Apologies for the rather lame teaser of a title. What I actually mean is I’ve been to the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF as cool industry insiders such as myself call it.
Of all the festivals around the world Toronto is the most useful for exhibitors, particularly for a cinema such as mine, TIFF always has a strong awards baiting line up aimed at the upper end of the cinema market. In past years they have premiered American Beauty, The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, all very much our kind of thing.
Most Sundance films rarely get out of Sundance, at least not over to the UK. In fact a Sundance film seems to be a genre in itself. Cannes shows a high proportion of die hard art house along with a few commercial titbits. The winner at Cannes is rarely a commercial proposition.
On the surface then it’s a mainstream festival, but that’s not strictly true. This year there was a total of 296 feature films to choose from including 138 world premiers from 83 countries, and I thought I was doing well seeing 30 of them.
Outside of the gala presentations there is a wealth of first features and some very die hard art house indeed as evidenced by the having sex with an alien octopus movie I saw called The Untamed. Unlikely to play Uckfield if I’m honest.
As my wife, proving she has missed something quite fundamental about me over the last 30 years famously pointed out, “it seems a long way to go JUST to watch films”. While that may be true for most people, most people don’t own a cinema and Toronto is extremely useful for seeing what’s coming up over the next few months, the few months that are usually the best of the year for my theatre. It’s also quite useful for knowing what to avoid. Not that having sex with an alien octopus films were ever high on our must play list.
So what did I see? Some very fine films indeed actually. My personal favourites included Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea and Tom Ford’s gripping Nocturnal Animals, proving A Single Man was no fluke.
Like everyone else it seems, I was powerless to resist Damien Chazelle’s cute musical La La Land which went on to win the audience award, surely a sign of impending Oscar glory?
Also look out for Dennis Villeneuve’s arty sci fi, Arrival with Amy Adams. Far more accessible than the extraordinary Under the Skin but it certainly owes it a nod of thanks. Jackie was quite something, not least because of Natalie Portman’s amazing portrayal of Jackie Kennedy leaving the White House and Mica Levi’s fantastic score.
The films my audience are going to love the most were the world war II comedy/drama Their Finest featuring Bill Nighy at his most Bill Nighy and a strong central performance from Gemma Arterton. Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom Kingdom should appeal, the true love story with Rosumund Pike and David Oyelowo as the white girl from London who marries an African king, much to everyone’s chagrin.
Lion will make even the hardest heart melt, another true story, Dev Patel plays an adopted boy from India trying to find his way back home.
From the UK I particularly enjoyed Ben Wheatley’s everybody kills everybody else retro thriller Free Fire and Alice Lowe’s magnificently dark horror comedy Prevenge.
So when I wasn’t busy attending show business parties, which was never, I also sat and watched many films so you don’t have to. However, as I still hope one day to be invited to at least one showbizz party, I shall refrain from naming them.
I dd have a nice chat with Noah Taylor on the plane from Gatwick though. Which was as showbizz as my week got.