2019 Toronto Film Festival Highlights

The 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has just ended. After attending a slew of red-carpet premieres, screenings, press conferences and celebrity-packed after parties, I can say we have many exciting movies to look forward to. Each year, TIFF screens hundreds of films from around the globe and attracts some of the biggest names in the industry. Among film enthusiasts, this festival is viewed as the unofficial kickoff to the awards season. Many of the attendees now have a glimpse of this year’s front runners for two of the most prestigious awards this coming season: the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
 
Director Tod Phillips’s Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, was one of this year’s most talked-about films. Just before premiering at TIFF, Joker won the Golden Lion award, the highest prize given at the Venice Film Festival. Phoenix’s stellar performance as the unhinged Arthur Fleck could get him into this year’s leading actor race. Renee Zellweger may be another award contender for her outstanding performance in Judy, as the legendary Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz. Zellweger’s incredibly skilful portrayal earned her a standing ovation after the premiere. Following continuous applause, Renee brushed away tears and jokingly exclaimed, “OK quit it - you’re messing up my make-up!” 
 
So many outstanding movies made their mark with their TIFF premieres; However, there were a few that truly captured my attention. James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari, starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, is an enthralling film. The story follows the epic battle between two giant automakers vying to win the famous Le Mans car race in 1966. Another great film is Knives Out, a whodunit, starring Chris Evans, Daniel Craig and Jamie Lee Curtis. It reminded me of an old-fashioned Agatha Christie murder mystery with a modern flare. Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo, is a thrilling biopic that follows the true story and struggle of the American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, and her fight for freedom in 1849. 
 
Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlersalsogenerated a lot of hype at TIFF. With Jennifer Lopez starring in it, how could it not! This extremely entertaining film tells the true story of a group of New York City strippers who conned their wealthy Wall Street clients out of thousands of dollars. A film that amazed me was Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler, who was brilliant in this thoroughly entertaining drama. A movie that surprisingly flew under the radar was I Am Woman, starring Tilda Cobham-Herveyas the famous Australian singer, Helen Reddy. This wonderful film tells the story of the music icon’s rise to stardom, and her personal struggles that came with fame. 
 
There are several other movies that came out ahead: The Two Popes starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce; Marriage Story with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks; The Report with Adam Driver and Annett Benning; Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordon and Jojo Rabbit with Scarlett Johansson. 
 
It was great to see Dev Patel and Priyanka Chopra Jonas at TIFF. Dev was there for the world premiere of his upcoming film, The Personal History of David Copperfield, an adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ most famous novels. While Priyanka, looking gorgeous as always, was there for the world premiere of The Sky is Pink: a tragically beautiful Bollywood film directed by Shonali Bose. 
 
With over 300 films from over 84 countries screened at this year’s TIFF, seeing all of them was impossible. However, it was wonderful to have been able to see many of them and give you a sneak preview of these upcoming films.

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Sabrina Joshi
Hollywood Correspondent