With over 300 films premiering over 11 days at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it’s nearly impossible to see every single film that sounds interesting. I was fortunate enough to get to twenty films over nine days while at the festival. Here are my thoughts on the hits, the misses, and films that are carrying the most buzz heading into Oscar season.
First, a few films and performances generating strong buzz that I just missed out on.
Renee Zellweger in Judy
Portraying Judy Garland in the last year of her career as a performer in London, Zellweger is garnering massive acclaim in this better-than-average film.
Directed by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale), Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a divorced couple trying to navigate their new lives. Look for this film to be a major player for acting, directing, screenplay, and potentially Best Picture.
Pain and Glory
Heralded as the crowning achievement of Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodovar’s career, Pain and Glory stars Antonio Banderas as a film director who reflects on his life choices.
Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems
Another performance garnering plenty of hype is Adam Sandler’s turn as a New York jeweler in the latest film directed by the Safdie brothers (Good Time).
Next up, my top five films of the festival.
Honorable Mentions: All of these films I rated a 4/5 or higher but did not crack my top five: Abominable, Proxima, Waves, The Lighthouse, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Ford v Ferrari.
5. Joker: Coming out of Venice with a massive hype machine and a golden lion statue under its belt, Joker was elevated by an interesting take on the source material and an amazing performance by Joaquin Phoenix (4.5/5).
4. Weathering with You: Director Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up feature to Your Name., Weathering with You may not be as great as his last film, but it is a visually stunning effort (4.6/5).
3. Knives Out: Rian Johnson has scrubbed off all the troll venom from The Last Jedi and created a funny, well-acted, and smartly written whodunit crime film that avoids many of the tropes that typically sink a film in this subgenre (4.75/5).
2. Jojo Rabbit: The People’s Choice Award winner is a hilarious farce that also packs a strong emotional wallop. Roman Griffin Thomas’ performance as young Jojo is one of the best I’ve seen out of any child actor in years. Taiki Waititi, if he wasn’t already, has cemented his spot as one of the best filmmakers of this generation (4.9/5).
1. Parasite: The Palme D’Or winner at this Cannes film festival is as close to cinematic perfection as you probably can get. The strength of the direction, cinematography, screenplay, and performances from all involved will make this a frontrunner for many major awards (5/5).
Finally, a few films that just missed the mark.
The Goldfinch: The critics skewered it, and audiences didn’t care to see it. This adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was two and a half hours of time wasted that eventually went nowhere.
Lucy in the Sky: After seeing the first trailer for this film I was all in. Natalie Portman as an astronaut who returns to space and is slowly losing her grip on reality sounds great, and Portman saved this from being a complete failure, but the film took risks when it shouldn’t have and didn’t take risks when it could have.
Color Out of Space: I know there is an audience out there who are die-hards for both Crazy Nicolas Cage and H.P. Lovecraft. The marriage should have been there, but the story was aimless, and the Nic Cage shtick wore brutally thin well before the third act began.
Sean is a member of the MAMFam and a contributor. He can be found on Instagram @moviebirb and his reviews can be found at moviebirb.com.