TIFF 2017 Post-Festival Recommendations

This is a repeat of last year's experiment to try and capture some of the buzz of TIFF 2017 in an IMDb list of recommendations through the lens of my tastes; I did not see everything listed here, but I have now seen 45 of the 256 features in the program (with 17 more queued up for The London Film Festival). I also talked to many people in screenings about what they liked.

I will start with The Shape of Water which is my favourite movie of 2017 and then everything else is in alphabetical order as it is too hard to rank this many excellent movies. All of these are worth taking the time to see.
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The Shape of Water (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. (119 mins.)
“ I did something which I have never done before in my life – I watched a movie twice at the same film festival. I fell completely in love with this movie after a press screening, so much so that when I found out it was playing on closing night at The Elgin Theatre in Toronto, which is the location of a few scenes in the movie, I just had to see it again.

The second viewing is one of my best ever screening experiences, and the whole audience erupted into applause in one particular scene when they realised we were sitting in one of the locations up on the screen in front of us. I do not just love this film, I am actually in love with this film right now. It is everything – the film is dripping in references to other films and the love of cinema itself; the characters; the script; the set design; the music; the effects; the world which it creates; the performances (Sally Hawkins for best actress / Octavia Spencer for best supporting actress); everything -- it is near perfect IMHO. The film is already somewhere in my top 25 movies of all-time. ” - Col Needham
Beast (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders. (107 mins.)
Director: Michael Pearce
“ Jessie Buckley is one to watch in this intriguing mystery / thriller which is also playing at The London Film Festival. Jessie came to our TIFF cocktail event and I did not even recognize her when I saw the film a few days later. ” - Col Needham
Borg McEnroe (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe. (107 mins.)
Director: Janus Metz
“ The psychology of tennis (and perhaps competitive sport in general) set against the backdrop of a famous showdown. Two perfectly cast leads, including IMDb STARmeter "breakout star" award winner, Sverrir Gudnason, see also http://www.imdb.com/list/ls020486567/videoplayer/vi3070998809 ” - Col Needham
Bodied (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A progressive graduate student finds success and sparks outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject becomes a competitive obsession. (120 mins.)
Director: Joseph Kahn
“ Winner of the Midnight Madness People's Choice Award. I was not able to catch this so hoping someone buys it for distribution soon. ” - Col Needham
120 battements par minute (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
120 BPM. The average heart rate. The protagonists of 120 battements par minute are passionate about fighting the indifference that exists towards AIDS. (140 mins.)
Director: Robin Campillo
“ We first saw this at Cannes where it was my wife's favourite film of the festival. It is not always an easy watch as the audience feels the guilt of how people were so badly treated (with fatal consequences) in such recent memory. ” - Col Needham
Brad's Status (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A father takes his son to tour colleges on the East Coast and meets up with an old friend who makes him feel inferior about his life's choices. (102 mins.)
Director: Mike White
“ The ultimate college visit movie and one where the kid would do much better without the parent. There's a nice charm to how Ben Stiller plays the frustratingly annoying title character. ” - Col Needham
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly. (132 mins.)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
“ Gruesome "fun" from the writer/director behind Bone Tomahawk. You have been warned. This was also the second runner-up in the Midnight Madness People's Choice Award. ” - Col Needham
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
In 1983, the son of an American professor is enamored by the graduate student who comes to study and live with his family in their northern Italian home. Together, they share an unforgettable summer full of music, food, and romance that will forever change them. (132 mins.)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
“ This has the highest MetaCritic score of anything at the festival and it was the second runner-up to the Grolsch People's Choice Award. I have my London Film Festival tickets booked for this one. ” - Col Needham
Chappaquiddick (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Ted Kennedy's life and political career become derailed in the aftermath of a fatal car accident in 1969 that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne. (107 mins.)
Director: John Curran
“ Exceptional writing from debut screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan along with an excellent cast make for a special experience. The events of one night change the course of world history. ” - Col Needham
The Children Act (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
As her marriage to Jack (Stanley Tucci) founders, eminent High Court judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) has a life-changing decision to make at work... (105 mins.)
Director: Richard Eyre
“ Emma Thompson is stunningly good in this complex moral dilemma based on the novel by Ian McEwan ” - Col Needham
The Current War (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The dramatic story of the cutthroat race between electricity titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to determine whose electrical system would power the modern world. (105 mins.)
“ Some of the things we take for granted today, such as the supply of electricity, were once fought over in more ways than you could imagine. Michael Shannon gives another stand-out performance in an already stellar cast with spectacular direction from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. This would make a great pairing with The Prestige given the presence of Nikola Tesla in both stories. ” - Col Needham
Dark River (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Following the death of her father, Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her home village for the first time in 15 years, to claim the tenancy to the family farm she believes is rightfully hers. (89 mins.)
