Hometown critics definitely take a shine to 'Moonlight' at TIFF

TORONTO - When it comes it to huge international film festivals such as the 41st annual one starting its 10-day run tonight, movie journalists here certainly get a home-field advantage.

I mean, these lucky folks start watching festival-selected films for almost a month before the madness always begin on the first Thursday after Labor Day, and this year is no different.

That's why we once again talked business at last night's Toronto Film Critics Association Festival Pre-Party -- well, for a while anyway, instead of imbibing in cocktails and Mexican food at Milagro's.

Some locals even agreed to go on record when asked to name a favorite film they've seen BEFORE the festival even begins, And, you know what?

Our informal poll of about a dozen or so journos came up with a surprise winner. (Drum roll, please:)

"Moonlight," which the festival guide says "follows its young protagonist from childhood to adulthood as he navigates both the dangers of drugs and violence in his depressed Florida neighborhood, and his complex love for his best friend."

The film, directed by Barry Jenkins ("Medicine for Melancholy"), was mentioned by at least six members of a very knowledgeable press corps as one to see, including longtime TV reporter Bonnie Laufer Krebs. She called it "A revelation that's fresh and fabulous, with amazing performances across the board and a great message."

The biggest name in the film's cast likely belongs to Naomie Harris (the new Miss Moneypenny in the latest James Bond films) but, the critics say, any of the fresh young faces here might blow viewers away.

We shall see.

But before you snicker away, be forewarned that the winner of this extremely informal poll last year was a movie called "Spotlight." Of course, its light kept shining all the way through the Academy Awards and a Best Picture Oscar.

By the way, runner-up in our survey was "La La Land," which Jim Slotek (Toronto Sun) claims "really friggin' pops." The Damien Chazelle-directed musical with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling received four mentions.

The only other movie to get more than one "vote" (for lack of a better word) was "Manchester By the Sea" with Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.

(Look for more here from the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow, when you might even learn something about "The Magnificent Seven" re-imagining that officially opens the festival this evening.)  


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