the TORONTO international

~ by christopher funderburg ~
~ marcus pinn ~
~ john benjamin cribbs ~

Films descriptions and cast/director information taken from the TIFF website and misappropriated when convenient.


It’s been a while.

Back in 2004, I had been working for an art-house/repertory theater for about a year when they offered to send me up to the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. “Send me up” is overstating it - if I could finagle my own travel and lodging, they would sneak me my boss’ Industry Pass to use for the last couple days of the festival after she left. So that’s what I did: I drove up to Canada (the first time I had set foot in the Great White North), got a room with three strangers in a hostel on Spadina Avenue and snuck into screenings using a pass bearing the face of a frazzled 55 year-old woman.

I was making peanuts, so I had to scrimp at every moment - the cheapest lodging, finding a garage on the edge of town with inexpensive long-term parking, eating exclusively from street vendors. I saw some interesting films (Miike’s Zebraman and Ozon’s 5x2 come immediately to mind) but overall the penny-pinching and loneliness in a foreign land made it a depressing experience (everyone from my theater had gone back to New York by the time I got up there.)

So the next year, I convinced my Pink Smoke partner John Cribbs and our shiftless ne’er-do-well compatriot Paul Cooney (who had nothing but free time) to join me. We stayed in the same dormitory-like hostel, scrimped to save money at every moment, ate exclusively from street-vendors and took turns using the pass (now featuring a bald, 45 year-old man) to sneak into movies.

It was fucking great.

From then on, I went to TIFF every year, eventually convincing my superiors that it was some real scummy shit to abuse the Industry Pass and getting my own official credentials, each year taking a step up until every September I was receiving an all-expenses paid trip with John and Paul to Canada to stay in a spacious hotel, eat reimburse-able business lunches and gorge on movies. In 2011, Marcus Pinn began joining us and it seemed like I’d go every year, forever. 50 or so films in a week, hot sausages & poutine, Marcus & Cribbs, the Cineplex Odeon and then the Scotia-Bank theater, the opening weekend of NFL football on through eternity until after I was dead.

But in 2013, it fell apart. I became disengaged from my work, who declined to send me to the festival in any capacity. I bet they wouldn’t have even loaned me a pass they weren’t using to sneak in with. The next festival, one of the theater's sponsoring donors was so surprised they weren’t sending me that she gave me a dozen tickets to random screenings - Pinn joined me without Cribbs. I truly appreciated her gesture, but the diluted experience was almost as depressing as the first year I went up.

The following year, my life was falling apart: I got fired from the arthouse job. I literally showed up one day and my key-card to get into the building didn't work anymore. I got divorced and lost control of everything I had (house, son and savings) via a combination of legal fees, divorce settlements and investments in a feature film I had spent a decade trying to make. Over that span of time, my life went from unremarkably ok to a mess. I lived on dollars a week. I was occasionally homeless, sleeping in my car or in parks, covered in mosquitos bites and sweat. I had to be hospitalized briefly with a grotesque ailment that left me bleeding intermittently from both my tear-ducts and my cock, a medical oddity that my insurance still hasn’t sorted out. Months after that, I got jumped by a couple of guys I had never seen before in my life; they shattered my nose and my orbital bone, their boots snapped my wrist on a curb.

A slew of major life changes improbably coincided and not a single one of them went my way. I spent a lot of time deciding if (and how) I should give up on my dreams. I turned over and over in my brain my failures as a father and a man, considered the possibly that I’m simply not a functional human being and then hated myself for embracing that kind of self-pity like some bullshit copout. I wanted to not get consumed by it. I wanted to escape. There were times when I would’ve sold my sold to the devil, only the devil wasn’t buying.

I did not go to TIFF.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that the ritual of my yearly trips to Toronto falling apart was tied to my life deteriorating into a shitheap. So when I express something like relief, something that borders on joy, to be returning to the Queen City’s brilliant festival in 2016 with Marcus Pinn and John Cribbs, a full-stop Industry Pass in hand with my on my own face on it, ready to do this shit up, understand that my joy, my relief, isn’t just about the movies. It’s about fighting through it all, to get back to where I want to be.

It’s appropriate that the stupid little thing I’ve repeated to myself for years now I got from Claire Denis’ White Material, a film I saw at TIFF. It comes from a tattoo on Isaac de Bankole’s character and now, headed back to Toronto, I really feel it:

“Jamais KO.”


paul verhoeven, 2016.

Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Christian Berkel, Vimala Pons, Arthur Mazet... you've got to cut off this endless list from the TIFF guid at some point, probably when none of the names are recognizable.
Description: Isabelle Huppert stars in the daring new film from perennial provocateur Paul Verhoeven, about a high-powered businesswoman whose brutal sexual assault elicits both erotic fantasies and dreams of revenge.

Verhoeven and Huppert. It’s hard to image a better pairing not just of director and actor, but a more appealing partnership of artists of any kind. Elle extends the return to Verhoeven’s nastier yet more human European roots that Black Book promised - it’s not unreasonable to hope that the Dutch maniac has entered a third phase of his career, one that combines his European Art Cinema beginnings with all the lessons in slickness and entertainment he learned in Hollywood.

Elle and Black Book are an interesting change-up because while his films have always featured compelling, unforgettable female characters, before Carice Van Houten and Huppert, his films rarely built their stories around female leads.* It’s exciting to think a legend like Verhoeven might have some new tricks in his bag and even more of himself to reveal as an artist - and I trust Huppert to (as always) bring out the best in her collaborator. This is an absolute highlight of the festival, for sure – and for The Pink Smoke, collectively the most anticipated film of our adult lives (narrowly edging out Furry Vengeance.)**

* There are exceptions - most notably Showgirls. Less notably: Katie Tippel. But his films have much more frequently been constructed around specifically male anxieties: Basic Instinct, Turkish Delight, The 4th Man, Robocop, Spetters, Total Recall, Hollow Man, etc.
** Truthfully (although there is some measure of truth to our shared excitement for Furry Vengeance), the most excited I can recall John and I having ever been to see a movie together was when we planned a Hollow Man/Coyote Ugly double-feature for my birthday. Other films we were notably excited to see together in college: Deep Blue Sea (“hold on… sharks can’t swim backwards!”) and Bring it On! (the most infectiously joyous trailer in history.) We actually got a big group of kids together and brought our own pom-pom’s and giant foam #1 fingers to the theater for the opening night of Peyton Reed’s insta-classic.

elsa dorfman's portrait photography

erroll morris, 2016.

