The just-completed Toronto International Film Festival was back in full force for the first time since 2019—that is, fully personal—and as before, the vaunted event kicked off the Oscar season with A-list stars, award-winning contending films and quite a few some controversy
The likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Harry Styles and even “Weird Al” Yankovic traveled north of the border, where reliably friendly local audiences saw such high-profile world premieres as Steven Spielberg’s the fables and that of Rian Johnson Blades off continuation Glass Onionwhile critics spar over the merits of divisive films like Sam Mendes’ Realm of Light and Darren Aronofsky’s The whale.
It was Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical family drama the fables who won Toronto’s People’s Choice Award, who predicted the recent Best Picture nomad land and Green Book. (Each of the last 10 winners in Toronto has been nominated at least for Best Picture, a remarkable series.)
Here are our favorites from the 2022 edition of TIFF (in alphabetical order):
The Banshees of Inisherin
British-Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh has made a lot of fans with sometimes violent, darkly comic crime fables like In Bruges (2008) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). So what if we told you that? banshees is the most glorious thing he’s done so far? McDonagh loses the crime element – unless suddenly deciding you don’t like your best friend/drinking buddy anymore is a crime (and it should be), as is the case with the stubborn Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and poor Pádraic (Colin Farrell). This delightful, hilarious, moving and just gory enough gem features Farrell’s best performance yet and infectious Irish dialogue. fargoMidwestern jokes. In other words, expect to hear the word “fecking” a lot.
How/when you can see it: In theaters October 21
Jennifer Lawrence’s second film after a short acting break is a lot quieter and less star-studded than the Oscar-nominated 2021 satire don’t look upbut it still has potential – no different from 2010 winter bone, the drama that first put her on the map. Lawrence delivers an exciting performance as a veteran from Afghanistan who suffers a brain injury and who would rather be somewhere (or preferably in the Middle East) than confront demons from the past at her mother’s house in New Orleans . Brian Tyree Henry is equally impressive as the mechanic whose shared trauma creates a poignant bond between the two.
How/when you can see it: In theaters and on Apple TV+ November 4
Steven Spielberg, call home? Hollywood’s most successful filmmaker gets seriously personal with his heavily autobiographical feature, starring Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as versions of his parents, and newcomer Gabriel LaBelle as the filmmaker’s alter ego, Sammy. And the crowd in Toronto was (just) for it. On a wave of critical raves and applause from the audience, the fables handily won the festival’s coveted People’s Choice award, which often heralds the coming Oscar glory. But Spielberg was careful to keep the focus on the film, not the awards ceremony, noting during the Q&A after the premiere that the film is primarily “a way to bring my mom and dad back.”
Although Williams’ performance has been praised, the fables also includes a memorable supporting turn of Seth Rogen as the Fabelman children’s surrogate atom, who has a secret romance with their mother that Sammy eventually discovers in one of the film’s best and most dramatic scenes. And look for a hilarious cameo from David Lynch as legendary director John Ford, who gives the budding filmmaker some much-needed advice. And no, it isn’t: “The herb must flow.”
How/when you can see it: In select theaters November 11 before expanding nationwide on November 23
Glass Onion: A Knife Mystery
Could Rian Johnson possibly top his brilliant 2019 whodunit? Blades off with this long-awaited sequel? That he comes close is a triumph in itself. Glass Onion is just as star-studded (Edward Norton! Janelle Monae! Kate Hudson! Daniel Craig again, of course!) island full of tech. Most impressive, though, is how Johnson once again invents an impossibly meticulous murder mystery whose ridiculous pleasure lies in peeling back the layers — and perhaps laughing too.
How/when you can see it: In select theaters in November (date TBA) before streaming on Netflix December 23
The People’s Joker
Here’s a breakthrough TIFF movie that: will not playing in a theater near you… at least, not yet. Vera Drew’s Batman-based confessional/experimental film collage was shown only one night during the Midnight Madness program before the filmmaker pulled it out of the festival under pressure from DC Comics’ parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. The trans filmmaker has already promised that The People’s Joker will be shown again at future festivals, but it may not be the exact version that played at TIFF, as she navigates the copyright issues standing in the way of a wider release.
