TIFF 2012 Wrap-Up
Well, that was just…fun. The transcendent cinema, the swanky events where people in bowties serve you fish eggs, celebrities eager to gab about why their films are, like, really awesome (some of them were lying, sure, but, what else are they going to say? "My thing sucks, go see Argo?"). Anyway, it's all over now. The red carpets have been rolled up to reveal grimy sidewalks beneath, and the beautiful people have gone back to California to make even more movies. But the memories of what they've done here these past two weeks or so will linger…for at least another few days, anyway. That in mind, here are your TIFF 2012 highlights.
Crowd PleasersPeople really responded to David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. We know this on account of it receiving the People's Choice Award at the Sunday awards brunch-pretty obvious, really. The quirky feel-gooder stars Bradley Cooper as a man who's released from a psychiatric institution and strikes up an unconventional romance with an unbalanced girl (Jennifer Lawrence), who just might be his soul mate. This is one of those high-profile flicks that gives you pause as to why it's at the festival in the first place, but then, critical response has been about on par with "the people," so you should probably plan to check it out for yourself this November.
Spring Breakers did what it was expected to do-flabbergast us. Director Harmony Korine sent former Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, plus Pretty Little Liars actress Ashley Benson on a sex-drugs-and-guns-fueled vacation alongside James Franco in corn-rowed, grill-toothed rapper mode. The film is trash, most reviewers agree on that point. But some (like me, for instance) mean it in a good way. It's offensive, yes, but also brash, gleeful and unlike anything else you're liable to see at the multiplex. Plus, Franco is having the time of his life. I don't know, maybe I'm just a sucker for films that set a montage of blood-soaked beatings to the angelic tones of Britney Spears.
Juno director Jason Reitman has taken the festival circuit by storm with his unrehearsed live readings of classic films using surprise casts. Last time, it was an all-African American take on Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. This year? Bryan Cranston (in town for Argo) and Christina Hendricks (for Ginger and Rosa) gave voice to Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening's characters in American Beauty.
Could-Have-Been-BettersAmerican auteur Terrence Malick surprised by showing up with another poetic, meditative effort just one year after unleashing Tree of Life on the world. Usually he spends years crafting his existential opuses. And though fans have been clamouring for him to pick up the pace, To The Wonder had several recanting their request. It stars Ben Affleck as a mid-Western man torn between his new European bride (Olga Kurylenko) and an old flame (Rachel McAdams). People have called it rambling, far too oblique, and devoid of character; but then, if a less deified filmmaker had shown up with this flick in tow, it might have been lauded as a hidden gem.
The Place Beyond the Pines is a film that distributors were circling like hungry vultures. Starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, with previous TIFF-storming director Derek Cianfrance at the helm, its pedigree is high. And really, it's only a disappointment if you were expecting this multi-generational crime saga/riff on masculinity to fully realize its lofty ambition. There's plenty to like about the film, including another magnetic performance from Gosling and more strip-mining of the human soul by Cianfrance; but the entire middle section falls flat thanks to bland plotting, and some later attempts to imbue the film with a sense of fate feel contrived. It's a solid effort, but not the home run most were hoping for.
Road to the OscarsTIFF is a barometer for awards season. While Playbook may have taken home the People's Choice, comedies tend not to fare so well once the serious-minded Academy folks start handing out their gold statues. The odds are better for The Master, especially lead actors Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Though some critics have found the film as a whole a bit too incoherent., most agree that The Master is yet another worthy study of alienation and dysfunctional relationships,...with a just a bit of Scientology exposé thrown in for the people who really want to get their heads around that TomKat break-up.
Another expectedly well-received entry was Ben Affleck's latest director/star-turn Argo. Many called the fact-based drama about the unconventional rescue of American hostages from Iran his most assured effort yet. Affleck's first two films have been financially successful and well-respected, but have gone largely unrecognized; is this the year the reborn-Surviving Christmas star takes home some hardware?
Marion Cotillard could be looking at her 2nd Best Actress nod for Rust and Bone, the devastating tale of a whale trainer who loses her legs and seeks comfort in the arms of another shattered soul. It's a raw, unglamorous performance that contrasts her 2007 win for La Vie en Rose.