Stars: Elsa Dorfman.
Description: Errol Morris
(The Fog of War, Tabloid) profiles legendary photographer Elsa Dorfman, whose subjects have included such friends as Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, and Jonathan Richman.

In the running for the world’s greatest living filmmaker, anytime Errol Morris drops a surprise new film on audiences, it’s a cause for celebration. Morris has rarely focused on subjects for whom he has an unabashed esteem or even respectful enthusiasm, so The B-Side represents something of a departure. His films are defined by their irony and skepticism - with only a few exceptions (A Brief History of Time, Smiling in a Jar, Leaving the Earth) has Morris trained his foreboding Interrotron on someone he admires without qualification. Sure, I can’t say for certain that this will be a flattering depiction of celebrity portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman and her illustrious chums, but in any case I’m absolutely up for whatever Morris wants to give me. You should be, too. If you are not interested in this film, you are my enemy.

hirokazu kore-eda, 2016.

Stars: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki.
Description: A divorced man struggles to regain his estranged family’s trust while sheltering with them during a typhoon, in the latest film from celebrated Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda.

In a couple decades, when the dust settles and audiences and critics have begun to get retrospective, there’ll be something pretty close to unanimous agreement that Hirokazu Kore-Eda was the greatest Japanese filmmaker of the early 21st century. Starting with 2004’s Nobody Knows, he’s been on an astounding run, churning out an almost inconceivable slew of modest masterpieces whose greatness will only be entirely apparent when looking backwards: Hana, Still Walking, I Wish, Like Father Like Son, Our Little Sister.

When a filmmaker specializes in smallness and intimacy, in acute human truths and the simple but unresolvable ironies of the human heart, it’s easy to overlook the vast, expansive, overwhelming greatness of their work. But sometime, probably a couple decades from now, everyone will have wised up - there just won’t be any arguing the fact. Here’s hoping After the Storm lives up to the colossal intimacy that’s become his signature.

kim jee woon, 2016.

Stars: Kim Jee woon, Choi Jae weon, Kim Jee woon, Lee Jin sook, Choi Jeong hwa.
Description: Korean superstars Song Kang-ho, Han Ji-min, and Gong Yoo headline the latest from cutting-edge director Kim Jee-woon
(The Good, the Bad and the Weird, I Saw the Devil), an epic-scale period thriller about a double agent sent to infiltrate a band of freedom fighters during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1920s.

I inflicted on my fellow writers of this preview the draconian rule that each of us would write about different films for the reason that the enforced idiosyncrasy would serve to shine a light on interesting films that would otherwise get overlooked. Sure, I’m as excited as any human being (reasonable or otherwise) for Manchester by the Sea, Paterson, Bad Batch, Things to Come, The Woman Who Left, Safari and Personal Shopper – but somewhere only slightly farther down my list is this sweet baby from the untamable director of I Saw the Devil and The Good, The Bad and The Weird. If these lists were just three people saying “boy, I sure can’t wait to see Elle!,” a worthwhile movie like this one would get entirely overlooked. So here I am, giving Paul Turner his shot off of the practice squad: I'm trying to make you all aware of his spectacular one-handed preseason catch even if I’m not particularly confident it will amount to anything in the Grand Scheme. Dakota Tebow and Paterson might get all the press, but you never know who the real star is gonna to be until you play the damn games.*

* Football.

thomas vinterburg, 2016.

Stars: Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Helene Reingaard Neumann.
Description: The new film from Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg
(The Hunt, The Celebration) focuses on a middle-aged professional couple in 1970s Denmark who decide to experiment with communal living by inviting a group of friends and random eccentrics to cohabit with them in a sprawling house.

Thomas Vinterberg must be among the most unpredictable auteurs of all time – you never know what he’ll deliver from one film to the next and not just in terms of subject matter: his style jumps almost randomly from the choas & gallows humor of The Celebration to a controlled demolition of irony in Dear Wendy to the loopy poetic earnestness of It’s All About Love to the intense but straight-forward drama of The Hunt to the grimy costume melodramatics of Far From the Madding Crowd. So it’s a fool’s game, trying to guess in advance what his latest film will be – the only thing you can say for certain, is that it will almost definitely be worth your time.

Because of his chameleon-like nature, his contrarian disposition and the overbearing shadow cast by his friend and associate Lars von Trier, Vinterberg has never properly received his due: but make no mistake, he’s one of the greatest filmmakers in the world and if his newest film, whatever it may be, is not at the top of your Must-See list, you are my enemy. (Hmm... technically, it’s at the bottom of my Must-See list. But I think you actually understood what I meant and are just being difficult.)


werner herzog, 2016.

Stars: Michael Shannon, Veronica Ferres, Gael García Bernal.
Description: Michael Shannon and Gael García Bernal star in this ecological thriller from the great Werner Herzog, about a scientist and a corporate CEO who must overcome their ideological differences in order to avert potential disaster from a volcano on the verge of eruption.

Look, I’m as sick as anybody of the current iteration of Werner Herzog as a shtick-peddling cartoon. Literally: he’s spent the last half decade making lame, winking cameos in stuff like The Penguins of Madagascar, Rick and Morty, The Boondocks, The Simpsons and American Dad. And there’s a lot stacked against this one: the facts are that his last great year as an artist (and not as a dumb caricature) was 2005, his non-fiction films have been a safer bet than his fiction films since the 80’s and his last collaboration with Michael Shannon (My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done) is his very worst movie - a distinction that has some pretty stiff competition at this point.

But Herzog is Herzog and I’ll keep believing his search for ecstatic truth is sincere even if he sinks as low as, say, costarring with Ray Romano and Chris Parnell in a shitty poker comedy. Plus, “Herzog and fiery eruptions” is a classic combo that we haven’t seen for a while - it’s like if Scorsese suddenly re-teamed with DeNiro. Or maybe Harvey Keitel? I don’t know. This isn’t an exact science.

dilip meetha, 2016.

Stars: Sunny Leone.
Description: Veteran filmmaker Dilip Mehta (
Cooking with Stella) returns to the Festival with this fascinating documentary portrait of porn actress turned Bollywood starlet Sunny Leone.

