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50 Buzziest TIFF Films: what to see, what to skip and how to slice through the hype

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for all the screenings at TIFF 2010, but with over 300 titles, guessing at what film is worth the money (and queuing) is as challenging as ever. Well, fear not: our guide cuts through the hype surrounding the 50 most anticipated flicks to reveal which films are likely to give the most bang for your buck.

See our picks and rejects »


Rating Legend

5 – See it at TIFF
4 – See it when it’s released
3 – Wait for it to turn up on iTunes
2 – Wait for it to turn up on Torrentz
1 – Ignore it when it turns up on a flight

Amigo
Writer-director John Sayles goes the no-stars route again (à la Men With Guns) with this movie about an American soldier embroiled in the early-20th-century Philippine-American War. The always well-intentioned Sayles tends to be at his most maladroit when tackling overtly political, large-canvas tales such as this, but we’ll cross our fingers anyway.
Score: 2


Another Year
It may not have scored any awards at Cannes, but everybody seems to love Mike Leigh’s latest, about a happy, aging couple (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and their numerous messed-up singleton friends. Long-time Leigh regular Lesley Manville is said to give a standout performance as a depressed, booze-soaked secretary. And when has Leigh ever made a less-than-worthwhile film?
Score: 5


Armadillo
This Danish documentary, which follows soldiers fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, racked up numerous plaudits on the festival circuit earlier this year and even became the first documentary to win the Critic’s Week competition at Cannes. People who’ve seen Armadillo say it makes Restrepo (an American doc about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) look like Little Miss Sunshine.
Score: 4


The Bang Bang Club
Best known as a TV documentarian, director Steven Silver makes his feature debut with an adaptation of the 2001 non-fiction tome about four young, white South African combat photographers. The actors—Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch—aren’t exactly A-list, but the film looks intriguing because the photogs aren’t supposed to be journalist heroes, but reckless, morally compromised individuals.
Score: 3


Barney’s Version
Making a movie out of Barney’s VersionMordecai Richler’s final, Giller Prize–winning novel about a jerky Canadian television producer—has been a pet project of big Canadian film producer Robert Lantos for more than a decade. Now that it’s finally come to fruition with Richard J. Lewis (Whale Music) in the director’s chair and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) in the lead, it seems like a patriotic duty to at least pretend to like it.
Score: 3


Biutiful
Most people already know how they feel about Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel), so we’ll just note that critics didn’t have much nice to say about his latest at Cannes. Nevertheless, star Javier Bardem managed to win the best actor prize there, so who knows? If you can get through Bardem’s yammering in the trailer—“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm”—add a point or two to our rating.
Score: 2


Black Swan
The hype is high for this one. Judging by the trailer, director Darren Aronofsky has returned to the hysterical, fevered style of his Requiem for a Dream with this ballet-world takeoff of All About Eve. Our guess: the setting (and star Natalie Portman) will imbue the film with a touch of class, but not enough to conceal its gaudy B-movie heart.
Score: 3


Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance
’s look at the dissolution of a relationship, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, received nearly unanimous raves at Sundance and Cannes, with the two stars garnering plenty of spurious Oscar talk. Our only concern: will the film’s scrambled chronology and relative plotlessness be artistic beauty or directorial wankery?
Score: 4


Buried
127 Hours

One film stars Ryan Reynolds as a man trapped in a coffin, while the other stars James Franco as a man trapped under a boulder. Our guess is that the former, Buried, will be the better film, because all it wants to be is an entertaining genre exercise. 127 Hours, however, is based on the true story of unfortunate hiker Aron Ralston and will thus be burdened by seriousness and likely seem as long as its title. (Plus, does anyone really want to see a guy cut his own arm off with a dull army knife?)
Score: 3 (Buried)
Score: 2 (127 Hours)

  • Pats

    What an arrogant little piece of tripe this is. Some of the so called film summaries seem to be based on rumor and/or first impressions instead of facts and/or studied opinion.

  • Andy

    This kind of writing really bothers, it suffers from both lack of research and baseless claims. Did the writer blindly throw darts at his rating legend when deciding on each movie? And when he says “our picks” who does that refer to? Does the entire writing staff stand behind these arbitrary previews/ratings?

