I had a better Toronto than I did Cannes, which isn’t saying much.
There may not be a single movie that I can say I’m 100% over the moon about, but I didn’t see any movie that I thought was out-right bad either.
Even movies that I know are ultimately less than the sum of their parts ("Miral") or suffer from terrible endings ("The Debt," "Never Let Me Go"), I’m glad to have seen what the filmmakers were up to and appreciated much of the proceedings, however over-the-top they may have been ("Black Swan," "Brighton Rock," "Super").
In fact, the more I think about it, it was those films that lost themselves, threw caution to the wind and just said, fuck it, I’m going to show Nathalie Portman picking off bloody hangnails, or observe two masochistic lovers embrace in the rain (“I’m bad, you’re good, we’re made for each other!”) or watch superheroes beat people to such a gruesome pulp that all the fun of it splashes you in the face and then makes you sick and embarrassed and want to take a bath.
Reporting for the Wall Street Journal Online, I watched more quasi-mainstream films than I normally do at a film festival. I’m embarrassed to say I only watched two foreign-language films ("Outbound," "Brownian Movement"), which is a detestable record low, particularly for me. But I’m a gun-for-hire and what can I do but shoot easy targets. Both were worthy titles and "Brownian Movement," which I can't exactly say I "enjoyed," may be the movie that lingers with me the most. It constantly keeps you guessing what lies beneath the disturbed central character and its attention to architecture and interior spaces is exquisitely realized and just as mysterious. And it reminded me that art cinema, however challenging or oblique, is ultimately more rewarding in a deeper, fuller way than most of what we were seeing in Toronto. Imagine if I had seen that Russian film "Silent Souls" instead of "Miral" on Sunday morning: TIFF could have actually been transcendent.
But it was fine. Which is pretty good for a jaded person like me.
Here's a list of six other films that I would recommend (in no particular order):
"Rabbit Hole" -- There's little doubt that it's based on a play, but that's not so much a criticism as a complement: the script has the well-worn depth of the theater and nearly all of the characters are richly drawn. I prefer the film's quieter moments to the emotional outbursts. The scenes in which Nicole Kidman and the boy who killed her son sit on a park bench and confront their collective sorrow are superb, among the best dramatic work I've seen since "Life During Wartime."
"127 Hours" -- Danny Boyle hits this one out of the park. And it's far better than "Slumdog Millionaire." Here's my coverage of the premiere at WSJ.com.
"Black Swan" -- A big, guilty, visceral pleasure. "All About Eve" on acid. "Pi" meets "Mommie Dearest." "The Red Shoes" meets "Requiem for a Dream." Go crazy. Here's a link to my interview with Aronofsky at WSJ.com.
"Super" -- For all of you who saw it in Toronto and didn't "get" it, look again: This is not "Kick-Ass"; it is the anti-"Kick Ass," probably the most subversive and perverse superhero movie ever made. Here's a link to my interview with Rainn Wilson at WSJ.com.
"Tabloid" -- Errol Morris does what he does so well. But admittedly, I might like him to do something different. Here's a link to my interview with Morris at WSJ.com.
"Brighton Rock" -- Another guilty melodramatic pleasure. Not all of it works, but I love the strange, masochistic romance between the two leads. And Sam Riley gives such good stare.