Karenjit Kaur Vohra (aka Sunny Leone) was one of the biggest pornstars in the world when she dropped out of the adult entertainment industry… to star in Bollywood thrillers? Leone’s an interesting figure - self-possessed, thoughtful and sweet in interviews - and the sexual politics of Indian cinema (and her Sihk faith) are unpredictably idiosyncratic (at least to outsiders like me), so it’s possible to imagine this movie being either an intriguing exploration of sex, cultural conflict and the politics of representation or at least engaging fluff.

It’s also easy to imagine it being nothing. Absolutely nothing. The director’s biggest claim to fame is being Deepa Mehta’s brother and the logline is the kind of gimmicky hook that mediocre filmmakers frequently forget to back up with an actual film.

greg mclean, 2016.

Stars: A bunch of actors. You're probably familiar with John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Michael Rooker & Gregg Henry.
Description: Office politics turns into a real-life survival of the fittest when a group of co-workers are forced into a sick game of kill or be killed by sinister forces who lock down their building, in this gruesomely funny horror thriller from director Greg McLean
(Wolf Creek) and writer James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy).

I can’t figure out Greg McLean. In his best work, he’s the horror version of John Stockwell, a filmmaker instantly and inexplicably disregarded by the critical community despite his easy sense of cinematic rhythm, gorgeous image-making and ability to coax engagingly naturalistic performances from his actors. They’re both preternatural filmmakers, each with a world-class eye for corporeality and the natural world – at their best, their films describe human bodies as an extension of lush and grimy and foreboding and alluring and unforgiving landscapes.

But then McLean makes some personality-free shit like The Darkness or wavers between his best and worst tendencies in a single film like Wolf Creek 2. The Belko Experiment features a script by Pink Smoke favorite James Gunn, who also produced, so are my hopes are up. Plus, it’s easy to forget that McLean has only been around since 2005 and could easily hit his stride at any moment - it’s exciting to consider how his style might pair with Gunn’s humor, intelligence and fundamentally-sound script-writing.


adam wingard, 2016.

Stars: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson.
Description: A man seeks answers to the disappearance of his sister by venturing into an ominous, potentially haunted forest, in this nerve-wracking found-footage thriller from Midnight Madness veterans Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett
(You’re Next, The Guest).

A useless remake of a film I hated by a director who stinks. I bet in a couple months another crazy secret comes out: this was covertly masterminded by Platinum Dunes and the producers of Nine Lives. This is also one of those films that opens in theaters more or less simultaneously with its TIFF screenings, so why bother? A waste of a Midnight Madness slot.

damien "wayans" chazelle, 2016.

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt.
Description: An ambitious jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) fall in love while pursuing their dreams of stardom, in this dazzlingly stylized homage to the classic Hollywood musical from director Damien Chazelle.

People expressed surprise when I wrote this off in our summer movie preview,* but Whiplash has to be one of the dumbest, phoniest films I’ve ever seen in my entire goddamned life and my interest in both Gosling and Emma Stone is entirely contingent on who they’re working with. They’re like garlic: delicious in most circumstances but disgusting in ice cream. Or coffee.

Anyone who tells you that well, you might be surprised, but they had toasted garlic and honey gelato once in Barcelona and it was great is the kind of person who deserves a movie like this. Ah shit… who am I kidding? I’ll eat anything. Gimme the garlic and truffle-butter coffee, I’ll give it a shot. That doesn’t change my feelings on La La Land. Fuck that movie.

* Some one of our more cerebral readers even noted that it didn't actually debut this summer.

ewan macgregor, 2016.

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, David Strathairn & other actors I really, really like and wish would stop being in movies like this.
Description: Ewan McGregor makes his directing debut and stars alongside Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in this ambitious adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, about a "perfect" American family that is torn apart by the social and political upheavals of the 1960s.

An actor-directed adaptation of a book I hate. Look, I love Ewan MacGregor as much as anybody and more than most, but this is the kind of empty pursuit of middle-brow mediocrity that forced critics to invent the term “vanity project” in the first place. I look forward to it joining The Human Stain, Elegy and Indignation as films that only exist to prove to illiterates that Philip Roth isn’t that great.

susan johnson, 2016.

Stars: Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Vanessa Bayer, Jason Ritter.
Description: Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19-year-old genius is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003 novel.

If ever there was a movie that is not for me, it is this. You know what I can go my entire life without ever seeing another film about? A dysfunctional genius. And now that the trend has been relentless for a bit, I’m going to rule decisively: films adapted from quirkily romantic Young Adult novels are garbage for morons. If you’re 14 and you love Paper Towns, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or Perks of Being a Wallflower, you are my enemy. Just know this fully grown adult man with a new wave hairdo and a broken front tooth considers you an enemy and will crush you if given the opportunity. Start reading Octave Mirbeau and Céline, listening to Charles Mingus and P.I.L., that’s your only hope, that’s the right kind of art you need to like to be the kind of detestably precocious high school asshole genius I admire and not the other kind that I have targeted as my enemy. And then give up and get a job in a cubicle when you’re 26 because art doesn’t matter and Bukowski is dumb.


koji fukada, 2016.

Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Mariko Tsutsui, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga , Momone Shinokawa, Kana Mahiro.
Description: A Japanese family’s humdrum daily routine is fatefully upset by the arrival of a stranger from the father’s past, in this slow-burning dramatic thriller.

Maybe because of his background as a weirdo musician in Electric Dragon 80.000 V, Tadanobu Asano is one of my favorite actors just to look at up on the screen, a really strange and compelling presence even if he’s not a traditional “actor” in any sense of the word. The last film I saw of his at TIFF was I believe Sad Vacation, a fantastic film I would’ve otherwise overlooked if not for his role, so I’m willing to give his new films a shot based on his unpredictable energy alone.

cheng er, 2016.

Stars: Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, Tadanobu Asano.
Description: Superstars Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, and Tadanobu Asano headline this hotly anticipated, stylistic thriller set in the Shanghai underworld of the 1930s.

Zhang Ziyi ain't a waste of my time, either. I always enjoy when a festival catalogue maintains a film I've never fucking heard of is "anticipated," hotly or otherwise. Truthfully, I'd be interested in knowing which films are coldly anticipated at the festival this year. I bet that’s a fair description of the anticipation for Terrence Malick’s documentary about, like, how big outer-space and the oceans are, maaaaaan.


A large majority of 2015 & 2016 has been a series of minor to major disappointments for me on a personal level. I say “personal” because I don't want you all to think my problems are that bad when compared to others. I'm just frustrated a lot. But in this world of daily social media affirmations we currently live in, everyone is quick to compare your setbacks & disappointments to others who are worse off or less fortunate than you (in a piss poor effort to give you perspective) and quite honestly – I don’t care about anyone else’s problems (especially those I don’t even know personally). This is about me. This is about me and the fact that I’m missing the latest films from one of my all-time favorite filmmakers right out of the gate at TIFF.

