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The Front Runner

Unfortunately not a front runner
The movie tells a story of a disgraced presidential candidate Gary Hart, who was the front runner in 1988 but dropped out due to sexual misconduct. Sounds familiar? Yes. But let's move on. The main moral of the story is whether private aberration should effect political professionalism. Will one perform efficiently as a political figure if they misbehave in private life? Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart, is well enough, but didn't have much screen time for a main character to let us pick his head and get to know him as a politician, as a husband and father. Supporting cast, including astonishing Vera Farmiga and J.J. Simmons, did better work with equal screen time but less lines. The film never quite clarifies its own attitude toward Hart, as well as doesn't let us enough background to make solid conclusions ourselves. The Front Runner is definitely not a front runner this season

A Private War

Praiseworthy piece of cinema
Produced by Charlize Theron, A Private War is an excellent biopic that manages to capture the actual character, spirit and strength of the person the film is about. Marie Colvin, an American reporter working for a British newspaper, hailed by many of her peers as the greatest war correspondent of her generation. She was killed in Syria fighting for people to find out the truth behind the war, the undeniable tragedy that breaks down on thousands of innocent civilians living around war zones.This is a powerful example of a biopic, it never misses its strong point that the journalists out there that die every day or try to survive is not for fake news, but for the news corrupt governments try to hide. And that is the strongest message the film delivers. Rosamund Pike, who portrays late Miss Colvin, steals every single scene she is in, in a most convincing way. Her performance is raw, rough and on point. Rarely do actors achieve this level of craftsmanship with duplicating the looks, voice and the spirit of the original person. This role should undoubtedly land Rosamund Pike her second Academy Award nomination, and hopefully win. In the hands of a well praised documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman, A Private War achieves a high level of narrative storytelling that keeps viewers interest and fascinates with extraordinary performances and pitch perfect cinematography.

What They Had

Relatable story about that one family we all know
Critical events can bring a family closer together or tear them apart for good. As brother and sister have to deal with an important question regarding parent's health, they struggle with their own private lives. In a moment of crisis, there's no where to hide. We have stay true to ourselves and either move on with a misery, or stand up and do the right thing. What They Had is about that one family we all know. Could be our own even. The biggest achievement of this story is its characters. The believable chemistry between the actors forms a great family dynamic and showcases some great acting by Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon and the others. A film that is genuine, dramatic yet not too tragic, made with taste and surely will please any festival film lovers out there.


Balance with our conscious is hard to maintain
First feature by director/co-writer Bill Oliver, Jonathan is a visceral and groundbreaking drama with a sci-fi base that I believe every one of us can relate to. Two brothers having a very rare neurological syndrome, inhabiting one body, but dual consciousness. Hooked? I was too. I was expecting a high-tech sci-fi extravaganza, instead I got something more fulfilling. A concept, an idea, a study of sorts that displays the struggle we have in our every day lives with trying to balance life and work.

Boy Erased

Joel Edgerton's debut as a feature director is a success!
Boy Erased is a softer and humanistic portrayal of what is actually happening behind closed doors of many conservative religious families dealing with homosexual relatives. Actor, writer and director Joel Edgerton delivers a story based on a memoir by Gerrard Conley, a story in which parents confront their son and sent him to a anti-gay convention therapy for brainwashing his sins. By rounding up some sharp edges in certain scenes, Joel Edgerton gives us an earnest, deeply moving and gentle adaption of actual events. Leading man of the film is Lucas Hedges, who was nominated for an Oscar for Manchester by the Sea, is running for another Oscar-worthy performance as forcibly outed and confused gay man dealing with his demons and forced to deal with parents' beliefs. Supporting actors include Nicole Kidman, whose performance as a lost wife, heartbroken mother and a silenced woman that is forced to follow her husband's lead, played by Russell Crowe, is cringe-worthy and honest. Finely acted, solidly directed and smoothly written by Mr Edgerton, Boy Erased is promised to be one of the year's most talked about films at festivals and awards seasons.

Vox Lux

A modern classic
Young writer and director Brady Corbet, delivers a magnificent and terrifying craft with Vox Lux, as it follows a dramatic rise to a stardom of a teenage girl who is a survivor of a school shooting. The unusual circumstances that can turn a victim into a cultural phenomenon with millions of followers. The film is so brutally honest in its portrayal of the modern pop trash culture that its painful to admit but so hard not to follow. Overall weirdness and art-housey approach of the film may scare general audience off and derail from wider recognition by shutting down any chances for the film's commercial success. Natalie Portman, who plays the superstar Celeste in the movie, is deserving of her second Oscar more than ever.

Director knows exactly what he is aiming for with his skillful directing and insightful writing, unafraid to take risks. Having Willem Defoe to gradually narrate your story into a Sia song is a guaranteed classic alone. Brady Corbet never puts a foot wrong with either the visuals or the music, making Celeste's story feel like the story of modern America. Truly one of the highlights of the recent years.

