TIFF 2019 Preview

Fall film festival season is upon us! As I write this, we are 5 days way from the start of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, and reviews from Venice and Telluride are beginning to pour in. It is a very, very exciting time to be a film fan, and being a film fan who currently resides in southern Ontario, I have had the privilege of actually attending TIFF every year. This year I made the commitment to see more films than I ever have before, so I currently have twelve confirmed tickets, which may sound like amateur hour to festival veterans, but I usually only do six! I’ve also left myself a little bit of room for potentially waiting in rush lines for some sold out screenings, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to be tweeting and posting on Instagram throughout the festival, so if you’re interested in seeing what attending TIFF is like, feel free to follow both of those (linked above). But for now, I wanted to write up little previews of the 12 films I’ll be seeing and maybe a little bit about why I chose them. Each and every one of these will be getting a full review on this site after I’ve seen them (and immediately after on Letterboxd). Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that How To Build A Girl, Knives Out, The Lighthouse, and Parasite are all films that I was very much hoping to catch at the festival, but unfortunately all of them were already sold out when I made my picks. Here is my schedule for the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival:

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
portrait FINAL

Writen by: Céline Sciamma
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino, Adèle Haenel, and Noémie Merlant

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the 18th century, an artist is commissioned to paint a young woman’s wedding portrait.

This one came out of Cannes with a lot of a buzz and the Best Screenplay award. I have heard nothing but good things from those whose opinions I trust so I had this pretty high on my list of things I wanted to see. It ended up being a pretty late edition to my lineup, but now that it’s on there, I am very excited to see it.

Saturday, September 7th, 2019 

Just Mercy
just mercy FINAL

Written by: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, and Bryan Stevenson
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordon, Brie Larson, and O’Shea Jackson Jr.

The powerful true story of Harvard-educated lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who goes to Alabama to defend the disenfranchised and wrongly condemned — including Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to death despite evidence proving his innocence. Bryan fights tirelessly for Walter with the system stacked against them.

This film won’t have it’s world premiere until the evening before I’m seeing it, but it has such an insane recipe for success that I am more than willing to roll the dice on this one. Destin Daniel Cretton absolutely knocked my socks off with Short Term 12. It’s one of my favourite films of all time. It introduced me to Brie Larson, who became one of my all-time favourite actresses. She has a supporting role here. Michael B Jordan has been unstoppable pretty much since he arrived on the scene, between huge blockbusters like the Creed franchise and Black Panther, to impressive and devestating indies like Fruitvale Station, and all the way back to his role in Friday Night Lights. Jamie Foxx is Jamie Foxx. The man is a superstar. I have every reason to expect this will be excellent.

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Marriage Story
marriage story final

Written by: Noah Baumbach
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Alan Alda, and Laura Dern

A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes. 

Noah Baumbach is one of my favourite filmmakers. The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha, The Meyerowitz Stories, Greenberg. And now he’s hitting us with a divorce film starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson? I mean, COME ON. I feel like this was made in a lab especially for me. Behind The Lighthouse, this was my highest priority for the entire festival. It’s also getting incredible reviews after screening at Venice and Telluride. I can’t fucking wait.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2019

Uncut Gems
uncut gems final

Written by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, and Ronald Bronstein
Directed by: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler

Set in the diamond district of New York City, Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner and dealer to the rich and famous, must find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is taken from one of his top sellers and girlfriend.

I use the Safdie brothers’ most recent film, Good Time, as an example for why people are stupid when they say Robert Pattinson is a bad actor so often that I forget that it’s also an excellent and meticulously crafted film. They are very good filmmakers. And honestly, just about every example of Adam Sandler acting in a serious role is good. Punch Drunk Love in particular. And if early reviews for this one out of Telluride are any indication, this may be tonally similar to Punch Drunk Love. I’ve been hearing that it’s chaotic and anxiety inducing and a little bit deranged, which is exactly up my alley.

Joker
joker final

Written by: Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, and Frances Conroy

During the 1980s, a failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City while becoming an infamous psychopathic crime figure.

I have to be honest, this one worries me a little bit, but that’s not because of any aspect of the film in particular. In fact, every indication so far is that it’s actually excellent. Early reviews are nearly unanimously positive. Joaquin Phoenix is a brilliant actor, and the film itself is drawing comparisons to The King Of Comedy and Taxi Driver. What I worry about is how unbearable the discourse around this film will be like. Make no mistake, online discussions about this one are going to be absolutely insufferable. But that’s not the film’s fault, so I guess I just need to mute a bunch of words on Twitter and enjoy this for what it is. It was in my top 10 of choices for the festival, and not all that long ago a slightly younger me would’ve had this as the undisputed #1 choice, so I’m really glad I’m going to be seeing it.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Waves
waves final

Written by: Trey Edward Schults
Directed by: Trey Edward Schults
Starring: Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Two young couples navigate the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love.