That’s right – due to the fact that I work a 9-5 (...9-5:30) and only have so many vacation days (and can’t afford to take unpaid time off) I can’t make it up for the first two days off TIFF. I sandwiched my week off from work between two weekends. Because of this, I’m missing not one but two Jim Jarmusch films which screen on the Thursday & Friday before I arrive (I’m also missing the new Assayas, Kelly Reichardt & Andrea Arnold films but we'll get in to those later). I mean, you can’t make this shit up. What luck is that? But given the consistent series of disappointments that I’ve faced in the last 18-20 months, why would I expect to see the movies I most anticipate at TIFF? That just wouldn’t make sense. Things have to stay consistent.


jim jarmusch, 2016.

Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Cliff Smith, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper, Masatoshi Nagase.
Description: The new film from Jim Jarmusch focuses on a working-class poet (Adam Driver) in a small New Jersey town who practices his craft amidst the quiet magic of everyday life.

I keep trying to tell myself that Paterson looks boring (this is one of the few films where I intentionally avoided reviews & spoilers) or how I’m not a fan of Paterson star Adam Driver in order to psyche myself out, but honestly I’m kind of hurt that I’m going to be missing out on it. Jarmusch's other film Gimme Danger (a documentary about Iggy Pop) is one of those movies where I don’t care about the subject matter and I only want to see it because I’m a Jim Jarmusch completist but at the end of the day I’ll live if I don't see that one (I’ve actually never sat all the way through his other music documentary anyway.)

nate parker, 2016.

Stars: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley.
Description: Writer-director Nate Parker reclaims the title of D.W. Griffith’s KKK-boosting 1916 milestone for this epic chronicle of the life of Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion against white plantation owners in 1831 Virginia.

Oh boy… Black folks have really exposed themselves on this one (for those of you that are new to this site you can relax. I'm black so I'm allowed to say that). I knew Nate Parker’s humble yet quietly stoic demeanor in the face of the resurfacing of his 1999 rape case would garner him support from the Black community but this is just ridiculous. I’ve never been a fan of my fellow brothers & sisters blindly coming to the defense of shitty Black celebrities (Chris Brown, Bill Cosby, OJ, etc) and this Nate Parker thing is no different. You don’t have to defend someone just because you share the same skin color.

And I don’t want to hear about “well, how come Roman Polanski gets to…?” or “what about Woody Allen?” Parker, Polanski & Allen are all on various points of the scumbag spectrum as far as I’m concerned. But let’s just focus on Nate Parker and the fact that he was a typical college jock that did a typically shitty college jock thing. And at what point is someone going to fucking investigate the obvious special treatment that Penn State athletes & coaches get?

I hesitate to even say all this because I don’t want the “Uncle Tom” label thrown at me (I already “talk white” so that’s an easy insult to throw at a guy like me). But I have to call bullshit on this because had two White Penn State jocks did what Nate Parker and his friend did to a Black women we would have been up in arms (as we should be), but because the two jocks happen to be Black, everyone from political activist Deray Mckesson to Harry Belefonte have come to Nate Parker’s defense because they’re equating Nate Parker & his movie with the overall legacy of Nat Turner which is incredibly stupid. Fucking stupid. This movie doesn't even need to exist and plenty of books would still be around to solidify Nat Turner’s legacy.

And if I'm not mistaken, I thought everyone was sick & tired of slave movies. Between 12 Years A Slave, Roots (2016) & Underground I thought the overall general consensus was enough with all the slave stories. Where's the consistency?

Look, I get the mentality. I was raised by two Black parents who when channel surfing would immediately put the remote down when they saw a black person on the TV or would only cheer for the Black competitors on game shows. It's a unity thing. I’m kind of like that myself. I don’t blindly support something just because it’s associated with someone Black. However, when something I like is done good (or great) by a Black person then yes, I get a little extra proud and/or supportive (I’m actually looking forward to catching Moonlight at TIFF which is a film I wish Black people would get excited for instead of Birth Of A Nation).

And can we be honest for a minute? Birth Of A Nation doesn’t look like anything new or fresh or amazing (I’m speaking to the rational thinking people right now. Not the blindly supportive Black people or guilty White people who feel they have to like this). It doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look great either. And that’s almost worse. I admit that when the first images from Birth Of Nation came out I was excited. The film looked ambient & atmospheric. But when the trailer finally dropped it honestly didn’t look any different from that Matthew McConaughey slave revolt movie that came out a few months ago. Basically, I just wanna be on record that this movie didn't look that great to me long before people started distancing themselves from it.

Seeing Birth Of A Nation is also going to bring out my racial insecurities because as a Black man walking in to the possibly empty screening I fear folks are going to see that, judge me and assume I support Nate Parker because I’m going to see his movie. But that’s my problem not anyone else’s. I don’t even know why this is on my “Must-See” list. I guess I just want to confirm that this movie will be mediocre at best yet to still see Nat Turner’s story on the big screen even if there is a cloud of shit hovering over it. I just find it funny that my schedule allows me to see this and not the movies I really want to see like Paterson , Personal Shopper or Certain Women.

denis villeneuve, 2016.

Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg.
Description: Visionary Quebecois auteur Denis Villeneuve
(Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) directs Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker in this sci-fi drama about the panic that follows a wave of mysterious spacecraft landings across the globe.

Finally! The first movie on my “must see” list that I want to see for positive reasons (this is also the first movie I really want to see where there isn’t a conflict with my schedule). Without even seeing it I know Arrival won’t make up for me missing some of the aforementioned films but it is directed by a filmmaker I’m currently fascinated by.

I don’t think anything new or groundbreaking can be done with the science fiction genre at this point. Fuck off with your Under The Skin & Interstellar nonsense (Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is one of the recent exceptions in my opinion). Until the time comes when something new or different is injected in to the science fiction genre, I’d at least like to see more sci-fi films look “cool” in an organic way which is what I feel Dennis Villeneuve will do with Arrival. Sure he may have his flaws but in my opinion he’s one of the few prominent filmmakers interested in style as much as substance. Some may find that problematic but in the case of a filmmaker like Dennis Villeneuve and the type of platform he's on (mainstream indie) I'm totally fine with that. Some movies just need to be/look cool. Sicario was far from perfect but it was cool & stylish. We’ve already seen variations of Enemy in terms of plot but it was dark & atmospheric with an unexpected nod to the likes of Dziga Vertov. I like that. Plot-wise, Arrival doesn’t sound like anything new or groundbreaking either. The movie is about humans making contact with cryptic aliens in a weird-looking spaceship. But judging from the trailer there appears to be a sense of style not found in other prominent/mainstream science fiction films.

