The Buzz

TIFF 2013 favourites from Eli Glasner

Categories: Movies

That's a wrap on TIFF 2013. The festival that never stops was such a blur — it's only now that I've had time to scratch out some thoughts. Each year, the festival begins front-loaded with powerful prestige titles and, after a summer of bubblegum blockbusters, it can be quite the shock to dive into new worlds of addiction, pain, wonder and more. As always, it seems as if certain themes appear, but really it's just a trick of the light — the effect of seeing nearly 40 films in such a short span of time.

What's below is the movies that, for me, rose above the rest. These filmic feasts are the ones we'll be dining on when they arrive in cinemas. So, to whet your appetite and to help me remember, here's a toast to my best of TIFF 2013.

12 Years a Slave
If there's a theme to director Steve McQueen's films, it's his sense of control. He has an artist's eye and he's not cowed by difficult subjects. With 12 Years, he forces us to bear witness to the horrible human cost of slavery. From Hans Zimmer's industrial-sounding score through the film's pastoral setting, 12 Years is a continual contrast of beauty and brutality. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as Solomon Northup is remarkable. The indelible moments are often the quietest as well, including the scene of him swinging by a rope, sounds of his gagging floating on the wind as cicadas buzz in the background.

Little Feet
The kids are alright. The kids are going to be just fine. A collaboration between director Alexandre Rockwell and his young daughter Lana, Little Feet is a wisp of a story about three kids on a quest to bring their fish to the river. It's a totem to the power of imagination, framed in black and white vignettes.

Blue is the Warmest Color
Yes, the much discussed and extensive lesbian love scenes go a little overboard. But there's no shortage of passion in this sensitive look at a young woman learning to love. Actress Adèle Exarchopoulos brings us the desires and frustration of a woman trying to find her place in life. It's a film that quietly delivers.

Blue Ruin
Take the typical Coen brothers crime caper and pare it down to the bone: this is the result. Blue Ruin is a revenge story of devastating precision and a total lack of sentimentality. It's a cinematic shotgun blast that echoes in your head.

Cold Eyes
Korean co-directors Cho Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo deliver a cops-and-robbers thriller that's built like a Swiss watch. Cold Eyes is presented with such an enviable sense of confidence that, surely, we'll be watching its Hollywood remake a few summers from now.

Dallas Buyers Club
Café de Flore director Jean-Marc Vallée turns down the audio-visual fireworks and cracks up the focus on the performers for Dallas Buyers Club, his film based on the true story of the Texan diagnosed with AIDS who took the fight for alternative medication straight to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Star Matthew McConaughey continues his hot streak, but it's Jared Leto (in a supporting turn as an AIDS-afflicted transgender woman) who is a sure-fire lock for an Oscar nom.

Like Avatar, _Gravity _is a singular experience: a technical triumph of filmmaking that demands to be seen. Sandra Bullock's performance as Dr. Ryan Stone, a civilian astronaut stranded in space, anchors the film and gives this science-fiction spectacle its soul.

The F Word
This is a romantic comedy you don't need to be feel ashamed to enjoy. The F Word is a love letter to Toronto and a film featuring adorable dorks Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

Mia Wasikowska stars in Tracks as Robyn, the Aussie woman who walked across the Australian desert with little more than three camels and a dog. It's a quiet, but vast film that centres on Wasikowska's wordless strength.

Asphalt Watches
If Ren & Stimpy took a cross-Canada road trip by way of a Nintendo console, it might look something like Asphalt Watches. This is dementedly inspired two-bit madness.

The Double
The second film from Richard Ayoade, an actor some know from U.K. show The IT Crowd, The Double is a quietly comic masterwork. It feels like Buster Keaton trapped in George Orwell's 1984, but funnier and more sinister at the same time.

Great Beauty
Director Paolo Sorrentino returns to mull over Italy, narrowing his focus to Rome specifically, in this lazy look at the lap of luxury. Toni Servillo stars as Jep the journalist, our cynical guide into a city drowning in a torrent of beauty and excess. The story may be limp, but few do cinematic synesthesia better than Sorrentino.

The Grand Seduction
A gently subversive film about returning a sense of pride to a tiny Atlantic Canadian village, The Grand Seduction is a surprisingly sweet story from Toronto's Don McKellar.

A micro-budget film that overcomes its technical limitations, Fat offers a blistering performance from Mel Rodriguez as Ken, who battles addiction and lashes out at everyone except the source of his problems.

Going Away
What starts as an unlikely day trip becomes a journey into a tangled family tree in Going Away, this gentle film from France. Actor Pierre Rochefort says little but speaks volumes as a schoolteacher named Baptiste.

The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki's final film, about a famed aviation engineer, is a departure in many ways for the Japanese titan of animation. Look closer and what you'll find in The Wind Rises is a movie about dedication, determination and creating beauty in a complex world.

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