TORONTO 2013

Favorite Films of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival + One Final Recap

by
September 17, 2013

TIFF 2013 Favorites - The F Word

The wonderful, exciting, thrilling world of cinema. Last week I returned home from my seventh trip to the Toronto Film Festival, best known just as TIFF. Over the course of one week, I screened a total of 18 films; combined with the 10 I saw in Telluride, that puts me at a grand total of 28 festival screenings since the end of August/start of September. It was a wild ride this year, between controversy and complaints, a couple of interviews, and tons of parties, screenings, meet-ups and discussions. To finish my coverage of TIFF 2013, I'm recapping my 5 favorite films that I saw at this festival (excluding those I originally saw in Telluride) as well as my quick thoughts on any others. I'm always excited to talk about my personal favorites of Toronto.

Why do I return to festivals? For the love of cinema. The late Roger Ebert said it best: "My legacy, if there is one, has to do with supporting films that people might not have seen: independent films, documentaries, first films by young directors, and foreign films. Because those are the ones people need to hear about."

Here are my Top 5 Favorite Films of TIFF 2013 (excluding those I saw at Telluride also playing this fest):

The F Word - Directed by Michael Dowse
TIFF - The F Word

The F Word - This was, thankfully, everything I wanted out of a charming, entertaining romantic comedy and such a wonderful film to watch. Up at the levels of 500 Days of Summer (one of my all-time favorites from Sundance 2009), The F Word is a film about relationships and the dread F word - "friend". Daniel Radcliffe & Zoe Kazan star (I love their quirky names: Wallace and Chantry) and their chemistry is perfect, especially because it's so important to the film and if they didn't work well, everything else wouldn't work either. There are a few cliches, but I love how refreshing this is for the romantic comedy genre, and I hope it breaks out in the same way 500 Days of Summer did. If indie rom-coms are your think, this is a must see.

Tracks - Directed by John Curran
TIFF - Tracks

Tracks - As I said in my review, this is just a "beautiful, beautiful film" and it has stuck with me ever since I first saw it. Telling the true story of a young adventurer, played by Mia Wasikowska, who walked across the entire Australian outback alone (except for some camels and a dog) by foot in 1977, this film is like floating through a dream. It's beautiful for many reasons - the way it's shot by cinematographer Mandy Walker, the mesmerizing performances (including a fun appearance by Adam Driver), the extraordinary score by Garth Stevenson, the story itself about personal achievement, and nearly everything else. Highly recommended.

The Double - Directed by Richard Ayoade
TIFF - The Double

The Double - One of my most anticipated to see at the festival, this is one of those films that I keep thinking about. Aside from the Gilliam/Brazil comparisons (which I use in a positive way because it's that unique) there's just something incredibly fun about Richard Ayoade's directing. This is as different from Ayoade's last feature Submarine (which I first saw at TIFF 2010) as any film can be, but unique and entertaining in all its own wacky but bold ways. Jesse Eisenberg stars in the film twice, and is joined by Mia Wasikowska as his main love interest. It's definitely a mindfuck and one of those films that is worth a second viewing just to see how the first half holds up, but that's one of the reasons I can't shake it. This will become a cult classic.

Rush - Directed by Ron Howard
TIFF - Rush

Rush - Everyone's driven by something. I always love leaving a theater more energized and amped up after a film than before. Leaving Rush all I wanted to do was get out and drive, take things to the limit and letting the adrenaline flow. Rush is a great film, one of Ron Howard's best in years, and it was one of the first to come to mind when thinking about my favorites of TIFF 2013. Chris Hemsworth is excellent as driver James Hunt, but it's Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda who stands out with one of the finest performances at the festival. The two play off of each other well and take the rivalry to the race track, where Howard kicks things up a notch in intensity. It's an energetic, exciting and thoroughly entertaining movie worth catching in theaters.

Afflicted - Directed by Derek Lee & Clif Prowse
TIFF - Afflicted

Afflicted - Holy crap! A few of my colleagues didn't seem to enjoy this Midnight Madness film, but I loved it. A found footage, genre-bending indie film with some impressive visual effects boosting a chilling concept. Without giving away too much (but at least saying enough to grab the interest of moviegoers) this is pretty much Chronicle with a Let the Right One In twist. It spends just the right amount of time building up the characters before shit gets crazy, and when it does, they really go all out. There are a few kick ass scenes where I wanted to cheer while still shaking off the chills. This will launch Derek Lee & Clif Prowse's careers.

Next runner-ups: Bethlehem, directed by Yuval Adler; and Borgman, directed by Alex van Warmerdam. I originally screened Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Prisoners, Tim's Vermeer, Labor Day and Under the Skin at the Telluride Film Festival and included those in my wrap up of that fest. All others I screened listed below.

Films I missed seeing but heard good things about from colleagues: Pioneer, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg; Wolf at the Door, directed by Fernando Coimbra; The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her, directed by Ned Benson; Stranger by the Lake, directed by Alain Guiraudie; Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears; Le Week-end, directed by Roger Michell; Why Don't You Play in Hell?, directed by Sion Sono; The Strange Little Cat, directed by Ramon Zürcher; and Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. All of these are worth seeking out at any film festivals coming up or in theaters when/if they get released.

As a final recap of all the films I saw at the festival, here are my remaining 12 tweets (I did not tweet about This Is Sanlitun at all) posted after each screening. These are embedded below in the chronological order in which I originally saw them throughout the festival from September 5th-12th. I usually try to tweet a concise version of my thoughts and feelings for each film, as well as a bit of context related to the story if possible.

Thanks for reading this final blog recap of my TIFF 2013 thoughts. My ratings have also been submitted on Criticwire and I participated in the TIFF poll voting for the Best Films/Performances of this year's fest. Out of all the films I saw in September, my favorites are still 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, The Lunchbox and Labor Day, but I screened all of those in Telluride before heading up to TIFF. It was intriguing hearing the opinions of my colleagues emerging from screenings of those films, and how the response differed at each festival. As always it's most exciting spending time catching up friends and discussing the best/worst films. Festivals aren't just about the films, but the people you spend time with, and the experiences of each person.

With that, TIFF 2013 has wrapped. As much as I love discussing films, it's tough to keep up with each new day and keep on track with everything else. I don't review every film, but I do see a lot of them, and I wanted to at least point out my thoughts on the screenings I did catch. Another interesting, exhausting year at TIFF comes to end, but I plan to be back next year as usual. Now it's time for the awards season to really begin!

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  • DAVIDPD
    Pretty psyched for THE DOUBLE. Ayoade gots the skills.
  • Bree
    So you have a cover photo of Horns but no comment on it... did you happen to see it? Is the lack of comment reflecting your thoughts on the film? It is one I had high hopes for but have seen few reviews, so my hope is dwindling.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      Nah, I never got to see Horns! The cover photo is from The F Word, with Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (which I listed as one of my favorites of the fest). I heard mediocre things on Horns, which runs nearly two hours. It never fit into my schedule so I didn't have a chance to catch it at TIFF unfortunately. I don't have high hopes either...
      • Bree
        Sweet! Thanks Alex.. oh well I was hoping that Joe would have better results with his films then his father. They are never better then what your mind can do with the original written work (most of them anyways). ;)
  • DavideCoppola
    Too bad you didn't get to see Sono Sion's new film, hope the guys catch it at Fantastic Fest. I wanna hear if it's good!

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