Best of Toronto International Film Festival: Part Two by Jeff Mitchell

Best of TIFF 2018 – Part Two

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The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) concluded on Sept. 16, and this wonderful celluloid-feast offered hundreds of movies over 11 days.  I caught 36 during my trip and wrote a “Best of Toronto International Film Festival: Part One” article (published on Sept. 14), which included five films. 


Here are five more great films from this year’s TIFF, and one of these movies will also screen at the 2018 Peoria Film Fest (which runs from Oct. 19 to 21).  Pretty cool!  Please read the article to discover which film. 


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“Green Book” – Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali should receive Golden Globe Best Actor - Musical/Comedy nominations, and director Peter Farrelly’s movie ought to earn a Best Picture - Musical/Comedy nod as well in this crowd-pleasing road trip, buddy movie set in 1962.  Based on actual events, renowned concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) hires an uncultured bouncer Tony Lip (Mortensen) as his driver for a musical tour through the Midwest and South.  The segregated South presents an uncomfortable backdrop for the audience and the leads, but Tony and “Doc” regularly improve our moods as their opposite outlooks comedically clash.  Mortensen has never been funnier on the big screen, and Ali is out of this world on the piano in Farrelly’s 2018 TIFF Audience Award Winner.


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“Meeting Gorbachev” –  Nobel Peace Prize winner President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced democratic reforms that dissolved the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but this vastly important figure of the 20th century has been largely overlooked in 2018.  Not by directors Andre Singer and Werner Herzog!  They uncover precious, rare footage of Soviet imagery and Gorbachev’s life, and Herzog interviews the 87-year-old former Soviet leader in an absorbing documentary that captures a holistic picture of the man.  Gorbachev reveals his actions, motivations and feelings, and the associated archived video clips deliver an eye-opening history lesson.  Meanwhile, Herzog offers his celebrated voice and perspectives throughout the 90-minute runtime, which again proves that Morgan Freeman and he should narrate everything.



“Rojo” – This TIFF Platform Prize nominee tenders a mysterious slow burn, as Claudio (Dario Grandinetti) feels the heat that interrupts his previously-pleasant life.  You see, this content lawyer and a happily married man unfortunately engages in a lengthy, uncomfortable verbal altercation with a cantankerous jerk (Diego Cremonesi), which results in Claudio bearing unexpected repercussions and unspoken paranoia.  Set in 1970’s Argentina, writer/director Benjamin Naishtat and his team perfectly capture the fashion and backdrops of the era and sometimes feature a yellowish-cloudy tinge during the film’s step into noir.  Supporting performers Alfredo Castro and Cremonesi add thick intrigue and danger, respectively, to a story that includes some shades of Tarantino and Hitchcock, but Naishtat drives the narrative with his own beats.



“Roma” – Writer/director Alfonso Cuaron (“Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001), “Children of Men” (2006), “Gravity” (2013)) constructs a visual masterpiece – filmed in black and white - about an ordinary housekeeper Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) living in Mexico City.  In most cases, Cleo’s employers – a family of five - treat her respectfully, but she endures occasional dismissiveness, and her boyfriend spews outright vicious verbal abuse.  Although Cleo casually searches for her voice, she is a woman of few words, but Cuaron surrounds her with wondrous, mammoth set pieces and sweeping camerawork that instantly and repeatedly earn gasps, disbelief and praise.  “Roma” won the top prize at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, and it is destined for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination.  This movie is a stunner!


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“Woman at War” – Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) is a woman at war, but not with a country or a military force.  She confronts global warming by cutting off electricity to a local smelting plant.  A kindhearted choir teacher in her spare time, this eco-terrorist also carries no shortage of determination in a quirky and highly-pleasing action film.  Director Benedikt Erlingsson takes glorious advantage of Iceland’s otherworldly beauty, as Halla routinely plays cat and mouse with the police, who are desperately trying to apprehend this unknown threat.  Jumping between stressful chases and oddball comedy, Geirharosdottir and Erlingsson fill the screen with surprises, including musicians and singers who regularly pop into the frame.  Well, the 2018 Peoria Film Fest took notice and will feature “Woman at War” during its inaugural Oct. 19 – 21 festival!


Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.  Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.