Monday, April 15, 2024

On The Ground At TIFF: Days 1 & 2

By David Baldwin

Although the team here at Next Best Picture was unable to acquire passes to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year, we received an offer from David Baldwin of Geek Speak Magazine, The Movie Chasm and more to give us his personal recaps of the festival, the films he has seen and his overall general thoughts on how they may or may not factor into this year’s Oscar race.

Click below to read his personal journey through days 1 and 2 at TIFF.

​Living in Canada, I had dreamt of attending the Toronto International Film Festival – or TIFF for short – since 1999. I was able to finally attend in 2010, and have been hooked ever since. It got significantly easier to attend after moving to the city and will make my goal of seeing over 30 films in 9 of the festival’s 11 days relatively achievable. If I can avoid falling asleep that is.

In the first two days, I have watched six films. Three have absolutely no chance of even attempting to go for an Oscar, whereas the other three may factor in.

The one film I knew I had to see going into the festival was Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name.” It generated a lot of heat out of Sundance, and the hype has just continued to roll on ever since. Twitter lit up after the industry screening on Thursday morning, but I had to venture to the Bell Lightbox (TIFF’s year-round home base) on Friday morning at 9:30 AM to get my chance – and this was after getting home at 3 AM after a midnight movie!

As you might expect, the film is every bit as good as you have heard. It is slow moving, but every frame is absolutely gorgeous. I immediately regretted not applying for a foreign student exchange to Italy the moment the credits started rolling. But not one moment goes wasted on this tale of young love, giving us a career best performance from Armie Hammer and a magnificent, extraordinary performance from the young Timothée Chalamet. If you have not heard of him yet, you will once they start announcing year-end Best Actor candidates. His work here is mesmerizing and almost other-worldly. You hang on each of his moments (Including one scene involving a peach) and feel every one of his emotions. 

I really enjoyed the film, but the standout moment comes from character actor Michael Stuhlbarg, who delivers an absolutely devastating monologue in the film’s final moments that will bring you to tears. It is one of the most memorable scenes of the year, and one that will surely catapult this film to the top of the list of Best Picture nominees. I just wish some of the musical choices were a little less clunky.

Another Oscar contender I caught was Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird.” I enjoyed the film – mostly for another magnificent turn from Saoirse Ronan – but also because of Gerwig’s impeccable screenplay. It is nothing original, but it really digs down deep into the nuances of adolescence and that crucial year between high school and college where everything changes. It is frequently hilarious but also quite moving, especially in regards to the relationship between Ronan’s titular character and her mother played by TV regular Laurie Metcalf. There is an aura of authenticity between the pair that goes beyond simply acting. Also – bonus points for a small turn from Chalamet, who also shows up in the hotly buzzed “Hostiles” with Christian Bale which I get to see early next week.

The last potential Oscar nominee is Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” where the Oscar-nominated filmmaker goes through the process of sourcing his own chickens and creating his own fast food restaurant. The film is entertaining (It is a Spurlock documentary after all), and it makes no qualms showcasing some of the darker and grosser elements of chicken farming – not to mention tearing down the myths of what constitutes a “free-range chicken”. It loses steam in the middle when it goes on a tangent regarding a lawsuit between chicken farmers and the Big Chicken corporations, and the ending lacks the punch of the first act. But with a rumored acquisition from YouTube Red, this doc may not be much of a factor.

As for the rest of the titles I have seen so far, I liked the Northern Quebec zombie flick “Les Affamés,” even if it was glacially paced; I thought the Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two” was a fascinating, warts and all look at Lady Gaga behind-the-scenes but lacked a clear purpose and structure; and I was not too thrilled by the battle rap satire “Bodied,” which opened the Midnight Madness programme on Thursday night. The first hour felt like a shotgun blast to the chest, but it slows down way too hard in its second half and limps to the finish. But I just might not be the target demo for a film that features a relatively uncut 40-minute rap battle finale.

But that is just the start of this year’s crop of TIFF films. I will have more in the coming days and I am keeping my fingers crossed on seeing plenty more Oscar contenders. Stay tuned.

You can follow David and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @davemabaldwin

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