As we reach the final stretch of what has been a decidedly divisive film fest, it would be quite common for one to look back. However, with this being the 7th day of the fest, good movies keep showing up, but also movie overload has set upon most of us here. The movies and the performances have been plentiful, and so have the abundant galas and after parties. What we’ve seen has given us a clearer picture of what to expect in the coming months, but not the whole picture. TIFF is not a place to rest easy and relax like Telluride; you come here expecting something hectic and you get it. In the coming week I’ll be posting a few interviews I had with several artists, including Richard Gere – whose performance in “Time out of Mind” might be a career best for him, same with director Oren Moverman, whose simple, poetic style makes you understand why the New York Film Fest chose his movie at their prestigiously artsy fest.
I also spoke to the Dardennes, who’s latest “Two Days, One Night” is the most brilliant movie I’ve seen about the economy crisis and one of the very best movies of the year. It was a blast talking to them about the film, Cotillard and what they thought was the best film of 2014, here’s a hint: It’s a Linklater.
The best picture contenders were not as loaded as last year: “The Theory of Everything” was the film many were talking about. It’s an expertly made movie with top notch performances, especially by Eddie Redmayne who plays the theoretical physicist in an absolute stunner of a role that reminds you of Daniel Day-Lewis in Jim Sheridan’s “My Left Foot”. Director James Marsh keeps the sentimentality at bay for a more sustained style of intimacy.
The film that might benefit the most from both of these pictures clashing against each other might be a film that debuted at Sundance in January. Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” got the loudest ovation of any film at the fest and has gained quite a few new fans in the last week. I’m also convinced that J.K Simmons has a good shot at not only gettin g nominated but going all the way and WINNING it. As we speak, this is the front-runner for the festival’s audience award which will be given out on Sunday.
You want another Best Picture contender? Jean-Marc Vallée struck gold last year for Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” and this year he might do the same magic for Reese Witherspoon’s passionate performance in “Wild” as a grief-stricken woman who decides to go through a gruelling 1000 mile hike through the pacific crest trail all by herself. The highly talented actress has never been better than in this movie, and the film itself is bravely directed and shot by Vallée and is a clear cut contender in many categories. If the standing ovation it got at the gala a few nights ago is any indication, this will most probably be a crowd pleaser that will hit home with its target audience. It might not just be Witherspoon, watch out for Laura Dern as well come nomination time as the deceased mother of Witherspoon’s hiker.
Dern also appeared in “99 Homes”. Ramin Bahrani’s tense, terrific film starring Andrew Garfield as a man whose family home gets foreclosed by an arrogant, money-hungry real estate mogul played by Michael Shannon. This is a movie for its time with more than enough relevance to pack a punch. Late film critic Roger Ebert was a staunch supporter of Bahrani’s films and for good reason. He’s a unique voice that finally makes his big studio picture debut here. You can tell there’s a studio behind him here, as not everything works and some concessions clearly had to be made. “99 Homes” is not a perfect movie but the artistry is major and Bahrani creates a movie that you’ll keep thinking about it.
If I was disappointed by the fact that David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars” got delayed to 2015, after watching “Still Alice”, I’m less disappointed by that decision. Julianne Moore might take advantage of a weak best actress field to finally get the Oscar she deserves. In the film she plays a mother of three who finds out she’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Suffice it to say that what happens next is incredibly hard to watch, yet also incredible moving as Moore and first-time filmmakers Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer try to show us how the disease can easily sneak up on a human being. The effects are disastrous on the victim and their families – “I’d rather have cancer” she yells in the movie. You can feel her pain with every scene and you can also hear all the accolades that are about to come her way.
If this was a fair world, then both lead actors from Xavier Dolan’s terrific new film “Mommy” would get nominated. Antoine Olivion Pilon is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode as the son from hell and Anne Dorval, showing more pain with her eyes than with her words, is his mother. They’re both at the core of this vitally alive movie. There currently isn’t a release date for “Mommy”, hell Dolan’s previous film “Tom at the farm” didn’t even get released yet, but when you do see it you won’t stop thinking about it.
I’ve always had a fascination with Brian Wilson’s music, I mean who hasn’t? I’ve also been just as fascinated with how this pop music genius, a Beethoven for our time, went insane with the obsessiveness he brought to his music and band The Beach Boys. “Love and Mercy” has two very talented actors playing him, the younger Wilson of Pet Sounds/SMILE era is played by Paul Dano and the older Wilson, all drugged up due to apparent Schizophrenic tendencies, is played by John Cusack. Both do admirable jobs playing the legend, but Dano comes out on top with a performance that will likely be remembered for years to come. It’s fascinating watching Wilson compose, produce and arrange his masterpiece “Pet Sounds” in the studio – an album that is now considered one of the greatest records of all time – all in the while struggling with inner demons so dark they end up making him stay in his room for close to three years.
TIFF 2014 – Best of the Fest
Best movies I saw (in no particular order)
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
Two Days, One Night (Dardennes)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilory)
The Theory of Everything (James Marsh)
Alleluia (Fabrice Du Welz)
Eden (Mia Hansen-Love)
99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani)
Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
Still Alice (Wash Westmoreland & Richard Glatzer)
Foxcatcher (Benneth Miller)
Julianne Moore (“Still Alice” & “Map to the Stars”)
Runner-up: Marillon Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”), Reese Witherspoom (“Wild” & “The Good Lie”), Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”), Anne Dorval (“Mommy”)
Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”)
Runner-Up: Jake Gyllenhall (“Nightcrawler”), Steve Carrell (“Foxcatcher”), Antoine Olivier Pilon (“Mommy”), Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Bill Murray (“St. Vincent”), Paul Dano (“Love and Mercy”)
Best Supporting Actor
J.K Simmons (“Whiplash”)
Runner-Up: Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”), Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”), Channing Tatum (“Foxcatcher”), Adam Driver (“While We’re Young” & “Hungry Heart”)
Best Supporting Actress
TIE: Laura Dern (“Wild” & “99 Homes”), Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”), Kristen Stewart (“Still Alice”)