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#TIFF14: The Recap



2014 marked my 7th trip to the Toronto International Film Festival. My first year consisted of taking the train in from Montreal to catch five films over the span of one weekend in a strange city, before hopping back on the train to head back home again. My TIFF’s since then have all been different and I am still learning lessons from them to this day. For a couple of years, when I was still being published in print, I was accredited with the festival, but that hasn’t been the case for the last little while. All the same, this was Black Sheep Reviews’ most successful TIFF to date!

I attribute this success to two factors in particular. In fact, they aren’t really factors but rather people instead. Simply put, TIFF14 would not have been what it was were it not for the tireless efforts and incredible support of my writers, Matthew Hoffman and Nick Watson. Collectively, we were able to pull together 38 reviews during the festival, two short of our goal of 40. (Both Nick and I planned to write two more reviews each during the festival but oddly, both of our cats were sick the same week and that took precedence.) Matt and I also managed to fit in 10 interviews between the two of us, which will be detailed further below. I am still floored by how many filmmakers we were able to speak with and that would not have been possible were it not for the support of the public relations companies BSR works with regularly – eOne Films, StarPR, Allied Integrated Marketing, Walt Disney, Films We Like, Rock-It Promotions, D Films, Touchwood PR, and of course, the TIFF press office itself.

Personally, I saw a total of 24 films, one short of my goal, but again I refer you to the aforementioned cat issues. Naturally, I have my favourites but rather than skip straight to those, I thought I just make take you along my personal TIFF14 journey, showing you some of the more significant steps I took along the way.



I saw my first TIFF14 film on August 18 in my first of many pre-TIFF screenings, and damn was it a good one. WHIPLASH, starring Miles Teller, in a turn that will get him more attention than anything he’s done prior, and JK Simmons, in a role that may just get him an Oscar nomination, is a raucous and intensely engaging character study from novice filmmaker, Damien Chazelle. I was pretty psyched after catching it and by the time I had seen Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY the next day, I was convinced this was going to be one of the best TIFF lineups ever.

As my pre-TIFF screening madness continued, I myself continued to see a number of fantastic films, including TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, starring Marion Cotillard, and THE IMITATION GAME, which would actually go on to win TIFF’s top prize, the People’s Choice Award. There was really only one film I saw pre-TIFF that I didn’t enjoy, and that was HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS.

Given that I had seen so many great pre-TIFF films, including all five of my festival favourites from this year (more on that later), I expected the good times to continue once the festival got started as well. This was sadly not the case. For instance, I did not care for TIFF’s opening film, THE JUDGE, at all. By now, everyone has heard about this year’s controversy over world premieres and, while TIFF openers are not ordinarily smashes, this title, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, was clearly only programmed to ensure one of the biggest stars on the planet would be present to launch the festival. (And no, I’m not referring to Duvall). Other films I saw that had no business at TIFF this year include THE EQUALIZER and PAWN SACRIFICE. Other films that I think deserved their place in the festival but that I was ultimately disappointed with include Jean-Luc Godard’s GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D and 99 HOMES, starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon.


The Last Five Years

One of the films I was most excited to see during TIFF was Richard LaGravenese’s THE LAST FIVE YEARS. I am a huge fan of the musical itself and was eager to see how it would be adapted for the screen and whether or not they would get it right. After seeing it, I came right home and sang through the entire score (as one does). I was relieved as I did enjoy the film, especially the performances of Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan (whom I would go on to meet and interview during the festival, swoon). I felt too close to it to write about it though and so I asked Nick to take it on for me and fortunately, he loved it too. This is his 4-Sheep review.

Speaking of Nick, he had caught David Cronenberg’s MAPS TO THE STARS before the festival and had given it a 5-Sheep review. I was hearing very mixed things from other people so I was very curious to see the film for myself. In fact, I passed an interview with MOMMY director, Dolan, on to Matt just to make sure I could see the film during the festival. After seeing it, I can safely say that I was not as enthused as Nick was, but I would still give the film a solid 4-Sheep rating. The ensemble, which includes Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Julianne Moore and John Cusack, create a contrived but crafty take on Hollywood and the corruption of fame. Mr. Cronenberg also attended the screening I caught and he was genuinely humbled by the reaction of the crowd. Check out Nick’s review here.

