Here are the best movies from the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival : NPR
Harry Styles with a handbag. Taylor Swift in gold. Steven Spielberg’s love song to his late parents. After two years in obscurity, with movie theaters shuttered and studios in an existential struggle, the Toronto International Film Festival returned this week with a largely unmasked successful edition.
Structured as a sprawling public festival with side industry meetings and a buzz driven by critics, Toronto has become the main indicator of the annual awards season, where business and art converge. This year, however, unlike the smaller, idiosyncratic, independent cinema that paved the way for Covid, it was Hollywood studios and celebrity entourages that brought the march back to sold-out cinemas.
Glass onion: a mystery at loggerheads, The female kingand the first gay theatrical romantic comedy from a major studio Brothers made their international debut in Toronto, with full casts in attendance and enthusiastic audience reactions. Jordan Peele presented a special IMAX screening of Nope alongside cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema to help Universal launch an Oscar campaign for its summertime extravaganza.
The Earth director Damien Chazelle took a break from the editing suite to debut the fever dream trailer for his 1920s Hollywood epic, Babylon. But nothing really changed the energy and excitement of this year’s edition than Steven Spielberg’s Toronto debut with The Fabelmans: a melancholic and deeply personal film about his parents’ divorce and his career as a filmmaker as an irreplaceable avenue of catharsis.
Spielberg was not alone in paying homage to a medium facing a fragile and uncertain future. Hollywood and the cinemas themselves play a prominent role in many of this year’s awards season films, in what at times felt like a collective industry campaign to insist on cinemas as sacred spaces on the way to disappearance.
After his Bond films, Sam Mendes returned to his theatrical roots with Empire of Light, a portrait of a movie theater manager in 1980s England played by Olivia Colman. The director brought together cinematographer Roger Deakins and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to create a distinctly big-screen portrait of mental health, friendship and the power of cinema to inspire and heal.
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
Current viewing trends may prove otherwise, but the on-screen studio images were important, ambitious, and well-received examples of Hollywood polish.
Despite the festival’s insistence on the triumphant return of red carpets and big-screen projection, some fundamental shifts in the making and distribution of the film are impossible to ignore. Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime streamers threw some of the biggest parties this year, as they came to Toronto with a splashy slate of documentaries and feature films – from Harry Styles as an English police officer locked in Amazon’s my policeman to an extraordinary new documentary on Sidney Poitier entitled sydney produced by Oprah Winfrey for Apple.
But the biggest hit was definitely Netflix’s new Knives out film, Glass Onion which features the return of Daniel Craig as Inspector Benoit Blanc and a cast of would-be murderers, including Kate Hudson, Ed Norton, and Janelle Monáe. It’s still unclear whether the film will enjoy a long theatrical run ahead of its premiere on Netflix, but it’s bound to be one of the streamer’s biggest international hits when it debuts on December 23rd.
For moviegoers targeted by fall’s most serious entertainment, some of this year’s wintry dramas returned to classic awards season themes – war, political exile, suppressed desires and unresolved memories. Added to the menu of this post-Covid edition are several portraits of mental health, including Pavement with Jennifer Lawrence as an Afghan war veteran with unseen wounds – and Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman as the parents of a depressed teenage son in The son by French filmmaker Florian Zeller.
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras arrived in Toronto fresh from winning this year’s top prize at the Venice Film Festival for her film All beauty and bloodshed. It follows famed photographer Nan Goldin’s campaign against the Sackler family’s institutional relationship with art museums, and is also an intimate portrait of opioid addiction and corporate malfeasance. It’s provocative and powerful, and is bound to be in contention for top lists of the year.
That said, unlike all my previous festivals, this year there seemed to be less emphasis on awards season predictions and argumentative predictions. This was evident in the concurrent coverage of the Emmys on Monday night as several critics took a break from film screenings to write scathing critiques of the Emmys’ telecast and cultural relevance.
Courtesy of TIFF
As for the Oscars – stories of racial exclusion, plummeting ratings – not to mention this year’s “slap in the face” – have hurt the Oscars as a unifying brand and peak of the film festival season. In conversations and coverage, there was less emphasis on likely favorites and the inevitable best pictures. Instead, there was great excitement for a broad, high-quality season of new films from all genres and cultures. Queer desire in Pakistan’s first international film joyland debuted alongside the scathing social satire and Palme d’Or winner triangle of sadness by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund.
Above all, there was a cautious hope that widescreen storytelling on a human scale could survive the onslaught of TV dragons and endless superhero sequels. If Toronto’s annual light empires were any indication, this fall there will be a feast of possibilities.