15 September 2019

Our 2019 TIFF Experience


TIFF is our favourite time of the year, because unlike the other times Meg flies to Ontario so we can watch movies together, for TIFF we don't feel like as big of losers telling other people that's what she came here for. It's exciting! King Street is alive, there is music and food trucks and celebrities. And there is something so cool about seeing movies for the first time, often before they have trailers and posters, watching alongside the directors in the audience. We think you'll like most of the movies we saw this year, and a lot of them will be available to watch publicly soon enough.

THE EXPERIENCE

Meghan

I think every year the Toronto International Film Festival gets less and less "average-joe" accessible. I'm so lucky that I have friends with family in Mississauga so that we can stay there. If you had no GTA connections the price would be astronomical. It's also difficult to even buy tickets where so many are reserved as "premiums" or for press only. So that certainly sucks, but if you are lucky enough to go, TIFF always has a great lineup! This year we got to see 5 showings - four movies and one television premiere.

Meagan

This is taken right out of my write-up for TIFF last year, and every single bit holds true, because I am an idiot and bought another membership this year, and again, I swear it's for the last time:

This was my last year buying a TIFF membership because it essentially provides us with NOTHING seeing as the day we're allowed "advanced access" to tickets the website notoriously decides not to work. And nobody cares. As much as I love going to this festival yearly with my mom and Meghan, I think it's the most poorly run event I attend and they need to really get their shit together in terms of web infrastructure." 

They don't even TRY to get better year over year. However, this year I took a more laissez-faire attitude and basically started telling the TIFF employees I thought they were idiots to their faces, and it felt good y'all! Releasing. We also had a really good year in terms of content, and each year more and more films have assigned seating which really makes a massive difference in the flow of the whole weekend, and the commercials have got less annoying. I would say compared to other years, it felt much more relaxed. However, this was our worst year for celebrities, which is half the reason I go.  I'm really not sure why that was the case, but next year we'll focus on more 'extended' screenings to make sure we get ample Q&As, and ample celeb sightings.

THE MOVIES




Limetown (TV Series)
Directed by Rebecca Thomas

This was the first time we've tried one of these TV premieres at TIFF and I didn't hate it! Do I think they should be at TIFF where the first 'F' is for 'film'? No. But it's not even the 150th thing on a list of shit I dislike about the festival so, we tried it. They showed the first two episodes of this new series, which is based on a podcast by the same name, and will soon be on Facebook Watch, which if you didn't know about (because nobody does), you can watch some series on Facebook now! I did find the plot interesting, which says a lot because I don't like sci-fi at all. The writers did a good job of balancing sci-fi with the human narrative around the main character, played by Jessica Biel. I'll definitely finish this when it comes to Facebook Watch. It was one of our more exciting screenings because Biel came out for Q&A after and I love a celebrity sighting. The two guys who created the podcast came out as well and it was cool to watch them all discuss the challenges of adapting audio-only content to TV.  - Meagan

I LOVE television. I have a massive list on my phone of all the different networks/subscription services and what is premiering on each of them. I binge watch some seasons, and watch weekly for others. So I was actually excited to be seeing a TV premiere at TIFF this year. One of the hosts of my favourite podcasts (The Watch) was also at TIFF premiering his series Briarpatch. Television has become so cinematic and is an amazing way to give a visual story the time it needs. Limetown will be airing on Facebook Watch weekly so I am interested to see how many critics will actually report on it. I felt like there was no press for FB's last venture Sorry for Your Loss. I did enjoy the first two eps of Limetown and I'll definitely watch the series when it comes out. I love that the main character is a podcaster... something we hear about more and more and more. I also can't wait to learn about the intricate cave system that apparently exists in Tennessee. - Meghan



Blackbird
Directed by Roger Michell

I feel like for whatever reason we both thought this was going to be a 'big ticket item' for us at TIFF this year. It has a loaded cast (Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, and Rainn Wilson), and we splurged for tickets to the premiere, but I was super disappointed in this. It's one of those movies where a bunch of people come together for ~48 hours, and I was expecting The Family Stone vibes because of the sick mother, but I found it to be incredibly boring. My personal opinion is that if you're going to set movies in a short period we need a lot of character development and I just didn't feel there was any really... Also, during our screening people started screaming for a doctor at the literal pivotal moment of the movie. All the lights were flicked on and they merely brought this man a drink and he just walked out... seems like he was fine? We had two Americans in front of us just chirping our dramatics here in Canada. I was disappointed there was no Q&A, especially after we splurged for the premiere. It was a late screening but still... - Meagan

I think the best thing this movie did was understand that the runtime should be 1.5 hours. There is nothing worse to me than a movie dragging itself out, and since this was a "in the course of one night" type plot, the runtime they decided on was VERY suitable. This movie was probably my least favourite one we saw but the highlight was definitely Susan Sarandon. I looooooved Thelma & Louise and the stuff she has done in her later years. She has a perfect comedic presence and she was the star of the show. My criticism would be that Sarandon was the star of a show that included Kate Winslet... I also liked that they leaned on comedy a little more than drama. - Meghan



