10 TIFF Movies You Don’t Want To Miss

by Victor Stiff
Published: Last Updated on

As TIFF 2017 descends on Toronto, movie lovers around the city are scrambling to organize their festival to-do lists. Most people don’t have time to catch more than a couple festival films so an event like TIFF creates a sinister case of FOMO; no matter what movie you choose you’re bound to miss out on something great.

Fortunately, the Sordid Cinema crew have scoured TIFF’s sprawling film slate so that you don’t have to. With years of film festivals under our belts, we’ve learned where to trim the fat during TIFF’s grueling ten-day run. So, while films like Darkest Hour are guaranteed to receive awards season praise, at Sordid Cinema, our hearts belong to genre films. Movies featuring martial arts, bullets, and blood usually rank higher on our lists.

Special Mentions

Ten spots don’t offer enough digital real estate to mention all the TIFF 2017 movies that have me excited. I couldn’t draft a must-see list knowing that I left out any of these next five titles.

Marlena The Murderer in Four Act

‘Marlena The Murderer in Four Acts’

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak)
Indonesia, France, Malaysia, Thailand/95 minutes/2017/18A/Indonesian/North American Premiere
Directed by Mouly Surya

No matter how much time I spend scouting TIFF’s slate there’s always one or two movies that creep up at the last minute and blow me away. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts has all the ingredients to be this year’s late discovery. How does a, “visually stunning Indonesian feminist take on the western genre,” sound to you? See you there!
Tuesday, September 12 – Scotia 4 at 9:45 PM

Mudbound
Directed by Dee Rees
USA/134 minutes/2016/14A/Colour/English/International Premiere

I caught a few dozen films at TIFF last year and no movie stayed on my mind like Jeff Nichols’ Loving. Nichols’ understated story about two souls at the heart of America’s civil rights inequality is a bold statement; one amplified by today’s social climate. There’s a strong chance that Mudbound takes up the mantle as the film that levels audiences with 2017’s most scathing cultural indictments. Do I even have to bring up why Dee Rees’ look at the Jim Crow south is a necessary conversation starter?
Tuesday, September 12 – RTH at 6:00 PM

Dark
Directed by Baran bo Odar
Germany/90 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/German/World/Premiere

DarkNetflix has a strong track record when it comes to acquiring and developing original content so it wasn’t hard for their supernatural foreign drama, Dark, to pique my interest. Dark’s synopsis mentions a child’s disappearance as well as the phrase, “Chilling supernatural family drama,” which sounds like a fun time to me. Sure you could hold out and catch the film when it hits all of your electronic devices but what’s the fun in that? Scary movies practically demand to be viewed in packed theatres.
Saturday, September 9 – TBLB 3 at 8:30 PM

55 Steps
Directed by Billie August
Germany, Belgium/115 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/English/World Premiere

A world premiere at TIFF from acclaimed director Billie August is exciting news. August is one of only a handful of directors to win Cannes coveted Palme d’Or twice. I’m normally not one for legal dramas but 55 Steps’ subject matter concerning mental illness and health care hits close to home. Plus, how do you go wrong with a cast featuring Helena Bonham Carter, Hilary Swank, and Jeffrey “Pop Pop” Tambor?
Friday, September 15 – RTH at 6:30 PM

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me
Directed by Sam Pollard
USA/100 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/English/World Premiere

Sammy Davis Jr was arguably one of the most talented performers in the history of show business — and inarguably one of the coolest. To put his life into perspective, Davis Jr. became a household name in an era when black performers had to arrive for shows through back doors and service areas. And check out this factoid: Davis suffered a car accident that wrecked his body and blinded him in one eye. Davis pushed himself to relearn all of his choreography and came back as preternaturally talented as ever. One hundred minutes may not be enough time to unpack Davis’ legendary career but it is a great starting point.
Monday, September 11 – Scotia 12 at 9:45 PM

THE TOP TEN

10 Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Italy, France/132 minutes/2017/18A/Colour/English, Italian, French, German/Canadian Premiere

‘Call Me By Your Name’

I must admit, last year at this time, I wasn’t on the Luca Guadafnino bandwagon. Once I finally watched Guadagnino’s 2015 critical darling, A Bigger Splash, my perspective changed. Now I’m all in on whatever this man churns out. If a tender relationship drama like Call Me by Your Name isn’t your thing, know that Guadagnino is directing the upcoming Suspiria remake. Haters may want to get familiar with his work beforehand so they can rant about how he’s unworthy to remake the classic.
Thursday, September 7 – Ryerson at 7:15 PM

09 The Square
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Sweden/145 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/Swedish, English/North American Premiere

‘The Square’

Ruben Östlund’s 2014 movie, Force Majeure, was a small-scale film that made a huge statement. An unconventional exercise in deconstructing masculinity, Force Majeure had girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, and wives everywhere looking over at the person beside them and questioning their crisis-management skills. Östlund’s latest picture, The Square, made a splash at Cannes, taking home the festival’s coveted Palme d’Or. The conversation surrounding The Square is divided which makes sense considering Östlund is somewhat of a provocateur. So is The Square worthy of all the high praise? We’ll find out soon enough.
Sunday, September 10 – Elgin at 2:30 PM

08 Brawl in Cell Block 99
Directed by S. Craig Zahler
USA/132 minutes/2017/18A/Colour, BW/English/North American Premiere

‘Brawl In Cell Block 99’

Bone Tomahawk is one of my favourite genre movies of the last few years. Director S. Craig Zahler’s western was a slow burn The Searchers/Cannibal Holocaust mashup that was rich in both character and WTF? moments. Zahler is back with a little something for TIFF’s Midnight Madness crowd. Brawl in Cell Block 99 features Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, and dress shoes with no socks aficionado, Don Johnson. By the way, look at how TIFF categorized Brawl in Cell Block 99 on their website: Social Justice, American, Martial Arts, Horror, and Drama. That my friends, sounds DOPE AF!
Tuesday, September 12 – Ryerson at 10:45 PM