I’m pretty sure that plot description is outdated, as not a whole lot was known about this film at all until it had it’s world premiere at Telluride a few nights ago. This one was on my radar when I was selecting my films, but definitely wasn’t a priority. After the world premiere, when the overwhelmingly positive reviews started to get posted online, I decided I had mad a mistake not having this one on my schedule, and went ahead and bought a ticket right away. I honestly still don’t know a whole lot about it, just that folks who’s reviews I look to as a reflection of my own taste love it, and by the sounds of it, I will to.

Friday, September 13th, 2019

Honey Boy
honey boy final

Written by: Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Alma Har’el
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, and Noah Jupe

The story of a child star attempting to mend his relationship with his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father over the course of a decade, loosely based on Shia LaBeouf’s life.

I’ve been looking forward to this one since January when I first starting reading reviews for it after it premiered at Sundance. I just absolutely adore films like this, and it looks like Noah Jupe is going to be someone to keep an eye on going forward. Adding this to the list was a no-brainer for me even sight unseen, but the recently released trailer really sealed the deal.

Lucy In The Sky 
lucy final

Written by: Brian C. Brown & Elliott DiGuiseppi
Directed by: Noah Hawley
Starring: Natalie Portman & John Hamm

Astronaut Lucy Cola returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a mission to space — and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small. 

Much like with Just Mercy, the world premiere of this one is the night before I see it, so other than what we can get from the trailers, no one really knows much about this one yet. I know it used to be called Pale Blue Dot, which is an infinitely better title, and that Fox Searchlight (now owned by Disney) seem confident enough in this film to give it a fall festival run and an October release date, setting it up for possible awards contention. The trailers helped sell me a little bit, but honestly, I mostly bought the ticket because of Natalie Portman.

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

A Hidden Life
hidden final

Written by: Terrence Malick
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: August Diehl & Valerie Pachner

The Austrian Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II. 

The only other Terrence Malick film I’ve seen is The Tree of Life. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be embarrassed about that or not, people seem really split on his filmography as a whole. Regardless, this film looks absolutely stunning and so far it has the reviews to back it up, so I’m all in.

Ford v. Ferrari
ford v final

Written by: Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, And Tracy Letts

American car designer Carroll Shelby and the British-born driver Ken Miles work together to battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. 

James Mangold has won some favour in my book between Walk The Line and Logan. While the plot of this film doesn’t particularly excited me, it’s always a nice treat to be excited by something that you weren’t expecting to excite you. It looks like this film might accomplish that feat with ease. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are both powerhouses and it looks like they’re at the top of their game here. This was an easy choice.

The Report
report final

Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Directed by: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm

The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral, and ineffective. With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden. 

Adam Driver is having himself one hell of a year! Between this and Marriage Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming in December, this will probably end up being a memorable year in his young career. This is a film that got added to my list when other things I wanted to see were sold out, but having said that, it was one of the very first backups! I’m still looking forward to it. Hard to go wrong with Adam Driver and Annette Bening, and the story does look very interesting.

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Jojo Rabbit
jojo final

Written by: Taika Waititi & Christine Leunens
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, and Scarlett Johansson

Jojo Rabbit is about a young boy living during World War II. His only escapism is through his imaginary friend, an ethnically inaccurate version of Adolph Hitler, who pushes the young boy’s naive patriotic beliefs. However, this all changes when a young girl challenges those views and causes Jojo to face his own issues. 

The only Taika Waititi film I’ve ever seen is Thor: Ragnarok, so other than knowing that he’s responsible for one of the very best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I really don’t know what to except from him as a filmmaker. This looks absolutely batshit crazy and hilarious, two of my very favourite film descriptors, and Scarlett Johansson is basically always excellent. The film also stars Thomasin McKenzie, who turned in an Oscar-worthy performance in last year’s Leave No Trace. I don’t know much about the young actor playing Jojo but I suspect that after this film comes out everyone will know Roman Griffin Davis. This is my last film of the festival so it’s sure to be bittersweet, but I am very much looking forward to it nonetheless!

♦♦♦

That will wrap up this little preview! Stay tuned for my full reviews of each and every one of these films after my screenings, and after that we get to dive right in to the most fun thing about every year: OSCAR PREDICTIONS! Thanks for reading!

 

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