The 2011 Toronto Film Festival Wrap-Up!

And so, another year of the Toronto International Film Fest is in the books. Once again, TIFF showed dozens of amazing films, and I had an absolute blast covering it for JoBlo.com. Thanks again to Mr. JoBlo himself, and Mike for sending me to cover it yet again. As always, it’s one of the highlights of my year.

I’d say of the films I saw, a full 80% were way above average, although to be sure, there were a few dogs (cough-TWIXT-cough). Check out all of my reviews below for a full run-down of what I saw.


Of course, not all TIFF films are created equal, and the following is my top 10 of the fest, many of which will likely make it in to my top 10 of the year. Read on, and let me know what you think!

#1- Drive

By now, most of you have had the chance to check out DRIVE for yourselves. I imagine a lot of you will agree that it’s unlike any action film we’ve seen in a long time, and that it heralds the arrival of a major new action movie presence in the form of Ryan Gosling. As for director Nicolas Winding Refn, time will tell whether DRIVE is the beginning of a new North American phase for the already accomplished director (check out BRONSON or the PUSHER trilogy). Whatever the case, DRIVE is the perfect marriage of action and art. Oh yeah, and Albert Brooks is a total bad ass.

Read my full TIFF review!

#2- The Artist

Yup- it’s a silent film. That’s makes THE ARTIST a bit of a tough sell to modern audiences, with silent film being a whole other language and style of cinema most of us are unfamiliar with. After watching THE ARTIST, it made me want to rent a whole boatload of silent films, and this truly cast a ninety minute spell over me in a way few other films have managed. It’s a magical film, and I truly hope Jean Dujardin, as the washed up silent-screen icon Georges Valentin, gets an Academy nod.

Read my full TIFF review!

#3- 50/50

To be sure, 50/50 is a hard sell. A mixture of comedy and tragedy is a remarkably difficult thing to pull off, but director Jonathan Levine (THE WACKNESS) and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt make it look easy. 50/50 really is the perfect blend, and works on every possible level it can. It’s deeply moving, features and Academy-worthy performance from Levitt, and, oh yeah- It’s side splittingly funny. This is a winner folks.

Read my full TIFF review!

#4- Kill List

Judging from my talkback for KILL LIST, Ben Wheatley’s film is a lot more divisive than I thought. No matter, for me KILL LIST is the finest horror (or rather psychological thriller) of the year. Wheatley’s films really hit me on a deep level, and seeing KILL LIST with Wheatley in attendance as a sold-out Midnight Madness showing was my highlight of the fest. I have it on good authority IFC will be putting this out very early in 2012. I strongly encourage anyone looking for a good, challenging scare to give this a whirl. I truly loved it.

Read my full TIFF review!

#5- Paul Williams: Still Alive

Going in to TIFF, if you had told me that one of my big discoveries of the fest would be a documentary about Paul Williams, I probably would have said, “Paul Who?” Well, maybe not, as I saw PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE for the first time only a week before leaving town. Williams is a hell of a talent, and his story is really the classic showbiz tale. This has it all= the humble beginnings, trials and tribulations, the peak of fame, the hell of addiction, the fall, and of course, the comeback. It’s a classic tale, told with great style and skill by the filmmakers, and one to keep an eye out for.

Read my full TIFF review!

#6- The Descendants

George Clooney continues his enviable streak of films with this, and THE IDES OF MARCH. While that film was a perfectly serviceable political dram, THE DESCENDANTS touched me in a way that film did not. Family baggage is something we’re all familiar with, but director Alexander Payne manages to spin a yarn that should have been depressing (a family reuniting after the mother is in a horrible accident), into one of the great, life-affirming films of the last few years. For Clooney, this is another UP IN THE AIR, and likely another Oscar nomination.

Read my full TIFF review!

#7- Shame

Michael Fassbender gives another sterling performance in SHAME, part of what has to be considered his big breakthrough year. People that liked him in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS are in for a shock with this artful, deliberately paced tale of one man’s sexual addiction, and tortured relationship with his sister (a brave performance by Carey Mulligan). It’s certainly not for everyone, but adventurous viewers will be rewarded.

Read my full TIFF review!

#8- Moneyball

Bennett Miller finally follows up his triumphant CAPOTE with another worthy vehicle, MONEYBALL. His direction, paired with the magnificent script from Steven Zaillian, and Aaron Sorkin- not to mention incredible performances by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, make this one of the fall season’s heavyweights. Even if you’re not a baseball fan (I’m not particularly), MONEYBALL is an intriguing- and most importantly, entertaining film.

Read my full TIFF review!

#9- Goon

Sure, it helps that I’m a Montreal-boy who grew up with Hockey constantly playing in the background, but GOON is damn fine flick. Deeply obscene, ultra-violent, and most important- funny as f**k, GOON is a cult classic waiting to happen, and for my money, the only movie since SLAP SHOT to really show the sport the way I know it. Sure, MIRACLE is a wonderful film, but I’ll take the mischief of GOON any day.

Read my full TIFF review!

#10- The Killer Elite

Ok- I’ll admit, there’s something perverse about putting a Jason Statham movie on my top 10 TIFF list, but you know what? I had a friggin’ blast with KILLER ELITE. While the “based on a true story” approach is a little suspicious, there’s a lot I really liked about this. The period setting (well, 1981- coincidently the year of my birth), the down-to-earth, CGI free action, Clive Owen, a more engaging than usual Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell’s scene-stealing shenanigans. It all adds up to the best Statham flick since THE BANK JOB. See it this weekend!

Read my full TIFF review!

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