I am going to TIFF!
Yup, the Toronto International Film Festival!
My press credentials came in last week. Digital. I get the real ones when I get to Canada on Thursday. (Stay tuned to my Twitter for those obnoxious BGN TIFF 2018 pics!) That along with all the trailers, the movie screeners (digital versions of the full movie sent to critics for reviewing), press releases, and other trappings of TIFF are swirling around my Gmail box. They are like kindling to my anticipation, a burning excitement. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.
I am a pop culture JUNKIE with an Achilles heel for movies. I love all kinds: scary, sappy, animated, heroic, dramatic, you name it. I also love writing about films. TIFF combines both loves into five whole days. I’ll be in film heaven for a short while. Let’s pause here for a dreamy sigh. SIGH!
I am looking forward to so many movies and will miss so many more. I have compiled a list of the films that I intend to cover for the festival and some of the ones that my fellow BGN critics will review as well. I also included a few of the ones we had to tearfully turn down because there’s just not enough time. (I’ll see those in theaters later this fall.) All of these films make up my list—my dream TIFF picks.
This film looks black as f—- and still as scary as the earlier Predator films. This 20th Century Fox film is directed by Shane Black and stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, and more. The aliens land in “backwoods Georgia” and are more militant than any Predator I’ve ever seen. I will be screening this one at midnight on my first night in Toronto. Our Air BNB is walking distance to the theater, so it will be a struggle not to scare myself silly on the walk to the room!
This look at how a young, white kid gets caught up in the Finnish skinhead culture. This happens after he finds himself in over his head with a pregnant girlfriend and a very bleak future. Directed by Selma Vilhunen, this film piqued my interest, as it seems to echo some of the undertones rippling through American society today. I think it’s worth a watch. Besides, I am a sucker for a messy love story.
Lawd, somebody done gave Jason Blum and the Blumhouse folks the keys to Michael Myers cell! I had to get a ticket to this, the 11th Halloween film because 1) Jamie Lee Curtis is everything as Laurie Strode, even in this with her unapologetic grey mane flying free around her head. And, 2) with Blumhouse at the controls, it’s going to be The Purge meets Scary Movie. There’s going to be lots of scares but enough of a cerebral mind-freak to make a new level of horror excellence. Directed by David Gordon Greene, the film stars Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, and Virginia Gardener. I can’t wait for this one. However, I am also looking for a seatmate if anyone else is going to be screening this next week…
Gael García Bernal leads this heist film directed by Alonso Ruíz Palacios. Fans of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle will remember Bernal as the sexy conductor Rodrigo who steamed up the screen for more than 40 episodes. He is still looking like Mexico’s finest man as a vet school dropout who teams ups with a friend to rob a natural history museum. The film is based on an infamous true story, making it even more of a must-see. Bernal is joined by Lynn Gilmartin, Leonardo Ortizgris, and Simon Russell Beale in the film.
This Barry Jenkins film is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s famous novel. Kiki Layne (Chicago Med) is a pregnant woman a mission to save her fiancé from a southern jail—which is not a great place for black people if you’ve read up on Jim Crow. Her mother is played by Regina King, who jerked us clean of tears as the mother who lost her child tragically in Seven Seconds. Jenkins uses these actresses and the rest of the cast to breathe life into Baldwin’s film, amplifying a message that we do need to hear right now.
Stella Meghie brings that blackest comedy at the festival in The Weekend. It’s about a guy who goes on a trip where his new girlfriend and his ex-boyfriend come together to ruin the guy’s vacation. The film stars Y’lan Noel, Kym Whitley, Tone Bell, DeWanda Wise, and more. This intersectional comedy is one that I am looking forward to for TIFF.
Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson form an unconventional duo in this Peter Farrelly film. Ali is Don Shirley, a world-class pianist who is touring venues in the deep South in the days of Jim Crow. Mortenson is a bouncer who is hired to protect him. Green Book offers a historic look at the insidious nature of racism, which pays no mind to economic status. I know the history of the actual Green Book that Black families used to inform them of dangers when traveling in the South. It is going to be interesting to see how that translates to this story onscreen.
Director Michel Aviad brings to TIFF this #MeToo era film. A woman works with a realtor who sexually harasses her daily. Meanwhile, her husband is working hard to save his business. She needs the money and endures. But, there is only so much a person can take. Working Woman is on my list because I want to see how the movement is shaping up in other areas of the world. The film is an art that reflects the culture of a people and place, so a movie is a good place to make this observation.
Viola Davis in all her natural hair glory is the lead in this unconventional heist film. It also has Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as a dangerous henchman to an even more dangerous man played by Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta). Davis leads a team of women, the widows of bad men who must do a heist the guys planned in order to get free of the debt those same men left. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson and others round out this Steve McQueen film that is high on my list.
The movie is making a buzz because it stars Lady Gaga in a role made famous by Barbara Streisand (and Judy Garland before her). I want to see how the star fills Babs’ shoes in this version of the film that’s directed by her co-star Bradley Cooper. After a check on Twitter tonight, I also see that I am not the only one waiting excitedly for the soundtrack as well.
The bestselling novel by Angie Thomas is being brought to life onscreen by George Tillman Jr. The star of Everything, Everything Amandla Steinberg carries the films as Starr. Her father is Hank from Grimm, Russell Hornsby and is joined in the film by Regina Hall, Anthony Mack, Common, and many other talented actors. The tribute to Tupac and bristling commentary on America’s police violence problem remain intact in this film and are used to create a dramatic work with a big message. I can’t wait to see it.
Ultimately, some of these films will not make my viewing schedule when I actually get to the festival. That’s okay. I will catch them at the theater later. Having some movies to look forward to is keeping my excitement for the whole trip at bay.
If you are going to TIFF, what films are you looking forward to? Even if you will be watching from home, tell us what movies that have caught your interest.
You can find BGN coverage of the festival by clicking this link HERE.
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Jonita Davis is a writer, mother, a certified nerd, and writer of Black Girl Nerds. Davis is a critic and journalist. She has been writing for 13 years about the way pop culture and politics affect our lives as parents, women, black women, nerds, and people of this planet.