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T / unsolicited TIFF

Photo Credit: Haubitz + Zoche.

Okay, it’s that time of year again.  Whether you like it or not.  At this point, I’m surprised I don’t have a gambling addiction.  Last year’s winning pony was Moonlight.  This year, my bets are on a Norwegian psycho-sexual drama.  The festival started last week, so I’m a little late on this year’s selection.  But here goes…



So about that Norwegian psycho-sexual thriller.  It’s called Thelma.  Which I initially thought was going to be a family drama set in Oklahoma.  Nope.  Instead it’s Scandi-minimalist possibly sci-fi nuts things.  I just can’t wait.



When I first went through TIFF’s programme this year, I was really disappointed to see that it’s larger budget played it a little too safe.  Meaning: historical and very white (there are more than two WWII movies and too many period pieces), and where it wasn’t so white, it was Denzel Washington.  Enter Guillermo Del Toro to save the day.  I like a little bit of whimsy and this is not unlike when he dropped Pan’s Labyrinth at the festival over a decade ago.  The Shape of Water is all childlike in its wonder and the trailer is just gorgeous.  Also: Octavia Spencer.



Call Me By Your Name is sumptuous in its coming of age sexuality.  It says summer love all over it and who doesn’t enjoy Americans in a slow simmering affair?  Get me to Aix en Provence, stat.



I’m always looking for new narratives from voices that we don’t always get to hear from.  My small size foreign film selection this year comes by way of the Philippines, whose culture is not so indistinct from our own in the West.  When I lived in Manila, I couldn’t get over how familiar it was.  But when you step outside your affluent enclave, you couldn’t be further from the truth of what’s really happening in Duterte’s Philippines.  And perhaps that’s what makes Dark Is the Night so terrifying: that I can see it happening in all of my backyards.



This year’s Midnight Madness programme at TIFF veers towards the ridiculous.  Which I love.  But I’m also a fan of the classical horror film set in a haunted house and involving children.  Enter The Lodgers. It had me at “Shirley Jackson-esque.”  Cursed, orphaned twins in a haunted house.  I just saw It last night so naturally I’m picking this one.


I’m playing it terribly safe this year with my TIFF picks.  But maybe it’s because I’m looking to getaway from everything that’s happening around the world.  I even hear there’s a meteorite coming at us.  So perhaps my TIFF picks are a little more skewed towards the fantastic this year.  But if you’re interested in a variety of perspectives on the world, check out the TIFF master list.  I guarantee you’ll find something that will be exactly what you’re looking for.  By the way, I’ve also got a tiny little Greta Gerwig feature in my crosshairs and I couldn’t be a proud Asian-Canadian if I didn’t also tell you about Mina Shum’s latest.


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T / tiff picks TIFF 2016

Photo Credit: Matt Barnes for TIFF.  All of these were taken on an iPhone 7!

Photo Credit: Matt Barnes for TIFF. All of these were taken on an iPhone 7!

It began sometime in junior high.  That’s basically when I knew I had a taste for this.  The movies never have to get big.  That’s not the point.  But the films I chose wound up getting known.  That was more important.  I guess I knew early on that I was a serious ENFJ.  And that I wanted to be an arbiter of the visual medium.  And my namesake, the Toronto International Film Festival, was my ultimate playground.  The festival is in full swing in my hometown right now.  Christian Bale is photobombing everyone’s festival selfie.  I’ve been making my annual tiff picks for TIFF since I was 13, so why stop now?

Before I get into it, here are the Honorable Mentions.  The films that didn’t quite make the cut, already got too much attention, or don’t have a trailer yet.  But all I can say right now is that I can’t wait to see party girl Anne Hathaway get all monstery.  Here is my other shortlist:

Nocturnal Animals, Colossal, Mascots, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Rehearsal


Moonlight

This film had me at hello and it’s been on my radar since way before TIFF.  I don’t know what it is.  No I do.  It’s all the intersections.  The mumblecore nature.  Boyhood, sexuality, depressed economies.  Everything.  And it just looks so rich.  Yet it all seems balanced at the same time.  I can’t wait to see what comes for everyone who made this film happen.


Maybe it’s because we did visit Nepal this year.  And the fact that I want to go back and experience more of it (as well as see this girl).  White Sun has a powerful plot line.  Perhaps it’s also because I share the feeling of the prodigal child coming home.  In any case, this film evokes a new voice to me and I can’t wait to lay my eyes on it.


The Road to Mandalay

I’m always on the lookout for cinema from southeast Asia that really has power. I think it’s because I’ve always wanted to share the sights and sounds and feelings of living and working in this region with all of my loved ones. The cinematography in this film just gets it perfect.  I know, I know.  I’m not a Burmese migrant worker.  And The Road to Mandalay is heavy on the romanticization, but damn, it’s gorgeous and it gets the heat, the intensity of the experience, and everything just right.


It’s Just the End of the World

There is Canadian cinema. And then there’s Quebecois cinema.  And then there’s Xavier Dolan. So I don’t care if this film is populated by really big French actors (hello my favourites: Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard and Léa Seydoux), nor the fact that it’s based on a French play. I’m still counting this as Canadian.  It looks beautiful.  It was shot on 35mm and you can totally tell.  The light is just perfect. I can’t wait to lay my eyes on this one.


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T / happy monday / the other tiff

Art Credit: Liz MacInnis

Art Credit: Liz MacInnis

No September passes me by without my namesake. It’s been like that since I was in me wee years. And even though I’ve lived outside of Toronto for the last eight years, I still find myself perusing through every single film featured at each year’s festival.  My obsession with movies and the show biz knows no bounds. So keeping with annual tradition, I’m putting my money on each little (or big) critical darling that will explode a new filmmaker, star or trope onto the scene.  And more importantly, finding inspiration from visionaries and voices, young and old, from near and far.  We all know that Matt Damon is going to be #winning on Mars. This year, I find myself looking for narratives that are outside the box, voices that are only now staking their claim in the world, and sometimes, stories and moving pictures that are just downright fun.

So without further delay, here are some of my picks for TIFF 2015.


Because history and tears and learning about why we celebrate in June every year.


Because it is downright absurd and tragicomic at the same time.


Because it was shot in one take (and I love when someone does that).


Because holy crap scary.


Because contemporary independent lady-led Indian cinema.


Because gorgeous, sumptuous, and I want to see more from here.