HIGH­LIGHTS FROM TIFF

‘A STAR IS BORN’ A STAND­OUT FILM AT TORONTO FILM FES­TI­VAL

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — TORONTO — Com­piled by Vic­to­ria Ahearn, Adina Bresge, David Friend and Cas­san­dra Szk­larski

Bradley Cooper makes a strong case for his tal­ent on both sides of the cam­era

From Ryan Gosling’s cof­fee house sur­prise to Xavier Dolan’s let­ter to Leonardo DiCaprio, there was plenty to keep peo­ple talk­ing at this year’s Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

Here are our high­lights of the fest, which wraps Sun­day: SOME STAND­OUT FILMS:

“A Star is Born”: All hype aside, Bradley Cooper’s glossy di­rec­to­rial de­but makes a strong case for his tal­ent on both sides of the cam­era lens. His re­make of the leg­endary Hol­ly­wood tale, told and re­told over the years, pulses with en­ergy at ev­ery turn. But it’s Cooper as coun­try mu­si­cian Jack­son Maine and Lady Gaga play­ing as­pir­ing singer Ally who steal the show as two for­lorn souls with in­stant chem­istry. That leaves many of the film’s other thrilling per­for­mances still to be dis­cov­ered by au­di­ences when it hits the­atres next month. Sam Elliott is al­ready a se­ri­ous bet for a sup­port­ing ac­tor Os­car nod for his role as Jack­son’s brother, while Dave Chap­pelle and Andrew Dice Clay are al­most un­rec­og­niz­able in smaller parts.

“First Man”: Di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle pro­vides an in­ti­mate and thrilling look into the life of Neil Arm­strong and his moon-land­ing jour­ney with the Apollo 11 through ex­treme close-ups and a pow­er­ful score from Justin Hur­witz. Ryan Gosling em­bod­ies Arm­strong’s stoic, steely na­ture while Claire Foy deftly por­trays the fear and frus­tra­tion brew­ing be­neath the sur­face of his wife, Janet. Although we al­ready know the out­come of the 1969 lu­nar mis­sion, Chazelle’s sto­ry­telling will have you on the edge of your seat. See it in Imax for the full ex­pe­ri­ence.

“If Beale Street Could Talk”: Di­rec­tor Barry Jenk­ins fol­lows up his 2016 best-pic­ture Os­car win­ner “Moon­light” with a po­etic look at an African-Amer­i­can fam­ily fight­ing for jus­tice in 1970s New York. KiKi Layne stars as a 19year-old fight­ing to free her falsely ac­cused hus­band, played by Toronto na­tive Stephan James, from prison be­fore the birth of their child. Regina King is a stand­out as the teen girl’s mother des­per­ately try­ing to find ev­i­dence to sup­port her son-in-law’s case. The drama is an in­tox­i­cat­ing blend of style and sub­stance, with art­ful shots, a sharp script and har­row­ing archival pho­to­graphs de­pict­ing racially charged po­lice vi­o­lence from the time.

“Roma”: With an as­tound­ing de­but act­ing per­for­mance from Yal­itza Apari­cio and ex­pertly crafted black-and­white shots, Al­fonso Cuaron’s semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal drama is an ar­rest­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that will linger long af­ter you’ve left the the­atre. Apari­cio stars as a live-in maid for an up­per-mid­dle-class fam­ily in 1970s Mex­ico City, de­liv­er­ing a heart­break­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity that per­haps only a new­comer can. As the story fol­lows her char­ac­ter for a year, cap­tur­ing the in­ti­mate de­tails of her daily rou­tine and the strug­gles she faces on and off the job, one can’t help but feel deeply con­nected to her and greatly af­fected by her jour­ney. Bring tis­sues. And try to see it in the the­atre be­fore it hits Net­flix, if pos­si­ble.

“Fire­crack­ers”: Cana­dian di­rec­tor Jas­min Mozaf­fari’s de­but feature is a mar­vel of cine­matic images that cap­tures the ig­no­rance of youth and the trou­bling cir­cum­stances that some­times keep young women away from their dreams. Set in a run-down On­tario town, the story fol­lows best friends Lou and Chan­tal as they plan to make their es­cape into an adult­hood of free­dom in the big city. Un­for­tu­nately, those plans are quickly cut short, open­ing the film to a sharp ex­am­i­na­tion of how gen­der roles in­flu­ence ex­pec­ta­tions, and the way money re­stricts dreams. It’s a star­tling and po­tent por­trayal of how the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily liv­ing their

best life. MOST PO­LAR­IZ­ING FILMS:

“Amer­i­can Dharma”: Lauded doc­u­men­tar­ian Er­rol Mor­ris has waged tete-a-tetes with con­se­quen­tial fig­ures in­clud­ing two for­mer U.S. de­fence sec­re­taries, but the di­rec­tor was the one who found him­self on the de­fen­sive with his lat­est project on Steve Bannon. Some ques­tioned whether Mor­ris should’ve pro­vided the for­mer strate­gist to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with a cine­matic plat­form to share his con­tro­ver­sial views. Crit­ics were split on whether Mor­ris gave Bannon too long a leash dur­ing their one-on-one dis­cus­sions — or just enough rope to hang him­self. “Vox Lux”: Di­rec­tor Brady Corbet’s story of a pop star with a trou­bled past left au­di­ences un­set­tled, but also left some crit­ics won­der­ing if Natalie Port­man de­liv­ered the kind of per­for­mance that could earn the film ac­co­lades and ma­jor cult sta­tus.

