The stars were out in full force this month as the Toronto International Film Festival returned to the city — and I’m not exaggerating when I use the word force.
My TIFF season started the same way I imagine most do for the plebs. One minute I was perched on the patio of the ultra cool, members-only Soho House sipping rosé, the next I was promptly being booted out of my table because Brooklyn Beckham’s ex-girlfriend needed a seat. C’est la vie.
I won’t bore you with the details about all the fancy gala premieres I attended (read: one – shout out to The Kit, you know how to throw a party), but I will tell you that my luck started to look up for the rest of the week. Even a strong bout of cellulitis on my elbow couldn’t hold me down.
I spent two hours listening to the captivating Mahershala Ali as he shared his life journey — from growing up watching his father on Soul Train, to being “the token black actor” on every TV show, and finally winning an Oscar for his role in Moonlight, which helped him score the lead role in HBO’s upcoming season of True Detective. I fell in love with Bradley Cooper’s deep, grumbling, southern drawl in his directorial debut of A Star Is Born; I laughed at Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace’s bromance in Nick Hamm’s Driven; I cried watching Hilary Swank in her return to the big screen in What They Had, and I left White Boy Rick blown away by not only newcomer Richie Merrit, but by yet another story of America’s scuzzy justice system.
And while this post has been all about me so far, my cultured, movie-loving colleagues got in on the TIFF action, too. Honourable mention goes to the best managing director in the game, who not only keynoted TIFF’s industry conference but who also let us shimmy in and out of the office as we pleased so we wouldn’t miss the flicks we wanted to see.
Over 300 films were screened in 11 days, and yes, TIFF ended almost a week ago, but we’re still talking about the good, the bad, and the fan-fucking-tastic films everyone in the office saw.
Without further ado, I give you the first annual Eighty-Eight TIFF review.
EIGHTY-EIGHT’S PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
Peter Farrelly’s Green Book
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, and Linda Cardellini
Not only was this film crowned with the most closely-watched award at TIFF 18, the Grolsch People’s Choice, but it also captured the hearts of all the Eighty-Eighters who saw it. Mahershala Ali plays celebrated black classical pianist Don Shirley, who embarks on a tour of the Deep American South in the 1960s with his driver, a racist Italian-American bouncer played by Viggo Mortensen. Directed by one of the Farrelly brothers — the duo behind iconic comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary –– this movie tackles serious subjects like race, masculinity, stereotypes, and class. But while its themes are serious, the movie is delightfully funny and charming. It tells a true story about friendship through the eyes of two very different men. We laughed, we cried, we clapped, and we didn’t want it to end.
MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE LOVE IS REAL, BUT AFFIRM THE WORLD IS BAD
Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk
Cast: KiKi Layne and Stephan James
There ain’t no love story like a Barry Jenkins-directed love story. Back at TIFF with his follow-up to Moonlight, this film adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel follows a young woman as she fights to free her falsely-accused partner from prison.
Starring Toronto’s very own Stephan James, this social realism film depicts America’s broken justice system. Themes of injustice, oppression, and prejudice are represented throughout the film, juxtaposed with love, hope, and family. We’re still swooning over all the Jenkins-esque details from the film — including a masterful score and soundtrack, and brilliant, beautiful cinematography.
MOST CONVINCING CASE FOR MOVING TO FRANCE
Olivier Assayas’ Non-Fiction
Cast: Guillaume Canet and Juliette Binoche
The newest film by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, Non-Fiction is a comedy about a Parisian publisher and his successful-actor wife that explores a theme that we at Eighty-Eight are privy to every day: digital disruption. Assayas’ social critique wonderfully depicts the state of things as they are today, through hilarious running conversation that shares varying opinions on the role digital plays in our day-to-day.
Even better, this movie gives us an indication of what a life lived in France would be like. Endless stimulating conversation paired with nightly dinner parties? Oui, s’il vous plaît!
MOST LIKELY TO CAUSE A THEATRE WALKOUT
Claire Denis’ High Life
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and Andre Benjamin
The plot of this movie sounds promising on paper: criminals agree to go on a space mission to investigate black holes but aren’t told they will also be the subjects of reproductive experiments. Space drama ensues.
Instead, this sci-fi drama is perplexing, graphically sexual, violent, and a waste of a strong premise. During the TIFF 18 screening, a large number of audience members walked out, and those who did stay until the end left scratching their heads and asking themselves what the heck they just watched. The most impressive part of this movie is the fact that it has kept us perplexed for weeks after. Avoid at all costs, unless you love existential French films with a weird sex room — we’re not judging.
MOST LIKELY TO INSPIRE YOU TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST
Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks’ Quincy
Cast: Quincy Jones
Spoiler alert: Quincy Jones is more accomplished and badass than pretty much anyone else in the music business. If you didn’t know that going into this movie, you’ll definitely know it when you leave. Quincy’s daughter Rashida Jones teamed up with filmmaker Alan Hicks to direct this intimate documentary, brilliantly and honestly depicting the rise to, and the price of, fame.
Quincy played, wrote, and produced for the best of the best, from Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles to the King of Pop (Michael Jackson, duh). He grew up during the depression and almost died several times for his craft. This movie takes you deep into his life, and his greatness will blow your mind. It’s about drive, and health, and family, and heartbreak. It gives you all the feels and makes you fall in love with a man you don’t even know.
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