TIFF TOP FIVE: SPARKLE, SIZZLE & SHINE

TIFF stands with women in front of and behind the camera. In the film industry, like any other, women play different roles as actresses, film directors, film producers cinematographers, and other film industry professionals. Due to cinegoers, film lovers and the movies they champion, these past years have been incredible for women.
Some of the top films that were screened at TIFF this year, were women centric, either in lead roles or in the creative aspect.

Presenting the ‘Top 5’ films in my opinion, based on screenplay, acting, and theme.

A STAR IS BORN

Hollywood’s most enduring story of love and ambition gets a glorious reinvention in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. Drawing deep on the pleasures audiences previously discovered in the 1937, 1954, and 1976 versions, Cooper brings the narrative right up to the present. He takes on the role of the fame-weary star himself and, for the ingénue with megawatt potential, he crafts a perfect big-screen role for Lady Gaga.
As an actor, Cooper has worked with Clint Eastwood and David O. Russell; here he shows both Eastwood’s unfussy economy and Russell’s emotional intensity. But the style is entirely his, finding its biggest moments in scenes between just two people, and stripping away any excess to showcase Gaga’s confident, honest performance. Both intimate and epic, this is a love story that hovers between the shadow of tragedy and the bright light of artists at their peak.

HOMECOMING

A caseworker (Julia Roberts) who helps soldiers transition back to civilian life is interrogated by the Department of Defense after her former boss’s (Bobby Cannavale) ambitious demands raise suspicion.
Based on the popular podcast, Homecoming follows a caseworker in a military reintegration facility as she prepares an endearing veteran for his return to civilian life. In her first episodic role, Julia Roberts (also at the Festival in Ben is Back) delivers a nuanced performance as the kind-hearted Heidi Bergman, a therapist who wants to take a holistic approach to the experimental treatment, much to the chagrin of her boss. Opposite her is Stephan James (2015 TIFF Rising Star, also in this year’s If Beale Street Could Talk) as Walter Cruz, a gentle soldier whose trauma is constantly simmering under the surface. The two appear to be making progress, but paranoia pervades for Walter and his compatriots as they roam the hollow corridors of the claustrophobic rehab centre, a place that may hold a few secrets of its own.

DOGMAN

In the latest from Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah), mild-mannered Marcello spends his days grooming dogs, hanging out with his beloved daughter and, like most of his neighbourhood, trying to avoid Simoncino, a former boxer and resident bully with whom Marcello uneasily coexists — until a double-crossing prompts an ugly act of vengeance.
Drawing on a true-crime story that fascinated Italy in the 1980s, Matteo Garrone ventures once again – as he did so successfully with Gomorrah – into the grimy and brutal reality of the Italian underworld. This time the action unfolds not in the urban jungle of Naples, but along a seedy beachside wasteland of tumbledown houses in nearby Castel Volturno.

Fonte, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his role here, delivers a performance for the ages as the loyal-only-to-a-point dog groomer, but it is Garrone’s remarkable grasp of narrative, conflict, and palpable milieu that has one reaching for superlatives. This is realist filmmaking at its best.

HUSBAND MATERIAL

A spirited girl finds herself caught in a complicated love triangle while burdened with societal and familial pressures, in the latest from prolific Indian director Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur, The Brawler). Starring Vicky Kaushal, Abhishek Bachchan, and newcomer Taapsee Pannu.
Kashyap strikes a knowing tone with this film. The arc of the story celebrates Bollywood tradition, with its love complications and family obstacles. But the feel is up-to-the-minute, with daring scenes unimaginable a few years back. That’s not simply a matter of the few risqué elements Kashyap’s fluid camera captures. There’s also a deeply affecting maturity in the way Husband Material explores those first flushes of both desire and disappointment. With memorable music by Amit Trivedi (Dev.D, Queen) and inventive dance sequences that echo the action, Kashyap’s latest is a pure pleasure to watch.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11

Palme d’Or–winning documentarian Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11) turns his attention to another significant date, examining the legacy of Trump’s ascension to the US presidency on November 9, 2016.
Now Moore brings his sharp satire to analyze the legacy of 11/9 and to raise questions about what lies ahead. Trump is a master distractor with his incendiary tweets, staff firings, and outright lies. But within the chaos, his administration has delivered on a right-wing agenda with tax cuts for the wealthy, environmental deregulation, court appointments, and treaty withdrawals that will be felt long into the future.

In Moore’s three decades of filmmaking, he’s often voiced progressive ideas that sound radical at first but eventually become mainstream. His most famous work, Fahrenheit 9/11 — named for another infamous date — decried the US’s war in Iraq long before it became widely derided. A similar dynamic runs through Roger & Me on America’s loss of industry, Bowling for Columbine on gun control, and Sicko on health care.

Moore likes to subvert expectations, so we’ll refrain from disclosing too many details of Fahrenheit 11/9. Let’s just say there are aspects that feel very timely in the lead-up to the US Congressional elections. But overall, this is an evergreen film that applies historical lessons from both progressive and repressive movements. It speaks strongly to a younger generation in the hope that they might fix what the previous generation has royally messed up.

TIFF is cinema, tiff is entertainment, tiff is creativity, tiff is fun, tiff is an experience! Go out and experience tiff!

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