SOME STAND­OUT PER­FOR­MANCES:

Yal­itza Apari­cio: While she had never acted be­fore tak­ing on the star­ring role of a Mex­i­can maid in “Roma,” Apari­cio de­liv­ers a mind­blow­ing sense of truth­ful­ness and sen­si­tiv­ity that should eas­ily se­cure her an Os­car nom­i­na­tion. Her per­for­mance is even more re­mark­able when you see the emo­tion­ally charged scenes she

had to lead, not to men­tion the pres­sure she faced in hav­ing to por­tray a char­ac­ter who is based on di­rec­tor Al­fonso Cuaron’s real-life child­hood nanny.

Stephan James: Re­mem­ber his name, be­cause this Toronto na­tive is storm­ing Hol­ly­wood. James blew away crit­ics with his per­for­mances in two high-pro­file projects at TIFF this year — the Barry Jenk­ins film “If Beale Street Could Talk” and the Ama­zon se­ries “Home­com­ing” with Ju­lia Roberts. Both are vastly dif­fer­ent sto­ries that prove James, who was named a TIFF Ris­ing Star in 2015, has depth and a lead­ing-man pres­ence.

Anthony Ramos: Af­ter play­ing dual roles in “Hamil­ton” on Broad­way — star­ring as both John Lau­rens and Philip Hamil­ton — the 26-year-old ac­tor showed his ver­sa­til­ity on the big screen at TIFF with two starkly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Ramos por­trayed a re­spon­si­ble fam­ily man thrust into a lifechang­ing sce­nario when he records a black man’s death at the hands of po­lice in “Mon­sters and Men.” His turn as Lady Gaga’s campy gay best friend in “A Star is Born” show­cased a much lighter side and his un­canny abil­ity to shine even in the shadow of the pop singer’s su­per­star­dom. SOME MEM­O­RABLE MO­MENTS: BITS AND FIGHTS: Fes­ti­val opener “Out­law King” could’ve at­tracted buzz

for its ul­tra-vi­o­lent his­tor­i­cal ac­tion se­quences, but it was two full-frontal nude scenes by Chris Pine that stole the show. The ac­tor’s crown jew­els dom­i­nated head­lines about the star who dur­ing the fes­ti­val press con­fer­ence pro­claimed, “I don’t want this film to be all about that mo­ment.” Whether or not the tale of Scot­land’s leg­endary Robert the Bruce will be re­mem­bered best its brief nu­dity, it’s safe to say more than a few view­ers will stream the movie on Net­flix upon its re­lease in Novem­ber to see what the fuss is about. COF­FEE RUN: Ryan Gosling caused a stir when he dropped by a small cafe that was a good 20-minute drive from the fes­ti­val strip where most celeb­sight­ings take place. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a week­long so­cial me­dia cam­paign by Joelle Mur­ray, owner of Grinder Cof­fee, to get the “First Man” star to swing by. She says he was as charm­ing as ex­pected, tak­ing time to greet each cus­tomer and shake their hands.

JOY­FUL JU­LIA: Ju­lia Roberts gave one fan an ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time dur­ing a Q-and-A for the Ama­zon se­ries “Home­com­ing.” When she learned he’d flown in from In­done­sia to see her, the star went into the au­di­ence, gave him a hug and brought him on­stage for a photo-op. “I’m in love with you!” she de­clared into the mi­cro­phone for ev­ery­one to hear.

WEIGHTY ROLES: Joel Edger­ton nib­bled on a bowl of fresh ber­ries and a plate of sliced ba­nanas af­ter skip­ping break­fast to swim laps in the ho­tel pool. The ac­tor, who worked dou­ble duty as di­rec­tor on the gay-con­ver­sion ther­apy drama “Boy Erased,” was still try­ing to shed the pounds from his re­cent turn as Fal­staff in Net­flix’s up­com­ing “The King,” star­ring Ti­mothee Cha­la­met. “He’s so slight he made me look big­ger any­way,” Edger­ton con­fided. “I was cul­ti­vat­ing this big beard and grow­ing my belly out. It was kind of fun to sit on the couch and let my­self go.” “HI LEONARDO”: Thus be­gins the let­ter that Mon­treal film­maker Xavier Dolan wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio as a child, which he read aloud at the pre­miere of his first English-lan­guage film, “The Life and Death of John F. Dono­van.” Eight-year-old Dolan tells DiCaprio that he’s also an ac­tor, and he hopes they can work to­gether if the “Ti­tanic” star shoots a film in Mon­treal. Now the di­rec­tor of a film cen­tring on the cor­re­spon­dence be­tween a young fan and an ac­tor, the grownup Dolan told the crowd that DiCaprio’s work re­vealed a world of film “be­yond what we imag­ine as chil­dren.”

Cana­dian Press photo

Di­rec­tor and ac­tor Bradley Cooper at­tends a press con­fer­ence to pro­mote the movie "A Star is Born" dur­ing the 2018 Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Toronto.

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