How did we follow film festivals from afar before Twitter? A lot less closely and with a lot less jealousy, that’s for sure. But bitter resentment aside, Twitter has become an invaluable resource for cinephiles looking to live the festival experience vicariously. With the 2012 Toronto Film Festival kicking off tonight at the world premiere of Rian Johnson’s time travel movie “Looper,” it’s time once again to assemble a list of notable critics you’ll want to follow on Twitter for all the latest news and 140-character reviews. And because Toronto is such a massive festival — eleven days and dozens upon dozens of movies from all over the world — we’ve expanded our usual ten person limit to include a second list of a dozen additional critics, all currently decamped at our neighbor to the north.
And now, prepare to grumble in silence as you read about all the amazing movies watched by these…
Ten Critics to Follow on Twitter At Toronto
Outlet: Esquire, The Playlist, Press Play, The Village Voice
Twitter Handle: @simonsaybrams
Years Covering Toronto: 2
Most Anticipated Film: Martin McDonagh’s “Seven Psychopaths”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Abrams is a consummate freelancer, with an output nearly as prodigious as the list of sites and publications he writes for. As we type these words, he’s already in line for his first movie of the festival at 8:00 AM, so you know he won’t miss a major film on account of something trivial like food or sleep.
Sample Work: On Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” at Cannes 2012: “Daniels isn’t Paul Verhoeven, and ‘The Paperboy’ isn’t high kitsch, just pompous, condescending trash. Even Verhoeven wouldn’t be brazen enough to ask his viewers to take seriously the unrequited romance between Anita and Jack, a tepid inter-racial romance that never becomes much more than a bathetic subplot. The two actors have no chemistry, fitting for a charmless, schizoid film like this. The best that can be said of ‘The Paperboy’ is that it’s sometimes intentionally awful. More often than not, however, it’s just awful.”
Twitter Handle: @MBartyzel
Years Covering Toronto: 6
Most Anticipated Film: Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell”
Why She’s On Our Radar: In addition to past gigs at Cinematical and Moviefone, Bartyzel writes the entertaining “Girls on Film” column for Movies.com, which covers “everything pertaining to women and cinema.”
Sample Work: On the impact of “Magic Mike:” “Perhaps Mike’s real magic is not his gyrating prowess, but his creation of a space that gives a voice to female desire and leads us closer to real human interaction on and off the screen. It might seem like a poetic dream, but it’s about damn time we strike down notions that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, no matter what new rom-com films with Reese Witherspoon are emerging.”
Sam C. Mac
Outlet: In Review Online
Twitter Handle: @inro/@samcmac
Years Covering Toronto: 6
Most Anticipated Film: Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Mac is the founder and editor-in-chief of In Review Online, a valuable film and music site whose contributors include Kent Beeson, A.A. Dowd, Guy Lodge, Andrew Schenker, and the aforementioned Simon Abrams. Mac will be covering the festival along with Kenji Fujishima, who previously made our list of critics to follow at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Sample Work: On Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter,” at Toronto 2010: “It’s great to see Eastwood getting back to a more intimate mode, and it’s refreshing to see a film with spiritual inclinations largely avoid the topic of religion, but even the most staunch Eastwood defender won’t deny ‘Hereafter’ is severely compromised. It’s failed by a frequently inept screenplay, especially in its final act, and by plainly generic dialogue (not once but twice does Damon’s character espouse the angst-ridden cliche, ‘It’s not a gift, it’s a curse!’). Not even with a reliably strong score and evocative use of shadow and contrast can the director consistently make his roundelay narrative as engaging as it needs to be.”
Outlet: MSN Movies’ The Hitlist
Twitter Handle: @jamesrocchi
Years Covering Toronto: 10
Most Anticipated Film: The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer’s “Cloud Atlas”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Few critics are as tireless as James Rocchi. He’s been to just about every festival on the planet, including a decade of TIFFs, and his coverage is always as timely, intelligent, and quick-witted.
Sample Work: On the greatness of Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire:” “‘Haywire’ will annoy purists who think Soderbergh’s lost his artistic side in the name of another shot-on-video experiment like ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ that casts a non-actor actor in a lead role in the name of something more interesting than mere smooth, competent performance in the service of smooth, competent filmmaking. ‘Haywire’ will also confuse and stultify a generation of action film fans raised on Michael Bay and Brett Ratner’s glossy, shallow claptrap and confused into thinking that quick cutting is actual excitement and velocity. In short, if you are not a horrible snob or a hateful dullard, odds are that ‘Haywire’ will make the pinball machine in your head go ‘Tilt.'”
Outlet: Time Out New York
Twitter Handle: @joshrothkopf
Years Covering Toronto: 10
Most Anticipated Film: Peter Strickland’s “Berberian Sound Studio”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Rothkopf, senior film writer and DVD editor at TONY, is one of our favorite working critics. And anyone who’s 2011 top ten list included “A Separation,” “The Trip” and “Attack the Block” is worth paying attention to in our book.
Sample Work: On the legacy of spaghetti westerns: “But the real value of Film Forum’s series (coprogrammed by Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan and Bruce Goldstein) is the way it provides a deeper understanding of the sociopolitical changes afoot. In movies such as Sergio Corbucci’s ‘The Mercenary’ and Leone’s ‘Duck, You Sucker,’ you can sense a global revolutionary fervor in their plots’ Mexican dreamers that never would have gained traction in your average John Wayne horse opera. Working in an Italian studio system more accepting of horror, giallo and stylish nonsense, directors like Giulio Questi uncorked hellish hybrids like ‘Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot!,’ complete with scenes of corpse raiding and torture — a brutal vision of a selfish nation in its birth throes.”
