Some tips on what to see to make the most of the last of the festival.
So it’s come to this: after all the semi-inspirational biopics (Alan Turing, hero), the movies either featuring or explicitly about defecation (we saw at least two), the Bill Murray sightings (more common than usual, thanks to Bill Murray Day), and the all-around star-fuckery, TIFF has just about come to an end. The festival’s closing weekend is an odd little gem, and will appear differently to you depending on where you’re standing. For star seekers, it’s a bust. For international press, it’s a plane ride home. For dedicated ticket holders, it’s a time for catching up with films missed at their premieres. For more casual local cinephiles, meanwhile, it might just be the best time to experience the festival, away from the red carpets and the din. With that in mind, we figured we’d round up some last-minute advice for the stragglers about what to see and how to see it.
We’ve said this before, but what sets TIFF apart from other world-class film festivals is that it’s a big tent unlike any other. That means it collects the best (and to be perfectly honest—casting our best skeptical side eye at Adam Sandler vehicles The Cobbler and Men, Women and Children—the worst) of what’s out there in every class from the most rarified arthouse cinema to the most middlebrow period pieces. For those who tend to use the festival as a platform to get an early glimpse at star vehicles and award-chasers, there’s still time to catch a few of the big ones. We weren’t as high on Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler as most, but it’s another great showcase of Jake Gyllenhaal’s laser-eyed intensity (after last year’s twofer of Prisoners and Enemy). It also happens to be screening Friday night at the Ryerson, one of your best bets for rush lines, given the theatre’s enormous capacity and the fact that small reserves of press tickets tend to get redirected for public sale in the closing days.
We also mildly recommend Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, screening Saturday night at the Princess of Wales—like the Ryerson, a behemoth. The film, which focuses on the housing crisis, is another high-strung, socially conscious melodrama about contemporary America from the director, who rebounds nicely from the disastrous At Any Price thanks to very strong lead performances from the always great Michael Shannon (perpetually in tan jackets, puffing on an e-cigarette, like the devil of Florida) and a scruffy Andrew Garfield. And we’ve heard mostly good things about Chris Rock’s Top Five, screening again at the Ryerson Saturday night.
Nonfiction fans still have a chance to catch a couple of the festival’s best-received docs. We feel bad about having hyped up the poorly received I Am Here in our early preview of the TIFF Docs programme, so this time we’d suggest you stick with some of the safer critical darlings. The doc that’s met with the best reception at the festival is probably Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence—the followup to his devastating The Act of Killing— which screens Sunday afternoon at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. We’ve also heard mostly positive things about Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction, which has another go Saturday morning at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Another fine way to make the most of the festival’s closing days is to spend time with two of its most idiosyncratic programmes. From the Wavelengths offerings, there’s still a chance to see Lisandro Alonso’s Viggo Mortensen–starring Jauja (pronounced how-ha, so you know), which we found pretty riveting and strange. We’ve been banging the drum for this one all week, so we’ll add only that it also features an adorable big dog. It’ll be screening Saturday night at the AGO’s Jackman Hall, a smaller venue, so you might want to hit the rush line early. We’ve also heard nothing but good things about Heaven Knows What, Benny and Joshua Safdie’s intense, semi-documentary portrait of a homeless woman and addict—it stars Arielle Holmes, who plays a fictionalized version of herself. And we adored Matías Piñeiro’s The Princess of France, his latest and in our opinion best contemporary riff on Shakespeare’s comedies. Both films screen Saturday at the Scotiabank.
Midnight Madness has a bit of life left in it, too, premiering Taika Waitit and Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement’s What We Do In The Shadows, a mockumentary about apartment-dwelling New Zealand vampires just trying to get by in the twenty-first century. You’ll also have one more chance to see Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe, which seems to be the darling of the programme according to a pretty robust cross-section of its attendees.
Finally, what would TIFF’s last weekend be without a free screening of the audience-selected people’s choice award winner, this time sponsored by Grolsch? Mileage will vary considerably here: the good audiences of TIFF tend to go either with an aw shucks crowd-pleaser (Silver Linings Playbook, Slumdog Millionaire, last year’s runner-up Philomena) or an ostensibly important movie about class and race with a more or less uplifting message (last year’s winner 12 Years a Slave, or Precious, Hotel Rwanda). We don’t have any insider’s knowledge here, but we’d put our money on Wild (starring Reese Witherspoon and directed by a Canadian), The Good Lie (also starring Reese Witherspoon and also directed by a Canadian, but this time featuring Sudanese refugees), or The Theory of Everything. Who knows, though: maybe we’re all in the parallel universe from Jauja, and Jauja itself has a shot. Whatever the winner turns out to be, it’ll screen for free on Sunday at the Ryerson.