From Joker to Marriage Story, Here Are Our Top 6 Picks From TIFF
The Awards season kicks off with one of the friendliest film festivals, The Toronto International film Festival 2019, drawing to a close recently. Films that win the coveted People’s Choice Awards at TIFF invariably go on to bag something at the Oscars. With past winners like Green Book, La La Land, 12 Years a Slave and Slumdog Millionaire, every film that has won a People’s Choice in the past decade has earned a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.
This year, Oscar hopes are high for Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. A Nazi- Germany set satire, the film received a lot of appreciation from the audience as well as critics. Jojo Betzler(Roman Griffin Davis), a kid growing up in World War 2 Germany, spends most of his time with his imaginary friend Adolf (Waititi), a pep-talking version of the Fuhrer. Having completely internalized the Nazi brainwashing, Jojo finds himself at crossroads when he discovers his own mother (Scarlet Johansson) is working towards saving the Jews. Jojo now must choose between hate and humanity.
Apart from playing the Oscar oracle, what makes TIFF truly special is its commitment to equal representation . This year, of the 333 films being screened, almost 36 % were helmed by women. Launched in 2017, the Share Her Journey Campaign is TIFF’s five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. Of the four Indian films, three are directed by women. Gitanjali Rao’s beautiful animated feature Bombay Rose, Geetu Mohan Das’ bilingual film The Elder One, dealing with gender politics and Shonali Bose’s star-heavy The Sky is Pink. Priyanka Chopra, one of the protagonists in The Sky is Pink, is one of the ambassadors of Share her Journey Campaign.
For a festival with such diverse representation, it is difficult to narrow down one’s favourite films. However, I will attempt to list my top six pics.
It may be the runners-up in the People’s Choice Awards this year, but Scarlett Johansson’s power isn’t to be taken lightly. Her phenomenal performance in JOJO Rabbit and Noah Baumbach’s divorce comedy Marriage Story makes Johansson invincible. In Marriage Story, she plays an actor divorcing her husband (Adam Driver), who is a theatre director. Marriages are messy, divorces more so. The relationship between Johansson and her husband plays out beautifully, as they fight to retain their son’s custody as well as preserve the essence of a union that is about to come to an end. The performance by the lead actors and the writing are flawless.
Joaquin Phoenix has set a new benchmark with his performance as Arthur Fleck in Joker. A failed comedian’s ultimate rise as the arch-villian of Gotham City has been spectacularly depicted. A character previously performed by Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix makes the esoteric dark Joker uniquely his own. Unhinged and brutal – Arthur’s descent into madness and violence along with his his fascinating rise as the champion voice of the downtrodden is astonishingly good. Safe to say Phoenix’s performance is every bit worth the hype.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The world today and all its craziness can do with a little dose of Mr Rogers, the legendary children’s TV show host who conjured up a world of innocence and love. Bringing the much-loved Mr Rogers to life is a man with not a single false note in his depiction. The inimitable Tom Hanks essays the role with such warmth that it is difficult to not be teary-eyed as the films follows journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) tasked with writing a profile of a man who he has always dismissed as irrelevant and too good to be true.
Renee Zellweger deserves all praise for completely surrendering herself to bring to life the much-loved Judy Garland in the biopic that focuses on one of her last concerts in London, six months before her untimely death. Directed by Rupert Goold, Judy is an intimate portrait of a highly talented performer and the troughs and crests that mark the final year of her life.
Jennifer Lopez-starrer Hustlers is based on a New York magazine article about four real-life women - Samantha Barbash, Roselyn Keo, Karina Pascucci and Marsi Rosen who worked at a strip club and find ways to get the better of their Wall street clients during the economic slowdown of 2008. Directed by Lorene Scafaria, this is a delicious account of subverted gender politics as the strip club becomes a playground for the women to exert their independence – financial and physical, working not just as items to entice male gaze but to assert their own individuality with agency.
Ford V Ferrari
James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari is a fast-paced joyous ride with winsome performances by Matt Damon and Christian Bale. It recounts the story of real-life superheroes Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles who with their maverick genius help the mighty Ford Motors beat the dominant force in the international racing circuit at the time. Even if one knows the trajectory of events it is to the credit of Mangold and the brilliant act by Damon and Bale that as viewers its difficult to tear oneself away from the screen.
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