TIFF 2014 cheers and jeers: the best and worst of this year’s festival

TIFF 2014 cheers and jeers: the best and worst of this year’s festival

Because everything related to film culture, even tangentially, can and should be evaluated using a Siskel-and-Ebertian binary system, here are our thumbs up and thumbs down for TIFF 2014.

(Image: Giordano Ciampini) (Image: Giordano Ciampini)
Thumbs up

Bill Murray. Because he made a confusing joke about bankrolling Ivan Reitman’s restaurant, Montecito. Because he showed up to Bill Murray Day in full pageant regalia. Because he’s Bill Murray.

Midnight Madness. This year’s batch of late-night screenings—including Canadian 70s exploitation send-up The Editor, ‘80s and ‘90s action throwbacks The Guest and Big Game, the incredible It Follows (which manages to make the premise of a sexually transmitted demonic possession not stupid) and People’s Choice winner What We Do In The Shadows—all wowed crowds and critics alike. Some people even liked the new Kevin Smith movie, somehow.

Festival Street. Though some weren’t convinced, most of the King Westers we talked to were all for the shutdown of King between University and Peter Street, feeling that it energized the area. And who are we to argue with them?

Jessica Chastain. We imagine getting embraced by Jessica Chastain, as one weepy young fan did at the premiere for Miss Julie, absolves you of all your worldly suffering, like that messiah character on The Leftovers.

Toronto pride. From Jon Stewart praising the almost upsettingly nice audiences (and endorsing Olivia Chow for mayor) at the Rosewater red carpet to Clifford “Method Man” Smith wearing a Toronto pom-pom hat to his Cobbler premiere, this year’s TIFF was further proof that Hogtown has taken a place on the world stage as something greater than just “downtown Canada.”

John Cusack. The guy told an especially great Andre the Giant story during TIFF, which is impressive considering there’s no shortage of great Andre the Giant stories.

Thumbs down

Celebrities skipping their own movies. It’s nice to see celebrities, to know that you made eye contact with them and, in so doing, situated them in the world, forging a low-level empathetic bond between celebrity and common man. But some of the stargazers we spoke to on the red carpet lamented the absence of some of their favourite celebs. What business does Kristen Stewart have not being at her own premiere?

Middle-of-the-road movies. In TIFFs past, some of the bigger, buzzier films have actually merited interest: Gravity, The Master, 12 Years A Slave, and so on. But this year’s “biggest” films, from melodramatic opener The Judge to Audience Choice winner The Imitation Game, felt like overblown Hallmark movies. Crowd-pleasing is good; there’s no merit in intentionally alienating an audience. But calculated crowd-pleasers like these always feel stilted and—worse—plain boring. Try harder, Hollywood.

David Cronenberg’s sunglasses. In a way, we almost want to cheer the local weirdo for his bold, asinine choice of headgear as he prowled the red carpet for his latest, Maps to the Stars. But come on, D.C.: if you’re gonna be bold with sunglasses at night, you gotta be bold. Like, Oakley Medusas bold.

Denzel Washington. You “don’t know what an action movie is”? Come on. You’ve been in a dozen. We know you still think you’re a Serious Actor because you played Malcolm X like 20 years ago, but in your last great movie your nemesis was a runaway train.

Justin Bieber. Because even in a week when some of the world’s biggest celebrities are in town—many of whom have actually earned their fame—Justin Bieber still can’t help but hog a little bit of the spotlight. Like, we get it! You’re an idiot! Go away for ten days and then come back and amuse us.

Cobblestones. Hollywood royalty Jane Fonda pooh poohed the Distillery District’s heritage cobblestones while in town, apparently ditching the premiere party for her own movie because she didn’t want to brave the charmingly uneven rocks. Maybe we can pave some asphalt down in the Distillery, just for the duration of TIFF—it’s basically the red carpet of compound mineral aggregate.