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TIFF 2012: Final Thoughts, including “Silver Linings Playbook” for People’s Choice

September 17, 2012

By John C.

It’s hard to believe that the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival has already come to a close.  The festival started back on September 6th with Rian Johnson’s much anticipated science fiction epic Looper, which now feels like only a distant memory to kick off the eleven days of events.

I saw a lot of films over the last little while and had the opportunity to publish four sets of five capsule reviews throughout the festival, sharing my thoughts on a few great movies, a lot of pretty good ones as well as a couple of disappointments.  It’s a little hard to encapsulate all of these experiences into one article, but no festival would be complete without final thoughts, so here we go.

The festival officially ended yesterday morning when the annual list of winners was announced.  The great Silver Linings Playbook deservingly won the Blackberry People’s Choice Award, with Ben Affleck’s tense and incredibly entertaining political thriller Argo prevailing as the runner up.  A personal favourite of the festival, I’ve seen Silver Linings Playbook twice now and both times found myself completely invested in the story.  The fact that the many audiences chose it as their favourite cements the film as one to watch throughout awards season, and I’ll be shocked if Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t emerge as the frontrunner for Best Actress.  Bradley Cooper deserves at least a nomination and the film has a good shot at being a major player in the race for Best Picture.  Entertaining and moving in equal measure, Silver Linings Playbook was one of the best movies at the festival and is among the best of the year.

Another personal favourite from TIFF was The Sessions, an often funny and ultimately profoundly moving look at spirituality, sexuality and the need for those with disabilities to feel wanted.  Anchored by brilliant performances from John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, the standing ovation that the film received after the Sunday afternoon premiere was one of the biggest and most emotional that I have ever experienced at the festival.  In terms of pure fun, another favourite experience was seeing Hotel Transylvania with a great crowd at the beautiful Princess of Wales theatre, entering the building just a few feet away from where Adam Sandler was posing on the red carpet.  The entire audience of both kids and adults all shared their enthusiasm through thunderous applause.

Many critics also left the festival raving about Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70mm epic The Master, but the three screenings that the film had all sold out before I could get a ticket.  Even amongst critics, I seemed to be in the minority on enjoying Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, but thoroughly stick by my rave review of the beautifully filmed and emotionally engaging film.  But on the flipside, my two biggest disappointments of the festival were almost unanimously met with positive reviews.  The first was the found footage cop thriller End of Watch which had solid performances but was relatively plotless.  The second was The Impossible, a by the numbers recreation of a real life tragedy that felt emotionally calculated and often played like a melodramatic made for TV movie.

But my biggest disappointment at the festival turned out to be a personal one, when I missed the premiere of The Perks of Being a Wallflower after standing in the rain for a couple of hours.  The book means a lot to me and I literally can’t wait to see how it translates to the big screen, but the crowd outside of the Ryerson Theatre was just so poorly handled that many people didn’t get in.  Although I was pleasantly surprised to get a ticket to see the bold and ambitious Cloud Atlas on the final weekend of the festival, another hugely popular film that had a lot of audiences talking.  Performances were another big highlight of the festival, from Tatiana Maslany’s excellent breakout role in the very good little Canadian film Picture Day, to Marion Cotillard’s brilliant work as a disabled woman in the French drama Rust and Bone.  We also got a haunting look at the tortured soul behind a Hollywood icon, with the brilliantly edited and emotionally powerful documentary Love, Marilyn.

Many days towards the end of the festival led to exhaustion after waiting patiently in line outside the theatres, with my Blackberry and notebook constantly on hand.  But the best experiences came from the screenings that I was able to attend with friends and I am thankful for the many great conversations that I had with fellow film lovers who were also standing in line.  The feeling of seeing some of these excellent films for the first time won’t soon be forgotten and the enthusiastic audience reactions made them all the more worth it.  There were some inevitable disappointments, but there were also a lot of memorable experiences, and I already look forward to what next year’s Toronto International Film Festival will have in store.

To conclude, here are links to my four sets of five capsule reviews, including thoughts on a whopping twenty films.  My first set of capsule reviews came on September 6th, including Rust and Bone, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, Picture Day, End of Watch and My Awkward Sexual Adventure.  Then on September 9th, I shared my thoughts on Hotel TransylvaniaFinding Nemo 3D, Silver Linings PlaybookThe Sessions and Greeting From Tim Buckley.  The next set came on September 12th, with capsule reviews of Thanks for Sharing, The Impossible, A Late Quartet, To the Wonder and Still.  I closed out the festival on September 15th, with my thoughts on Argo, Much Ado About Nothing, Cloud Atlas, Mr. Pip and Love, Marilyn.

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