Just Mercy
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

This movie you can just tell will be a massive hit. Meg told me ahead of time it was already rumoured to be considered for a bunch of Academy Awards and it's easy to see why. It's based on a true story about a lawyer who starts representing prisoners on death row in Alabama, and it also has a great cast, which Michael B. Jordan as the lawyer, Brie Larson as his assistant, and Jamie Foxx as one of the main death row prisoners. It's a fantastic story, based on a book written by the real lawyer himself, and Cretton delivers some really emotional scenes. There's a bit of humour, they deliver the real-life updates we all love at the end, and you can just tell it's going to be one of those universally well-loved movies. We were lucky enough to have Bryan Stevenson (the real lawyer) and Cretton come out beforehand to talk about the film a little bit. We all kind of left feeling lame for not doing something more important with our lives. - Meagan

Just Mercy was one of my favourites. Jamie Foxx was so good in it and you could feel how emotional the entire audience was. Short Term 12 is one of my favourite movies and Just Mercy was directed by the same guy (Daniel Destin Cretin). I was really disappointed by his last film (The Glass Castle) and felt like Just Mercy was evidence that he can work with bigger actors/budgets/studios/etc. The lawyer/activist (Bryan Stevenson) at the centre of the story came on stage to introduce the film and is clearly a great public speaker. He was comfortable in front a crowd and gave a really nice speech. He mentioned how this movie is about hope, and that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. It was especially moving because Michael B Jordan delivers that exact line near the end of the film. I know it is corny but I got goosebumps when he said it and I recognized when I last heard it hours ago. I should also mention that Michael B Jordan was outrageously hot in this and it was an actual tragedy we didn't see him in person. - Meghan



The Friend
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

This was easily the favourite for me of the five showings we saw. It was i n c r e d i b l y sad and I haven't cried so much through a movie since Manchester by the Sea, which is quite the coincidence because Casey Affleck stars in both. The film is based on an article written by Matthew Teague about he and his wife's best friend who moved into their home for two years while Teague's wife was dying. The movie is incredibly cast, with Affleck as Teague, Jason Segal as the friend, and Dakota Johnson as the wife. The three of them had great chemistry together, and the movie comes out funny, charming, but also, as mentioned, ridiculously sad. I love movies that are both feel-good and feel-awful simultaneously. Cowperthwaite and Teague came on-stage for Q&A at the end, and it was clear how emotional and awkward Teague still felt about the content. What I will say is I think both Meg and I have had "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin on repeat all week based on it's placement in the film, which we recently learned they just barely got permission to use in time for the screening.  - Meagan

This would have been my second least favourite. Meg and her mom really liked it but I found it just so average. I know it's unfair to compare, but given Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea this seems like easy lifting. I get that it's a real story and probably a well-written Esquire article, but I found everything (script, direction, performances) pretty unremarkable. I did love the use of "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. One thing that was cool about the q-and-a was that they mentioned how down to the wire they were with getting the rights to the Led Zeppelin songs, and how the producers wrote letters to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant begging for the songs. The weirdest part of this movie is that Ridley Scott is an executive producer... that was a question I really wanted an answer to. - Meghan



Proxima
Directed by Alice Winocour

Meghan wanted to see this and I was down, but didn't know a lot about it and wasn't super excited for it. However, this was my second favourite of the whole weekend. It's about a female astronaut who is being given the opportunity to go to space, and how the preparation, training, and mission itself is impacting her relationship with her daughter as a single mom. It's such a fresh plot line, Eva Green who plays the astronaut is incredible, and we learned so many cool facts about astronauts (learning always win us over). They filmed a lot of it at real space training centres, and it was fascinating to see how much money and red tape goes into sending people to space. I think they played up the mother-daughter dynamic just enough without overdoing it, and I loved how it was a true feminist film but in such a subtle, non-annoying way. - Meagan

I can't decide whether I enjoyed Just Mercy or Proxima more. The movies were so completely different that it's tough to try and make the choice. I really loved Proxima. It was exactly what I wanted out of Damien Chazelle's First Man but didn't get. Because it was clearly a smaller budget movie they didn't actually go to space which I was happy about. Instead they shot on location at space training stations all across Europe as the movie focuses on Eva Green's character's physical training for a six-month mission to Mars. As she trains for something she has been dreaming about her entire life she also has to reckon with her choice to leave her young daughter behind. I have always loved Eva Green but because of her filmography was nervous this movie would be more experimental/weird and that Meg and her mom wouldn't like it, but we actually all really enjoyed it and probably talked about it the most. 

THE PICTURES


two dogs riding the Toronto subway

the Puterman women have very sensitive hair and it cannot get wet

this year's haul

Jessica Biel and one of the creators of the television series Limetown

Roy Thompson Hall - venue for premiere of Blackbird

the director introducing the cast of Blackbird, including Susan Sarandon and Rainn Wilson- Kate Winslet could not make the premiere 


soaking in the culture of a big city obviously 

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