It‘s also nice to see Forest Whitaker appear in something that isn’t a forgettable direct to Netflix indie. At this point I’ve accepted that Forest Whitaker will be a lifelong supporting player (I consider him to be this generation’s Louis Gossett Jr.) but it’s good that he’s a supporting player in a seemingly worthwhile movie this time.

barry jenkins, 2016.

Stars: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Alex Hibbert, Jaden Piner.
Description: The second feature from writer-director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) follows its young protagonist from childhood to adulthood as he navigates both the dangers of drugs and violence in his depressed Florida neighbourhood, and his complex love for his best friend.

I know it's dangerous to assume a film will be great just because the trailer is great (and in the specific case of Moonlight it's even more dangerous to think that because director Barry Jenkins has a limited track record) but I'm going all in on this one. I don't care. I refuse to believe a trailer so great will turn out to be a disappointment. I was also assured by Five From The Fire contributor Mtume Gant that the screenwriter Terrell McCraney is great.

Moonlight looks like Frank Ocean's coming out letter in the form of a film combined with a visual essay on the Frustrated Black Man. I'm in.

raoul peck, 2016.

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson.
Description: Working from the text of James Baldwin’s unfinished final novel, director Raoul Peck
(Moloch Tropical, Murder in Pacot) creates a stunning meditation on what it means to be Black in America.

The current tension/underlying animosity between the so-called conscious Black community and the LGBT movement is nothing new. In a way, James Baldwin was the living embodiment of that tension in a kind of abstract way. Not only was he a great writer but he was also an advocate & fighter for the civil rights of Black People. But... because he was gay, certain Black leaders wanted him silenced. This was touched on in the 2003 film Brother To Brother but Raul Peck's new documentary on James Baldwin looks delve a little deeper.

With new films on Nat Turner & James Baldwin, perhaps movies & biopics on prominent/historical Black figures are moving past the typical subjects like Muhammed Ali & MLK...

I don’t want to sound like a complete stick in the mud. Even though my must-see prospects are pretty much ruined, I’ll still get the opportunity to see new films from the likes of Errol Morris, Wim Wenders, Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog & Xavier Dolan so this trip is far from a loss. It certainly looks like a disappointment on some level right now but perhaps I’ll l get the opportunity to see some good movies that weren’t originally on my radar.



xavier dolan, 2016.

Stars: Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard.
Description: Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, the new film from Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan ropes in an all-star French cast (including Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux and Nathalie Baye) for its tempestuous tale about the fraught reunion of a fractured family.

I’m a fan of Xavier Dolan but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of letting me down. Laurence Anyways, which I saw at TIFF in 2012, was frustrating on a few levels and Tom At The Farm left me feeling a little unsatisfied. But like Certain Women, the cast is interesting. Xavier Dolan's latest is clouded with a tad bit of controversy (it was booed at Cannes and started a light beef between Dolan and certain specific movie critics). In my opinion this has the potential of being a boring disaster or a powerful family drama. We’ll see…

jeff nichols, 2016.

amma asante, 2016.

Stars: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll in Loving and David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton in A United Kingdom.
Description: Two period pieces focusing on controversial interracial marriages.

I was planning on seeing these movies to represent for all the interracial relationships out there (not only have I been in an interracial relationship for almost five years, but recent opinions expressed on my facebook timeline about interracial relationships have made me want to rub in the fact that I’m a big Black man with an attractive White fiancée). But sticking with the theme of disappointment, the Press & Industry screenings for these two movies don’t line up with my schedule so I won’t be seeing these either. But shoutout to the real people these two films are based on for holding it down and paving the way for my relationship and so many others before & after us.


oliver stone, 2016.

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Logan Marshall-Green, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schnetzer, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage.
Description: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in this real-life political thriller from Oscar winner Oliver Stone, co-starring Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant and Nicolas Cage.

I’m going to front like this movie looks stupid or whatever (Oliver Stone really can’t help himself when it comes to making movies about sensational controversial current events) but I’m more than likely going to see this just to kill time. But it still means nothing to me at the end of the day.

nick cannon, 2016.

Stars: Nick Cannon, Whoopi Goldberg, Beenie Man.
Description: Nick Cannon directs and stars in this high-energy musical about a young man from Brooklyn who gets caught up in the vibrant Kingston music scene during a visit to Jamaica.

Successful or not, Nick Cannon is one of the corniest human beings on the planet. I don’t care if it sounds like I’m hating. He’s painfully corny and his face/presence is everywhere. I just don't want anything to do with him. This movie also co-stars Whoopi Goldberg who pissed me off for the last time when she practically begged to be in a Wes Anderson movie last year. But seeking acceptance from White guys is what Whoopi Goldberg does best so I shouldn’t be surprised...

ben younger, 2016.

Stars: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine.
Description: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart star in this biopic of former world champion boxer Vinny Paz, who struggles to return to the ring after an accident leaves him severely injured.

Am I supposed to take Miles Teller seriously as a tough boxer? If you come across as the kind of person I feel like I could slap the shit out of (which is how I feel about Miles Teller) then you aren’t convincing enough to play a tough guy. Actor or not. Plus boxing movies are usually disappointing...

pablo larrain, 2016.

Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Mariko Tsutsui, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga , Momone Shinokawa, Kana Mahiro.
Description: Provocative Chilean director Pablo Larraín
(Tony Manero, No) depicts the events leading up to and following the assassination of JFK through the eyes of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman).

Just what we need - another JFK-related movie because there definitely aren’t enough already...


The word hanging over the Pink Smoke offices all last week was "disappointment."

As related above, Marcus was upset that he wouldn't be around for some of the best movies on the first two days of the festival. Funderburg was bummed about... peanut preparation or something, I don't know - I only skimmed his intro. Point is, negative feelings seemed to be running rampant on the subject of TIFF 2016.

I wasn't without my share of chagrin. When I purchased my ticket back in May, I thought for sure the highlight of the programming for me would be Lucrecia Martel's first film (an adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto's novel Zama) in 7 years. I've been anticipating her follow-up to The Headless Woman since the end credits of that amazing movie.

