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The Best of Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Written by on September 17, 2014 

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

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There are some huge ebbs and flows in Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler. At times I loved it, others I felt bad for laughing, and some instances made me wonder what exactly it was I was watching. In the end, however, I can unequivocally say it’s a gem of a lean, mean film that never let’s its foot off the gas pedal with an iconic antihero in Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Lou Bloom who might currently be tops on hardcore cinephiles’ Halloween costume lists come October. Even though there isn’t a conventional plot since the film is more concerned with delivering high octane suspense and extremely high (and warped) entertainment value, you won’t be able to get it out of your head. – Jared M. (full review)

The Princess of France (Matias Piñeiro)

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Although his films are rarely filled with the obvious cinematic references that color the works of Tarantino, Matias Piñeiro’s films are a different type of cinephile’s delight, engaging essential questions of how we watch and think about movies. His approach — relaxed, inconspicuous, playful, and, at times, perhaps mystical — makes their engagement of these issues feel revelatory. Then again, Hitchcock didn’t make Rear Window as a film directly about screen-based scopophilia, and Piñeiro’s films are up the same alley. His first four followed young lovers in and around Beunos Aires, shape-shifting their way through the texts of Shakespeare, their country’s own history, and, most importantly, their own romantic relationships. The Princess of France, his fifth endeavor, is decidedly his most complex, an investigation into the idea of the off-screen — though that’s only scratching the surface. – Peter L. (full review)

Spring (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)

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The first words in Colin Geddes’ TIFF description for Vanguard selection Spring are, “Before Sunrise gets a supernatural twist.” Naturally, I pushed everything aside to check out what it could mean. A horror romance from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, its Italy-set journey of an American lost and alone proves equally suspenseful, grotesque, funny, and beautiful. The best part, however, is it’s smart and sensitive way of allowing the dark fantasy to enhance its love story rather than overshadow. Because at the end of the day, what’s onscreen isn’t necessarily out to scare us—although it will. Instead it shows love’s power to literally reinvent ourselves into that which we didn’t even realize we wanted to be. – Jared M. (full review)

Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)

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What Still Alice posits on the most basic level about its title character’s decline is profoundly counterintuitive. Highly intelligent people, Alice’s doctor suggests, are naturally more adept at hiding the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s with mnemonic devices than people of average intelligence, and therefore undergo mental decline far more rapidly. This counterintuitive sense extends to the film itself, which values outward grace over traceable decline. As the disease progresses, filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmore refuse to upend that grace—it merely changes shape. – Sky H. (full review)

While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach)

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Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young is wise, funny, fiercely intelligent and always involving. It’s not just the director’s most complete film — it’s also his best, an even stronger, more ambitious creation than his last Toronto International Film Festival entry, Frances Ha. Here, aided by his most impressive cast to date — Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, and Adam “Ad Rock” Horowitz (!) — Baumbach has pulled off something truly impressive. He has made a heartfelt comedy that is as humorous as it is emotionally relatable. – Chris S. (full review)

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