City to CityObviously, the City to City feature, spotlighting the edgiest Mumbai has to offer, was of particular interest to us at this year's fest. And we certainly weren't left wanting for intriguing cinema. There's a reason TIFF chose this city-there's a revolution afoot. A lot of it is being filmed with run-of-the-mill DSLR cameras you can pick up at Best Buy, allowing talented but underfunded filmmakers to tell intimate stories that eschew the typical excess of Bollywood. Even the higher budget affairs like Gangs of Wasseypur are dripping with singular style and an unmistakable concern for, as Peddlers director Vasan Bala put it, the truth of the moment.
Midnight MadnessEvery year, iron-stomached genre fans gather at the witching hour to take in extreme horror and hardcore action. Former playwright and In Bruges director Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson as three men embroiled in a dog-kidnapping gone wrong, took home top honours. Others included the black-comedy demon-invasion mind-bender John Dies at the End; Hellbenders, an initially promising (but ultimately tedious) lark about profane Catholic priests battling ancient evil; and the comic-book flick Dredd, which, despite sticking out like…well, a mainstream comic book flick at a film festival…garnered some of the best reviews in anticipation of its wide release this week.
Under the RadarOld pro Christopher Walken quietly made his presence felt with roles in the aforementioned Seven Psychopaths, and meloncholic character drama A Late Quartet. Not easy for a habitual scene-stealer.
His French co-star is rightly getting plenty of buzz, but Rust and Bone's Matthias Schoenaerts also continued his breakout as a powerful, understated leading man. Cotillard might get an Oscar nod, but look out for this Belgian thesp in more high-profile stuff on this side of the pond.
Chronicle star Dane Dehaan turned in yet another volatile performance in The Place Beyond the Pines, actually rivalling the Gos in the charisma department.
Greta Gerwig, ever the underappreciated indie darling, gives us more of her to love in Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach's cleverly-observed tale of a dance company apprentice blissfully stumbling her way through early adulthood.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World star Mary Elizabeth Winstead had a revelatory turn as an alcoholic striving for sobriety in the not-as-dark-as-it-sounds Smashed. Keep an eye on her; she's going places.
Over the RadarIt's going to be a good year for Bradley Cooper. The Words, the smirking star's last attempt to diversify his CV, just landed with a thud at the box office. But he was at the centre of two of the festival's highest-profile and best-received entries in Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond the Pines. Each sees him showing a different, heretofore unseen side of himself and both have sizable box office potential, meaning he'll get a chance to show audiences his range while continuing to prove to film execs that he's bankable outside The Hangover franchise.
Bollywood fans, if not festival-goers in general, were eagerly awaiting Sridevi's first screen role in 15 years. The film, English Vinglish, was a bit of a trifle, but the leading lady did not disappoint.
Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways was one of the films we had our eye on at the beginning of the fest, and would you look at that: it won the Sunday award for Best Canadian Feature. Yay, us! And, of course, Yay for Dolan, whose tale of a transgendered man struggling to stay with his girlfriend, is deserving of some (otherwise hard-to-come-by) recognition.
It's tough to single out one movie or even a handful, when the offerings are so bountiful. Spring Breakers sticks out for sheer audacity. Deepa Mehta's take on Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children was a wondrous feat, peering into the soul of an entire country through via a single character. But neither of those really needs our help in getting noticed, nor do high-profile successes like Looper and The Master.
No, we'd like to plumb some less-explored depths, specifically the City to City films. Admittedly, that's where we spent most of our time. But it was home to many gems worthy of being brought to light-crackling political thriller Shanghai, introspective coming-of-ager The Bright Day-but we're going with Peddlers, Vasan Bala's raw plunge into the lives of three tragically isolated people in and around the Mumbai drug scene. I'm not claiming it was the best film on display this year or the most important; it simply came out of nowhere and floored me with its rich, fully realized characters and devastating study of loneliness.
More so than the flicks you circle in your program book before the festival begins, it's the ones that sneak up on you that leave the biggest mark.
And that's a wrap, folks. Switch off the lights and head home. Meet you all back here this time next year. You bring the popcorn, we'll bring the coverage.
BY: MATTHEW CURRIE / POSTED SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF TIFF