TORONTO -- Cleveland Cinemas President Jon Forman has left the building, but Cleveland Film Festival stalwarts Bill Guentzler and Mallory Martin remain in town as the 42nd international film festival heads into its final weekend.
Forman, making his 38th or 39th trip here to scout for his seven theaters, departed Wednesday after seeing "somewhere in the neighborhood" of 20 films.
"This festival still offers plenty of good, entertaining, and thoughtful films," he said, just before heading home. "What is missing this year is a film that is universally liked and/or that people are swooning over.
"There's no 'La La Land' or no 'King's Speech'," he said, citing two previous TIFF films that not only won the coveted "People's Choice Award" but also blew away the swarming masses of international critics who seem to attend in higher numbers every year.
Regardless, Forman did name a couple of favorites he'll try to book over the next several weeks. They include:
"Breathe," an epic, real-life love story interrupted by serious illness as first-time directed by Andy Serkis and starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy in rich, captivating performances; "Victoria and Abdul," the Stephen Fears-helmed movie with Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria; "The Florida Project," Sean Baker's much-anticipated follow-up to "Tangerine," starring Willem Dafoe and an effervescent 6-year-old named Brooklynn Prince; and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," a darkly comic drama from writer/director Martin McDonagh and an all-star cast, headed by Frances McDormand.
"Some will like them, others may not," Forman concluded. "The takeaway is lots of movies of all kinds are still being made and, hopefully, movie-goers will choose to see them in theaters rather than on personal devices or large screens in their homes.
"I'm sure several will be invited by Bill and Mallory to CIFF."
He's probably right. In fact, through Thursday, Guentzler, CIFF's artistic director, and Martin, its director of programming and projection, had seen more than 60 films combined since Opening Night on Sept. 7.
"And, hey, we still have one more full day to go," Guentzler said, "before going to FIVARS (the Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories)." That fest begins here this weekend.
Right now, some of Martin's Toronto film faves include:
"Foxtrot," a brilliant Israeli satirical drama about a couple dealing with the loss of their son; "The Square," an absurdly hilarious take on the world of contemporary art from the director of "Force Majeure" and already the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes; and "What Will People Say," a devastating drama with moving performances, about the lengths a Pakistani family will go to save face in their community.
And, Guentzler's top four through yesterday:
"BPM (Beats Per Minute)," the story of French ACT UP protesters during the height of the AIDS crisis in the '90s focuses mainly on two men who become a couple; "I Kill Giants," a young girl believes she is saving the world from mysterious giants but, as based on a graphic novel, is she really just escaping her reality?; "The Motive," a struggling writer pushes himself into the lives of people in his apartment building to create drama and thus inspire his work; and "Public Schooled," a comedy about a young man, who has been home-schooled, purposely failing so he can “test out” high school and try to get a girl’s attention.
Perhaps you will see some of them at next spring's 42nd annual Cleveland International Film Festival (April 4-15). Meanwhile, to read more about any of them now, visit tiff.net, then return here Monday for a TIFF awards wrap-up and personal scorecard.
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