Hollywood hits and small pleasures at Toronto Film Fest: A report
The Toronto International Film Festival is still going strong as I write this. I made it through the first six days of movie madness before deadlines and a desire to keep my sanity brought me back home for some peace, regular eating and sleeping hours, and no movies. So was it worth it? You bet!
Though my goal was to see 25 films, I made it to just 13, and only one of them was a clunker, a movie called “Mystery Road” that will never open. Of the other 12, some were pretty good, some darn good, and a couple were excellent. Here’s a quick overview. Some will get released over the next couple of weeks, while a few still need to find distributors but will no doubt eventually be able to be seen on the big screen. I’ll do this alphabetically.
“All Is by My Side” – Rapper Andre Benjamin puts on a fright wig and becomes a young, pre-famous Jimi Hendrix in this drama about the people and times that shaped him.
“At Berklee” – Documentarian Frederick Wiseman aims his fly-on-the-wall camera at University of California Berkeley to check out today’s scene, warts and all.
“Child of God” – James Franco directs a truly disturbing Cormac McCarthy story of a deranged man who knows not between right and wrong, but usually goes for wrong. Depraved and fascinating.
“Dallas Buyers Club” – Matthew McConaughey continues his hot streak, in a true story of an egotistical ladies man who got AIDS in the ’80s, then turned his life around for the better as a crusader.
“Gravity” – Sandra Bullock has much more screen time than George Clooney in this gripping and claustrophobic study of trouble in space. She meets the role’s challenge, and the 3-D works really well.
“Horns” – Daniel Radcliffe is accused of murdering his longtime girlfriend, then horns sprout from his head, and people around him start acting strangely. Wonderfully weird, though a bit over the top.
“The Invisible Woman” – Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens who, in the midst of a loveless marriage, fell for a younger woman (Felicity Jones). A beautiful, very sad movie.
“Kill Your Darlings” – Daniel Radcliffe again, along with Dane Dehaan and Ben Foster in the true story of the 1940s college kids would grow up to be America’s Beat poets.
“Man of Tai Chi” – A contemporary Kung-fu thriller with hero Tiger Hu Chen and villain Keanu Reeves getting mixed up in vicious underground martial arts contests. Wild action, good direction from Reeves.
“Prisoners” – The kidnapping-revenge genre gets a refreshing and nail-biting makeover when a child goes missing, dad gets mad, and the cops don’t know what to do. With Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.
“Visitors” – Director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass gave us the stunning “Koyaanisqatsi” 30 years ago. They’re back with an equally stunning film that actually looks at us while we watch it.
Why didn’t I see any more? I also had to do interviews with actors and directors whose films I saw (more on that later), I got into some amazing, kind of geeked-out conversations while waiting in long lines with other movie lovers and, hey, I had to eat and sleep!