Outlet: HuffPost Entertainment
Twitter Handle: @mikeryan
Years Covering Toronto: 2
Most Anticipated Film: Ben Affleck’s “Argo”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Ryan, formerly of Vanity Fair, Wired, GQ, and Movieline, always finds a unexpected angle for his film coverage. When “John Carter” opened in theaters, for example, Ryan called every John Carter in the phone book to gauge their interest. His coverage of Toronto will be personal, hilarious, and unique.
Sample Work: On the legacy of late director Tony Scott: “Tony Scott never had the true masterpiece. He never had an ‘Alien’ or a ‘Blade Runner’ like his older brother Ridley (though, a case could be made for ‘True Romance’). But Tony Scott knew how to make an action movie enjoyable. Tony Scott knew how to make iconic moments. Tony Scott knew how to make you remember when you first heard Pete Mitchell ask permission for a flyby in ‘Top Gun;’ with whom you first saw the standoff in ‘True Romance’ with; what you thought when a football player pulled out a pistol in ‘The Last Boy Scout.’ Tony Scott never seemed too interested in making his masterpiece, but he excelled at making moments that you do not forget.”
Outlets: Cinema Scope and Toronto Life
Twitter Handle: @johnsemley3000
Years Covering Toronto: 3
Most Anticipated Film: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s “Leviathan”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Semley wrote some excellent pieces as the editor of the now-defunct Toronto branch of The A.V. Club; we were also big fans of this piece for Salon on the role of male baldness in the TV show “Breaing Bad” (which, naturally, was titled “Breaking Bald”). He’s also a local to Toronto, which doesn’t hurt; in festivals, as in baseball, home field advantage matters.
Sample Work: On the subversive power of superstardom in “Cosmopolis:” “Considering the film’s sermonizing on the pitfalls of capitalist excess, it seems like [Robert] Pattinson is being employed at another, subversive level. It’s hard to shake the image of preteen girls humming around the periphery of the film’s set armed with dog-eared copies of Don DeLillo’s novel. It’s also hard to shake the feeling that Cronenberg is leveraging his matinee idol’s stardom in an attempt to sell a movie about the self-destructive greed of the 1 percent. Is Cronenberg trying to bilk the ‘Twilight’ generation out of their $12 to teach them a lesson about late capitalism? Is he turning Pattinson’s superstardom against itself?”
Twitter Handle: @TheInSneider
Years Covering Toronto: 1
Most Anticipated Film: Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines”
Why He’s On Our Radar: If you want to know when you’ll actually get to see the movies from Toronto at a theater (or VOD service) near you, it’s good to follow a few reporters as well as critics. We like the indefatigable Sneider, a former writer for Ain’t It Cool News (and former boxing partner of Uwe Boll’s), for his work ethic and his constant tweets. He’ll keep you in the loop.
Sample Work: On Paddy Considine joining the cast of Edgar Wright’s new film: “Brit thesp Paddy Considine is set to reteam with his ‘Hot Fuzz’ co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End,’ the third pic in the helmer’s trilogy of comedies that started with ‘Shaun of the Dead’…Story follows five childhood friends who reunite for a drinking marathon that culminates in the fabled pub of the title. As they attempt to reconcile past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future of all humankind.”
Outlet: The A.V. Club
Twitter Handle: @scott_tobias
Years Covering Toronto: 13
Most Anticipated Film: Brian De Palma’s “Passion”
Why He’s On Our Radar: If you’re a regular reader of online film criticism, you almost certainly don’t need an introduction to Tobias’ work. Sharp, funny, and a superb writer, Tobias has been a longtime fixture in The A.V. Club’s film section. With more than a dozen years experience covering Toronto, he’s the most seasoned pro on our list — and an excellent Twitter-er to boot.
Sample Work: Inducting Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” into The New Cult Canon: “The accident and its fallout just serve as the engine for an epic coming-of-age story, which accounts for why Lonergan takes a full hour between the accident and Lisa’s first steps toward setting the record straight. In that stretch of time, she’s seen furiously debating classmates over 9/11 and Israeli-Palestine relations, recklessly testing her sexual powers by making a pass at her math teacher (Matt Damon), and thwarting her closest friend’s affections for a pot dealer. In short, Lisa is finding herself, which Lonergan treats as a volatile, dangerous process for anyone who crosses her path. She’s like an emotional IED, whose detonation leaves no shortage of collateral damage.”
Twitter Handle: @winterjessica
Years Covering Toronto: 11
Most Anticipated Film: Olivier Assayas’ “Something in the Air”
Why She’s On Our Radar: Our paths first crossed at the Village Voice, where we were an intern and she was a much more talented writer in the vaunted Voice film section. Now the Culture Editor at Time, Winter is a critic of unfailing smarts and precise prose. Plus, she’s the only other person we know who’s had dreams about the possibility of a sequel to “Step Brothers.”
Sample Work: Celebrating the career of former Village Voice critic J. Hoberman: “A couple of years ago, a certain contentious movie critic coined the term ‘Hobermanbots’ to deride the many fans of the longtime film critic at New York’s alt-weekly The Village Voice. Those of us who learned how to think and write about popular culture by reading J. Hoberman’s books and weekly reviews were delighted to be assigned our very own epithet, even if we might have preferred something a bit less clunky — maybe Hoberbots, or Hobercrafts, or Hober Sapiens.”
A Dozen More Critics to Follow on Twitter at Toronto
Sam Adams (Los Angeles Times), Corey Atad (Just Atad), Alex Billington (First Showing), Lynn Fenske (Examiner.com), Sam Fragoso (Duke and the Movies), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Parker Mott (Final Take), Matt Patches (Hollywood.com), Mark Pfeiffer (Reel Times), Kiva Reardon (inMovies), Katey Rich (Cinema Blend), Andrew Robinson (Film School Rejects).