If I've learned anything from spending a good chunk of my life in the dark, it's that you have to stay in your seat until they roll that final reel (not bad advice for life, let alone movie-going). From Citizen Kane to Get Out, the best of the best have taught me, time and again, to expect the unexpected. And true to form, the 2018 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival had its own surprise twist just before the credits rolled. After some prestigious film critics had already published their "Best of..." lists, it was Toronto's general public (nearly 600,000 attendees cued up for this year's screenings) that wouldn't allow a coronation of the much-hyped A Star is Born or First Man. Instead, the paying public played the role of disruptor in awarding the highly coveted People's Choice Award to Green Book, an out-of-nowhere surprise hit in Toronto (see my initial review following its premiere by clicking here). To be clear, next to no one had pegged the emotionally charged and crowd-pleasing Green Book to be part of the Oscar conversation. The bottom line: TIFF just made the looming award season a hell of a lot more interesting.
Pound-for-pound, the 2018 TIFF slate was its strongest in years. Sunrise to midnight, for 10 straight days, film after film (after film, after film...) continually raised the critical bar.
So, in my own tip of the touque to the overly generous people of Toronto, I'll borrow their beloved maple leaves for a rating system. The upper class, earning five out of five maple leaves were, in alphabetical order: A Star is Born, First Man, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, ROMA and Widows. And of the 40-plus films that I saw at this year's festival, seven more were good enough to receive four out of five leaves. Honestly, in any other year, films earning four leaves this year would easily have earned five. The quality was that good. Now, we'll undoubtedly have to sit tight for many of these films to hit North American screens in the coming few months, but I promise you that the best of the fest is well worth the wait.
A Private War, Beautiful Boy, Boy Erased, The Elephant Queen, Free Solo, The Front Runner, The Hate U Give, The Kindergarten Teacher, Kursk, The Man Who Feels No Pain, The Public, Shoplifter, Red Joan, The Sisters Brothers, What They Had, Wild Rose
Ben is Back, Driven, Everybody Knows, Greta, High Life, Hotel Mumbai, The Lie, Mid90s, The Predator
Destroyer, Fahrenheit 9/11, Halloween, Her Smell, Life Itself, A Million Little Pieces, Viper Club