Director: Clio Barnard
“ Clio Barnard once again creates a complex and compelling film in what otherwise might appear a simple story. Genius film-making at its best (and a gutsy performance from Ruth Wilson to boot). ” - Col Needham
Darkest Hour (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  
During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. (125 mins.)
Director: Joe Wright
“ Gary Oldman gives a career best performance as Churchill, covering his early days in office as Prime Minister; would make an ideal double bill with Dunkirk ” - Col Needham
The Death of Stalin (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Follows the Soviet dictator's last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death. (106 mins.)
“ Scheduling kept me away from this one at TIFF itself, but not to worry as it opens across the UK in a few weeks. I heard crazy good things about this one. ” - Col Needham
The Escape (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An ordinary woman makes an extraordinary decision which will change her life forever. (105 mins.)
Director: Dominic Savage
“ An emotional Q&A followed an emotional world premiere. Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper shine in a film which they also produced. ” - Col Needham
Una Mujer Fantástica (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Marina, a waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend. (104 mins.)
“ Another film with a high-score from MetaCritic which I have saved to watch at The London Film Festival. ” - Col Needham
The Disaster Artist (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. (103 mins.)
Director: James Franco
“ I had watched The Room the week before in preparation for this, but it turns out not to have been necessary. This film should work equally well whether you have seen it or not. Another too-fantastic-to-be-true movie at TIFF. Please cheer at the mention of IMDb by Dave Franco's character in the dialogue. This also has the best end credits sequence of the festival with side-by-side comparisons of scenes from the original movie vs. this one. ” - Col Needham
Visages, villages (2017 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship. (89 mins.)
Director: JR, Agnès Varda
“ Completely charming French documentary by Agnès Varda. << C'est très bien, ça >> ” - Col Needham
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady. (105 mins.)
Director: Paul McGuigan
“ I am saving this for its gala screening at The London Film Festival where the home audience will add to the excitement. Annette Bening is receiving awards buzz for this, and people were also impressed with Jamie Bell. ” - Col Needham
The Florida Project (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World. (115 mins.)
Director: Sean Baker
“ Another film which I have saved to see at The London Film Festival. Sean Baker follows Tangerine with another critically acclaimed film. I cannot wait to see it. ” - Col Needham
Foxtrot (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A troubled family face the facts when something goes terribly wrong at their son's desolate military post. (108 mins.)
Director: Samuel Maoz
“ Several of my local Toronto friends recommended this one. Shortly after TIFF it was selected as the Best Foreign Film entry by Israel for the next Oscars. ” - Col Needham
Happy End (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop. (107 mins.)
Director: Michael Haneke
“ I saw this truly mad and appropriately named (in a Haneke way) film at Cannes. ” - Col Needham
Hostiles (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory. (127 mins.)
Director: Scott Cooper
“ There's a new classic western in the making here with echoes of Cheyenne Autumn and many fine performances. ” - Col Needham
I Kill Giants (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Barbara Thorson struggles through life by escaping into a fantasy life of magic and monsters. (104 mins.)
Director: Anders Walter
“ If you loved A Monster Calls or A Little Princess then you will love this film too. This is what movies are all about for me. Special thanks to Madison Wolfe who clearly has a bright acting future ahead of her. This was my favourite film of the festival until I saw The Shape of Water ” - Col Needham
I, Tonya (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises among the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the sport is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes. (119 mins.)
Director: Craig Gillespie
“ You simply cannot make up this stuff. If the screenplay had been submitted as a work of fiction, people would complain that it was too fantastic to be believed. It actually happened. Special shout out to Allison Janney as LaVona Golden who could run off with more than a few supporting actress trophies come awards season. ” - Col Needham
Aus dem Nichts (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Katja's life collapses after the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack. After a time of mourning and injustice, Katja seeks revenge. (106 mins.)
Director: Fatih Akin
“ A catch-up from Cannes where Diane Kruger deservedly won the best actress award for the film. A thought-provoking drama. My first film of the festival in Toronto this year. ” - Col Needham
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister. (121 mins.)
“ To say anything about the plot of this movie would be a crime, but what would be the appropriate punishment? ” - Col Needham
Kodachrome (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Set during the final days of the admired photo development system known as Kodachrome, a father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good.
Director: Mark Raso
“ Elizabeth Olsen shines, as always, in this touching drama about love, family and nostalgia. ” - Col Needham
Lady Bird (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The adventures of a young woman living in Northern California for a year. (93 mins.)
