Published September 13, 2013
By Alicia Sealey
As the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2013) winds down to its close on Sunday, September 15th, below are some of my favourite films; all of which will be coming to a theatre near you. Where I could, I‘ve included its release date.
GRAVITY (North American Premiere; dir. Alfonso Cuarón; USA/UK; opening: Oct 4; 93 mins) This sci-fi thriller is directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and co-written with his son, Jonás.
Set in outer space, there is a crew of three doing ho-hum repairs to their ship. All of sudden, a major space catastrophe presents itself requiring an immediate “mission abort” with time being of the essence for all to get back inside their ship. What ensues for the next circa 15 minutes is the most riveting cinematography I’ve ever seen; made more awesome yet heart-pounding by seeing it in 3D (this film’s original format). Can you say “Oscar” for special effects? I can. And it’s well deserved.
Though it lists only two principal actors (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney), Alfonso’s delivery of this film’s story is exceptional. It has just the right amount of tension via acting and cinematography to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film. Bullock carries most of the story with acting credibility. GRAVITY exposes all manner of connections that bind us together that we take for granted.
12 YEARS A SLAVE (World Premiere; dir. Steve McQueen; USA; opening Oct 18; 133 mins) This film is based on the book of the same name written by the late Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Published in 1853, it is about his ordeal of being a free, educated and cultured Black man in 1847 living in Sarasota Springs, New York with his wife and children; being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South; the ensuing 12 years of experiences he endured before regaining his freedom in 1853, concluding with his return to his family n Sarasota.
Northup, renamed, Platt, is considered “prized livestock” by his slave masters. All of them realize that he is educated, so they use degrading intimidation to keep him in line. This is a character study about his will to never forget who he is, and to survive as best he can. As one slave owner says “a man can do what he pleases with his property.” This film reminds all of the horrible treatment that African Americans endured during slavery: humiliation, shame, torture, pain, no dignity, and rape.
With a multi-layered screenplay written by John Ridley, Black, British film director Steve McQueen (Shame) is in his element extracting riveting performances from his cast.
Definitely to be a contender for Oscar consideration, look for excellent performances from Ejiofor complimented by equally riveting performances from Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong and Alfre Woodard. Brad Pitt, a producer on this film, as makes a small but memorable appearance.
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN (North American Premiere; dir. Errol Morris; USA; no release date yet; 96 mins) This political documentary provides a glimpse into the mind of former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld (2001-2006). Academy-Award winning filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara) had much background material to pull from as Rumsfeld was known for his many written memos (circa 20,000 while in office). Morris uses these memos to advantage as he explores the many choices that Rumsfeld made during his career working for several Presidential administrations.
Rumsfeld is an excellent strategist, able to side step any political blowback that surrounds him. He justifies all his actions with ease even though history has proved that said decisions were not the best. As Trinis would say, he had a plaster for every sore. His steely gaze and unflappable rationale to what some may consider lies, is a testament to a man who understands the art of manipulation. Rumsfeld is a true politician who knows how to answer the question he wished you had asked him, rather than answering the question you actually asked of him. I really enjoyed this doc on every level.
ONE CHANCE (World Premiere; dir. David Frankel; UK; no release date yet; 103 mins) This romantic comedy recounts the rise to fame of Paul Potts, made famous for winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. The film starts in 1985 in the town of Port Talbot where Paul (James Corden) lives. Bullied as a child by his fellow schoolmates for his love of singing opera, Paul is undeterred as he pursues his dream to sing for Pavarotti. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Julie-Ann (Alexandra Roach) who provides him with unconditional love. They marry, and he sells cell phones for a living, but he never gives up on his dream to sing opera.
David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) tells a wonderful story about a ordinary man who tries to achieves his goal, gets knocked down but gets back up again; so determined is he to achieve his dream.
Potts’ story is truly relatable and inspiring. Look out for equaling charming performances from fellow cast mates Julie Walters, Mackenzie Crook, and Colm Meaney.
“One Chance” is also the name of Potts’ first album. Released in July 2007, this album has reached #1 in 13 countries, and is certified multi-platinum with over 3.5 million copies sold. Not bad for a cell phone salesman from Port Talbot, eh?
Finally, honourable mention goes to the following films:
PRISONERS (World Premiere; dir. Denis Villeneuve; USA; opening Sept 20; 146 mins)
RUSH (North American Premiere; dir. Ron Howard; UK/Germany; opening Sept 27; 123 min)
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (World Premiere; dir. Jean-Marc Vallée; USA; opening Dec 6; 117 mins)
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (World Premiere; dir. John Wells; USA; opening Dec 25; 130 mins)
For more info and video trailers where available, check www.tiff.net.
Alicia Sealey is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATCHP © Copyright Sept 13th, 2013. All Rights Reserved. 995 words excl. title & byline.