Films We Saw At TIFF: The Definitive Ranking

Full disclosure, I was using the royal “we” in this headline. There was no jury or rules committee that voted on these, it’s all based strictly on the opinion of yours truly (the only basis there ever is for my reviews). I didn’t see all the films at the festival, nor did I even try. Not only is it impossible, it’s probably inadvisable. I consider three films in a day to be about the upper limit of how many a person can see and still be engaged enough in any one that reviewing it is fair.

In any case, I didn’t see them all, but I did see a fair few. And what kind of internet film critic would I be if I couldn’t boil them all down into crude quantifiables? So, here are the films I saw, ranked.

1. Anomalisa

I don’t know how much more I can say about Anomalisa than I already did, but I’m comfortable saying “masterpiece” and leaving it at that. If you see two or three lukewarm movies in a row, you start to wonder if you even like movies anymore. Anomalisa was the kind of movie that reminds me why I love movies.

When can I see it?

If you live in New York or LA, December 30th. If you live somewhere else, probably a few weeks after that.

My question: how is it that Charlie Kaufman, a guy who’s made almost nothing but masterpieces, has to turn to Kickstarter to get this made, while M. Night Shyamalan makes bomb after universally hated bomb and still gets his latest into 3,000 theaters? It makes no sense. Please don’t screw up the marketing, Paramount.

2. Brooklyn

This didn’t look the kind of movie I’d like, and I only went because I was curious about Nick Hornby (who adapted Colm Toibin’s novel) and there wasn’t much else playing at the same time. I ended up sitting in the corner by myself trying harder and harder not to cry, wondering if something was wrong with me. I loved it, full superlative.

If it doesn’t seem like something you’d like, take that with a grain of salt, because it didn’t look like something I’d like either, and now I’m its biggest fan. Those are the best festival experiences, being blindsided by a movie you hadn’t even heard of before you sat down.

When can I see it?

November 6th.

I hate Oscar handicapping as much as the Oscars love the handicapped, but I’ll say simply that I’ll be surprised if Saoirse Ronan’s not in the conversation. Brooklyn is almost universally appealing, and she’s great in it. I hadn’t caught any of John Crowley‘s movies before, but I’ll be seeking them out now.

3. Green Room

Green Room, from Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier (and also featuring Blue Ruin star Macon Blair in a prominent role) is the TIFF film I’d feel least comfortable recommending to my parent’s friends, and most comfortable recommending to FilmDrunk readers. It’s the kind of film that would probably never win an Oscar, a festival movie about a punk band that gives the finger to festival movies. “Visceral” is the best word to describe it. It’s about blood and guts and puke, not necessarily to gross you out, but because blood and guts and puke are the essence of life (and probably really fun to make a movie about). I think it’s even better than Blue Ruin (full review).

When can I see it?

Spring 2016. I know, I know. That seems really far away. Curse you, A24.

4. Sicario

I compared this to early Michael Mann in my review. As luck would have it, I got to rewatch Heat a few days later to see how it held up. Sicario pales in terms of characters and it’s nowhere near as smart (and it’s much more of a straight up action movie – Heat is almost three hours long), but the competence with which the action sequences are put together is similar. Denis Villeneuve is no Michael Mann, at least not yet, but Roger Deakins shooting this cast goes a long way. And to be fair, Villeneuve didn’t make Blackhat, so he’s got that going for him.

When can I see it?

October 2nd.

5. The Martian

People keep asking “well at least it’s better than Prometheus, right?” about Ridley Scott’s latest, and I’m not sure how to answer. The Martian doesn’t have Prometheus‘s glaring issues (astronaut’s taking their helmets off and trying to pet menacing-looking snakes, etc), but it’s also nowhere near as ambitious or profound. I don’t care what anyone says, “what would you say to God if you found out he made you by mistake” is a pretty legit thing to ask in a popcorn movie, and there’s no scene in The Martian as memorable as that alien abortion, or a character as cool as robot Fassbender.

