TIFF follow-up: Bastards, Blue, and Dallas

bastards-620x326

Most of the films I was sad to miss at TIFF 2013 have not yet been released, although there are a few — Rush and Enough Said come to mind — that I simple have been unable to catch up with. Happily, though, there are a few that I was horrified to miss that I have been able to see. It seems funny now to remember how I gazed at the TIFF schedule, desperately seeking a way to fit in Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity, for example. It seems especially silly since I knew those were coming soon. Every year I tell myself I need to see more films that I’ll likely never come upon again …

Anyway, the five films below are TIFF selections I was able to see since the festival ended. It’s a solid group … mostly. (Incidentally, All Is Lost did not play TIFF, but would have been listed below with 4 stars if it had.)

 

Bastards — 4 stars

Dark, disturbing, and unforgettable, Claire Denis’ film is a brutal, noir shocker. There are images — blood running down a dazed, naked girl’s legs; the inside of a hellish barn; one of the most mesmerizing night driving sequences in film history — as brilliantly composed as any in recent memory.

 

 

Blue is the Warmest Color — 4 stars

I have already written a bit about Blue; suffice to say, I adored it. It has been interesting to see more of the backlash develop, and read some harsh criticism of the film. There are some valid thoughts there, but I stand by my belief that this is a very special love story, and one of the finest films of this year.

 

Dallas Buyers Club — 3 stars

I just saw Dallas, and I must admit, I’m still wrestling with my verdict. It is a highly watchable, very entertaining film, with strong performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. It does a fine job of establishing its place (Texas) and time (the mid-80s to the late-90s). Perhaps … it seemed more entertaining than it should. This is, after all, a film about the AIDS crisis. For the moment, I am going with 3 stars. It’s a fine film — I just can’t decide if I can call it a great one.

 

Gravity — 3 stars

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is another tricky one. Make no mistake, it is a stirring cinematic achievement, a technical wonder, and a real experience. But the writing is awful, the characters poorly drawn, and, as a friend pointed out after seeing it at TIFF, Gravity is essentially a survival story, nothing more. All Is Lost does a far better job of reaching beyond the genre’s limitations. Still, what a wonder!

 

Parkland — 2 stars

Pre-TIFF, I was very interested in this Kennedy assassination drama. Its central concept — a multi-character look at how that day affected individuals like Abraham Zapruder — is fascinating. But the resulting film is dull and unmemorable. Its heart is in the right place, but Parkland takes one of the most complex moments in American history and renders it … sleepy.

Schobie’s (premature) Oscar predictions: Best Picture

dallas_buyers

Awards season is fun, wild, and absurd. Seeing what is in the mix, what falls away, what sticks, etc., is fascinating, and even though I am not an Oscar insider, I can certainly to pretend to be an Oscar prognosticator. There are still films to be see

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  • Philomena
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

I’m going out on a limb and predicting that All Is Lost, August: Osage County, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska all miss the cut. As I write this, Hustle and Wolf have not been screened, but both seem to be agreed upon as likely candidates. The locks, it seems to me, are 12 Years, Phillips, Gravity, and Mr. Banks. I think respect for Woody Allen and the film’s dramatic power make Blue Jasmine one of the ten (if, that is, there are even ten selections this year). Dallas, Butler, and Philomena, on the other hand, are films that many find extremely moving. That counts for a lot. And even though all three receive strong but not overwhelming reviews, the onscreen emotion will carry them through.

Of course, I could be totally wrong. But I think this ten makes a lot of sense. I believe the ultimate winner will be 12 Years or Gravity — most likely Gravity.

Much depends on how American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street are received. But looking at it logically — box office hit, solid reviews, technological achievement, a “made for the big screen” film, two beloved stars, a respected filmmaker — it is hard not to see Gravity as the film to beat.

I, of course, would be voting for 12 Years a Slave …

Wednesday Round-Up: TIFF talk heats up with only 8 days to go

dallas buyers

With the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival just eight days away, you can expect TIFF talk here and elsewhere to go into overdrive. Maximum overdrive, even. Almost every day from now until the end of the festival, I’ll be posting something TIFF-related — although not tomorrow; note I said ALMOST.

The majority of my coverage will be for Indiewire’s The Playlist, for The Film Stage, and for the November issue of Buffalo Spree, but I will certainly post here, and I will also be posting lots on FilmSwoon’s Twitter and Facebook pages, so please hit those up while I’m at the festival (September 6-9).

One TIFF entry I am hoping to see — honestly, it’s all up in the air at this point — is “Dallas Buyers Club,” a.k.a., The Film That Matthew McConaughey Lost All That Weight For. It is a fantastic concept for a movie, and represents another unique choice for its star. The Playlist posted some new pictures for the film — its release date was just moved up to early November, a very confident move — and an official synopsis:

“In 1986, the AIDS crisis was still a misunderstood horror, withering then taking its victims, alarming the public and confounding the doctors who sought a cure. In Texas, Ron Woodruff stood beyond the fear of AIDS. He was clueless. So when this boozing, foul-mouthed, womanizing heterosexual contracted HIV, his response was instinctive: Bullshit.

“‘Dallas Buyers Club’ draws on his true story. When Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) is told that he has only thirty days to live, he pleads with a doctor (Jennifer Garner) for what was then an experimental drug, AZT. But he refuses to submit to a clinical trial, so he steals the drug — taking his first dose with a beer chaser and a snort of cocaine. When the AZT dosage makes him sick, he seeks out alternative medicine. Never one to heed rules, Woodruff smuggles unapproved treatments over the border from Mexico. Along the way, he strikes up an unlikely alliance with Rayon, a sleek but troubled drag queen, played with stunning conviction by Jared Leto. The pair teams up to sell treatments to the growing numbers of HIV and AIDS patients unwilling to wait for the medical establishment to save them. It’s a classic story of American enterprise.”

The Playlist and The Film Stage are two of my favorite sources for news and info as TIFF draws closer, and I don’t just say that because I’m a contributor for both.

The rest of this week’s round-up:

Photo: “Dallas Buyers Club”