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Our Top 10 Best Films from TIFF 2017

09.22.2017by: Chris Bumbray

How is TIFF already over? It feels like just yesterday that I was getting back from the 2016 edition, and lo and behold, another year has passed! As always, TIFF did not disappoint, with tons of great titles popping through. Any Oscar front-runners? I’d say yes, absolutely, with CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (previously reviewed at Sundance), THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (winner of the People’s Choice Award) and several others rocketing to the top of the list, while the reception to dual Matt Damon entries, SUBURBICON and DOWNSIZING seem to suggest this won’t be his year. Check out my top ten list – and for my all my reviews and interviews, click the link below!

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10. Roman J. Israel Esq.

Dan Gilroy's ROMAN J. ISRAEL ESQ., got beaten up a bit by critics, with them seemingly most upset that it's not another NIGHTCRAWLER. Clearly, Gilroy was looking to do something a little warmer, but not saccharine, and he gives Denzel Washington the rare part that utterly allows him to disappear into a role to the point that he's unrecognizable, not only physically but also in that his persona is so suppressed. Colin Farrell also contributes nice work as a big-shot attorney who, despite the professional cost, finds himself empathizing with Israel.

9. Death of Stalin

Furthering his career-long theory that politicians of all stripes are no more than thuggish frat-boys, "Veep's" Armando Iannucci turns his gaze back to post WW2-Russia, where Khrushchev, and the rest of Stalin's "posse" argue over who gets to replace the tyrant. The fact that Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, and Simon Russell Beale play them in F-bomb riddled, hilarious performances make this a history lesson (and a surprisingly accurate one) unlike any other.

8. Hostiles

To get an idea of how much the film landscape has changed, think of HOSTILES. The day a $40 million western starring Christian Bale and directed by the A-list Scott Cooper (BLACK MASS) not only has to be made independently, but then struggles to find distribution proves there's something rotten going on. Too bad, as Cooper's film is an intelligent, entertaining, new-wave western with one of Bale's best-ever performances.

7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

I was a pretty big fan of Yorgos Lanthimos's THE LOBSTER, but his pseudo-horror follow-up is really something. Featuring outstanding work from Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and DUNKIRK's Barry Keoghan, I'd wager it's a more successful, entertaining biblical allegory than another TIFF pick (which I liked), MOTHER! Hopefully the art-house audience that turned out for THE LOBSTER will do the same here.

6. Molly's Game

Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut might not have quite set the fest on fire like some had hoped, but it was still a damn solid fact-based look into the world of high-stakes Hollywood poker, and much more. Jessica Chastain has one of her best roles as Molly Bloom, whose addiction to the big-money of the games starts a downward spiral that she's ultimately too conscientious to avoid.

5. The Disaster Artist

James Franco's Tommy Wiseau bio, THE DISASTER ARTIST, chronicling the making of THE ROOM is better than anyone could have ever expected. Heck, I knew it would be funny. With Franco and his brother Dave starring, along with a who's who of comic talent, how could it not be? What's odd is how touching it all is, with Franco clearly having great empathy for Wiseau's dreams of artistic triumph.

4. Brawl in Cell Clock 99

S. Craig Zahler's BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is a pulp masterpiece. Grotesquely violent, Vince Vaughn's forever reinvented himself as an action hero, playing a con forced into infiltrating a brutal prison run by none other than Don Johnson. God, I loved this one - and it hits VOD in just a few weeks!

3. I, Tonya

Craig Gillespie's I, TONYA was the big TIFF sleeper. Margot Robbie stars as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, and don't be surprised if you walk out of this one with newfound sympathy for a woman many view as a punchline - something this argues she's definitely not. It's funny, but also moving - and maybe the most perfectly cast film of the year- with Robbie and Allison Janney now big time Oscar front-runners as long as Neon gets this out before the end of the year.

2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh's THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI was the surprise winner of the TIFF People's Choice Awards, and it's not hard to see why. A deeply touching, but also confrontational and blackly comic tale, this lives up to the promise McDonagh showed in IN BRUGES, and then some. France McDormand seems a lock for an Oscar now in her best role since FARGO, and while they're at it, Sam Rockwell definitely deserves some love.

1. The Shape of Water

Everyone expected Guillermo Del Toro's THE SHAPE OF WATER to be pretty damn good, but I don't think anyone was thinking it would rank as quite possibly the best thing he's ever done - no mean feat considering his filmography. A whimsical, but also sexually frank and violent fantasy for adults, I guarantee you, nothing you see this year will be anything like THE SHAPE OF WATER. Every frame has Del Toro's distinct signature - the mark of a truly great director.

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