Toronto Festivals by Year:
Prizes, Programs, Favorites
The Movies of 2014
U.S. Releases /
Browse Films by
Nick's Flick Picks
People's Choice Award Winner and Runners-Up:|
The Imitation Game, UK/USA, dir. Morten Tyldum
Learning to Drive, UK/USA, dir. Isabel Coixet
St. Vincent, USA, dir. Theodore Melfi
Films I Screened in Toronto:
Ranked in order of preference
Check out the prep work I did on some of these directors' past films.
My Vote for People's Choice
Silvered Water: Syrian Self Portrait (TIFF Docs; Syria, dirs. Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan) -
Artists' anguished epistolary and citizens' hand-made archive of three years of Syrian inferno.
Iraqi Odyssey (TIFF Docs; Iraq/Switzerland, dir. Samir) -
History of 20th century Iraq as Homeric family saga. Acute meditation on paradox. Modest but rich new flexing of 3D.
National Gallery (TIFF Docs; USA, dir. Frederick Wiseman) -
Less admin than you'd expect; squarer focus on arts and detailed labors of many kinds. Such edits! Exhilarating.
The Tribe (Discovery; Ukraine, dir. Myroslav Slaboshpitskiy) -
Sign-language idiom endemic to plot, theme, yet story holds up in any context. Bold, muscular, and politically resonant.
Li'l Quinquin (Contemporary World Cinema; France, dir. Bruno Dumont) -
Peter Sellers in pastoral France? Did Dumont take a bet to remake Se7en after a Kaurismäki bender? If so: nailed it!
Goodbye to Language 3D (Masters; France/Switzerland, dir. Jean-Luc Godard) -
3D unbound. Godard swipes your iPhone, converts it to a fully live lunar module, hands it back to you, sneers.
Timbuktu (Masters; Mauritania/France, dir. Abderrahmane Sissako) -
Eloquent, somber, and visually gripping. Opens out Sissako's style for wider consumption without yielding a simple film.
From What Is Before (Wavelengths; The Philippines, dir. Lav Diaz) -
Less audacious than Norte, but "novelistic" in the best sense. Builds strongly. Ravishing, silvery monochrome.
Eden (Special Presentations; France, dir. Mia Hansen-Løve) -
Hello, first love! Adores music, characters without wholly sentimentalizing them. A canny group portrait, intimate yet aloof.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Masters; Sweden, dir. Roy Andersson) -
Frontloaded with most brilliant vignettes; tapers off a bit. Such droll humanism.
The Princess of France (Wavelengths; Argentina, dir. Matías Piñeiro) -
Yet again, like seeing an intricate cut-paper playhouse pop up between two leaves of a thick scholarly book.
Jauja (Wavelengths; Argentina, dir. Lisandro Alonso) -
Engagingly odd. An imperial tale and a critique of one, as surveyor strays from soldiers' band, solipsizing land as he goes.
It Follows (Midnight Madness; USA, dir. David Robert Mitchell) -
Seat-gripping horror that swiftly sets out tricky conceit; sustains it well, with welcome humor and mystery. Ace score.
Girlhood (Contemporary World Cinema; France, dir. Céline Sciamma) -
Nimble, multifaceted: apt pair with Boyhood or Pariah or 400 Blows. Evokes adolescent confusion without seeming confused.
Amour fou (Contemporary World Cinema; Austria, dir. Jessica Hausner) -
Reverses heat-beneath-decorum tropes of period drama. Instead exhumes philosophical coolness in tale of passionate will.
The Valley (Contemporary World Cinema; France/Lebanon, dir. Ghassan Salhab) -
Tough, slow sit, but it uses duration, visual tension to evoke dread as normative state in Lebanon. Expert sound design.
Horse Money (Wavelengths; Portugal, dir. Pedro Costa) -
Imagine final shots of Tsai's Stray Dogs adapted as full Portuguese feature. Visual experiments almost overwhelm ideas.
Still the Water (Contemporary World Cinema; Japan, dir. Naomi Kawase) -
Cannes Competition maybe not ideal place to meet this somewhat conventional but sensitive, moving small-town drama.
Hill of Freedom (Masters; South Korea, dir. Hong Sang-soo) -
Hong's latest jewel-cut doodle charms, especially amid heavy festival environment. He repeats himself but so do we.
Wild Tales (Special Presentations; Argentina, dir. Damián Szifron) -
A director sat in Argentina reflecting on Pulp Fiction. And on Argentina as charred accident, rigged game, brutal union.
Red Amnesia (Special Presentations; China, dir. Wang Xiaoshuai) -
Caché-meets-The Whisperers mystery. She did Something Nasty During the Cultural Revolution. Now, it follows. Unnerving.
Maidan (Wavelengths; Ukraine, dir. Sergei Loznitsa) -
Valuable series of static, Wiseman-like panoramas of buildup and conflicta style with pros and cons for filming revolution.
Bird People (Contemporary World Cinema; France, dir. Pascale Ferran) -
Winsome but not frivolous fable about freedoms we envy, imagine, and maybe enjoy. Stiff at times but glides at others.
Red Rose (Contemporary World Cinema; Iran/France, dir. Sepideh Farsi) -
Rich, surprisingly sexual drama of Iran's 2009 Green protests explores seductive pulls of both revolution and complacency.
Far from Men (Special Presentations; France, dir. David Oelhoffen) -
Short Camus tale becomes well-shot, well-paced, Stagecoachy two-man Algerian Western. Classic style, laudable clarity.
The Duke of Burgundy (Vanguard; UK, dir. Peter Strickland) -
As ever, Strickland yields voluptuous sounds and images. But wit and fun again get lost in arbitrary spirals.
Heaven Knows What (Wavelengths; USA, dirs. Josh and Benny Safdie) -
Bombastic yet credible insiders' view of addicts' amour fou. Often amateurish, then suddenly assured. The music!
Trick or Treaty? (Masters; Canada, dir. Alanis Obomsawin) -
First 60, last 30 minutes awkwardly joined but feed movie's point about changing demographics and protest tactics.
Foxcatcher (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Bennett Miller) -
Solid cast, suffocating direction. Clear, repetitive audience cues. Overblown tragic tenor. Like Nolan doing Quiz Show.
Still Alice (Special Presentations; USA, dirs. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland) -
Moore is good; scenes with Stewart, Baldwin, Kunken all show promise. Pace off. Images say too little, score too much.
Mommy (Special Presentations; Canada, dir. Xavier Dolan) -
Local beats and long arcs are earnest but rote. Remaking She's So Lovely with teen boy as Sean Penn is an odd bid for growth.
The Search (Special Presentations; France, dir. Michel Hazanavicius) -
I felt defensive on this sincere if unadventurous film's behalf. but Bejo's thread keeps worsening. Just sturdy enough.
Clouds of Sils Maria (Special Presentations; France, dir. Olivier Assayas) -
Directed with Assayas' usual lightness but script underscores concepts that feel plenty clear. Disappointing.
Miss Julie (Special Presentations; Norway/Ireland, dir. Liv Ullmann) -
Was it perhaps shot in sequence? Garish, unconfident acting and directing through first hour but then it finds its feet.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Contemporary World Cinema; Israel, dirs. Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz) -
Even most intriguing ironies are badly encumbered by stultifying images and repetitive scenario.
Whiplash, Based on the TV Precious' Mom Threw Down the Stairwell (Special Presentations; USA, dir. Damien Chazelle) -
Blunt direction pummels home confused story and characterizations.