Ben Is Back

Julia Roberts on top of her game
Ben Is Back follows a story of a young addict returning home for holidays by putting the lives of his family members and those who he had affected as an addict dramatically changes within 24 hours. A triumphal performance of Julia Roberts as the mother, who is fighting for salvation of her child, is probably one of the best of her career. Lucas Hedges, who plays Ben, also son of the director Peter Hedges, is on a phenomenal rise, appearing in not one but two Oscar-worthy performances this year, proving that Hollywood can still hold on the line with decent young actors such as Hedges as old talents slowly fade out. A passionate project that is ambitious, raw and tender, centered on the redemption addicts can get from their family.

The Favourite

Salute to the writers for the masterful script
The Favourite is, so far, the best movie I've seen during VIFF. Its sharp intelligence and sarcastic approach devours the mind, cinematography wows, acting mesmerizes and overwhelms, soundtrack creates with the atmosphere of the movie that is so raw and somehow relatable to this day. With unusual, weird kind of approach, director Yorgos Lanthimos delivers his best to date, in my opinion. The writes are the ones getting a bow down from me, with explicit, honest and funny approach to a period biopic drama that will stand the test of time for sure

Bel Canto

Made with heart and soul, but lacks technicality
Bel Canto is a heartbreaking story of love, justice and human connections. A group of freedom fighters invade a private event in Lima and keep wealthy people in hostage, and demand freedom of unfairly jailed comrades and retirement of corrupted president. Even though the film itself is full of warmth and is made with good intentions, I couldn't help but feel a sense of uncertainty of where the writers and the director were heading to. The film is based on true events, however it fails to give us in-depth character development, or more constructive and detailed description of the event. Julianne Moore and the rest of the cast did their best to help the movie out, but it just feels incomplete.

Todos lo saben

Family is the play, Trust is the director and Life is the stage. Action.
Everybody Knows evokes some contemporary moral dilemmas that play out in melodramatic relationships complicated by the questionable bond of trust among husbands, wives, and lovers. This movie is another perfect addition to Persian director Asghar Farhadi's resume as he is approaching international recognition by writing and directing multicultural film that includes actors such as Cruz and Bardem. This power couple make the film a pleasure to witness in terms of acting, as they are giving us pure emotions in their original language which seems effortless to both. A very emotional and thought-provoking journey that ends with all plot questions answered but leaves with the morality of the story to deal with on you.

Giant Little Ones

Love and labels
A film about the fluidity of sexuality and how modern society should not put labels on everything and everyone. While there's nothing wrong with the acting, directing, or production values; the writing however is a little too safe, and tries too hard to please everyone, and it sure will as in this case playing too safe is a winning card. Pretty solid movie about friendship, parenting, and social acceptance of ''atypical'' sexuality people are avoiding to talk about or deal with in real life.

The Hummingbird Project

The Skarsgard Project
The movie is projecting modern society's hunger to grasp more from life, to get richer and faster. While the story and pace of the movie is fast enough to keep our interest in it,the script however, feels a little dry. Imagery is just captivating and production design is on top. The highest praise I can think of the movie is Alexander Skaarsgard's acting - which is smart, emotional, funny and nothing he has done before. A supporting actor nomination is a possibility if the movie gets wider recognition and release.

Aos Teus Olhos

Who should take the blame and responsibilty?
Liquid Truth is about a swimming instructor who has been accused of inappropriately kissing a young boy. This piece of cinema is a complete roller-coaster of emotions, anxiety and moral misbehavior that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Exquisitely scripted and directed movie that touches moral landscape of modern society highly affected by social media. Daniel de Oliveira who plays the main character Rubens, leading in an impressively complex yet balanced performance that nails the character's shift from easygoing confidence to bewildered devastation and vulnerability. Though the movie ends abruptly, it sure delivers its message completely. So far, the best drama I have seen this year.

