The TIFF Diaries Entry #3: Hiking Back and Forth Around Toronto, Red Carpet Talks

Saturday has been yet another busy day, if also quite slow – and to some extent boring. However, I think it also happens to be the best day for me in terms of the films that I had caught at the festival all day because I had the pleasure of seeing Beautiful Boy once and for all after having failed to get into its premiere screening due to commitments to see Gloria Bell at its premiere. And in the time that I had spent in the festival since then, waking up near six in the morning and lining up for nearly an hour, I have not been able to get the film out of my head. It all had to start with being able to attend the press line at the red carpet the previous day, but now that I finally got the chance to see it for myself after promising some friends (and failing) to get a picture of Timothée Chalamet at the premiere. But I will be honest, if he was only sticking in the fan zone, I can’t say I do blame him.

When I finally had my chance to see Beautiful Boy, it was also the hardest that I’ve cried at a newer release in quite some time. Which I think is something that says a lot, given as I never was completely sold in on the other Felix Van Groeningen that I had seen prior to this, for I would never have imagined something so tender could have come out from a drama about the way one’s drug addiction has strained the relationships one has with the people that they love. It surprised me that the reaction to this had been more mixed than what I would have suspected given the high profile Timothée Chalamet would have landed himself in after Call Me by Your Name and the dramatic route that Steve Carell was setting to take lately – even some friends of mine were calling it sappy just from the trailer, and yet here I am, not one to often cry during films, yet I ended up a mess after Beautiful Boy.

So to speak more about supposed Oscar favourite films that have the word “boy” in the title, I also ended up catching Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased at a press screening too – and if I were to be perfectly honest, I was a bit shocked to find that I had so little to really say about it, even if I really liked the film. At least I know Lucas Hedges was going to be making my time well spent. The whole day since was spent either at the press lounge or in Scotiabank theater, and I ended up running into many familiar faces from Film Twitter once again – one of whom I saw at the screening for Teen Spirit that I attended that night. It was none other than Flavorwire’s own Jason Bailey (a really nice fellow, if you’re to ask me anything). We both had fun with the film, and Jason parted his ways to head over to the Widows premiere, whose red carpet I wanted to cover but couldn’t that night.

At least the next morning I was able to finally catch Widows for myself, where it would immediately end up becoming my favourite film from the festival. Perhaps that response may not have been totally unexpected, but being a fan of Steve McQueen’s previous three films, I already knew that this was something I was destined to love if I already knew he was writing this together with Gillian Flynn. It was the sort of movie that I already knew I needed, but I was rather surprised to see that the press lineup was nearly as insane as it had turned out to be – although that hasn’t been the only case for me where it ended up making me skeptical of my planning. As a matter of fact, I also had a press screening of Wild Rose planed for that very day, only to have found out that the theater was completely booked and the movie had already started, to which I said, “What’s the point?”

Nevertheless, being able to attend the press conference for Widows right after its screening and sitting in the front row was wonderful to experience – but it ended up making a red carpet interview feel all the more meaningful to me. It was fun being able to see all the stars and the director and screenwriter Gillian Flynn and composer Hans Zimmer live onstage talking about how Widows had come to be the film we already saw it to be. But perhaps it was just my excitement about the film coming forward, and it ended up paying off rather magnificently knowing that I already had set off my own expectations for the film. Unfortunately, I never had my question answered for as high up as I was raising my hand during the Q&A segment, and yet a person who sat right next to me ended up getting answered – but I did want to ask McQueen about what was the most difficult thing to conceptualize as he was directing Widows. At least I ended up getting a picture with Daniel Kaluuya right after.

On that same day, I went to the red carpet for If Beale Street Could Talk, and ended up getting lucky enough to chat with none other than Barry Jenkins. If anything could better highlight how that day had gone by for me, I think it’s already best summed up by the fact that a moment like this also brought me closer to what I know I wanted to do most with my life. Being the aspiring filmmaker I am, having a close-up opportunity to chat with a filmmaker about their experience bringing the stories that they tell to the big screen. And not only was Barry Jenkins incredibly insightful about the experience as an eventual screening of the film would have proven itself to be, but he was also one of the friendliest people that I’ve had the pleasure of talking with on the red carpet.

