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The Fest's Best

Scoring the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival


The moment the lights came up following the world premiere of The Martian at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, I raced for an exit in order to line up for yet another film in my annual movie marathon as Boise Weekly's film writer. When the dust settled, I had seen 58 films in 10 days.

Leaving Toronto's cavernous 2,600-plus-seat Roy Thomson Hall, I could still hear the ovations. The audience accolades continued to echo through an outer lobby and, when I finally hit the cool September night air, the applause could be heard even outside.

To twist a phrase from filmmaker Ridley Scott's Alien: In space no one can hear you scream, but they just might hear the cheers for The Martian, Scott's triumphant return to the outer limits. The Motion Picture Academy may finally have found something in The Martian that has been elusive for nearly a decade: a Best Picture Oscar winner that large numbers of people might actually see.

The Danish Girl—featuring the year's two best acting performances from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander—charts an earthbound journey toward transgender acceptance. Redmayne may pull off a rare feat if he takes home the Best Actor Oscar two years in a row (Tom Hanks did that more than two decades ago).

Spotlight, reminds us even the most painful truths can still set us free:

The gorgeous Brooklyn reflects the best elements of the American dream:

And the low-budget Room is the year's richest and most visceral story of triumph over tragedy.

Each differing in composition or budget, TIFF 2015's best films shared a common proposition: coming to the rescue of the most vulnerable among us is the only path toward our own redemption.

In the coming months, I will share inspiration and insight from some of the world's best filmmakers, who I spoke with at TIFF, as their movies head to the big screen. I will say this: movies are about to get a whole lot better between now and the end of the year.

In the meantime, here are my rankings of the films I screened at TIFF 2015—five maple leaves for the best of the fest all the way down to one maple leaf for the nine films that are (sadly) not worth your time or money.

Five Maple Leafs
  • Five Maple Leafs

Brooklyn, The Danish Girl, The Martian, Room, Spotlight

Four Maple Leaves
  • Four Maple Leaves

Anomalisa, The Assassin, Eye in the Sky, Freeheld, He Named Me Malala, The Lady in the Van, Land of Mine, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Our Brand Is Crisis, Son of Saul, Trumbo, Truth, The Witch

Three Maple Leaves
  • Three Maple Leaves

45 Years, Beasts of No Nation, Bolshoi Babylon, Dheepan, The Family Fang, Jafar Panahi's Taxi, Legend, Maggie's Plan, Miss Sharon Jones, The Program, Remember, Sherpa, This Changes Everything, Where to Invade Next, Youth

Two Maple Leaves
  • Two Maple Leaves

Being Charlie, Black Mass, Demolition, The Final Girls, Forsaken, I Smile Back, The Lobster, Lolo, London Fields, The Meddler, Miss You Already, Septembers of Shiraz, Stonewall, A Tale of Love of Darkness, The Wave, Yakuza Apocalypse

One Maple Leaf
  • One Maple Leaf

Equals, Five Nights in Maine, High Rise, Hyena Road, I Saw the Light, Love, Mississippi Grind, Mr. Right, Sicario