Here's his last few capsules and rankings
1. A Serious Man A+ (previous post)Would you all join me in a rousing chorus of "Release Mother and Child!" I need The Bening back in my life. It's torture that festivals dangle these goodies and the distributors look around like "who, me?"
2. Precious A (previous post)
3. Up in the Air A
The recipient of the most ejaculatory pre festival hype, I think Jason Reitman’s film’s low-key aspirations, and the small-scale story it tells, will perhaps not benefit from being oversold by everyone and their mother (most random Torontonians I waited on line with over the course of the week told me they thought it was “very good, not great”). So, while adding to the hype is to the movie’s detriment, I have to report that I completely swooned for the movie. I can already see the backlash coming, as the movie’s conventional story arc (man-as-an-island bachelor starts to see the value in having other people in his life) will be easy to bemoan. What really sells it all is that it avoids sentimentality and seems to come from a sincere place of honest emotion. It's also extremely funny, never losing its designation as a comedy, even as the resonance starts to approach around the midway point. What’s perhaps most impressive about Reitman’s direction is the handling of this shift and balance of tone: there aren’t “serious” beats, and the film doesn’t jarringly turn into a drama halfway through. It grows subtly more weighty as it goes along, until you're misty-eyed. George Clooney gives one of his best performances, while still staying in his comfort zone. There will be much bigger, showier performances than this, but the film wouldn’t work without his deft handling of the character’s arc. This isn’t a blow you away emotional movie or Juno-esque crowd-pleaser -- the two prevalent adjectives in my mind are “quiet” and “bittersweet” -- but it’s the sort of thing that’s going to entertain and touch a lot of people, and for once, actually earn the feelings it arouses. Oscar nominations for picture, director, actor and adapted screenplay all seem assured.
4. Mother and Child A
Following up Nine Lives and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her with yet another female-driven ensemble film that happens to be his best yet, Rodrigo García’s latest is an openly emotional, fascinating, complex tale of three different women whose lives may or may not cross but, at the least, run parallel. All three (played by Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington), have had their lives impacted by adoption -- Bening gave birth at 14 and put the girl up for adoption, Watts is her grown-up daughter who’s never met her mother, and Washington is infertile, trying to adopt with her husband. While you emerge from the theater extremely satisfied, no easy answers are found and the film acknowledges the messiness of the emotions / situations entailed in such situations.
Watts, Washington and Samuel L. Jackson (in a very small, understated role) are terrific, but the powerhouse performance here belongs to Bening. Starting the film out as an (seemingly) impenetrable bitch, Bening slowly makes us understand the character, and the decisions and emotions that have informed her life. By the time the film ends, you understand why this character ends up in the emotional place that she does. It never feels unrealistic or like a cheat. I don’t know if the film will get distribution before the end of the year but if it does, Bening will unquestionably be one of the five nominees for Best Actress.
5. Micmacs A-
6. The Road A-
7. The Informant! A- (previous post)
8. Harry Brown B+
9. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans B+
One of the best midnight movies I’ve ever seen (a cult following is already assured), this Nicolas Cage vehicle from Werner Herzog -- using the title and pretty much nothing else from the Abel Ferrara-Harvey Keitel film -- has a warped, nutso energy running through it that had me frazzled when I wasn’t busy laughing. Cage’s off-the-wall performance as a cop addicted to pussy, coke, and back-pain pills is a live-wire tour de force, that for once, utilizes the actor’s over the top inclinations for a character they actually work for. The film’s truly a blast. You alternately gasp and laugh in disbelief, waiting to see what Cage (and Herzog) will do next. My personal favorite moment is a TWO-MINUTE-LONG shot of iguanas Cage is looking at, made all the more brilliant when it’s revealed by another character that said iguanas aren’t even there. This won’t play with Cage’s National Treasure fans, but this is an audience movie if there ever was one.
10. Antichrist B+ (previous post)
11. Whip It B+
Drew Barrymore’s roller-derby directorial debut is perhaps most surprising for the fact that it’s more than “fun,” it’s actually “good.” Showing an assured hand on her first go-round, Barrymore more than capably handles every aspect of the story without short-shrifting any of them: the sports elements work (the derby scenes, violence and all, are insanely fun and well-shot), the coming of age story and love story never feel like bullshit, and the family relationship drama actually proves touching.
Whip It never lets Marcia Gay Harden’s overbearing mother become a caricature or a shrill harridan and allows Daniel Stern, of all people, to be the film’s warm, fuzzy heart. Ellen Page is strong in the central role that can't have been well defined on the page, and the supporting cast is aces, most notably Kristin Wiig in her first screen role (besides, maybe, Ghost Town) that allows her to be as funny as she can be.
12. Perrier’s Bounty B+ (previous post)
13. The Trotsky B (previous post)
14. Daybreakers B
15. Chloe B (previous post)
16. Jennifer’s Body B (previous post)
17. Ondine B-
18. Leaves of Grass B- (previous post)
19. Good Hair B-
20. The Hole C+ (previous post)
21. Solitary Man C
22. George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead C (previous post)
23. The Joneses C (previous post)
24. Creation C- (previous post)
25. Get Low C-
26. Capitalism: A Love Story D+ (previous post)
I hope you've enjoyed this year's TIFF coverage and please join me in thanking txt critic, MattCanada and Lev for sharing their thoughts! Maybe next year I'll even make it there myself.