tiff 2020 plans

Today, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has unveiled its plans for the upcoming 2020 festival. As everyone knows, the coronavirus pandemic has left the future of public events like festivals seriously in doubt (at least for this year). The Cannes Film Festival had to cancel its plans, as did SXSW. But TIFF still wants to make something happen this year. As a result, they’ve laid out a plan to create a hybrid festival that blends physical and online screenings, along with digital red carpets, Q&As, and more.

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tiff 2020

In a normal year, the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off in September. But 2020 is not a normal year by any stretch of the imagination, and TIFF is now facing a big decision. Due to the coronavirus, many of this year’s film festivals have already been canceled, or at the very least delayed. With September fast-approaching, the TIFF organizers are holding fast, and refusing to postpone. But they also realize that even if all coronavirus restrictions are somehow lifted by September, there will still be a hesitation for some to venture out into a crowded metropolis for a packed film festival.

So what’s the solution? A digital component.

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color out of space interview

(This interview originally ran last September following the Toronto International Film Festival. Color Out of Space opens this weekend.)

After crafting cult genre curiosities like Hardware and Dust Devil, South African filmmaker Richard Stanley was presented with the opportunity to break into Hollywood productions with a big adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. But things didn’t turn out as planned, and Stanely found himself fired by the production – a saga chronicled in the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. Stanley then stepped away from feature film directing for over 20 years.

Now, Stanley makes his return with Color Out of Space, a big, weird adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of terror The Colour Out of Space. The project finds Stanley working with Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson, and the three were on hand at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film had its world premiere. Stanley, Cage, and Richardson spoke with /Film about what makes this particular Lovecraft adaptation so special.

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knives out review

The game’s afoot and everyone’s a suspect in Knives Out, Rian Johnson‘s deliriously funny whodunit. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have trying to solve a murder. Gathering together a killer cast of movie stars and character actors, Johnson has crafted a film that’s both a loving homage to locked room mysteries and a giddy, laugh-out-loud funny comedy that keeps pulling the rug out from under you just when you think you’ve found your footing. It’s a total blast.

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Deerskin review

Have you ever loved a jacket? I mean really loved a jacket? Ruined your life for a coat? Destroyed your marriage and your finances for cool-looking cool-weather clothing? Have the fringes on your outfit caused you to live a fringe existence, evaporating your sanity, and driving you to a rampage? And was your outfit made out of Deerskin?

Director Quentin Dupieux’s new film will certainly speak to anyone with a dash of fashionphilia, or even a simple desire to rid the world out of outerwear. It’s a completely bonkers exercise in lunacy and cold, calculated obsession, all revolving around a really groovy suede outfit. Read More »

Hope review

Scandinavians know how to draw out operatic misery from quotidian life, and Hope, filmmaker Maria Sødahl’s masterful take on a couple in crisis, illustrates just how effective delving into the misery of brokenness can be. Read More »

TIFF 2019 Unsung Gems

The festival scene rolls on past Toronto, with Fantastic Fest kicking off this week and New York Film Festival gearing up for next week. It’s easy to focus on the big winners – Joker, Jojo Rabbit – and the losers – The Goldfinch, Lucy in the Sky – and completely lose sight of why these festivals exist in the first place. In a crowded media environment, film festivals represent one of the last bastions that provide platforms to emerging or under-the-radar filmmakers. They are a spot where a film, freighted with few expectations, can come out of nowhere and surprise unsuspecting viewers.

The following three films represent some of the best of this side of TIFF. Their journeys do not end at the festival, either. Unlike well-funded studio projects using TIFF as a launch pad for release, these films are all seeking U.S. distribution and will likely continue touring the worldwide festival circuit. Keep an eye out for them if they arrive at a fest near you.

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Female Directors at TIFF

Like many time periods preceding it, the fall film festival circuit of 2019 has been a mixed bag of results for female filmmakers. The Venice Film Festival spared a measly two slots in its competition for films directed by women and, as if to thumb their nose at those decrying their regressive attitudes, awarded their Best Director prize to convicted rapist Roman Polanski. All this from a festival that signed the 50/50 by 2020 pledge for gender parity just last year, to boot. As Katrin Gebbe, director of Pelican Blood told me, “In the past few years, we’ve started to put our finger into the wound.”

Meanwhile, at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the programmers paid more than lip service to their commitment on equality. Female directors comprised 36% of this year’s selection at TIFF, with percentages even higher in sections like Contemporary World Cinema and the high-profile Galas. Look beyond the numbers, too, and it’s clear that quantity did not come at the expense of quality.

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The Twentieth Century Review

The biopic genre is one of the more predictable out there. Even outside the musical-biopic subgenre, now so heavily coded that films functionally identical to parodies still get nominated for Academy Awards, there are expectations, and most of them are filled most of the time. Chief among them is fanatical reverence for their subjects, painting them as the most important figures in their respective fields through slick, gauzy, prestige-project filmmaking.

Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century, a biopic of legendary Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, doesn’t do any of that. It’s among the least-conventional biopics in existence – and it’s all the better for it. If you didn’t know the backstory, you’d never guess it’s even based on a true story, and if you do know the backstory, you might be furious at the liberal treatment of the subject. But The Twentieth Century being a biopic is merely the icing on the cake of Rankin’s incredible artistry, craft, and utterly bonkers comic and visual sensibility.

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It’s been over ten years since Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine instructed audiences that the “Nazi ain’t got no humanity” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inlgourious Basterds. In the decade that followed, we watched as a quaint, yet uproarious tale of obliterating Nazis turned from celluloid fantasy to real-world nightmare. Various films have tackled the real-world threat of the revival of insidious ethnonationalist ideology, most notably Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman in 2018, which drew a direct parallel between the inability to fully extinguish the insidious threat of white nationalism in the 1970s to the 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville that claimed the life of Heather Heyer.

Whether past is prologue or merely an instruction manual to navigate recurring and unresolved social tensions, it was hard to ignore the spectre of Nazi Germany at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, a bleak story of a young Jewish boy wandering Eastern Europe after being separated from his parents during World War II, reportedly prompted mass walkouts. Dan Friedkin’s Lyrebird, acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, made fewer waves with its story of how a member of the Dutch resistance investigated art stolen by the Nazis.

But by far the most notable films to grapple with the Third Reich came from Fox Searchlight’s two most pedigreed ponies for the fall season, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life. On the surface, these films could not appear more different. Waititi’s energetic, irreverent style is at one formal extreme, and Malick’s reverential, brooding aesthetic represents another. Yet the films share more than just their obvious similarity of depicting characters quietly resisting the authoritarian impulses of Nazi Germany. Both, in their own way, celebrate the power of the individual to make a difference in the fight against evil regimes.

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