The 2011 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and will run until September 18th. Now you’re going to hear a lot about the celebrities in town, the parties going down and the massive queues, but at the end of the day TIFF is about the movies. And with over 330 movies playing this year, there’s definitely no shortage of films to choose from.
After much deliberation and careful calculation we’ve made our picks. Between the five of us covering the fest, we’re likely going to see close to 125 of the films playing TIFF this year. Yeah, it’s a lot of movies. Certainly more than can be listed here. So we’ve asked our writers to narrow it down to their top three picks.
Extraterrestrial, dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Vigalondo’s debut feature film, Timecrimes, is one of the best sci fi films of recent years, a dark and complex thriller of one man’s day that he must repeat over and over. But Vigalondo’s large short film repetoire (including one that was nominated for an Oscar), while frequently dark, are always extremely funny. His new feature falls into the black comedy category, telling the story of a man and woman who wake up in bed together with no memory of the night before, who must try to figure out what happened. Oh, and there is a spaceship hovering over their city. – S.R-L.
Find Extraterrestrial screening times here.
Wuthering Heights, dir. Andrea Arnold
There have been numerous adaptations of Emily Brontë’s famous novel, some good, many bad. Arnold has made a name for herself as part of the new wave of British social realist director, so her choice of material might seem strange at first, considering the presence of a ghost. And yet, the story is about love, death and revenge, and the wilds of the Yorkshire moors and the realities of harsh living and social mores. I have a suspicion that Arnold is exactly the right director to fearlessly delve into the book’s truly dark heart. – S.R-L.
Find Wuthering Heights screening times here.
Carré Blanc, dir. Jean-Baptiste Léonetti
Good sci-fi is in short supply these days. I know next to nothing about these films save a few obtuse clips. But they are visually stunning and narratively fascinating. Sold. – S.R-L.
Kill List, dir. Ben Wheatley
Director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) returns to the dark streets of suburban England for Kill List, a disturbing thriller about a former hitman lured back into the murder-for-hire game by his old partner. Jay (Neil Maskell), a family man with a dark past, is unemployed and under pressure to provide for his wife and kids. When his former business partner (Michael Smiley) shows up with a job offer Jay can’t refuse, he once again finds himself in the contract killing business. As the pair becomes more and more entangled in a contract things somehow take an even darker turn. Kill List is part of the Midnight Madness line-up, so it should come as no surprise that the film has a bit of a supernatural twist. – W.P.
Coriolanus, dir. Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this hard-boiled modern adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, Coriolanus. Battle-hardened General Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) returns home a hero to the people. Due to his new found popularity, his friends and family urge him to run for political office, but Coriolanus soon crosses the wrong people and is banished from the city a traitor. Vowing revenge, Coriolanus sides with his former enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take back what is his. There is subtext aplenty to be found in Coriolanus, with prescient themes like post-war alienation, authoritarianism and terrorism. With an extremely solid cast that includes Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain, Coriolanus is a definite must see for Shakespeare dorks. – W.P.
Goon, dir. Michael Dowse
It’s a hockey heavy year at TIFF. From director Michael Dowse, the man who brought us the Canuck cult classics Fubar and It’s All Gone Pete Tong, comes an endearing tale about Canada’s game. And by that we mean a movie about the brutal world of hockey goons: men who professionally pummel the shit out of one another for a living. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) has a talent for pugilism, but he’s usually hesitant to resort to violence of any kind. However, an unplanned arena brawl convinces the local hockey coach (Nicholas Campbell) that Glatt has what it takes to be an on ice enforcer. Goon co-stars Allison Pill, Liev Schrieber and Canadian golden boy Jay Baruchel, who also wrote the film. The last time pucks and sticks appeared on TIFF screens was the embarrassing Hockey: The Musical. We hope that Goon will be able to wash that taste out of our mouths. – W.P.
Find Goon screening times here.
The Skin I Live In, dir. Pedro Almodóvar
For years, Almodóvar has taken audiences down bold and captivating roads, but for the first time in his career Pedro is taking on science-fiction, though that’s by no means is to say it’s part of any genre conventions. Based on Thierry Jonquet’s novel Tarantula, The Skin I Live In is the strange tale of plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a man, passionately driven by the death of his wife, on the brink of discovering a synthetic skin that could change medicine forever. However, what he withholds from the scientific community is that he is inching closer to his creation not by testing on mice or rats, but a mysterious and gorgeous girl (Elena Anaya) held captive in his luxurious estate. Told divisively, dropping the viewer down layers of revelations, bear witness to this Frankenstein tale making sweet Spanish love to body politics. It’s creepy and gentle, but moreover it is sure to get under your skin. – Z.K.
Amy George, dir. Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas
If you’re an artistic type at odds with your own inspiration and what it means to make art, imagine the struggle of Jesse (Gabriel Del Castillo Mullally), a thirteen-year-old boy who’s coming to the conclusion that, at this stage of his life, he is not a true artist. Jesse begins looking to new hobbies and outlets, like photography and autobiographies. Jesse also begins infatuated by the opposite sex, especially his neighbor Amy (Emily Henry), a curiosity escalated after reading that “you can never be a true artist until you have made love to a woman.” Warm and inspired, Amy George explores juggling the adolescent struggle of puberty with the permanently grinding struggle of an artist. – Z.K.
Generation P, dir. Victor Ginzburg
Videodrome takes a tour of a post-Communist Russia when a poet, Babylen (Vladimir Yepifantsev) finds himself at the butt of budding capitalism, selling cigarettes and cola at a mob owned concession stand. Things take a turn for the strange when Babylen is offered a job by an old friend in the only “true” growing business in life after the USSR: advertising. Learning just how insanely cynical the field is from the inside, Babylen takes some interesting methods/drugs to finding the inspiration for his edgy slogans. However, over the years and up the corporate ladder, Babylen discovers that this world of mad men aren’t limited to concocting brands for Tic Tac and Nike. Ambushed by conspiracy, our poet and hero finds out that people can be products too. – Z.K.
From Up On Poppy Hill, Dir. Goro Miyazaki
Joined by his father, animation master Hayao Miyazaki, and the beloved Studio Ghibli, Goro Miyazaki’s second film charges forward to prove that there’s really no subject matter Ghibli can’t make more magical. Centered around the 1964 Olympics and the revitalization of Japan at the time, Poppy Hill follows Umi, a teenage girl tasked with running the family boarding house after the war killed her father and left her mother aloof. Meanwhile her classmates, including an orphan named Shun, take it upon themselves to defend an old mansion from demolition, not only one they used as a clubhouse, but a statue to their rapidly evaporating history. However, as they look into their own pasts, they discover it’s not always comforting to confront things past, and harder to let go for the future. – Z.K.
Stay tuned for Part Two of our TIFF 2011 Picks.