On behalf of the other members of the CAST junta, I’m very pleased to announce the results of the 6th edition of the CAST Awards. I received 41 completed ballots from film lovers in the Greater Toronto Area. Here are the CAST Top 25 voted from among all films that had a theatrical or festival release in Toronto during 2015. Voters ranked up to 10 films on their ballot from top to bottom, with first choices receiving 10 points, second choices 9, etc. The Points column lists the total score for each film, the Mentions column indicates the number of ballots it appeared on, and the First column indicates the total number of voters who chose the film as their top choice. We are very proud of the group of critics we’ve gathered, even though I’ve described us elsewhere as “a ragtag group of semi-professional film bloggers, podcasters, tweeters and Lightbox lobby loiterers.” 170 different films (including at least two short films) received at least one mention this year.
I’m also very happy that the CASTcast returned this year. Listen as I try to wrangle Dave Voigt, Ryan McNeil, Hillary Butler, Jorge Ignacio Castillo, Corey Pierce, Norm McGlashan, and Heidy Morales as we talk about the year in film. Bob Turnbull turns in a cameo as the very generous bartender, too.
And for those still reading, here is my very own CAST ballot, with my top ten from 2015.
UPDATE (Friday January 15, 2016): Congratulations to Patrick and his team, the film has just been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. Good luck!
Patrick Vollrath’s 30-minute film drops us into the life of Michael Baumgartner, divorced father of 8-year-old Lea. As the film begins, he’s anxiously waiting to pick her up for his regular visit. His anxiety doesn’t end when she happily greets him, however. And his refusal to even meet the eyes of his ex-wife let us know that something is up. As he takes Lea to a toy store to choose anything she wants, and then to a photo booth where he encourages her to pose for some “neutral” photos after the silly ones, we realize he’s planning to take her away. As it begins to dawn on Lea that something’s not right with Daddy, the film subtly shifts to her perspective.
Alles wird gut is something spoken to the young girl twice in the film, and in each case, we share her skepticism. Vollrath’s film is gripping from start to finish, with fantastic performances from the two leads. Simon Schwarz ably portrays the desperation of a father terrified of losing his connection with his daughter, but especially noteworthy is young Julia Pointner in her very first film role. She carries the film in the ironic position of the voice of reason. Watching her reach a state of near-catatonia as her parents engage in a literal tug-of-war for her is heartbreaking on many levels. The handheld cinematography also adds to the sense of immediacy.
Vollrath won a Student Academy Award this year for the film and Alles wird gut has been collecting other prizes on its festival run. If you get a chance to see this remarkable short film, don’t miss it!
For the fourth year in a row, I’ve compiled a special edition of the CAST Awards, just based on what people saw during the Toronto International Film Festival. Here are the CAST Top 10 based on the votes of 29 submitted ballots. Voters ranked up to 10 films on their ballot from top to bottom, with first choices receiving 10 points, second choices 9, etc. The Points column lists the total score for each film, Mentions indicates how many voters included it in their Top Ten, Average is the average point score, and Firsts shows how many voters chose it as their favourite TIFF film.
In the case of points ties, the film with the higher number of first-place votes is listed first, then by highest average score. Because our sample size is quite small, these “rankings” don’t actually mean much, but I thought it would give a good idea of what this particular group of festivalgoers enjoyed this year. I’m curious to see how many of these show up in our regular year-end CAST ballot and how they do.
Athina Rachel Tsangari produced several of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films, notably Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011), both of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. I missed her last feature Attenberg (2010), but it’s clear that she and Lanthimos share a certain absurd sensibility: they create their own worlds in which very particular rules apply. These rules, in fact, are often made up by their characters as a form of game-playing or a way to control other characters. Chevalier is no different.
A group of men, connected through family, work, or friendship, are enjoying a vacation together on a yacht in the Aegean Sea when they come up with an idea. A contest to determine who is the best of them all. The winner will wear a distinctive signet ring on his pinkie, but the competition will be fierce.
Tsangari’s film is a hilarious sendup of male insecurity, vanity, and competitiveness. We’ll see aggression but only of the passive variety, as modern masculinity is put under the microscope. And watch for an amazing scene involving the assembly of IKEA furniture. This is satire of the highest quality, poking fun at the absurdities of “manhood” while still maintaining sympathy for its characters.
It’s notable that Tsangari’s co-writer is Efthymis Filippou, who also co-wrote all of Lanthimos’ recent films, including The Lobster, which is also playing in this year’s TIFF lineup. Filippou has a rather interesting web page.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a TIFF preview, and I don’t know how many of these I’ll be able to squeeze in before the festival starts, but this morning’s press conference contained some exciting stuff and I’d like to stir up a little excitement (even if just for myself) ahead of September.
One unusual announcement was the appearance of John Crowley’s Brooklyn which premiered at Sundance way back at the beginning of the year. It looked familiar because, of course, I was at Sundance but I never got to see it. Lots to love in the trailer that was shown. It’s the story of an Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) who arrives in New York in the 1950s, falls in love, and then goes back to Ireland for a funeral, and falls in love again. Based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, and with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, it’s sure to have a cracking script. And the casting is great, too. Ronan impresses in everything she’s in, but this also features Domhnall Gleason, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters.
I was actually fortunate enough to meet Saoirse Ronan backstage in 2013. I was working as a venue liaison at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (look for me there again this year!) and she was here with How I Live Now. She impressed me with her professionalism and low-maintenance style (no heels!), and we chatted about Ireland. I mentioned I was born in Dublin and she wanted to know in what neighbourhood. She introduced me to her father and uncle, who were traveling with her, and we had a really nice talk. Not only is she a great actor, but she has no celebrity ego at all. What I just discovered is that she was actually born in New York City to Irish parents, who took her back to Ireland when she was three years old. So this film must have a special resonance for her and her family.
I’m hopeful this will screen at my venue, so I can meet her again, but regardless, I’m going to add Brooklyn to my list of must-sees at this year’s TIFF.