Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Another year of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has come to an end and it’s time for me to let you know what movies to watch out for.  This year, I only saw 18 movies (over 7 days). Only one was a Hollywood movie – Learning to Drive, staring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.  It is a chick flick and was enjoyable. The plot summary - After her husband leaves her, a Manhattan writer (Patricia Clarkson) finds solace in her biweekly lessons with a Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley), in this adaptation of Katha Pollitt’s 2002 essay for The New Yorker 

I always am asked which movie did I like the best.  Of the 18, I saw, there were only 2 that I didn’t think were TIFF quality and both were perfectly good “Made for TV” movies.  (Much better than the year I saw Mother and Son which was so bad, you can’t find it on Google.

Amongst my favourites were the following:

In this dazzling action epic set in pre-colonial New Zealand, the young son of a murdered tribal chieftain seeks vengeance on his family’s killers by learning the ancient Maori martial arts from a legendary warrior. This film is in Maori, shows how the 16 year old chieftain’s son grows up and develops the ability to make independent decisions that go against tribal customs.

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

The Prophet, by Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, having inspired millions of readers in over forty languages since its publication in 1923. Director Roger Allers (The Lion King) assembled an array of internationally acclaimed animators to realize episodes from the classic text by the renowned Lebanese poet, which are woven into the tale of a mischievous young girl (voiced by Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhan√© Wallis) who attempts to free an imprisoned poet (Liam Neeson). This animation in this movie was incredible and it prompted me to re-read the poetry.

X + Y

If you were a nerd or know one, this movie is for you. A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad, in this warm and inspirational drama co-starring Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall and Eddie Marsan.
If you’re into Jazz or drumming, you will enjoy this movie, which was filmed in 19 days.  An ambitious young drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music academy clashes with a hard-driving instructor (J.K. Simmons) in this sizzling drama.  Miles Teller does all his own drumming.  By the end of the movie, I was exhausted, much like the young drummer at the end of   his incredible playing
Ethan Hawke directs this intimate documentary portrait of classical pianist, composer, author, teacher and sage Seymour Bernstein. The teaching style of Mr. Bernstein is in stark contrast to that of the Instructor in Whiplash, that there is no comparison.  The movie is worth seeing, just for the classical piano playing.
List of the Movies I saw:
·       The Lesson
·       The Dead Lands
·       The Crow’s Egg
·       Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet
·       Who Am I – No system is safe
·       X + Y
·       Kill me three times
·       1001 Grams
·       Red Rose
·       Whiplash
·       Theeb
·       Mr Turner
·       The Look of Silence
·       Run
·       Learning to drive
·       International Shorts
·       Li’l Quinquin
·       Seymour, An introduction

I received comments (by email) from a number of people in response to this blog.  I thought that I would add them below:

My favourite movie was definitely Second Chance, directed by Susanne Bier, Oscar winning director of After the Wedding and A Better World.

It's a story about a detective and his wife who have a newborn baby.  So do the junkie couple that he has arrested in the past and that he visits to find their baby neglected and lying in filth.  The detective's baby suddenly dies one night of SIDS and in the horror of the moment he races over to the junkie couple's apt and switches the babies, assuming that their child will die anyway and he can give their child a "second chance."  All these assumptions play out differently than anyone could imagine.

Runner up for me was Pride - wonderful true story.  It's already playing in theatres now, so if you have a chance to see it you'll really enjoy it.
Thanks for the summary of these movies.  We go to movies, perhaps twice a month.  We just saw "my old lady" with a wonderful cast.  Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristen Scott Thomas (?) spelling.  So far this year I haven't seen anything that spoke to me since, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" which is the best movie I have seen in years.  It was funny and poignant and not the least predictable.  That was a last year's movie.  I love to watch TCM movies, which are such fun.  I don't know if you get that channel, but it is amazing if one likes older movies.
The one we saw and did not like was The Riot Club. The acting and production was good but both of us left wondering, why make this movie?