La La Land

Here's to the one who dream
Unhappy is a person who never dared to dream. This world and our mind have the endless opportunities and we have to be really miserable to even try to suppress those opportunities, because without our perfectional ideas and notions of life and how we should live it, we become empty bodies and let physiology do its thing. Only when you dare to dream you let yourself flow in a world of pure imagination and possibilities, you create your individuality and slightly optimistic and romantic perception of life which helps you get through the tough times and standard routines of daily life. Having the hope that someday you can achieve whatever you have pictured in your head gives you wings and positives to go on. And this one's for dreamers out there who dared to dream and achieved something in their life, for those who are on their way to do so and for those who are too scared to try. Yes, it may go in a completely different direction, but you will never know until you try. Sometimes life has better things to offer than we can imagine and it may lead to something wonderful and new. Lumiere brothers had only visions in their heads and ambitions when they invented film as we know it now, being inspired by Thomas Edison and others. Would they have done it if they never chased the dream? You know the answer. The answer is A Trip to the Moon, City Lights, Casablanca, Space Odyssey, The Godfather, Schindler's List, Lord of the Rings and La La Land. The latter one is a perfect addition to the history of cinema, absolutely deserving of all the praise it receives. Would I change anything in it? Not a single word or move. From the astonishing play of colors and tones to the hopeful and sparkling eyes of the characters were captured wonderfully by one of the bravest and inspiring dreamers of modern Hollywood - Damien Chazelle. Dreaming is simple, he made it clear to himself and to the audience with this movie. No tricky turns and twists in the story line, no complicated dialogues. Everything is clear to the point that it lets you just enjoy the whole spectacle with a bit of nostalgia of your own forgotten dreams, of where you are right now in your life and where are you heading to. All of this is spiced up with magical hidden character called music. From City of Stars to the last note of Mia & Sebastian's Theme, the soundtrack is wonderful. It is cheerful, it is sad, it is hopeful and simply mesmerizing. Undoubtedly the best film in recent years deserving of all the golden statues including the main one for best picture, proving that the best movie of the year can be about a simple subject and not about a slumdog boy who becomes millionaire or a king struggling with his speech, or American heroes saving lives in Iran or elsewhere. This movie is relatable to everyone. Although dreamers or la la landers are considered to be out of this world and not aware of what is happening, we are all still foolishly, with a bit of hope and enthusiasm, trying to chase our dreams and create our own world of reality. So here's to the one who dream.

Vera Drake

Crime that was meant to help
Character driven period-drama about a woman who commits a crime without being conscious about that. Vera Drake is a selfless woman who is completely devoted to and loved by her working class family. She spends her days doting on them and caring for her sick neighbor and elderly mother. However, she also secretly visits women and helps them induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies. While the practice itself was illegal in 1950s England, Vera sees herself as simply helping women in need, and always does so with a smile and kind words of encouragement. When the authorities finally find her out, Vera's world and family life rapidly unravel. Spotless performance by Imelda Staunton, British acting at its best.

Trespass Against Us

Another raw Fassbender performance
Another astonishing and raw performance from Michael Fassbander, who plays an uneducated father of the family desperately trying to unchain himself from his father's robber-gang. The brutal moment when you realize you are in under influence of something evil or bad, but you're incapable of changing things and you get mad at the whole world. But the fault is on you, because you weren't strong enough to free yourself out of the chains in the first place. You have the choice to change it now, you have obligations towards your family and you have to choose what is best for them now, because you've lost your chance to help yourself.

La jaula de oro

Fantastic piece of Mexican cinema!
How big must one dream? The road leading to your dream is like a long tunnel. You see the fading little spark of light behind you and shiny dream-white light of hope on the other side. But in-between you have this black unilluminated path to walk through. Does it worth it? What are you ready to sacrifice for your imaginary life? Will you have the courage to go all the way till the end? The movie is about a group of teenagers from Central America trying to immigrate to the Golden Cage (i.e. United States). During the whole film you see miserable faces hoping to seek a better world of opportunities. Do they fear? Do they struggle? Their eyes will expose the truth. Was it all worth it? Excellent film!


Anthony Hopkins is back in the game...
Give the director full freedom and he will make the movie of his lifetime. I mean that worked with so many directors and they created their best pictures while relying on themselves only. That's how most of the classic movies were born. Psycho is one of them and while working on bringing that movie to life Alfred Hitchcock had the support of very few people. But the only true support he needed was his wife's Alma. Hitchcock is not so much about making of the film Psycho, but the relationship of Alma and Hitch and how they completed one another. Its engaging and sometimes intense. Hopkins and Mirren are at their best in this one and there's no way you want to miss the pleasure of their company. Great supporting cast including Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, James D'Arcy and Jessica Biel. Shot in the style of live-action documentary, this movie is probably the best portrayal of a legend called Alfred Hitchcock. He's like any great artist - impossible to live with but worth the effort.


Transform to Lars von Trier for 2 hours.
''Melancholia'' - Lars von Trier's best work to date. The movie is about the nature of depression and how 2 sisters go through it. Kirsten Dunst (Justine) accepts her melancholia by the time a planet that was hiding behind the sun threatens to collide the Earth, while other sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg - Clair) is afraid to face the reality and her own personal emotions. If you have any little doubt whether you want to watch this movie or not, you better don't, because this is not for everyone, and if you still want to see this then prepare yourself for what you're going to face. The movie is all about how Lars Von Trier sees the world, the people and the dearness between them. It's beautiful, it's real, it's disgusting, it's terrifying - it all depends on how you want to perceive this film. The opening and the ending scenes are mesmerizing! The music used in the film is taken from Wagner's ''Tristan and Isolde'' opera which fits the movie perfectly. Cinematography - amazes. Special effects, not for 3D, but are very realistic and breathtaking. Kirsten Dunst gives us her best performance to date, forget the girl in Spider-man, this is a new level for her. She finally proves us how good she can be with the right movie choice. An Oscar nomination is on its way... I'm not a fan of Lars and his movies, but this one had me at the edge of my seat to the last minute. 10/10

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