Best (and worst) of TIFF

Best (and worst) of TIFF

Well, it was a long haul, but TIFF has breathed its last breath and Yorkville has returned to being a (relatively) normal place again. Now is the time, of course, for post-mortems, the time to discuss whether this year’s films were thematically connected (the New York Times argued, for example, that the festival was largely characterized by anti-Bush sentiment) and whether TIFF successfully snared all of next year’s Best Picture nominees (an unspoken aim in light of last year’s Oscar nods for Capote, Brokeback Mountain and Crash).

As if this wasn’t enough for the chattering classes to chew on, Saturday’s award announcements were downright bizarre. Not only did Gabriel Range’s controversial and inconsistent Kill Dubya flick, D.O.A.P., win the FIPRESCI Prize (from a panel of international critics),but the Audience Choice Award went to Bella, a tiny first feature few had heard of. This charming little film flew completely under the radar, proving yet again how babbling critics are often completely oblivious to the real buzz circulating among festival goers.

Bella is the first film from Mexican-born director Alejandro Monteverde. When Nina (Tammy Blanchard) is fired from the New York Mexican restaurant where she works, she is pursued and consoled by Jose (Eduardo Verástegui), an emotionally stunted co-worker who decides to play hooky and walk around the city with her. It’s hardly an ambitious film. Nor is it a wholly successfully one. But that’s what makes Audience Awards so much fun, right?

And the Canadian awards? Think that all the buzz around Sarah Polley’s feature directorial debut meant she was a shoe-in for the City TV award for Best Canadian First Feature? Or maybe you assumed the award would go to Andrew Currie, whose genre-bending Fido garnered almost universal acclaim among Canadian and international critics. Guess again? The award went to Noel Mittrani’s Sur La Trace D’Igor Rizzi, a film that tells the story of a mourning French soccer player (Lauren Lucas) whose downward spiral leads him to become a hitman in order to pay the bills.

I’m not saying that TIFF’s audiences or various juries have it wrong. But I’ve got some prizes of my own. Allow the indulgence:

The Golden Beaver Prize for Best Feature Film: Jia Zhang-ke’s Still Life

The Worst Feature Film of the Festival: Kabir Khan’s Kabul Express

Best Debut Feature: Florian Henckle Von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others

Best Canadian Feature: Sarah Polley’s Away From Her

Biggest Disappointment: Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim

Best Actress: Penélope Cruz, Volver

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland; Ulrich Mühe, The Lives of Others

Most Overrated Feature: Todd Field’s Little Children

Biggest Breakthrough Performance: The Monster, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host

Best Performance in a Q&A: Jeff Garlin

Best Performance in a Press Conference: Dustin Hoffman

All in all, it was a hell of a festival. While it doesn’t look like we had the big five Oscar picks at TIFF this year, we did get a wide range of films that captured both the hope and anger that characterize our troubled and ever-changing times.

Don’t agree with my choices? Write and tell me what you loved and loathed.