To end off the night, I was able to catch another red carpet – this time for Jonah Hill’s Mid90s. It was also set to be the only screening that I would be viewing at Ryerson theater for the festival, and it was a late night showing, too. Having the chance to talk with Sunny Suljic was nice and all, but the film right after that? Quite a hell of a time if you’re going to ask me, but it blew me away that Jonah Hill could create something like this as a debut film for the matter. Then again it doesn’t surprise me knowing that A24 would want to be releasing many of these coming of age films lately to such great critical acclaim – and all I can definitely say is that it certainly warrants such high praise. I tried to get a picture with Jonah Hill right after, but he was too busy – although I did get to talk with Sunny again right after the screening.

The next morning, I headed out fairly early for the screening of If Beale Street Could Talk, and I ended up really loving it – though I had to take quite a ways to get back from Mississauga because there were no GO buses available for me in the rain apparently. Which I thought was rather weird, but at least I found a way to get to Toronto with ease and I managed to catch the press screening for Mia Hansen-Løve’s Maya right after – hoping to at least get a better idea of what I were to talk about with her if I was set to interview her. Unfortunately it didn’t happen because she wasn’t available anymore, but at least the film was still worth every minute of my time. And I ended up meeting with a friend of mine from Film Twitter, Aaron Locke, who already mentioned it would be his last day at the festival when I met him in the lineup.

And right after, I had to dart over to another red carpet – over at the Elgin theater, which wasn’t exactly the most fun especially considering how bad the weather was. I would have covered Roma over at Princess of Wales like I would have wanted to, but I figured that covering The Death and Life of John F. Donovan would have found itself to be of greater convenience for me because the next screening I planned then was at the same area. It was interesting to get a chance to experience one of these for a Xavier Dolan film, especially because Toronto is the last place where I’d have expected him of all filmmakers to premiere one of his films. If anything’s there to be said though, Sarah Gadon on the red carpet? She was incredibly nice. And for someone who’s not a big Dolan fan, I gotta admit, with all the negative buzz that this one has been getting, I actually quite liked this.

The red carpet that followed immediately after was one for The Old Man & the Gun which was already set to become Robert Redford’s final film before he retires. Being as old as he is, I certainly can’t blame him for simply walking right past most of us and only doing press interviews for just half the people that came by, but at least I got some notice on his end – though I didn’t quite expect to see Casey Affleck showing up here. We did as much as shake hands but didn’t talk, though I didn’t really have plans to talk with him. However, it was nice to know over there that David Lowery and Danny Glover were kind enough to chat with most of us, and I got to shake hands with Sissy Spacek over there.

The following day’s red carpets ended up proving themselves to be all that I needed in order to make the day even more worthwhile – at least after finishing up a High Life screening in the morning. And simply hiking all the way around from the Lightbox to Elgin and back – at least I knew it would prove itself to be far more beneficial for me compared to going on board the TTC which I find to be incredibly tedious. The first of these red carpets that I’ve covered was one for Colette – hoping to talk with Keira Knightley even though she ended up not being able to do press most of the time, but talking with Wash Westmoreland and Jake Graf already solidified it for me as being worth the time. Westmoreland even taking note of my nervousness mentioned it’s normal, so that felt reaffirming. I didn’t see the film, because I wouldn’t have much time to do so after, but it was still worthwhile for the moment.

And a last red carpet took me all the way back to the Elgin in order to see Vita & Virginia. I arrived late, but at least not too late to the point I wouldn’t be talking with the talent that were set to come. I did get good pictures of them and all, but I don’t think the experience can get any better for me than seeing Elizabeth Debicki once again after Sunday’s press conference – to which she didn’t only say she remembered seeing me there, but after our rather brief interview ended, she said I was wonderful and it was nice to see me again. As for the film, it was alright – but the conversation with Debicki prior to that made everything so much better.