But apparently I've still got a while to wait - that one's not at the festival. To be fair, it might not actually be finished yet. But what about Rester Vertical, the new film from Alain Guiraudie, slated to play the New York Festival but not Toronto? Bruno Dumont's Slack Bay and Alejandro Jodorowsky's Endless Poetry, although not films I'm particularly excited to see, are other high-profile festival-circling pictures curiously absent up north. You'd think their Short Cuts program would at least have En Moi, the directorial debut of one Ms. Laetitia Casta.

The biggest personal letdown is the lack of Katarzyna Roslaniec's Satan Said Dance. The Pink Smoke saw both of Roslaniec's other features - Mall Girls and Baby Blues - at previous TIFF's, two films that have not seen subsequent U.S. distribution. And since SSD is the first film she's made since 'Blues, it would have been a perfect reintroduction to the festival to have it playing up there this year. But sadly it ain't so - again, not sure if this one is still getting kicked around in post or if Roslaniec slept in the morning submissions were due or whatever, but it's definitely a letdown since TIFF is the only place I get to see the sort of darkly funny Polish social dramas she makes.

Some huge bummers. But on the other hand, the Toronto International Film Festival should not be a cause for negativity. This is the first one I'll have attended in 4 years and I'm just invigorated to be gorging my movie palate for the first time since the 2012 festival. Will I see Mad World, or Ewan McGregor's American Pastoral, which uses "Mad World" in its trailer? Will I see American Pastoral, or the other movie about a family torn apart by the the social and political climate of the 1960's, Jeff Nichols' Loving? You telling me Garth Davis' much-hyped Lion is not a lion-on-the-rampage movie? Well I'm out. And what about Kelly Fremon Craig's The Edge of Seventeen - is it not a sequel to Edge of Tomorrow OR Edge of Darkness (or herald the return of Bart the Bear)? Birth of a Nation or Birth of the Dragon? The Dreamed Ones or The Dreamed Path? Nocturama or Nocturnal Animals? And have you seen the trailer for La Mort de Louis XIV? Is the movie literally just Jean-Pierre Léaud lying in bed for 2 hours?

All these questions and more shall be answered as three 'Smokeseteers head up for the best Toronto Film Festival yet!


kenneth lonergan, 2016.

Stars: Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol & Lonergan's best bud Matthew Broderick.
Description: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler star in this emotionally overwhelming and critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, about a reclusive handyman who must face his painful past when he returns to his Massachusetts hometown after the sudden death of his beloved older brother.

I haven't sat down and given it any hard thought, but if I had to make a snap judgment on what I think is the best American movie of the decade (so far), my answer would be Margaret. If I had to make a snap judgment on what I think was the best American movie of the decade before that... I'd probably say Ali, but if I really stopped to think about it, it's very possible I might change that answer to You Can Count on Me. I sure have that feeling every time I revisit the film. Certainly, I'd be hard pressed to think of a modern American writer-director with any two titles in their entire filmography on the same level as those movies.

All this might seem like I'm raising the bar impossibly high for Kenneth Lonergan's new film, but I can't help it. A new film from Lonergan is cause for joy, and we didn't even have to wait a decade this time! (No troubled post-production or lawsuits for this one.) I've purposely avoided any previews or reading anything about it. I'm vaguely aware of the cast, but that doesn't really matter: if the man can squeeze good performances out of Matthew Broderick, he can get something from Kyle Chandler and Gretchen Mol.

Sadly, due to some incredibly irritating programming, making this my TIFF '16 opener means missing out on Mia Hansen-Love's Things to Come (Huppert festival double feature! She's all over the festival, also starring in Bavo Defurne's Souvenir), Hirokazu Kore-eda's After the Storm and Thomas Vinterberg's The Commune. The logical half of my brain has been trying to convince me to dump Manchester for one of these other eagerly-awaited titles from three of my favorite current directors. After all, isn't Manchester being distributed by Amazon Studios? Isn't it likely I'll be able to watch it on Prime in a few weeks? And possible that I may not get a chance to see the new Kore-eda or Vinterberg for another year? All these arguments are legit, but Manchester just seems like the right way to start the festival. Pending any major changes of heart, I think I'm going to stick with it.

ana lily amirpour, 2016.

Stars: Seriously, look at this weird cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Yolonda Ross, Jayda Fink, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey.
Description: A young girl wanders a savage desert wasteland in a dystopian future United States, in Ana Lily Amirpour’s highly anticipated follow-up to
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

I think it's safe to say I agree with the consensus that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was really really really really really very promising. If it's impossible to endorse its nomination for Best Directorial Debut of the Decade, it absolutely earned a silver plaque for Director Who's Definitely Got The Right Idea Whose Sophomore Effort I'm Very Much Anticipating. The Bad Batch (which really should have been a Frank Henenlotter title, but oh well) will see Ana Lily Amirpour migrate into "cannibal tribes roam dystopian savage desert wasteland" territory, and it sounds CRAZY. In terms of anticipated arty sci-fi follow-ups, whether it turns out to be Upstream Color Crazy or Southland Tales Crazy is something we can only guess at this point. It's attracted a name cast that makes me feel both pumped (Keanu Reeves!) and a little weary (Jim Carrey, huh? whatever, I'm with it). But make no mistake - the ambitions of this filmmaker were crystal clear in her first movie, and seeing where she takes them is an absolute must for me.

Late breaking news: Bad Batch runs up against another film I'm anxious to see, Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann. Ade's last film, Everyone Else, left an impression on me similiar to Girl Walks Home Alone: I liked it a lot, but rather than declare it a brave new masterpiece I was mainly curious to see what Ade made next (she also produces Miguel Gomes movies, she's clearly awesome). But I really want to see Bad Batch. It's times like this I have to decide whether to be selfish, or keep in mind that the larger interest of The Pink Smoke is to report on as many festival movies as possible and therefore let Funderburg see Amirpour's film while I check out Toni Erdmann. This is why nobody would ever put me in a position to make any actual important decisions.

kiyoshi kurosawa, 2016.

Stars: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric.
Description: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
(Pulse, Tokyo Sonata) makes his first film outside Japan with this French-language fantasy, about an aging photographer whose obsession with an archaic technique draws his young assistant and beautiful daughter into a dark and mysterious world.

Paul Verhoeven's not the only veteran filmmaker switching over to French. We've also got the great Kiyoshi Kurosawa making a major language crossover for what I believe is the first time in his illustrious 40-year career. As we've mentioned before on this site, such a transition can be damning even for the most seasoned of directors. But I have no reason to believe that Kurosawa's work will suffer from the adjustment. While it's hard to disagree with Funderburg's assessment of Hirokazu Kore-eda as currently being Japan's finest filmmaker, Kurosawa has produced an equal body of work that couldn't be easily pinned down to any specific region, genre or format. The last TIFF I attended in 2012, I sat through all 270 minutes of Penance and would have gladly turned right back into the theater to sit through again immediately. It was made for television, but couldn't have been more satisfyingly cinematic. Its deep probe into the way its characters lived their life could translate to any country, setting or time period, even while the work was so essentially Japanese. And while it was identifiable as a thriller-melodrama, but wasn't like any traditional suspense movie I'd ever seen.

iMDB, which lists Daguerrotype under the title The Woman in the Silver Plate for some reason, classifies the new film as "Drama, Fantasy, Horror." I'm willing to bet it doesn't fall conveniently into any one of those categories. And, it's got Mathieu Amalric! (also starring in Benoit Jacquot's Don DeLillo adaptation Never Ever at the festival). If there were some hypothetical circumstance in which I was forced to choose only one of the TIFF '16 lineup to see, it would be this one. (Don't tell Mr. Verhoeven I said that!)

ulrich seidl, 2016.

Stars: Probably a gaggle of just about the grossest people you've ever seen.
Description: Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl
(Dog Days) returns to Africa for this raw, grimly humourous portrait of European tourists hunting animals for sport.

Oh man, Ulrich Seidl turning his quasi-documentary narrative eye on rich Europeans who travel to Africa to go Big Game hunting? This promises to be a treat. Seidl is unique in the incredible juggling act he performs with his characters: their actions, their very lives are often an unsavory blend of pathetic and reprehensible, but even as we observe them doing mean things to each other, the director is not himself mean in his presentation of them. Despite his interest in the needy, the rude, the obese, the shallow, the exploitive, the hypocritical and the depraved, he never seems to outright mock his subjects, content to merely shake his head in a "humans, right?" kind of way. And he's so goddamn funny - he rivals Lanthimos in his casual lampooning of incurious cruelty; the two directors also share an astute anthropological eye.

Which is what makes him such a suitable candidate to compose an equally tragic and comedic portrait of trophy hunters. From the still attached to the TIFF catalog, Seidl hasn't lost his love of balanced compositions (google "ulrich seidl symmetry" and you'll see what I mean). Like all the filmmakers on my "Must-See" list, he's reliable in his singular unreliablity. My favorite is still the first one I ever saw (Import/Export, TIFF '07), but I've enjoyed everything he's made and suspect the Paradise trilogy will only benefit from reviewing.

lav diaz, 2016.

Stars: Charo Santos-Concio, John Lloyd Cruz.
Description: Director Lav Diaz's drama examines economic disparity in modern Filipino society through the eyes of a woman released from prison 30 years after being framed and wrongly convicted.

I was worried about which viewings I'd have to sacrifice to attend all 227 minutes of Lav Diaz's latest film. Turns out, the TIFF programmers somewhat redeemed their Day One clusterfuck by considerately placing The Woman Who Left in the early evening, where it won't run up against any choice screenings. So I can feel free to kick back and enjoy almost 4 hours of Lav-ish goodness. I love that he makes long movies and only wish he'd make 'em longer: I would constantly return to watch little pieces of Norte: The End of History on Netflix over and over until they eventually took it off streaming. His movies are so rich, you can bask in their deep narrative and visual splendor, and I've only seen a handful so it makes me happy to think that there are hundreds of hours that I've yet to spend with Diaz.

With this new one, he returns to his wrongfully-convicted tale of misjustice that reflects the sordid history of the Philippines and its impact on the country's modern society, although unlike Norte it's the post-incarceration side of the story. I anticipate being completely wrecked by the end of this one (another benefit of it letting out at the end of the day).


mick jackson, 2016.

Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall.
Description: Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz and should-be Academy Award winner Timothy Spall star in this riveting, true-life drama about the courtroom showdown between historian Deborah Lipstadt and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.

On the one hand, this looks like the most boring kind of movie: a "true story!" about the noble individual who stood up and bravely shut down an obvious lunatic no one in their right mind would ever listen to. Writing about Mr. Death, Chris has pointed out that Errol Morris didn't bother to debunk Fred A. Leuchter's ridiculous assertions in his first cut of the film: Morris didn't think any intelligent person would believe his film was suggesting there was any creedence to the bat-shit insane theories of a Holocaust denier. History has never been under any real threat from these morons, and I don't feel like I need to see a movie that looks to wring tension out of the possibility that this one guy almost persuaded the world that there was never a concentrated mass extermination of Jews, Poles, Soviets, Slavs, Romanis, communists, homosexuals, Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses and mentally and physically disabled individuals by the German army in WWII.

However - Timothy Spall (as titular denier David Irving, the man who brought Leuchter into the Ernst Zündel trial) looks incredible in this, like he's going for that Oscar nod he was denied (ha) for Mr. Turner two years ago. If the movie's smarter than I'm giving it credit for, it will borrow Mike Leigh's theme of "how can such a loathsome human being be such a brilliant artist" and expand it into "how can such a loathsome human being with no apparent charisma or authority take such a flagrantly unfounded position on a well-documented historical event and run with it until they eventually make a movie about his absurd personal crusade against truth and reason?" I'm not counting on it, but I will absolutely see it for Spall. (If I talk myself out of it, Spall can also be found in The Journey vs Colm Meaney, with support from John Hurt.)

lucia carreras, 2016.

Stars: Ken Watanabe, Mirai Moriyama, Kenichi Matsuyama, Go Ayano, Suzu Hirose, Aoi Miyazaki, Satoshi Tsumabuki.
Description: A grisly unsolved murder links three seemingly unrelated stories in three different Japanese cities, in this arresting ensemble thriller from director Sang-il Lee.

I didn't get a chance to see Sang-il Lee's remake of Unforgiven starring the great Ken Watanabe, so this reteaming of director and star is a chance for me to sample this potentially exciting combo. Who am I kidding - any Toronto premiere with a plot description opening "a grisly unsolved murder" had me at "grisly unsolved murder."