Director: Greta Gerwig
“ You had me at "Saoirse Ronan stars in a movie written and directed by Greta Gerwig" ” - Col Needham
Nelyubov (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments. (127 mins.)
“ Bleak and absorbing drama from Russia. Another Cannes favourite. ” - Col Needham
Molly's Game (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. (140 mins.)
Director: Aaron Sorkin
“ My favourite screenplay of 2017 -- I would expect nothing less from Aaron Sorkin making his directorial debut here. This all actually happened too. Jessica Chastain is amazing as the title character. ” - Col Needham
Mudbound (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. (134 mins.)
Director: Dee Rees
“ Another one which I saved to watch at The London Film Festival. ” - Col Needham
On Chesil Beach (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A drama set in the early 1960s and centered on a young couple on their honeymoon. (105 mins.)
Director: Dominic Cooke
“ Yet another exquisite performance by super-talented Saoirse Ronan with exceptional cinematography by Sean Bobbitt (including a shot which someone at the Q&A accurately described with "as nifty a piece of cinematography as you are ever likely to see in a movie"). This also wins my award for the best intro at a TIFF public screening this year: Cameron Bailey confessed that 10 years ago he and his wife took the novel on honeymoon without knowing its contents! There's an Ian McEwan provided bonus for fans of the book, but I am not saying what it is to avoid spoilers. ” - Col Needham
Outside In (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
An ex-con struggling to readjust to life in his small town forms an intense bond with his former high-school teacher. (109 mins.)
Director: Lynn Shelton
“ Director Lynn Shelton and star Jay Duplass have crafted a deep and rich screenplay which takes many unusual turns with real characters. A real gem from this year's festival. ” - Col Needham
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
The story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and his mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character Wonder Woman, and the controversy the comic generated. (108 mins.)
Director: Angela Robinson
“ The second of three Wonder Woman movies in 2017; this one takes a look behind-the-scenes in the form of the story of her creator. ” - Col Needham
The Rider (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
After suffering a near fatal head injury, a young cowboy undertakes a search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. (104 mins.)
Director: Chloé Zhao
“ I am hoping to see this at The London Film Festival. Plenty of buzz around this as Chloé Zhao's second feature. ” - Col Needham
The Square (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times - about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person's need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world. (142 mins.)
Director: Ruben Östlund
“ One of my favourites from Cannes, apparently slightly edited in a new version for TIFF. A well deserved Palme d'Or win, and a good chance of winning the Best Foreign Film Oscar next year as Sweden's entry. ” - Col Needham
Stronger (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (119 mins.)
“ Great buzz around this one and featuring Tatiana Maslany who also won an IMDb STARmeter "fan favourite" award at the festival, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3881784/videoplayer/vi2383132953.
I first met her five years ago when I presented to the TIFF Rising Stars, of which she was one, on using IMDb to assist their careers. I have saved this for a screening at The London Film Festival. ” - Col Needham
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder, when they fail to catch the culprit. (115 mins.)
Director: Martin McDonagh
“ I am saving this for The London Film Festival, however, several people told me it was their favourite film of 2017, and the TIFF audience clearly loved it too since won the Grolsch People's Choice Award. It was an honour to present Sam Rockwell with an IMDb STARmeter fan favorite award at the festival too: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls020486567/videoplayer/vi2769074457 ” - Col Needham
Unicorn Store (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams. (92 mins.)
Director: Brie Larson
“ There's real movie magic in this fantastic (in the true sense of the word) tale from its star and first time director, Brie Larson, who confirms she is a talent to watch both behind and in front of the camera. The Friday evening audience at The Ryerson really engaged with the film, and it's the kind of storytelling which has you grinning from ear to ear from the start to the finish. There's a lovely IMDb customer review at http://www.imdb.com/user/ur9723452/ which does it more justice than I can do here. ” - Col Needham
The Upside (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy paraplegic and an unemployed man with a criminal record who's hired to help him. (118 mins.)
Director: Neil Burger
“ This is going to feel safely familiar to fans of the original French version, Intouchables, however Kevin Hart brings something extra to this version (and he should do more dramatic roles). ” - Col Needham
Victoria and Abdul (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim. (111 mins.)
Director: Stephen Frears
“ We attended the UK premiere the night before I flew to Toronto and I see the reception at TIFF was just as strong as in the UK. The cast are fabulous in this well-written and entertaining drama with many both funny and touching moments. Judi Dench and Ali Fazal are excellent as the two titular characters. ” - Col Needham
Woman Walks Ahead (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land. (101 mins.)
Director: Susanna White
“ Another fascinating performance from Jessica Chastain in her second true story of the festival this year. A good role for IMDb STARmeter award winner, Sam Rockwell too. ” - Col Needham