I ran into Matt a few times during the festival while running from screening to screening. One of those times was when I was running away from the MISS JULIE screening I caught as fast as I could. I found the film so tedious and so painful that I just wanted to be very far away from it when it was over. Matt had loved the film and in talking to him about his admiration for director, Liv Ullmann, and stars, Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell, a seed was planted in my head. That seed grew as I walked home and by the time I saw down to write about it, I had grown to love it too. I knew while watching that it was mesmerizing to behold, but it was bothering me all the same. I think I was just fighting against it too hard to be taken in by its great and eloquent depths of despair. I now count MISS JULIE among the festivals bigger successes and think that if it finds its way to theatres this year, Chastain will find herself a Best Actress nominee once again. This is my 4-Sheep review.



As I mentioned earlier, we booked a great number of interviews at TIFF14. I had the privilege of sitting down with Jean-Marc Vallée for the second time to discuss the Reese Witherspoon film, WILD. He played Simon & Garfunkle at the onset of the interview just to set the mood. LaGravenese and I geeked out over musical theatre while we chatted about THE LAST FIVE YEARS. I even got to chat with a Pixar animator named James Ford Murphy about their newest short film, LAVA (which is sublime, I must say). There were two films that I booked interviews for that I never in a million years dreamed would actually come to pass. For ROSEWATER, I spoke with star, Gael Garcia Bernal, and writer/director, and host of The Daily Show, Jon freaking Stewart! I thought that nothing could top that, as I have been a big fan for many years now. That is, I thought that until it was confirmed that I would sit at a table with Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum to discuss their intense drama, FOXCATCHER. I may owe someone my first born child for these opportunities but they were so worth it. You can read those interviews later this year, as the films hit theatres.

This brings me to my final TIFF14 film. It was the second Saturday of the festival, Ryerson Theatre, for Jason Reitman’s latest film, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. Reitman is such a TIFF staple that it felt fitting to finish with this film, even though it hits theatres in a few weeks. Although I didn’t think the film was perfect, I do think that it was a much better step forward in Reitman’s career than last year’s LABOR DAY. The honesty and bravery with which Reitman turns the mirror on the Internet and what its done to all of us is commendable and the tone he strikes is similar to that of AMERICAN BEAUTY. It isn’t anywhere near as good as that film, but it does embody the idea of looking closer that Sam Mendes’ film stood for.

So what did I learn this year? I learnt that if you miss one movie, another will pop up in its place, that being out of the house so much can cause my cat anxiety, and that next year, I really need to hire a personal assistant to do stuff like tweet for me and make sure I eat. I also learned that if you tweet about Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson or Benedict Cumberbatch, you may just go viral. Most importantly though, I learned not to take it all so seriously. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress and mania that is TIFF and if you do, you may only realize you’re not enjoying yourself when its too late to do anything about it. Things may not seem like they are working out ay any given moment during TIFF, but they usually do in the end. TIFF is never exactly what I want it to be, but when I let it be exactly what it is instead of what I imagined in my head, TIFF is always amazing.


These are my five favourite film from TIFF14.


“Director Bennett Miller solidifies himself as one of the most consistent directors working today, pulling career changing performances out of his stars, Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum.”


“As long as writer/director, Xavier Dolan, continues to produce films as wonderful as this last one, he can continue exploring his mommy issues on film all he likes.”


“Easily one of the most disturbing experiences I’ve had watching a film this year. Writer/Director, Dan Gilroy and star, Jake Gyllenhaal are gory together but also oh so glorious.”


“Like a great piece of jazz, it is melodic, on beat and adds unexpected layers throughout as it builds towards a climax that will have audiences riveted.” 


The ride that Witherspoon and Vallée take us on is a wild one indeed, and one that won’t be forgotten so easily afterwards either.”



The following is a list of Black Sheep Reviews’ remaining TIFF14 reviews




























See you all at TIFF15!

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