When the leaves change, you think fall. When the temperature drops, you think sweater weather. When Starbucks fills their menus with pumpkin spice, you buy one every morning on the way to work.
To me, these seasonal occurrences signal one thing; it’s Oscar season. Fall is when all of the studios hold off on their award-hopeful movies, and play them throughout the festival circuit. Long known as the launching pad for the Oscar season, the Toronto Film Festival, has scheduled a lot of a movies that will be making a play for gold early next year. As every year, the city is positively buzzing with excitement for celebrating films. One of the biggest aspects of the festival is waiting in lines, which can get annoying after a while but allows everyone to talk about the films they’ve been seeing.
Due entirely to scheduling and when I’ll be in Toronto, I’m not seeing some of the big Oscar players, unfortunately. The buzz for La La Land and Manchester by the Sea, which have played other festivals and will play here through the week, has been deafening, This gives me a chance to see smaller movies, some which are coming out next year and some that are still awaiting distribution.
My first film at the festival was Ben Wheatley’s slam bang, retro shoot-’em-up, Free Fire, a movie introduced to the audience as loud and certain to wake you up and it sure did. Out of the 90-minute runtime, about an hour is spent inside of a warehouse, where an arms deal has gone horribly awry. The guns never stop firing and as the characters get hit they are mostly concerned about their suits rather than the bullet that is lodged in their arm of leg. Heading up the cast is Armie Hammer, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy in a movie that is truly, truly insane.
One of the more buzzed about titles playing at TIFF this year was Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut American Pastoral. Adaptations of Philip Roth novels have always been challenging to bring to the screen and this one was no different. Roth’s words and stories are dense and fleshing them out in multiplexes have become Herculean (just this summer Indignation was adapted into an aimless coming of age story). The would-be Oscar contender is a dizzying mess of tone, which seemed to leave most people cold. The film is framed through a flashback with David Strathairn’s character occasionally narrating, which only seems perfunctory to the overall story. Even so, McGregor finds poignant and powerful moments within the story, through his interactions with Jennifer Connelly as his wife and standout performer Dakota Fanning as his daughter. The performances help elevated American Pastoral to an interesting mess.
Movies at 10 p.m. are a struggle for me to begin with but it doesn’t help when they are incredibly dull. Such is the case with Adam Smith’s directorial debut Trespass Against Us, starring Michael Fassbender and national treasure Brenden Gleeson. They have a great rapport as the father and son of a family of criminals but the movie is entirely devoid of tension or any interesting drama. It just plods through as Fassbender’s character tries to distance himself from the outlaw ways of his family but it proves to be tougher than he expected.
I stumbled out of Trespass Against Us ready for bed and looking forward to what my second and final day of TIFF 2016 would bring.