Finally, I’d been able to catch up on writing these diary entries because of how little time I had to type everything because of all the walking around Toronto, but I guess that’s a new experience that I’m thankful the Toronto International Film Festival has been able to provide for me right from there. At that point though, most red carpets weren’t for the more high profile screenings compared to what opened on the first day, but simply having the chance to be around already was life-changing enough for me. In the next entry, I’ll probably conclude these diary entries for the year, but I do want to say a whole lot more in order to cover the films that I was able to catch.

Capsules

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Beautiful Boy – Probably might make a case for the most affecting experience of the festival for me, because I don’t think I’ve found myself crying more in a movie theater over a new release more than I have for this. Sure, Beautiful Boy may not be a perfect film, but for the moment, it felt exactly like something I had needed. It also helps that Felix Van Groeningen’s approach to such subject matter also made it feel more resonant – because this struggle between a father and son’s relationship feels more genuine with excellent performances from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. You can read my full review here.

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Boy Erased – It’s good, but a bit too routine. Joel Edgerton isn’t a bad filmmaker by any means, but if anything else best describes what Boy Erased really feels like, it never seems to go beyond a rather safe approach to harrowing subject matter and if it weren’t for Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman, I don’t think this film could have carried itself so much more easily. You can read my full review here.

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Teen Spirit – This was fun, even if Elle Fanning’s Polish accent is distracting. It’s so clearly a first time effort, but Max Minghella is still doing the best with what he can in order to catch a teenage audience with such ease, and given as the film starts off with a Grimes song, you can already tell that there’s something he manages to get right. You can read my full review here.

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Widows – The best film of the festival by far. Steve McQueen’s first genre film stretches the conventions and retains his grimy filmmaking style in order to create one of the decade’s most socially relevant films, but I don’t even know where to begin when I want to sing my praises. I just want to talk about this with more people so quickly and I can let out more spoiler-y raves with people who’ve also seen it. You can read my full review here.

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Mid90s – Everything about this is really good, but I’ll be damned if Jonah Hill’s direction didn’t blow me away here. It feels exactly like a time capsule born right out of memories from the 90’s, and that was all I could ask for out of such a film. You can read my full review here.

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If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel doesn’t only feel like a perfect way for the filmmaker to follow up Moonlight, but something that works for being every bit as sensitive as it is still comes by once again. But I know already I just need to see it again when it opens wide. You can read my full review here.

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Maya – Mia Hansen-Løve is one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today, and Maya continues what’s already an impressive streak for her with a partially French, partially English language effort. It’s a film that best captures the effects of trauma upon relationships with other people, especially in the romance that blossoms between its lead and the title character.

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The Old Man & the Gun – If this were set to truly be Robert Redford’s final film, then it’s only most fitting to say he’s leaving us on a good note. It’s probably David Lowery’s most fun film though, but in seeing how it perfectly captures everything that we’ve been made to love about Redford over the years, it’s the perfect reminder if anything else could be said on the spot. You can read my full review here.

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The Death and Life of John F. Donovan – Speaking as someone who has never always been the biggest fan of Xavier Dolan, I ended up really enjoying this one a good bit. Perhaps it’s a tad self-indulgent as I’ve come to expect from him, but there’s also a good amount of heart that comes right out of there that ended up having this win me over. I’m quite shocked I enjoyed this as much as I did despite the occasional cringeworthy directorial choice. You can read my full review here.

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Vita & Virginia – This is a fine enough effort, but if anything in particular keeps it from becoming boring in any way, the central performances from Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton still allow for it to carry the life that a film about Virginia Woolf should carry. It does look beautiful, as one would expect, but the score also happens to be the most distracting that I’ve heard from anything that I saw at TIFF by far.

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