Culture/Movies

Our top picks at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival

Get your popcorn ready!

September 4, 2019

Welcome to one of the largest film festivals in the world!  Take a peek at some future cult-hits, Academy Award winners and possible memes. Most importantly, have a great time. Please note: This list is personally a lot longer in my head.  

The Lighthouse directed by Robert Eggers (USA)

Eggers, who presented us with his visionary directorial debut The Witch (aka The VVitch) in 2015, returns with another old tale written by him and his brother (Max Eggers) starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two nineteenth century lighthouse keepers. If you’re not stoked to see these talents lose their minds in black and white, plagued by isolation, storms, and visions of sirens – you should be. Our future Batman is certainly bound to prove naysayers wrong with a solid performance.

Honey Boy directed by Alma Har’el (USA)

Developed from a screenplay penned by LaBeouf himself as part of his rehab program, and hailed by director Alma Har’el, Honey Boy depicts the ups and downs of LaBeouf (rather, a fictionalized version of him portrayed by Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges) and his strained relationship with his father (played by none other than LaBeouf himself). Producing art from childhood trauma is certainly controversial, and there’s sure to be some criticism aimed at the strange figure that is Mr. LaBeouf. Even so, the film received a standing ovation at its Sundance premiere – a promising sign. On another note, Har’el has admitted that she watched hours of Even Stevens for research. That’s admirable.

Parasite directed by Bong Joon-Ho (South Korea)

The latest from South Korean auteur Bong Joon-Ho won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, making it the first Korean film to receive the honour. It also notably made an impact on the Bong-Joon Ho fandom, which has since dubbed itself the Bong-Hive. A tale of “greed and class discrimination,” between two families makes for what will certainly be an interesting dark comedy and possible Best Foreign Language contender for South Korea.

First Love directed by Takashi Mike (Japan)

This Midnight Madness feature from acclaimed provocateur Takashi Mike is sure to be a wild ride. What else is to be expected from the man who brought us hits like Audition (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001)? Ok, I was honestly too disturbed to watch those films in full, but if First Love is anything like them you might need some barf bags for your screening.

Hustlers directed by Lorene Scafaria (USA)

With a plot derived from the wild 2015 article featured in New York magazine, Hustlers is loaded with a stellar cast of diverse women (Cardi B, Constance Wu, and Lizzo to name a few). It depicts the lives of a gang of former strippers who rob Wall Street men of their time and money during the financial crisis of 2008. This one just looks like a lot of fun, and its world premiere at the festival is sure to be iconic.

Joker directed by Todd Philips (USA)

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. That is all you need to know. But, really, the comic book movie genre might just be stepping up its game with this origin story of the classic villain. There hasn’t been any confirmation as to whether or not this is, even loosely, based on The Killing Joke, and judging by the trailer it seems to follow its own original plot. Some fans are highly doubtful that this film will be another Suicide Squad incident.

Marriage Story directed by Noah Baumbach (USA)

The term “Oscar buzz” is overused, but it’s definitely applicable to Greta Gerwig’s husband’s latest family drama about the divorce between a playwright (Adam Driver) and actress (Scarlet Johansson). Baumbach’s 2005 Oscar-nominated The Squid and the Whale also dealt with the same theme, but he seems confident that his newest won’t draw comparisons. And, hey, with Scarlett Johansson not playing a person of colour/trans person/tree, she might just give us a career-defining performance. I’m wondering how this will compare to the Barbie movie Baunbach is set to pen with Gerwig.

Atlantics directed by Mati Diop (France, Senegal, Belgium)

The film is described as a “supernatural romance” about construction workers in Senegal who flee their town to live on the ocean-side. Following Diops previous work, Atlantics is said to provide social commentary on the relationships between Senegalese men and women. It was the winner of the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Mati Diop being the first black woman to compete. 

There’s Something in the Water directed by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel (Canada)

This timely documentary takes its title and inspiration from Ingrid R.D Waldron’s text, “There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities.” The film features interviews between Page and various Indigenous and black Nova-Scotia women in April 2018, intended to emphasise that the repercussions of climate change and waste harm marginalized communities more often than not. This will certainly be an impactful watch.

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema directed by Mark Cousins (Various)

This documentary presented by essayist Mark Cousins is said to “rewrite film history,” demonstrating the integral role women have played in cinema for ages. The fourteen-hour feature presenting clips from over 180 female directors is premiering at the festival in five installations. It’s certainly an ambitious and unique piece, one that is worth viewing (even if it’s just one of the 14 hours).

Clemency directed by Chinonye Chukwu (USA)

The film, set to premiere at the festival, portrays the psychological struggles of a death row prison warden (Alfre Woodard). It was the winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, making director Chinonye Chukwu the first black woman to receive the award. Alfre Woodard’s performance has also been praised immensely, proving that this is not a film to miss.

A Hidden Life directed by Terrence Malik (USA, Germany)

The newest from Terrence Malik will certainly enamor us with graceful landscapes and poetic dialogue. A Hidden Life is a historical drama about Fraz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) an Austrian farmer who openly defied the Third Reich during WWII. Editing the film took three years, so you know we’re in for a haunting ride with this one.

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