  • Andy

    This kind of writing really bothers me, it suffers from both lack of research and baseless claims. Did the writer blindly throw darts at his rating legend when scoring each movie? And when he says “our picks” what does “our” refer to? Does the entire writing staff stand behind these arbitrary previews/ratings?

  • anon

    I’m agreeing with the comments above.
    Also, some spoilers are mentioned – really they should say spoiler alert!
    Way to ruin a movie-going experience.

  • Ben Lawson

    Commenters, puhleese! You expect thoughtful insights into 300 films that haven’t been screened yet? This is about THE BUZZ about these films. Entertaining speculation, period.

  • Chris

    When I saw the comments, I figured this right-up can’t be that bad…well, in fact it is! Trite, biased, spoiling, and lacking. Articles like this do nothing but hamper the film industry and indeed, the movie-going experience.

  • GF

    To all the people hating on this article: do you know how a film
    festival works? The films have very limited viewing before TIFF
    (usually at other festivals), so when they come here, the only way to
    separate the sh*t from the brilliance is to go on what’s been said
    before. This writer clearly follows these things more closely than
    most people. Do you people actually feel like we shouldn’t talk about
    movies before they screen?! Or maybe you’re one of the studio hacks
    who are trying to discredit people who tell the truth about your
    movies?

    Haters, get a grip (or at least a sense of humor). These are
    previews, not reviews. They’re meant to be fun and helpful. You don’t
    like ‘em? Go back to picking movie titles out of a hat.

  • Debbie

    See the movies and make your own judgment rather than read what someone else thinks.

  • to-music

    Yes, I do expect thoughtful analysis.

    There are plenty of press screenings of many of the TIFF films, and those writers with some credibility and integrity who are prepared to spend some time at their jobs actually go to see those films before they write their thoughtful analysis.

    The original commenters were right.

  • Andy

    Dear GF, you’re an idiot. The writer gave Black Swan a 3 and Biutiful a 2. Both these movies look brilliant and all early signs point to these being great movies of the year. The writers sense of humor is smug and jaded, not the least bit funny. “it seems like a patriotic duty to at least pretend to like it,” f*** off Scott Macdonald.

  • GF

    Hey, at least Scott MacDonald gives reasons why he writes what he writes. “These movies look brilliant” doesn’t tell you anything. All your arguments are ad hominem. Calling me “an idiot” and calling the writer “smug and jaded” doesn’t make Black Swan and Biutiful good movies. What does?

    I’m not saying Macdonald is right on every count, but even if he’s totally wrong, he makes a much stronger case than you do.

  • Bill

    I realize that many of your people are film buffs who probably follow all the buzz yourselves. Sounds like you’ve already decided what movies you want to see at the festival, which makes me wonder why you read this article at all. I don’t follow the buzz and I certainly don’t have time to see everything. I appreciate an article like this which gives me some tips so I can narrow it down. And I think it’s an amusing piece. Hugs!

  • irked

    This piece is so Canadian. Shit all over everything without even seeing it. Good job, amateur.

  • LX

    Love your rating system, especially the torretz. lol

  • huh?

    Only one of the movies listed got a “5″ rating so according to the writer’s rather shoddy ranking system, there is a whopping ONE movie that is worth seeing at TIFF? I don’t think so.

  • Rad

    Agree with GF.

    Relax everyone… If you’re going to be so uppity about these reviews, just go watch and judge yourself, rather than criticize an author who is trying to ease the selection process.

    The blurb for “The Way” was absolutely brilliant.

  • Duh

    A message to “huh”. Try turning the page!
    from Duh

  • Laura

    My goodness, such hatred spewing on this article and comments. I thought we Canadians had a reputation for being polite?

  • Kim

    So they’re only recommending 4 movies be seen at TIFF?

  • Nick

    “f*** off Scott Macdonald”
    Scott’s movie selections are always top notch, but these’s are just reports on the buzz – which he is very much a part of. The fact that you are getting personal and insulting him makes me want to slap you retarded. Watch your mouth, sir – I mean it.

 

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