From 'La La Land' to 'Katwe': Best of the Toronto International Film Festival

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Ryan Gosling
    Ryan Gosling
    Canadian actor
  • Emma Stone
    Emma Stone
    American actress.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 'La La Land'
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in ‘La La Land’

After this year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s La La Land‘s world, and we just live in it. The Damien Chazelle-directed movie musical took home TIFF’s coveted Audience Award, and appeared on many critics’ “Best of the Fest” lists. La La Land was one of our festival favorites as well, but, believe it or not, there are other films coming out this fall that are worthy of your time, attention, and dollars. Here, Yahoo Movies’ festival correspondents pick the 10 best movies from what’s being called one of the best TIFFs in years.

(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)
(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Barry
Turns out a double helping of Young Obama is not a bad thing. While the comparisons to the indie sleeper Southside by You were inevitable, director Vikram Gandhi — working from an insightful script by author Adam Mansbach — has crafted a sweet, soulful, bittersweet, and funny coming-of-age tale about our president’s (as played by Australian newcomer Devon Terrell) formative days when he was a transfer student to New York City’s Columbia University struggling with racial identity and romance. —Kevin Polowy

Related: Read Our Full Report on ‘Barry’ From Toronto

(Photo: Lionsgate)
(Photo: Lionsgate)

Blair Witch
I couldn’t wait for this surprise sequel to the 1999 indie horror sensation The Blair Witch Project to end. Not because it’s bad but because the film climaxes with 30 minutes of pure, unrelenting nighttime horror in a sequence that perfectly caps a terrifying scarefest. Recapturing the essence of the first film while updating the found-footage approach with contemporary accessories, this one’s good enough to make you forget all about that other sequel, the ill-advised cash-grab Book of Shadows. —K.P.

Related: Read Our Full Report on ‘Blair Witch’ From Toronto

(Photo: Summit)
(Photo: Summit)

Deepwater Horizon
It’s like Poseidon meets The Towering Inferno, except this film is based on the tragic events aboard the titular oil rig that exploded into a fiery blaze in 2010, causing the worst spill in U.S. history. An eco-thriller this is not, though, as director Peter Berg chooses instead to focus on the blue collars (led by Mark Wahlberg’s Mike Williams) fighting to escape. Deepwater Horizon provides a tense, emotionally powerful experience, with a pair of stellar standout supporting performances from John Malkovich and Kurt Russell. —K.P.

Related: Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson Recall the Movie Sets They Shared Before Costarring in ‘Deepwater Horizon

(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)
(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ve always been tickled by the notion that the living spaces we inhabit possess past lives, marked by the memories and mementos of those who came before. This Shirley Jackson-inspired chiller about a caretaker (Ruth Wilson) looking after an elderly novelist (Paula Prentiss) in a 19th century farmhouse with a phantom residing inside the walls taps into that spine-tingling idea better than any horror movie I’ve seen in recent memory. Exquisitely directed by Osgood Perkins (son of Anthony), I Am the Pretty Thing employs hypnotic slow zooms, precise framing, and unnerving sound design to create an atmosphere of impending dread. I’ve seen the film twice now, and each time I’ve caught myself checking the dark corners of my home, looking for pretty things hidden in the shadows. —Ethan Alter

(Photo: Lionsgate)
(Photo: Lionsgate)

La La Land
Love is the optimal word when summing up this highly lauded modern-day musical from Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle. This charming, comedic love story reunites Crazy. Stupid. Love.’rs Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both at the top of their game in a toe-tapping, jazzy love letter to the stylish song-and-dance fests of yesteryear, particularly The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. And La La Land is such a beautifully photographed love letter to Los Angeles that it even finds a way to romanticize the city’s ills (like traffic congestion). Audiences and Oscar voters are going to absolutely love it. —K.P.

Related: Emma Stone on Reteaming With Ryan Gosling in ‘La La Land’ and Her New Appreciation of Los Angeles

(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)
(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Moonlight
“Give me a child until he is 7, and I will show you the man.” That Jesuit maxim is explored to dramatic effect in Barry Jenkins’s quietly devastating sophomore feature, which depicts the life of its central character, Chiron, a young African-American boy growing up in difficult circumstances, in three stages: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Moonlight is beautifully attuned to the distinct patterns that emerge in our lives after years and decades. By the time the movie arrives at its emotional conclusion, you clearly see the boy in the man and vice versa. E.A.

(Photo: Focus Features)
(Photo: Focus Features)

Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford’s overdue follow-up to A Single Man offers two provocative movies for the price of one. In the first story strand, a wealthy art gallerist (played to icy perfection by Amy Adams) confronts the end of her marriage, while the second follows a desperate father (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he tries to hunt down the thugs who killed his wife and daughter with the help of a rule-defying Southwest lawman (Michael Shannon, stepping right out of the pages of an Elmore Leonard novel). Although the latter narrative is supposedly unfolding inside the pages of a manuscript penned by Adams’s ex-husband, the exact nature of the relationship between reality and fiction snaps into focus as the movie approaches its compellingly enigmatic conclusion. E.A.

Related: Will This Finally Be Amy Adams’ Year? Actress Gives Pair of A-Grade Performances in ‘Arrival’ and ‘Animals’

Bryce Dallas Howard in 'Black Mirror' (Credit: David Dettmann/Netflix)
Bryce Dallas Howard in ‘Black Mirror’ (Credit: David Dettmann/Netflix)

Nosedive
It’s not TV — it’s Black Mirror. One of two episodes from the new season of Charlie Brooker’s dystopic sci-fi series that premiered at TIFF, the feature-length Nosedive unfolds in a near future where citizens are required to constantly assign each other Yelp-like ratings. And if you drop below a certain average, which is precisely what happens to poor Lacey (Bryce Dallas Howard, in a career-best performance), your rights are steadily stripped away until you’re left a social pariah. Written by Rashida Jones and Mike Schur and directed by Joe Wright, Nosedive is arguably the funniest installment of Black Mirror to date, while still offering the same dark-hearted portrait of a technology-obsessed society that fans have to come to expect from the show. –E.A.

Related: ‘Black Mirror’: The Evolution in Season 3

(Photo: Disney)
(Photo: Disney)

Queen of Katwe
It would be easy to dismiss this Disney drama as yet another by-the-numbers inspirational drama. And while this true story from Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) has a Remember the Titans-on-a-chessboard-hook, it avoids genre tropes in making for a rich, rewarding, tearjerking journey that follows a girl from the slums of Uganda who goes on to greatness in an unlikely game. Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo continue to prove they’re two of the most intriguing young actors around with heartfelt supporting turns. —K.P.

(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)
(Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience
Truth be told, I prefer the longer cut of Terrence Malick’s eon-spanning creation myth, Life’s Journey, but the shorter Imax Experience version is more accessible to viewers outside of the director’s faithful fanbase. Malick’s always-remarkable eye for nature photography is perfectly suited to plus-sized Imax screens, and the film’s F/X-assisted re-creations of the Big Bang and Earth’s evolution stirs the imaginations of viewers young and old. Decades in the making, Voyage of Time is a cinematic spectacle with timeless appeal. —E.A.

Related: Terrence Malick’s Toronto Double Feature: ‘Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey’ and ‘Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience’