Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

TIFF 19 Wrap-Up: From jokers to popes and birds to hustlers, here are the Best Films and Performances of the Toronto International Film Festival

The 2019 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up yesterday after what was a stellar edition, full of fantastic films from all over the world and astonishing performances by actresses and actors at the top of their game.

Throughout the festival’s 11 days, we reviewed 27 films from 15 countries and truly loved 14 films that stood out as among the year’s most brilliant, daring and unique. Ranking them proved to be quite a daunting task because each of them had undeniable moments of brilliance and a wonderful filmmaking voice that inched them as close as possible to perfection. Each of these films stayed with us long after the lights went on. Lingering in our minds and hearts thanks to their original voice and utterly striking narrative, they all deserved a spot on our list and we urge you to check them out.

On a more personal level, and before we got to our best of the fest lists, I’d like to acknowledge how grateful I am to have been able to watch so many films from all corners of the world at such a wonderful festival that highly values inclusion, diversity and representation To be able to catch daring, stunning work from countries such as Sudan, Guatemala and Poland and discover stories rarely seen in mainstream cineplexes is a cinephile’s dream. Thanks to everyone who joined us during this special 11-day journey and I hope we at AwardsWatch have been able to raise awareness on some of the year’s best independent and foreign films that deserve to be seen, appreciated and celebrated on the widest scale possible.

OUR FAVORITE 14 FILMS AT TIFF:

#14 – From Poland – THE OTHER LAMB

This visually stunning, atmospheric film is a brilliantly crafted and superbly acted tale of female awakening, and not just empowerment. Małgorzata Szumowska’s first venture into English-language films is quite the success. Our review | Grade: A-

#13 – From the Netherlands – INSTINCT

This sexy, arresting and completely magnetic film by Halina Reijn features two of the year’s best performances and a truly daring take for the #Metoo era. Questioning the blurring lines between victim and abuser, it is one of the smartest films at TIFF. Our review | Grade: A-

#12 – From the United States – JUST MERCY

Destin Daniel Cretton’s underrated but superb American film is understated but quietly arresting. Based on a true story, this is a film without grandstanding theatrics and yet packs quite an emotional punch. Our review | Grade: A-

#11 – From Japan – WEATHERING WITH YOU

Makoto Shinkai’s film is an animated gem that doesn’t follow the Disney-esque safe messaging and never panders to young audiences. The film has a message that stays away from clichés and political correctness and will stir healthy conversations. It’s also visually stunning. Our review | Grade: A-

#10 – From Canada – WHITE LIE

Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis’ character study is chilling and arresting. A strong commentary on fake heroes in the social media influencer age. Impeccable work. Our review | Grade: A-

#9 – From the Czech Republic – THE PAINTED BIRD

One of the year’s most controversial films, which prompted walkouts at Venice and TIFF, Václav Marhoul’s film is a near-masterpiece on a boy’s loss of innocence. An astonishingly humane film about inhumanity. Unforgettable in every way. Our review | Grade: A-

#8 – From Sudan – YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY

Amjad Abu Alala’s debut feature is, shockingly, only the 8th feature film ever produced in Sudan. A groundbreaking film of utter beauty and poetic aesthetics, this is a remarkable story about faith, fate and quiet rebellion. Our review | Grade: A-

#7 – From the United States – HUSTLERS

Lorene Scafaria’s latest is one of the year’s most surprising films. Not just entertaining and commercially appealing, this is confident filmmaking with strong social commentary and killer performances. Just because it’s accessible doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as fluff. Quite the opposite. Our review | Grade: A-

#6 – From the United States – MARRIAGE STORY

Noah Baumbach’s best films is a heartbreaking tale of the love that binds, the differences that deconstruct relationships and the pain that always follows. Affecting, memorable and devastating thanks to one of the year’s best screenplays and powerhouse performances. Our review | Grade: A

#5 – From the United States – THE TWO POPES

In other hands, this could have been a dull film that no one cares about. But director Fernando Meirelles turns it into a true masterpiece with one of the year’s best screenplays and two actors who glue you to the screen. Who thought a film about two popes in the Vatican can be that engrossing and hilarious? Our review | Grade: A

#4 – From the United States – A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Marielle Heller continues to prove her immense talent with one of the most touching films at TIFF. It takes what could have been a standard Mr. Rogers biopic and turns it into something truly fresh and universal. Our review | Grade: A

#3 – From Poland – CORPUS CHRISTI

The best European film at TIFF this year, Poland’s 2020 Oscar submission is a stunning masterpiece and a piercing look at religion, faith and society’s (in)ability to forgive and forget. Tremendous film by Jan Komasa. Our review | Grade: A

#2 – From the United States – JOKER

Todd Phillips’ latest is the best comic book film of the past 10 years and one of the best, and most daring and unconventional, comic book films ever made. Instead of CGI overload and special effects, it places you in the mind of a deranged, unhinged iconic villain. A high-wire act. Our review | Grade: A

#1 – From South Korea – PARASITE

Without doubt the best film of the year, Bong Joon-ho’s latest breaks your heart and stuns your mind. A genre-bending masterpiece that leaves you literally breathless. A landmark achievement deserving of every award – and a Best Picture Oscar win if there’s any justice. (We’ve seen it and reviewed it at Cannes and watched again at TIFF so it still takes first place as it is a towering work and truly the best film at TIFF). Our review | Grade: A

Honorable Mentions | JOJO RABBIT (US), THE CAVE (Syria), KNIVES OUT (US), LA LLORONA (Guatemala) and WAVES (US).

OUR FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES AT TIFF:

  1. Joaquin Phoenix – JOKER
  2. Adam Driver – MARRIAGE STORY
  3. Bartosz Bielenia – CORPUS CHRISTI
  4. Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce – THE TWO POPES
  5. Tom Hanks – A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
  6. Marwan Kenzari – INSTINCT
  7. Song Kang-ho – PARASITE
  8. Jamie Foxx – JUST MERCY

OUR FAVORITE FEMALE FILMS AT TIFF:

  1. Carice van Houten – INSTINCT
  2. Kacey Rohl – WHITE LIE
  3. Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
  4. Scarlett Johansson – MARRIAGE STORY
  5. Park So-dam, Cho Yeo-jeong and Lee Jung-eun – PARASITE
  6. Islam Mubarak – YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY
  7. Raffey Cassidy – THE OTHER LAMB
  8. Thomasin McKenzie – JOJO RABBIT

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