TIFF 2016: The Tiffening
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TIFF kicks off this week, and I’ll be filing reviews along with Joanna and Kathleen. It’s a little bit of a weird year, The Birth of a Nation and Nate Parker dominating so much of the pre-festival conversation, but Venice got underway last week, and Telluride went down over the long weekend in the US, and we now have some other movies to talk about. Chiefly, La La Land, which wowed everyone who saw it—in a year of controversy, a dreamy movie about love might be such a welcome antidote that it goes the distance to Oscar.
Another movie that hit at Venice was Arrival, which I selfishly took to review even though Joanna loves Amy Adams. (Sorry Joanna!) When Leonardo DiCaprio won his Oscar, there was a lot of conversation about how much he “deserved it”—as if life hasn’t already anointed him a winner a hundred million times over—and how it was “his time”. Well what about Amy Adams? When is it her time? She’s one of the most reliably excellent actresses working, and she’s put up with a raft of sh*t (see also: Russell, David O.) and not once complained publicly about it. When is it her f*cking time? Can it be now? She has two chances this year, Arrival and Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, and she’s supposedly great in both. #OscarForAmy!
Back at Sundance, The Birth of a Nation seemed like a slam dunk Oscar favorite, but Nate Parker’s controversy has tainted it for many people, seriously damaging its prospects. I’m going to be reviewing Nation, because I’ve already reviewed Woody Allen’s Café Society, but we did look through the TIFF schedule for films you can support if Nation is off the table. Films such as Moonlight, about the growth of a young LBGTQ black man in three stages, which got rave reviews at Telluride.
Also Jeff Nichols’ Loving, about the landmark Supreme Court case that eradicated miscegenation laws and made interracial marriage legal in all states. Ruth Negga is supposed to be great, and could be an early contender for Best Actress. There’s also Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, and Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. Dev Patel’s Lion, about an Indian man journeying to connect with his birth family, is Harvey Weinstein’s favorite for “eight or nine” Oscars. And Rooney Mara is earning a lot of praise for her portrayal of a sexual assault survivor in Una, based on David Harrower’s play Blackbird. Might be interesting to see Una and Nation celebrated at the same Oscars.
But it’s not all Oscar bait. Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven opens the festival, looking more like a Hollywood blockbuster than anything, and there’s a Blair Witch soft reboot, too. I can feel you rolling your eyes, but it’s from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the guys behind You’re Next and The Guest. If anyone can salvage the Blair Witch, it’s them. And then there’s the dark horse, Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral. It’s his directorial debut, and I’ve heard good things, but that could just be industry hype. I’m very curious to see not only how the novel translates to screen, but what McGregor has to offer as a director.
The movie that feels like “the big one”, though, is Manchester by the Sea. Its premiere at Sundance got muted by The Birth of a Nation, but it just went over like gangbusters at Telluride, and as I mentioned before, it benefits most from Nation’s controversial status. It’ll be interesting to see if Casey Affleck’s past sexual harassment lawsuits come into play, but so far they haven’t. In fact, Affleck was an honoree at Telluride, so I’m curious to see how this plays out.
Attached - Casey Affleck at Telluride on the weekend.