Make no mistake: The Joker may belong in Arkham Asylum, but The People’s Joker must be freed from the movie prison. Drew’s wild vision uses the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime as the starting point for a deeply personal exploration of gender identity and the prejudices of the comedy world, all filtered through a mixed-media pop culture lens that echoes Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and Todd Haynes. It’s the kind of bold original vision that takes you to film festivals to explore, so I hope other festival-goers get the same opportunity soon.
How/when you can see it: We’re not sure yet, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed The People’s Joker will return.
Weird: The Story of Al Yankovic
You didn’t expect a man named “Weird Al” to be a normal biopic would you? What started as a three-minute Funny or Die trailer in 2010 has turned into a real – and very funny – feature film in which ex-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe picks up Al Yankovic’s accordion and Hawaiian shirt collection for a UHF-style account of the musician’s life and times. TIFF programmers chose wisely Weird: The Story of Al Yankovic to kick off its Midnight Madness slate, and the midnight audience welcomed the film as a hero. Every stunt cameo, every shout-out to Yankovic acquaintance, and every music cue was greeted with thunderous cheers and applause — a clear sign that the Roku channel should seriously consider a limited theatrical release alongside the film’s streaming premiere.
Besides Radcliffe’s spicy star twist, Foreign also includes a funny performance of Evan Rachel Wood as a wacky version of the Material Girl. “I’ve loved Madonna since I was very little,” says the… west world star said after the film’s premiere. “I knew it was an elevated version and a sociopathic version of Madonna, but I still wanted it to be good!” Meanwhile, her co-star described his intense accordion training regimen, supervised by Yankovic himself. “I did what I could,” Radcliffe said with quintessential British modesty. “It’s a very difficult instrument – it makes it look very easy!”
How/when you can see it: Streaming November 4 on the Roku Channel
(Brendan Fraser performing in) The whale
Never let it be said that Darren Aronofsky makes easily digestible films. After back-to-back premieres in Venice and Toronto, The whale is already one of the most talked-about – and divisive – films of the fall. To be fair, everyone (including us) agrees that Brendan Fraser’s performance as a morbidly obese teacher who eats himself to death in his filthy apartment is a career-best comeback feat that could very well be. the mummy star received his first-ever Oscar nomination and possibly winning. In addition to the protagonist, the film also features great supporting work from Weird stuff Fan favorite Sadie Sink – who plays Fraser’s evil teenage daughter – as well as Hong Chau, Samantha Morton and Ty Simpkins. But opinions differ greatly on whether The whale is an empathetic representation of an isolated man or an exercise in fatphobic humiliation.
You can expect that debate to continue as The whale nears its theatrical premiere in December – a powerful reminder of Aronofsky’s ability to push the audience’s buttons. (Also see: The fountain, Black Swan and of course, Mother!) One thing’s for sure: you won’t get out of the theater without your own warm take.
How/when you can see it: In theaters December 9th
The woman king
It’s usually not a good sign when a movie premieres at TIFF a few days before it opens. We will, The woman king countered that trend. Gina Prince Blythewood’s rousing action flick is both an old-fashioned battle royale and a never-before-seen type of war film, one that finds the legendary Dahomey army of female warriors in West Africa (led by an Oscar-worthy Viola Davis, stop us if you have heard before) fighting for freedom in the thick of the early 19th-century slave trade. Despite generating some controversy over its historical accuracy, The woman king still scored a royal $19 million during its opening weekend in theaters to dominate last weekend’s box office.
How/when you can see it: Now in cinemas
Sarah Polley’s first feature in ten years, a Canadian child star turned author, is also her fourth feature to have a TIFF premiere. Not surprisingly, she had a lot of support from her hometown: women talk was the first runner-up for the People’s Choice award, so it will be talked about as the talk about the awards heats up. But there’s so much more to say about Polley’s nuanced and deeply moving adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 bestseller, set in a Bolivian Mennonite colony where the female population debates whether or not to leave after a series of rapes and abuses committed by some of the community’s male population.
On the page, the story reads like the minutes of their extended meeting, while Polley’s deftly written script opens up the story in a portrait of the entire community populated by magnetic artists like Claire Foy, Rooney Mara and Jessie Buckley. As the clock ticks on their literally life-changing decision, women talk becomes the story of what one generation of women owes to another — a message that echoes all the more in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade reversal. Not for nothing, but the film also has one of the best needle drops of the year, as Polley instigates “Daydream Believer” for a long run that offers some glee amid the drama.
How/when you can see it: In selected theaters December 2