Toronto Film Festival features upcoming hits

By Richard Chachowski
Staff Writer

Sandler stars as a jewel hustler in ‘Uncut Gems’ (YouTube).

The 2019 Toronto Film Festival has come and gone, with many films premiering this year that audiences should be excited to see. I spoke with Mike Kamison, programming director for the Princeton Garden Theater, who attended this year’s festival, to get his impressions of the films he saw that moviegoers should look out for this year.

“Jojo Rabbit” (Release date: Oct. 18)

Amidst the overwhelming nationalism gripping Germany during World War II, Jojo, a lonely young boy whose only friend is an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, cartoonishly portrayed by director Taika Waititi, questions his Nazi loyalties when he discovers his mother hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. 

Torn between his country’s nationalism and the morality of his ideology, Jojo must come to terms with his changing worldview in this outlandish comedy.

Kamison’s Thoughts: “‘Jojo Rabbit’ was excellent. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really sweet and charming, which I know sounds strange considering the log-line premise of the film. But it’s one that maybe looks controversial on the surface that once you see how it’s crafted and how it’s directed that you realize is very much well-intentioned and handles those subjects with humor and satire, but also takes it very seriously.

I really appreciated how it conducted itself with things that may be a bit more sensitive. I think it’s a movie that may be hard to sell, but one that people will definitely leave having enjoyed and maybe even having gained something from seeing it.”

“The Lighthouse” (Release date: Oct. 18)

From Robert Eggers, acclaimed director of “The Witch,” comes the story of two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, on a remote, mysterious New England island in the 1890s in this stylistic, psychological horror film.

Kamison’s Thoughts: “I was a huge fan of ‘The Witch.’ It was a critically acclaimed film that I think a lot of mainstream horror fans also found something they really enjoyed. That being said, this one I liked more than ‘The Witch.’ It is somewhat disorienting and chaotic — and both of those are positive descriptions for me, but may turn off the casual horror viewer.”

“Waves” (Release date: Nov. 1)

From Trey Edward Shults comes the highly anticipated family drama film, “Waves,” an in-depth look at a suburban black family in Florida dealing with loss, love and forgiveness in the wake of a tragedy. 

Early audience reactions seem overwhelmingly positive, and much of the film’s acclaim goes to its incredible performances, especially those of Sterling K. Brown in the role of the family’s patriarch and Lucas Hedges as the protagonist’s love interest.

Kamison’s Thoughts: “I am a big fan of Trey Edward Schults — ‘Krisha’ and ‘It Comes at Night,’ I both found really fascinating. (‘Waves’) is much larger in scope. Sterling K. Brown gives a really Oscar-worthy performance and A24 is going to be releasing it right in the middle of award season in November, which means they’re really confident about it as well. 

That was a title I wasn’t going into it planning to see, but because everyone was talking about it, I had to check it out, and it’s really worth it. To me, it felt like a look at what the future of cinema will hold for us, because it’s a very young director, a very creative, unique style that borrows from films of years past, but also has a very modern take on filmmaking, and I thought it was fascinating.”

“Uncut Gems” (Release date: Dec. 13)

After a small string of successful comedies, Adam Sandler returns to take on a more dramatic role. He plays Howard Ratner, a successful New York City jeweler in the diamond district who must find a way to repay some old debts when his merchandise is stolen in this comedic crime thriller from Benny and Josh Safdie, the brothers behind their previously acclaimed “Good Times” and “Heaven Knows What.”

Kamison’s Thoughts: “I was such a huge fan of ‘Good Time’ and ‘Heaven Knows What,’ and (‘Uncut Gems’) does not disappoint. It’s a fast-paced thrill-ride that also has room for comedy, a lot of styles, really cool music — it’s just like a speeding train from beginning to end.”

Evidently, Kamison believes 2019 is a promising year for audiences, as there will be many movies to see on the big screen this fall and winter, with many more films on the way in 2020.

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