The Martian isn’t amazing, or all that original, but it’s fun. It will probably make lots of money. Turns out, people don’t want to ask the big questions, they just want to go to space. (full review)

When can I see it?

October 2nd.

6. Black Mass

My housemate for the fest, Aurelien Allin from Cinemateaser (sorry, it’s in French) has a theory that Johnny Depp’s Whitey Bulger is supposed to be a vampire, and that the whole movie is structured like a vampire film. That’s a lot more interesting than the movie I saw, which was perfectly passable, but offered no new insight into Whitey Bulger (I’m actually more interested in his straight, successful brother, about whom we learn nothing in Black Mass), and basically played like a poor man’s Scorsese without the wit the whole way through. Black Mass is basically The Black Mass Trailer: The Movie. I probably should’ve skipped this one for a smaller movie, to be honest. (full review)

When can I see it?

September 18th.

You can buy your tickets right now! Should you see it is a tougher question. It reminds me of American Gangster, a movie that’s decent enough, but that you forget almost immediately.

[—- this is about where I’d put my worth seeing/not worth seeing Maginot line —-]

7. Legend

So many frownie faces. I really wanted this movie to be good and it just wasn’t. I’d like to see a different director make a film about the Krays, one who doesn’t think Reggie Kray’s relationship with Frances (who I still know zero about) was the most interesting part of the story. And it should still star Tom Hardy.

When can I see it?

November 20th in New York and LA, November 25th everywhere else.

It was originally supposed to open October 2nd, against The Martian and Sicario, which, as noted above, are both much better. The new date will put it up against Creed, The Good Dinosaur, and The Hunger Games, which seems marginally better.

8. Being Charlie

People are probably going to unduly hate Being Charlie (provided they actually see it) for being a movie about rich kid problems co-written by the 22-year-old son of the famous director (Nick Reiner; Rob Reiner). But the fact that Nick Reiner and his co-writer Matt Elisofon are writing what they know (going to rehab) is Being Charlie‘s strength. It just never quite opens up enough to be compelling. This needed some more time in the oven. (Full review).

When can I see it?

Good question. It’s still unsold, but will probably hit VOD at some point.

9. Our Brand Is Crisis

This wasn’t as much of a chore to sit through as some others, but boy did I hate it. Nothing like turning a story about the commodification of disinformation into a story about a tough business lady learning a valuable lesson (an obvious lesson that takes 90 minutes and the near collapse of a third-world nation). Who is the real David Gordon Green? I still don’t know.

When can I see it?

October 18th. Or more likely a few months after that on a plane.

People will bring up the Oscars no matter what Sandra Bullock stars in, but that seems like a long shot here. Ten bucks says she gets nominated for a Golden Globe though.

10. Men and Chicken/London Road

Men & Chicken is a Danish comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen as a chronic masturbator, which was apparently enough to make me go see it. Mikkelsen is surprisingly great at comedy, and the first scene is screamingly funny. Unfortunately everything after that is by turns dull and inscrutable, and the 104-minute run time feels like three hours. An unholy hybrid of Napoleon Dynamite and The Island of Dr. Moreau (imbued with a typically Scandinavian obsession with death and retardation comedy), Men & Chicken is one of those movies you’re not sure how they finished. Incredibly, this was on Denmark’s shortlist for foreign language Oscar.

When can I see it?

Some time in 2016, courtesy of Drafthouse.

If Men & Chicken was a really strange, bad idea with one great scene, London Road (full review) is an interesting idea with no great scenes. It’s a musical where most of the songs are short on hooks and melodies and a movie that lacks characters and a plot. I think if you can explain who Tom Hardy plays or why he’s there (for about three minutes) you win a prize. It’s one of those projects that’s impressive in that it must’ve been hard to put together, but that you’d never want to watch.

It exists somewhere between “no one has ever done this before” and “this is why no one has ever done this before.”

When can I see it?

It currently has no US release date.