Friday, September 18, 2015

A Look at the Hits and Misses of TIFF

Scene from Anomalisa
As the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) wraps up, it's time to take account of the big news that has come out of it. Following the brief but memorable news that came out of Telluride, TIFF marks one of the annual high points in Oscar Season. It is a time when films begin to make a name for themselves, helping to shape the race with a few outsiders that likely weren't considered before. While I will try not to address a lot of films that I discussed in the Telluride piece, I do feel the need to make a few highlights as to what significant film news we have heard, and what we can expect in the months going forward.

THE MARTIAN: I was pretty much ready to give up on covering director Ridley Scott at all for The Oscar Buzz. While I think Prometheus is a raggedy good time and The Counselor is a charmingly odd film, his most recent film (Exodus: Gods and Kings) was dull and showed that his best days may be behind him. However, The Martian is a film that is surprising in that it has received positive reviews, even giving praise to actor Matt Damon - of whom the film centralizes on as he travels to Mars. Much like Interstellar, I don't suspect that this will be showing up outside of technical fields, but it does sound like it is looking to be Scott's best film in many years. That alone adds some intrigue, especially as it mixes spectacle with brains.

TRUMBO: I didn't have high expectations for the film largely because I think Bryan Cranston has been a more consistent actor in TV roles. Yet I do think it's worth mentioning, since the film's subject Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Spartacus) is a two time Oscar winner with a controversial history with the House of Un-Americans Activity (HUAC) board. I haven't heard a lot that's convincing me that this is Cranston's breakout role, though it could serve as a dark horse considering that the Oscars love stories about Oscar winners. However, the complaints of it being a little too conventional have thrown me a little further off of the scent of this being a real contender.

THE DANISH GIRL: While the film premiered at Venice, I haven't really spoken much about it. To be fair, I do think that the film is already looking to be a shoe-in largely because of its subject matter and the involvement of last year's Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and director Tom Hooper. The good buzz continues through this festival, with a lot more likely to come as its release rapidly approaches. Also, keep an eye out for Alicia Vikander, who has gotten almost as much praise as Redmayne.

ANOMALISA: Probably one of the better surprises of the season from writer and director Charlie Kaufman. He delivers a stop motion film that is his first directorial film since the solid Synechdoche, New York. The praise has been almost unanimous for the film and leaves many to question its potential Oscar chances. If nothing else, I predict that it will be up for Best Animated Feature. Though that's largely just personal speculation at this point.

I SAW THE LIGHT: While the prospects of playing a real life person may be tempting, the general vibes regarding Tom Hiddelston's performance as Hank Williams has been tepid at best. While not considered a total disaster, it is one of those potential hopefuls that doesn't sound like it will deliver the shake-up that we're likely all hoping for.

OUR BRAND IS CRISIS: I was initially going to do a piece about the trailer when it premiered, but it seemed a little too goofy. The reviews pretty much reinstate this opinion, even if I think that director David Gordon Green has been on an upward trajectory in the past few years between Prince Avalanche and Joe. However, the general consensus is that Sandra Bullock delivers a really good performance that single-handedly makes the film worth checking out.

FREEHELD: I will admit that this was one of my more anticipated films to hear about from the festival, largely because the talent involved was so promising. However, the general reviews have been very poor and its handle of the subject is more stating than expressing. While I haven't heard a lot regarding the performances, it doesn't bode well for its Oscar chances - specifically in the acting fields that I had predicted them in.

TRUTH: The other Cate Blanchett movie. It's gotten good reviews, but the general consensus is that if you're to bet on one Blanchett movei this year, go for Carol, which continued to rack up acclaim since Telluride. 

It is hard to get everything that happened at TIFF, but I do think that I covered a fair share of what would have been the "major" films to the awards season. As stated, I didn't mention older films* that I previously discussed. However, I do think that the race is starting to heat up and hopefully some interesting things will begin happening in the months going forward.

*Films that played and have gotten good traction include: The Lobster, Spotlight, Room, Black Mass, Youth, Louder Than Bombs, and Brooklyn.

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