What will be this year’s hottest ticket?

Buzz can shift as the festival progresses, but there are two obvious hotties here. First is David Gordon Green’s much-anticipated remake of Halloween, with a returning Jamie Lee Curtis. The film will screen just twice during TIFF, at 11:30 p.m. and midnight in two separate venues on September 8. That … does not happen very often. (I’m not even attempting to get a ticket.)

And the other unique screening is Damien Chazelle’s First Man on September 8. While the Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling screens throughout the festival, the  venue for its TIFF debut is notable: the Ontario Place Cinesphere. The IMAX theater reopened with much fanfare in 2017; last year, TIFF presented Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk at the venue.

Any noteworthy festival events that don’t involve film screenings?

Part of what makes TIFF so memorable is everything else happening in around the festival. At the top of the list in 2018 is the Share Her Journey Rally, scheduled for 10 a.m. on September 8. It will feature a strong lineup of speakers and guests.

Which music drama will draw the most praise?

That’s a good question. Will it be Lady Gaga’s A Star is Born or Natalie Portman’s aforementioned Vox Lux, or two smaller-scale selections, Elle Fanning’s Teen Spirit or Elisabeth Moss’s Her Smell? We’ll find out.

What will be this year’s Lady Bird?

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was the unquestioned delight of TIFF17 — sweet, funny, and built around a stupendous lead performance from Saoirse Ronan. Perhaps this year’s Lady Bird will be American Dharma, Errol Morris’s documentary portrait of Steve Bannon. KIDDING!

In actuality, at first glance there does not seem to be a Lady Bird on this year’s list — in other words, a warm-hearted comedy-drama from a female filmmaker. There are many eagerly awaited entries from woman directors (such as Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer and Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch), but it’s a dark bunch. While it lacks the star power of Lady Bird, one female-fronted entry to watch for is Mia Hansen-Løve’s Maya. The director of past festival favorites Eden and Things to Come this time tackles the tale of a French war correspondent’ss return home following captivity in Syria.

For folks planning to attend, what are three must-sees that might fall through the cracks?

There are so , so many films at TIFF that choosing what to see is extremely difficult. And it’s also tricky when so many high-profile, star-driven films are in the lineup. One film to consider is Mélanie Laurent’s Galveston, the story of a hitman on the lam with a young prostitute. Ben Foster and Elle Fanning star in the latest from Laurent, the Inglourious Basterds star who directed 2014’s great Breathe. Galveston is based on a novel by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto.

Next on the must list is Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. This was the most high profile honor yet for director of the masterful Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm. Shoplifters tells the story of a ramshackle family that relies on shoplifting to survive. It’s set for U.S. release in November.

Lastly is Museo, starring Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También, No). Alonso Ruizpalacios follows up his acclaimed 2014 debut, Güeros, with the tale of two men on a quest to steal artifacts from Mexico’s National Anthropology Museum. Inspired by a true story, Museo looks to be one the TIFF18’s most entertaining films.

Why no Suspiria or The Favourite?!

Friends, I can’t answer that one, nor can I say why Mary, Queen of Scots is missing from the TIFF, Venice and Telluride lineups. So let’s just be happy with what is on tap for TIFF. After all, there are 343 reasons to be excited.