Well ladies and gentleman, the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival best known as TIFF begins today! Last year, I attended the festival for the first time with my good friend, colleague, and fellow film lover, Nick Iacobucci. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before we got addicted to the festival and planned on making our grand return in 2014. What makes TIFF such a great festival is that there is always such a large selection of Oscar worthy films as well as some great smaller indie gems that play at the festival.
This year, there are over 300 films playing at the festival and while I would love to see about 90% of these films; the sad reality is that I will only see about 30-40 of them. However, with that being said, going to a festival of this magnitude is definitely no easy task for the inexperienced festivalgoer. There are so many films to see so timing isn’t on your side and neither is ticket availability. You should really consider theater locations as you hop from film to film as well as whether or not the post screening Q&A is important to you. If you are like me, the Q&A is what makes the festival experience so I usually stay for all of them unless I truly despise a film. You need to keep all these things in mind especially the Q&As because they add about 15-20 minutes to the posted screening times.
Now, before I get into my recommendations of what to see at this year’s festival, I want to take a minute to talk about getting tickets for screenings at TIFF. Even though bigger films show unavailable online, they are usually still available the day of the show. TIFF always tries to set aside a bunch of tickets especially for the larger venues to allow more people to attend. The bigger venues include Roy Thomson Hall, the Princess of Wales Theater, and the Elgin & Winter Garden Theaters.
Below are a few ways to obtain tickets for showings that are marked as unavailable:
Option 1: Get up before 7am the day of the film you want to see and go online at TIFF.net or to the festival box office in person.
Option 2: The Rush line. This line forms about an hour or two before the screening begins outside the theater. The Rush line is make or break and really depends on the film playing and the demand.
Option 3: This also deals with the Rush line but relies on festival-goers who have extra tickets and are looking to sell them. They usually come to the venues and ask around if anyone needs tickets. The key here is to have cash on you to make the exchange and don’t be afraid to negotiate with them.
Option 4: eBay, Craigslist, and TIFF online ticket trading boards. This is usually the most expensive option, but if you are 100% committed to getting into the World Premiere of say something like Foxcatcher, this might be the only way in. I would definitely recommend doing this option in advance rather than the day of to ensure you actually get the tickets you want because people get extremely desperate to get into major events at TIFF and the tickets for these events can be hard to come by.
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk film and what films you should be checking out at the 37th Annual Toronto International Film Festival.
These following films are ones that I have already seen at other festivals but I highly recommend checking out at TIFF.
Infinitely Polar Bear – I delayed seeing this film several times at Sundance because I initially thought I wouldn’t particularly care for it, however, I was really wrong. I really loved this film and honestly felt like Mark Ruffalo shines as a father and husband who is trying to keep it together while dealing with bipolar disorder. The film is loaded with great moments featuring Ruffalo and his two daughters in the film as well as realistic look at a person who is bipolar. I won’t lie, its definitely a crowd pleasure and some might say its a little too Hollywood at times, but the film connected with me and I understood all the struggles while connecting with the characters. A really well done film.
Laggies– In my humble opinion, this is without a doubt Lynn Shelton’s best film to date. I saw Laggies at Sundance back in January and if I have time, I will definitely check it out again at TIFF. This is a film that follows a lost 20-seomthing named Maggie (Keira Knightley) who is going through a quarter life crisis. The story feel genuine, there is a great mix of comedy and drama, and the performances by Knightley, Moretz, and Rockwell are top notch. Laggies is a light-hearted film but I found it very relatable and I think a lot of 20-somethings that still haven’t figured out what they want from their lives will be in love with this film.
The Voices– This film was without a doubt the biggest surprise that came out of Sundance back in January. Marjane Satrapi is without a doubt a talented director but with a cast that consists of Gemma Arterton and Ryan Reynolds, you could probably understand why I was worried about the film as a whole. The Voices is downright bizarre, extremely quirky, and highly entertaining. It left audiences at Sundance divided because some got it and loved it while others left the theater asking, “what the fuck was that?” Personally, I loved every moment of it especially the end credits scene where the entire cast sings, “Sing a Happy Song.”
Whiplash – I also saw this film at Sundance and was completely shocked at how much I enjoyed it. The film itself is emotional, suspenseful, and downright intense. Miles Teller shines as Andrew Neyman and J.K. Simmons plays one crazy “push em to the edge” musical teacher. What is even more amazing is that whenever Miles Teller takes on an indie project he knocks it out of the park but whenever he does a studio film I want to punch a baby! Teller has shown in films such as Spectacular Now and Whiplash that he is a worthy actor with wide range. I just wish he would stop taking on shitty studio projects like 21 and Over and That Awkward Moment because those films aren’t helping me sell him to my friends who aren’t die hard film lovers like myself.
These are five of my “must sees” that I haven’t seen yet but have a big cast and a lot of buzz.
