Well, another Toronto Festival has come and gone. The red carpets have been rolled up; the movie stars moved on to warmer climates; the orange volunteer shirts have been tossed into a bonfire; and critics are finally getting some sleep (thank the lord!). So, with the fest officially over, the time has come for the annual CGM TIFF Awards. These awards are completely unsanctioned and unsolicited. They exist only because I say so. No plaques or trophies are awarded, but if you’re a winning filmmaker and see this article, please feel free to get in touch. I’ll send you a dollar or give you a hug or something. Seriously though, this was a damn good film fest. The ratio of good films to bad was uncommonly high, so competition was fierce; however, after hours of sweaty and stressful decision-making, the victors rose to the top. These are the official CGM TIFF Award Winners of 2015. This honour is undoubtedly the highlight of the lives of everyone involved. You’re welcome.
Hardcore and Victoria deserve some special notice for the pretty gosh darn astounding ways in which they were produced. The Berlin-shot Victoria served up an entire heist movie shot in a single take, an organizational and artistic feat that boggles the mind. Hardcore on the other hand delivered a non-stop action thrillride that was shot entirely in POV. Both movies could only be watched in slack-jawed disbelief, and even though it’s likely that neither would be remembered fondly were it not for the nature of their production, it doesn’t matter. The filmmakers did something pretty special here that will likely be remembered for a while.
The Final Girls is a pretty clever concept for a horror comedy. Essentially a combination of Last Action Hero and Scream, the flick tosses a gang of sarcastic contemporary teens into a ludicrously silly 80s slasher movie. A pretty fun concept filled with bad-movie jokes and ironic humor. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to make it in PG-13, so the necessary gore and elaborate kill scenes feel neutered. Plus, quite frankly, the single joke premise wears thin pretty quickly. It’s still fairly fun, yet I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. CGM’s Mel, on the other hand, will likely love it. So stay tuned to our podcast for the day that she tells me how wrong I am about this movie (even though she’s actually wrong).
Turkish director Can Evrenol delivered his directorial debut in this year’s Midnight Madness program and the guy instantly established himself as a name to watch for folks who enjoy disgustingly graphic gore. The flick is about a collection of policemen to take a call to an abandoned building where they stumble into a black mass and take a journey to hell. The movie takes a little while to get going, but once the horror kicks in, Evrenol pummels his audience with some of the most profoundly disturbing and nightmarish imagery to pop up in a horror movie for quite some time. Baskin is reminiscent of the films of the great Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond) in its use of hallucinogenic colours, nightmare logic, gag-inducing gore, and close-up eye-gouging. The movie requires a strong stomach to properly appreciate, but those with the right constitution should get a kick out of Evrenol’s gooey gore goodness.
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has made a career out of WTF moments. He burst onto the international stage with the “needs to be seen to be believed” Dogtooth, which eventually landed him The Lobster, his first film in English with a cast of international stars like Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly. You’d think that might soften him, but nope; he delivered an absolutely insane dark comedy about a world where being single is outlawed, so all lonely people are sent to a secluded hotel where they have to find a mate within 45 days or they’ll be transformed into an animal. If you think that sounds strange, just wait until you see the movie, which is as bizarre as it is absolutely hilarious and oddly touching.
Ben Wheatley has carved a place out for himself as one of the most interesting filmmakers on the planet with flicks like the scarringly disturbing Kill List and the hilariously sick Sightseers. For his latest and biggest project, Wheatley took on a cult novel by JG Ballard (aka the man behind Cronenberg’s Crash) about a futuristic high-rise apartment filled with everything it’s tenants need that soon devolves into a class warfare riot and giant orgy. It’s a deeply strange and often difficult feature, yet also an undeniably fascinating one that features the best apocalyptic orgy that you’re likely to see in this or any other year. So, that’s special.
If you’ve seen any of his movies like Ichi The Killer or Audition, then you’ll know that Japanese madman/filmmaker Takashi Miike is capable of dreaming up some of the most disturbing imagery that has ever been projected across movie screens. He’s taken a break from his most insane cinematic impulses over the last few years, but decided to triumphantly return with this Yakuza vs Vampires epic. The movie has many ridiculous highlights, but the best is it’s wacko villain. Miike spends quite some time setting up his big bad as a force to be reckoned with and when you finally see the felt-covered baddie on the big screen…well…it’s one of the biggest laughs you’ll have for quite some time. I can’t in good conscience say more, but get ready for this one.
The closing film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was Mr. Right, a wacky rom-com/gun ballet action movie that is an adrenaline shot of pure entertainment. There are many reasons to fall in love with this movie-drunk flick, but by far the most endearing is the perfectly cast leading couple: Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick. She’s a manic maniac getting over a humiliating break up, he’s a goofball hitman who likes to dance his way through shootouts. Together they make for such an absurdly charming couple that viewers will find it physically impossible not to smile painfully wide as they heat up the big screen through mountains of laughs.
This year’s TIFF line-up was crammed full of fantastic horror flicks, yet picking the best of the pack was quite easy. Robert Eggers’ The Witch has been building up big heaping piles of hype since premiering at Sundance, and all of it is richly deserved. It’s the tale of a family in 17th century New England who were kicked out of their community for being too religious and find themselves hunted by a genuine witch (or maybe it’s just their imaginations and ugly relations tearing them apart). The film will slither up your spine from the opening frames and refuse to free you from its trance of terror until long after the credits role. A frighteningly clever folk tale that will likely be remembered for quite some time.
Jeremy Saulnier got quite a bit of praise for his art thriller Blue Ruin a few years ago that was richly deserved, but in hindsight it all felt like a build-up to his tense and terrifying followup, Green Room. The movie follows a hard luck punk band who accidentally get booked at a white supremacist show and end up trapped in the green room with a dead body and an army of violent skinheads (lead by Patrick Stewart, of all people) waiting for them outside. From that point, Saulier piles on the dread and suspense until audiences start to feel like they can’t physically take it anymore… and that’s when it lets loose the violent carnage and vicious dark humor. A white-knuckle thrillride pretty well guaranteed to be a cult classic as soon as it’s released.
The increasing insanity of the drug cartels’ rule of Mexico was pretty much guaranteed to deliver some brilliant movies and in Sicario, we might have the first classic in a new subgenre. Directed by Montreal’s Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Enemy), Sicario is a heart-poundingly intense cinematic experience filled with stunning images, gripping action sequences, and a trio of fantastic performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro. Proof that action movies can pack some hefty content beneath the bloodshed.
Finally, of all the movies to tickle me during TIFF, none stuck a chord quite as deep as Anomalisa. The latest feature by the great Charlie Kaufman (the mind behind Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is a stop-motion movie like no other. It’s about a sad man to whom everyone in the world shares the same face and voice, until he finds a woman who doesn’t. That beautiful metaphor comes wrapped in mountains of surreal comedy, painful human truths, and astounding stop-motion animation. It all combines into a cinematic cocktail almost too good to be true. A genuine masterpiece that’ll make all the sadsacks out there like myself feel a little less alone.