Noah Baumbach has created some amazing films, films that have cemented him as one of the great directors of his generation. I remember watching Frances Ha and thinking that this was his best film and that it would take a while for him to do better. Well, Marriage Story did that for me. It’s Baumbach at his best, his strongest. His steady hand is felt throughout and he never falters, navigating the film expertly and creating a devastating look at divorce and how it breaks everyone, even those with the best intention. Baumbach’s craft has never been this tight and it showcases how much he has grown as a filmmaker since his debut. Marriage Story is, in my opinion, his best work to date.
The film opens in a room straight out of the 1950s and it’s filled with colour, as we watch a small tv that begins its black and white broadcast. It’s a program that has opening narration akin to The Twilight Zone, or Outer Limits or any science fiction based anthology show from the same time period. The program was called Paradox Theatre, and tonight’s episode was The Vast of Night. Using this as a framing device set up the film perfectly and told me exactly what type of film I was about to watch, but it didn’t tell me it would become my favourite movie of the festival.
I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers, he wasn’t someone we watched in Quebec. So I didn’t know anything about it, or barely anything until I sat down last year to watch the incredible documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? By the end, I left the theatre in tears and nothing but love for a man that I didn’t grow up watching. And then, Marielle Heller, who directed the great Can You Ever Forgive Me? from last year, was announced to be directing a film about Mr. Rogers with Tom Hanks attached and I was in. Well, let me tell you something, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a beautiful love letter to the man himself. In Heller’s hands, the film becomes so much more then it could.
Bad Education is wild. I don’t know how to really describe it because it’s such a bonker concept and yet, it’s real. Something that actually happened where taxpayers’ money was used for years and years by the school administrators. The only reason why this story broke? A high school student poked around and discovered the truth. Written by Mike Makowsky, who actually went to the Roslyn High School when it happened and directed by Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds), Bad Education blends drama and comedy perfectly in a film that once it gets going it’s unstoppable.
When Hustlers was first announced as part of the line up for TIFF, many raised an eyebrow. All we had really to base our expectations for the film was a trailer that, after watching the film, doesn’t do justice to the film itself. Based on an article published in New York magazine in 2015 from Jessica Pressler titled The Hustlers at Scores, Hustlers tells the story of Dorothy (Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu), a stripper in New York City who with her mentor and friend Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) find themselves going from stripping to stealing from Wall Street guys during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. Smart and empowering, Hustlers takes an out-there story that seems implausible and creates a film full of fully-formed women that take no prisoners.
Sports films are really formulaic, you know what you are getting but that’s not always a bad thing. Especially when you put James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 to Yuma), you might elevate it enough to make a decent film that entertains you just enough to look past its flaws, at least for a little while. It’s entertaining, a bit long but anchored by a great cast that creates compelling characters. A film that will entertain the masses, Ford v Ferrari is nothing extraordinary but it’s also extremely sweet and moving.
Growing up, DC comics meant a lot to me. They were what I read and loved, those nights spent in the dark, hiding and reading what I had bought or found are memories I will always cherish. DC films haven’t always been the best but I stick with them because they stay linked to these childhood memories that I will always remember. The thing about Joker is that we are asked to sympathize with a character that has always just been evil. The Joker never had any reason to be the way he is, he simply was and that’s what made him so scary and such a foe to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. But with this film, Todd Philips tries to make the figure a man that is broken and bullied into becoming the formidable foe. This brings us a film that is slow-paced and frankly boring. In the end, it simply doesn’t work.
For lack of a better term, Trey Edward Shults has made huge waves as a filmmaker since he released his first film, Krisha. A wonderful new voice with a great eye (thanks to ever-brilliant Drew Daniels who also worked on Euphoria) could make a remarkable contained drama. Then Trey went and made It Comes at Night, and the world realized he can make a wonderful horror film as well. And then comes Waves, and I hope the world realizes like I do, that Trey can make a masterpiece.
Rian Johnson has developed into one of those filmmakers that I will go and see everything he puts on the screen. His fifth feature film had big shoes to fill, it has to follow his blockbuster Star Wars: The Last Jedi which grossed 1.3 billion worldwide. It’s a hard task to do but Johnson decided to do this by having an all-star cast and a modern take on the whodunit film that has been done over and over again in films. In Johnson’s hand, Knives Out becomes something special, a fresh take on the genre and a film that takes aim at today’s society.
Just try to imagine the pitch meeting for Jojo Rabbit; a satire about a young boy living in Nazi Germany whose imaginary best friend happens to be Adolph Hitler. Jojo Rabbit is wild, funny and at times warm. You will feel bad for about 20 minutes for laughing at something Adolph Hitler said but then you relax and everything is okay. All of this would not have been possible had the film not been in the brilliant hand of Taika Waititi. I can’t imagine this film being made had Waititi not directed Thor: Ragnarok and the film had not been a commercial success. It’s hard to imagine any executive saying yes to this had he not been so successful with his films beforehand. But I am so glad someone said yes to this because it’s something special. While it will be interesting to see how Disney, yes Disney, market this film since it is now part of their slate since the acquisition of Fox, I will continue to hope that they do it right and this becomes a hit because it deserves it.