99 Homes – Don’t hate me, but I like the Amazing Spider-Man 2 and I think Andrew Garfield is an incredible actor. Just like most gifted actors, Garfield is usually good in most projects but he really shines in more dramatic roles. Buzz on the net has stated that Garfield’s performance in 99 Homes is on par with his performance from The Social Network, which I absolutely loved. When you add in the fact that Ramin Bahrani, a man who has directed several fascinating documentaries that include Man Push Cart, you know there is a lot of potential. 99 Homes will be something special and a film that many will be talking about long after TIFF ends.
Foxcatcher– I can’t even lie, this is my top must see of not only the festival but for the rest of the year. When I first heard about this project, I wasn’t really interested but the initial reviews from Cannes and teaser trailers really sold me on it. Steve Carell, who I have always liked and admired as an actor, seems to get really lost in this role and is almost unrecognizable in the trailer. I literally had to do a double take when I first saw the trailer. Needless to say, the film looks Oscar Worthy, intense, and a lot different than the vast majority of based on true event films that are made. I am also impressed that Channing Tatum is taking on roles like this because despite not being his biggest fan, I do see potential in him. I am absolutely thrilled that I will be seeing this at TIFF.
Saint Vincent – How can you not love Bill Murray? I was sold with just Murray’s name attached, however, when I saw Melissa McCarthy was doing something other than her typical funny fat girl routine, I knew I had to see this one. Also, word on the net is that this film could get both McCarthy and Murray some attention around award season. Personally, the trailer didn’t really do much for me, but there are several films like this that suffer from bad marketing and turn out to be pretty incredible.
This is Where I Leave You – While everyone might be swooning over the fact that Adam Driver is in this, I am more excited about Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. I personally think Tina Fey is one of the funniest women on the planet and Jason Bateman has shown that in the right project, he can balance both comedy and drama. I love the vast majority of television shows and films that feature dysfunctional families and the trailer for this flick definitely intrigued me. This is Where I Leave You gives off a Crazy, Stupid, Love vibe and with a solid cast that will be attending the World Premiere at TIFF, I am very excited to see this and partaking in the Q&A afterwards.
While We’re Young – I don’t know much about this film other than the general premise and that it is written and directed by Noah Baumbach and features Amanda Seyfried, Greta Gerwig, and Ben Stiller. Just like Wes Anderson, Baumbach makes films for a very specific and limited audience. His films are usually loved by critics and rely very heavily on character development and the performances. I like everyone involved with this and even though I don’t know much, I like going into films blind sometimes. I believe in this director and with a cast like this I doubt it will fail to deliver.
Whenever attending a festival, I strongly recommend checking out some smaller films that aren’t known prior to the festival. Here are a few of the ones that I will be hopefully checking out during the fest.
Adult Beginners – This is one of the only films on this list that is strictly a comedy and despite what people might say about me in terms of how picky I am in terms of comedy, I like nothing more but to laugh when I watch a movie. The film stars Joel McHale from Community and Rose Byrne, who in my opinion, was the funniest thing about Neighbors from earlier this year. The films’ plot sounds like fun and there is nothing like seeing something lighthearted and silly after seeing so many heavy dramas that are usually the vast majority of films shown at festivals with TIFF being included.
Before We Go – There are several reasons why this film made this list. The first is that I am curious to see how Chris Evans directs considering how far he has come as an actor. The second is I am intrigued that this story was inspired by the Before trilogy which are incredible films. The last reason is that I am interested to see a film where its just two people holding a conversation with New York City as the backdrop. I love films that take a simple idea of two people meeting and talking as long as they share rich chemistry and have well crafted dialogue. It will be one of my final films that I see at the festival so I am hoping I end on a high note.
It Follows – I would never classify myself as a horror fanatic, but I do like the genre. Horror films that tend to be more than your standard slasher fare usually intrigue me and this film sounds like something fresh and new, not to mention weird. I am actually considering doing the midnight showing just to see it. It seems that every year in Midnight Madness section of TIFF, there is one highly received horror flick and I strongly believe that It Follows will be the film for this year. I realize that is saying a lot since Kevin Smith’s Tusk is also playing but I just think this one will surprise more audiences since its not as big of a project. It’s a gut feeling but hopefully its right.
The Keeping Room– This knowledge about this film is very similar to While We’re Young, however, the key difference with this film is that I knew absolutely nothing about the film other than the fact that Brit Marling was in it when I bought my ticket. Yes, I realize that it is strange that I have become that big of a Brit Marling fan boy already that I will see anything she is a part of without even knowing anything about it. The film does, however, have an interesting premise that deals with war from a female perspective so I would be wiling to bet that Keeping Room turns out to be a pretty well received film by most festivalgoers.
Shelter– Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie star as two homeless people who fall in love on the streets of New York. This one can really go either way in my eyes, but the two leads have a well-rounded resume that might make Shelter the hidden indie gem to come out of TIFF. It should also be noted that the film is written and directed by actor Paul Bettany.