By Clint Holloway | Indiewire September 13, 2013 at 4:1PM
The 38th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is coming to a close, and Indiewire has been on the ground to survey the endless array of cinematic selections that have screened at the event over the past week and a half. In case you missed any reviews, we have compiled a list of all the films we saw below. Read our takes on the various movies that are sure to be talked about once fall movie season kicks into full swing.
More than a powerful elegy, "12 Years a Slave" is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there.
"At Berkeley" reminds us that a Berkeley education is a valuable asset, but also a valuable experience. Surveying the Berkeley lawns, Wiseman wants us to see how pleasant that experience can be. Going beyond Wiseman’s doc, you get a sense that fewer people will be on the lawn in the coming years. They will be too busy paying for it.
Condensing the material into just over two hours and taking cues from Letts' screenplay, Wells services the play mainly by sitting back and letting the A-listers lead the way. The result is a distinctly uneven but imminently watchable theatrical showcase in which cinematic and stagy devices go head to head with no clear winner.
Taking cues from Andrew Dodge's Blacklist screenplay, "Bad Words" has a caustic wit that puts its comedy in league with "Bad Santa," but just barely delivers on the cruel intensions of the premise without deepening it, as the aforementioned precedent does so well.
A muddled revenge drama about family ties and traumatic experiences, the movie wallows in its characters' anger and frustrations but never manages to organize them into a compelling whole. Despite a strong cast and shadowy mysteries that deepen the plot, "The Bastards" creates the sour impression of a half-formed work.
By keeping the polemical chatter to a minimum, it's a disconcerting look at a battle that many of its fighters can't recall why they're fighting in the first place.
Though nobody states it outright, "Blue is the Warmest Color" elegantly tussles with the idea of reconciling desire with other factors involved in the cultivation of healthy companionship.
Moving along at a reasonably engaging pace, it foregrounds the actor's investment in the scenario and makes it relatable.
Tough to categorize but weighted with meaning, Panahi's latest fascinating defiance of the constraints placed on him illustrates his deep commitment to the art form at all costs -- including, perhaps, his own sanity.
To its credit, "Dallas Buyers Club" provides McConaughey with sufficient room to gradually make his onscreen persona more palatable, but like the character's battle to survive, it's no easy proposition.
As sometimes happens with long-gestating non-fiction projects where the footage keeps piling up, "The Dog" contains more content than the filmmakers need for their story, and it sometimes suffers from attempts to stuff unnecessary details into an otherwise fascinating overview of Wojtowicz's plight.
While sometimes too obviously clever in its use of symbolic devices, "The Double" sticks to its eccentric ways
As a metaphor for responsible citizens silenced by indifferent majority, his vocal restrictions are a touch on-the-nose, but "The Mute" efficiently roots Constantino's experience in loud, talky urban surroundings to reflect his entrapment.
Danis Tanovic's "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker" has plenty to say, but as tragic observations go it's curiously dry.
Yet despite formidable performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as the duo in question, "The F Word" never comes close to realizing the expletive-fueled comedy implied by its title.
With so many factors in play and Assange's fate still developing, the idea of an Assange biopic might seem premature. But that's the least problematic issue plaguing Bill Condon's "The Fifth Estate," an uneven, intermittently thoughtful but largely preachy overview of WikiLeaks' rising influence that has less of an issue determining Assange's character than it does with telling a compelling story.
By conveying Gloria's alienation so effectively, the movie taps into a greater generational anxiety that imbues the character with metaphorical value.
Cuarón, always one eager to tinker with film form, here has taken on the role of an Imagineer-like visionary, crafting a cinematic rollercoaster that's both visceral and dreamlike in its capacity pull viewers into a queasy encounter with the realistic perils of space.
Unfortunately, the unbridled shock value isn't matched by a similar investment in other ingredients that might have made this low rent B-movie worthwhile.
Predominantly a failure of tone, "Horns" has plenty of admirable traits and yet dooms itself from the outset.
Though suffering from dry patches and a fairly mannered approach, "The Invisible Woman" eventually makes its way to a powerful final third documenting an ultimately tragic romance in deeply felt terms.
If "Joe" marks a new beginning for some of its characters, the same description applies to its director and star.
There's a certain elegant simplicity to the movie's execution that maintains a spirit of familiarity but also keeps the material afloat.
By unearthing a series of interviews conducted in 1975 with the elderly Benjamin Murmelstein, the only survivor of the so-called "Elder of the Jews" in charge of the ghetto, Lanzmann resurrects the aesthetics of "Shoah" while extending its narrative into a new chapter.
On the whole, "Manakamana" succeeds by creating the ongoing anticipation of something, anything to happen next, a wholly unique sensation specific to its inventive design.
It's impossible to look away -- not only because the sense of anticipation is so vivid, but because there's no other way to follow the bizarre plot than keep with it.
If not a definitive achievement, it nevertheless offers a uniquely riveting experience that plays like a culmination of the movies preceding it – and an ideal starting point for exploring them.
If you can groove with Jarmusch's patient, philosophical indulgences and the wooden exteriors of his characters' lives, the movie rewards with a savvy emotional payoff about moving forward even when the motivation to do so has gone.
As usual, Hong's camera generally just sits there and lets the scenario organically unfold, but the actors are especially lively and the dialogue fits together with puzzle-like finesse.
Though it lacks a cohesive means of fusing together its interlocking vignettes, "Palo Alto" effectively showcases the despair and sophomoric rebellion of teen life with a mature eye that clearly establishes a new filmmaker to watch.
Farhadi's nuanced storytelling results in an overlong and sometimes lethargic feel, occasionally to the detriment of its seriously fascinating plot, but for that same reason its set of surprises continually resonate.
If not a fully realized movie, it offers a cogent record of the capacity for the past to inform the present, ending with a fleeting expression of concern for the next stage -- and hinting at the chilling possibility that it might one day require a sequel.
Compared with most psycho-thrillers, "Real" never attempts to make the depths of a troubled mind into a compelling labyrinth.
Though the movie contains no voice recordings of the author, it's certainly effective at giving him more dimensionality than the tenuous mythology surrounding him.
To some extent, the movie is hurt by being forced into a linear structure it implicitly rejects.
Pushing beyond the brutal exterior of his material, Mackenzie reveals the tender story of estrangement beneath, but never forces the sentimentality.
Intentionally obtuse in its closing scenes, the movie doesn't quite manage to pull off the comeuppance promised by the initial semblance of an eerie presence in the finale.
A loud, visually assaultive assemblage of genre tropes as technically accomplished as it is difficult to watch, "The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears" has plenty to impress while simultaneously offering so little.
"Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon," the directorial debut of Mike Myers, is a vaudeville celebrity remembrance of mega-manager Shep Gordon by stars who might have starved without Gordon’s help.
It takes a special talent to turn the romantic lyricism of Zola and turn it into chick-lit.
Yet for those unfamiliar with contemporary Romanian cinema, "Metabolism" is a hardcore immersion into distinctly innovative storytelling.
It's hard to believe the brilliant 72-year-old visionary could run out of ideas, but just as easy to see how Miyazaki may have entered a more reflective stage of his career less tied to the otherworldly stories that populate his movies than the struggles of his own life.