Upon first seeing the word “vampire” in the description of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, the latest Jim Jarmusch film, which was screened this year at the Toronto Film Festival, I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Not another vampire film.” And furthermore, is Jarmusch just being trendy here? Is he looking to latch onto the coattails of the TWILIGHT franchise by making a film about creatures who subsist by sucking the blood of living beings?
Before and during the recently-concluded Toronto Film Festival, I found myself inundated with emails drawing my attention to a range of films. None were hyping the titles with major movie stars and Oscar possibilities. The publicists of these films likely were turning away journalists who craved one-on-one interviews with a Meryl Streep, a Brad Pitt, or a Julia Roberts.
One of the highlights of the just-concluded Toronto Film Festival is a film with an upstate New York connection. And you can be sure that, come the end of the year, it deservedly will be atop a host of critics’ ten-best-films lists and deservedly will garner a host of Academy Award nominations.
Years ago, “older” films that were screened at film festivals included newly-restored versions of silent films or classic Depression-era features: in other words, films that were produced years if not decades before the births of Baby Boomer cineastes.
The Toronto Film Festival, which runs ten days each September, has become the unofficial starting point of the Academy Awards season. If you wish a first look at some of the films that will be Oscar contenders early next year, Toronto will be your destination-- not to mention the festivals that run almost concurrently in Venice and Telluride.
Across the years, countless films that spotlight dysfunctional families have featured scenes in which mothers and fathers are screaming and yelling at each other and perhaps even resorting to violence. They are unaware that they are being overheard and observed by their children, or perhaps they do not even care. Meanwhile, the reaction shots of the young ones, which spotlight the hurt and sadness that they are feeling in the moment, serve as a textbook example of the adage that a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words.
One of the better films I’ve seen this summer is a comedy which centers on the intrigues of two sets of lovers. The setting is decidedly contemporary. The male characters wear suits and ties, and so on. But there is a twist here. The characters all speak in Elizabethan English, and the film in which they appear is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, director-writer Joss Whedon’s updating of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.
A couple months ago, while still playing the film festival circuit, an extraordinary documentary-- one of the very best films of the year-- opened theatrically in the U.S. It now slowly is making its way into theaters. I saw it this past fall at the Toronto Film Festival and discussed it in detail. I want to cite it again because it is well-worth spotlighting as it becomes increasingly available to audiences.