07 Downsizing
Directed by Alexander Payne
USA/135 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/English/Canadian Premiere

‘Downsizing’

Downsizing and TIFF 2017… insert joke here. All snark aside, don’t be surprised to find Downsizing on lots of cinephile’s year-end lists. Payne is a director with more than one certified classic under his belt: Election and Sideways to name a couple. Downsizing made its world premiere shortly before TIFF and the adulation is already pouring in. If that’s not enough, Downsizing’s quirky sci-fi premise (a man shrink’s himself) and talented cast (Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz) should win you over.
Monday, September 11 – Elgin at 6:00 PM

06 Happy End
Directed by Michael Haneke
France, Austria, Germany/107 minutes/2017/14A/Colour/French, English/North American Premiere

‘Happy End’

Like the previously mentioned Billie August, Haneke is one of just a few directors to win multiple Palme d’Or’s (taking it home twice in three years). Haneke is back in the festival fray with Happy End, a film that is a quasi-sequel to his previous festival hit, Amour. Haneke is re-teaming with legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert and don’t be surprised if the duo go on an award season tear. Given Haneke’s track record, we can expect Happy End to feature a series of scathing social commentaries as he casts his gaze at distressing family dynamics.
Sunday, September 10 – Winter at 5:45 PM

05 Loveless (Nelyubov)
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Russia, France, Belgium, Germany/127 minutes/2017/14A/Colour/Russian/Canadian Premiere

‘Loveless’

Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like an exhilarating movie with a milquetoast ending. And then there are movies that know how to deliver in their closing moments. We’re talking about those rare final frames that make you want to jump out of your seat and scream, “Ahhh Snap!” Zvyagintsev’s 2014 movie, Leviathan, sticks its landing so hard that you want to immediately go back and re-watch it. Zvyagintsev’s incisive social digs (often aimed at his homeland, Russia) are known to ruffle feathers. It speaks volumes that Zvyagintsev produced Loveless without state funding.
Thursday. September 7 – Winter at 9:00 PM

04 I Love You, Daddy
Directed by Louis C.K.
USA/123 minutes/2017/14A/BW/English/World Premiere

‘I Love You, Daddy’

So how did such a high spot on my list go to the guy that made Pootie Tang? In the years since Pootie Tang, C.K. developed into a first-class auteur. C.K.’s TV series Louie, plays like a weekly middle-finger to modern television conventions. His “secret” online series, Horace and Pete is nothing short of a storytelling masterclass. C.K. tends to use our screens like fun-house mirrors; he takes the icky, selfish, and awkward parts of ourselves that we try and hide and reflects them right back at us.

Louis arrives at TIFF with another secret project under his belt. All I know about the film is that it’s called I Love You, Daddy, and it’s shot in black and white on 35mm. Given the material C.K. has been cranking out lately, a title and a showtime are all the convincing I need to book my ticket.
Saturday, September 9 – Ryerson at 5:45 PM

03 The Carter Effect
Directed by Sean Menard
Canada, USA/60 minutes/2017/G/Colour/English/World Premiere

‘The Carter Effect’

I know, I know… I’ve got a basketball documentary ranked above movies from Michael Haneke and Alexander Payne. Few NBA superstars ascend to the rarefied air once occupied by Vince Carter. Carter leaped, glided, and soared his way onto basketball’s biggest stage and for a brief time held the coveted mantle of the next Michael Jordan. And just like that, Vinsanity was over and the man once labelled Air Canada came crashing back down to earth.

Carter’s been in the NBA for nearly two decades (seriously, the man was drafted in the 90’s) which amounts to two careers’ worth of highs and lows. If by chance you missed out on peak-Vinsanity, The Carter Effect, is just a few windmill slams away from reminding us why we crowned Vince Carter, Half-man Half-amazing.
Saturday, September 9 – POW at 3:45 PM

02 Lady Bird
Directed by Greta Gerwig
USA/94 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/English/International Premiere

‘Lady Bird’

There are certain people so talented and charismatic that I’ll go out of my way to see any project they’re attached to. I could listen to Michael Shannon, Kate Mckinnon, and Chiwetel Ejiofor read public service announcements over an AM radio channel. Lady Bird’s writer/director Greta Gerwig is working her way up that list. Gerwig doesn’t star in Lady Bird but given her writing credits on Frances Ha and Mistress America (a couple of my favourite films from the past few years), something tells me that moviegoers will still feel her presence.
Friday, September 8 – Ryerson at 9:00 PM

01 The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
USA/123 minutes/2017/PG/Colour/English/Canadian Premiere

‘The Shape Of Water’

Growing up, I found myself drawn to all things dark, sinister, and mysterious, and naturally, I became obsessed with Tim Burton films. Guillermo del Toro’s filmography checks all the same boxes — minus the batshit-insane Johnny Depp performances. No other filmmaker makes the macabre feel so majestic.

In 2006, del Toro released his masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth, and since then critics have been awaiting GDT’s “return to form,” (their words not mine). The Shape of Water made its world premiere ahead of TIFF and so far the movie is blowing people away. Is it possible that critics will spend the coming decade asking for the next The Shape of Water? I can’t wait to find out.
Monday, September 11 – Elgin at 9:30 PM

You can argue over taste but you can’t quantify it. We can only seek out the things that we love and then go out and enjoy them. And if the things we both love overlap, all the better. Have fun at TIFF 2017 and I hope to see you there.

The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to September 17. For additional festival, information click here.
Sources: TIFF.net

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