This sounds more Midnight Madness than most of the Midnight Madness selections this year (of which only two, The Belko Experiment and Paul Schrader's Dog Eat Dog, seem at all interesting).

lucia carreras, 2016.

Stars: Ángeles Cruz, Angelina Peláez, Mercedes Pascual, Harold Torres, Gustavo Sánchez Parra , Cecilia Cantú.
Description: Two women, living on the margins of their society, become the unlikely caretakers for a lost baby, in director Lucía Carreras’ compelling and heartfelt exploration of loneliness, female friendship, and the social ills afflicting contemporary Mexico..

I don't have much reason to be interested in this film beyond noticing it was directed by Lucía Carreras, co-writer of the very good film Leap Year. The TIFF write-up makes it sound like Two Women and a Baby, but I'm willing to bet that's just a launching pad to some heavily emotional filmmaking. There are over 50 films at this year's festival directed by women, which is one of the great things about TIFF. How often in your average cineplex is there even one female-directed movie?

Tamara goes up against Kleber Mendonça Filho's Aquarius, but that's being released through Netflix. But since I'm mentioning a Brazalian film, let me ask: what happened to Brazalian director Alejandro Landes, whose exceptional Colombian/Argentinian film Porfirio played the festival in 2011? He apparently hasn't produced anything since, which is a shame.

Anyway - am I expecting Tamara and the Ladybug to be this year's Porfirio? Maybe I am.

adam smith, 2016.

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal.
Description: The son and presumptive heir of a British criminal clan (Michael Fassbender) comes into conflict with the family patriarch (Brendan Gleeson) when he tries to break away from the outlaw life.

I'm a sucker for British crime movies. Everything from The Dark Eyes of London to Mona Lisa (and a handful of more recent ones like Philip Davis' I.D., Shane Meadows' Small Time and Antonia Bird's Face). It's true, I did have a bad experience with one at a past festival with that abhorrent remake of Brighton Rock (which I literally have not thought of since until this very moment) but a sprinklin' a-Fassbender and a dab of Gleeson into this one could win it the coveted slot of "Geez, there is nothing playing in this block... guess I'll go see this" selection.


kim-ki duk, 2016.

Stars: Ryoo Seung-bum, Lee Won-gun, Kim Young-min, Choi Guy-hwa.
Description: In the new film from provocative Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk
(Pieta), a poor North Korean fisherman finds himself an accidental defector, and is groomed to be a spy by an ambitious South Korean military officer.


(the elizabeth shue movie not joe don baker's character from charley varrick although you should probably avoid him too.)

ben wheatley, 2016.

Stars: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor.
Description: Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy star in the hotly anticipated new film by Ben Wheatley
(Kill List, High-Rise), about a weapons deal gone wrong that escalates into a manic, bullet-riddled standoff inside an abandoned warehouse..

Ben Wheatley... Brie Larson... Sharlto Copley... Armie Hammer... Sam Riley. I have no reason to care about any of these folks. I liked Mike Smiley as Tyres O'Flaherty on Spaced, but have no use for him since he became Wheatley's fuckin' boy.

ken loach, 2016.

Stars: People who are so totally real, it almost blows your mind.
Description: British master Ken Loach won his second Palme d’Or at Cannes (jesus christ, that can't be right) for this timely drama about an aged, ailing handyman’s battle to survive after being denied his government health allowance.

A "timely drama about an aged, ailing handyman’s battle to survive after being denied his government health allowance." Uggggggggggggggggggggggh.

Look, I'm not here to besmirch Ken Loach's 50-year career. The man made Kes, which pretty much gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants for the rest of his life, and he's directed a couple decent flicks in the ensuing years besides (Riff Raff, Ladybird Ladybird). But this Palme d'Or winner doesn't sound distinctive from the tedious social critiques he hitches his post to these days. And while I have no idealogical complaints against stuff like Jimmy's Hall and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, I also have no interest in them.

Terence Davies' Emily Dickinson biopic A Quiet Passion is also at the festival, and will also be skipped by me. Loach and Davies are firmly joined at the hip in my mind; some days, I can't remember which one directed Distant Voices, Still Lives. Again, I don't outright hate either director; I just don't understand why anyone would bother with their larger work when there are Mike Leigh movies he could be watching and re-watching.

christi puiu, 2016.

Stars: Mimi Branescu, Judith State, Bogdan Dumitrache, Dana Dogaru, Sorin Medeleni, Ana Ciontea, Rolando Matsangos, Catalina Moga, Marin Grigore, Tatiana Iekel, Marian Râlea, Ioana Craciunescu, Llona Brezoianu, Simona Ghia, Valer Dellakeza, Andi Vasluianu, Mara Elena Andrei, Petra Kurtela.
Description: A patriarch’s wake turns into a full-on familial tempest, in the brilliant new film from uncompromising Romanian auteur & John Cribbs' bête noire Cristi Puiu
(The Death of Mr. Lazarescu).

"Give the guy a second chance," my conscience tells me. "After all, he's ambitiously working towards a six-film cycle. Can you really judge the work on one movie?" If the movie in question is The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, one of the emptiest, most boring and bad joke-filled, least insightful films from a supposed major talent ever produced then yes, I feel confident in calling it a day on Cristi Puiu. Maybe 30 years from now, when he's finally finished his Bucharest hexology, I'll give Sieranevada a try. But not this year.

~ in summation (by funderburg) ~

On that note, we'll bring the Pink Smoke’s intermittently annual TIFF Preview to a close. I’ve spent the last few years going through a lot of shit in my life and I would like to use this opportunity, with the three of us gathered here in one preview, to say in all sincerity that what I’ve learned in that time of absence and failure is that Marcus and John are my brothers for life. There is no one on the planet with whom I’d rather go stay in a post-modernistic dead-tech downtown Toronto apartment, eat chicken wings, darkly accept the fate of my Philadelphia Eagles and watch 50+ movies in 8 days. If ever they interrupt a family dinner of mine to give me little more than a nod indicating that it's time to go shoot up a brothel housing the villains who shoved their hands in a garbage disposal and stole their coin collections, I will do so without so much as a word in response or a flinch of hesitation. Viva la Canada!

~ SEPTEMEBR 2, 2016 ~
* Professional integrity prevents us from commenting on Adam Leon's TRAMPS and Jonathan Demme's JT & THE TENNESSEE KIDS, but they will both clearly be the best films of the festival, instant classics and movies that you should absolutely enter some kind of a contest to win tickets to.