All photos courtesy of TIFF
As the Toronto International International Film Festival comes to a close and the last film gets screened for the exhausted festival goer, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite films. Out of the 296 films at the festival, I managed to see 22 of them – just a dent in the grand scheme of things, but impressive enough given the five days I was there. From charming musical homages to an insane 90-minute shootout, here are my top seven — a lot of which will definitely be contenders come awards season.
7. FREE FIRE
When it comes down to it, everyone in this movie is an idiot — which is why the film is bitingly fun and crackling with incendiary wit. What starts off as a seemingly run-of-the-mill illegal gun sale turns into a war, with each minute getting progressively crazier and more moronic than the next because of the inane people involved.
The five-time Academy Award nominee knocks it out of the park in a nuanced performance of a woman, confident in her skills, thrown into an intense situation in which the country is relying on her to decipher the language of a pair of calamari-looking aliens whose language sounds like a mix between humpback whale songs and the freaky noises the Predator makes before he kills.
The Academy Award-winning actress is set for a wave of nominations with this astonishingly nuanced portrayal of the former First Lady. There have been many “Jackies” in TV and film, but none like Natalie Portman’s.
Fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford’s sophomore effort immediately silenced all my doubts about his directing skills and made me yearn for a third helping of Ford cinema. Nocturnal Animals fires on all cylinders when it comes to style, storytelling, and Ford’s vision – one that is becoming increasingly inimitable.
The real-life story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving is a beautiful story of commitment that is as relevant today as it was in 1958. Director/writer Jeff Nichols, along with his stellar cast, exceeded expectations by crafting an emotionally triumphant and beautiful story that speaks volumes in today’s social climate.
Riding a wave of positive buzz, Moonlight, the visual marvel written and directed by Barry Jenkins, landed at the Toronto International Film Festival where it continued to wow audiences with its brutally honest portrayal of a gay black man’s journey. But don’t allow the hype attached to the festival hit influence your experience. Rather, Jenkins’ heartbreaking masterpiece is best viewed with a clear, open mind in order to fully absorb it’s emotional gut punch.
1. LA LA LAND
Damien Chazelle’s movie musical La La Land is the remedy for that, balancing levity and humor with auteur-grade filmmaking for an incredibly enchanting movie-going experience that will put a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step.
Honorable mentions: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT and HEADSHOT
If The Running Man, The Hunger Games, and Office Space had a three-way marriage and birthed a child, it would be The Belko Experiment. Helmed by Wolf Creek director Greg McLean and written by Guardians of the Galaxy maestro James Gunn, the blood spattering thriller is violent kill or be killed mayhem at its best. In Headshot, starring underrated and underused martial arts star, Iwo Uwais plays an amnesiac man who slowly puts the pieces together from his past only to become hellbent on revenge. Bone-cracking, hyper-violent, and crackling with jaw-dropping, fist-to-face action, Headshot is like The Raid dialed up to 20.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer