TIFF 2017: Bingo! I Got Bingo!, Part 1

I got TIFF Bingo! I never get TIFF Bingo!

I get close every year but I’m always missing something. Either I didn’t see enough foreign films or didn’t eat enough vegetables. And even for TIFF Bingo, I refuse to ARRRR!

But TIFF victory was mine this year and let me spend my next 3 posts telling you how I pulled it off.

3 Films By Female Directors

Battle of the Sexes– Okay, so only half of the directors are female but judges say… Still counts! Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Battle of the Sexes tells the behind-the-scenes story of the now-famous exhibition match between Women’s Tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and has-been Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). It’s a hard movie to google or even mention without hearing about how this is the movie we need in these troubled times. “We could use more of those values today,” Dayton quipped while introducing the film. (While the directors deny that the 2016 election had anything to do with their interest in the project, its hard not to see the parallels between the 1973 match and the first Presidential debate last year).

Dayton and Faris’ film, written by Slumdog Millionaire’s Simon Beaufoy, relies a little too heavily on their positive message. It’s as if they felt that they were excused from making a smart movie jsut because most of us can agree that, yeah, sexism in general is bad and that King should be allowed to sleep with whichever gender she chooses. Battle of the Sexes has some serious pacing problems throughout the first half and Carell’s scenes tend to drag. And for something that’s billed as a “comedy”, it’s not very funny. Thankfully, things start to come together once King and Riggs start promoting the match and, by the end, the entire Princess of Wales theater was cheering for King to “whoop his ass”, as one audience member put it during the Q&A.

Stone and Carell are well-cast and do right by their characters, even if they both have done better work in better movies. Stone, in particular, nails King’s conflict with her own sexuality and the scenes between her and new lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) are the best in the film. So the script and direction are uneven but it’s enough to make all of us cheer for King by the end and the men in the audience howl at the screen in outrage at the old timey sexism of the early 70s as if they’ve never heard women described as “irrational” before. It’s just not enough to make anyone remember Battle of the Sexes on nomination day.

Euphoria-  Writer-director Lisa Langseth cast Alicia Vikander in her first lead role in 2009’s Pure and Vikander has never forgotten who gave her her big break. She took a break from winning Oscars and starring in franchise films to produce and star in her old friend’s English-language debut.

Vikander’s Ines and Eva Green’s Emilie are sisters who rarely speak to each other. When the two reunite for a mysterious road trip, Ines is shocked to discover that Emilie has taken her to a country retreat that specializes in assisted suicides. It turns out that Emilie has been secretly battling cancer for the last 3 years and has decided to end her suffering. Her euthanasia is six days away and she has chosen to spend her final days eating her favourite foods and reconciling with her estranged sister.

In an extended Q&A, which as far as I can tell is just as long as a regular Q&A just where guests sit in chairs, Langseth denied that her new film makes any kind of statement one way or another on assisted suicides. To her, the film is really about two sisters. Euphoria has plenty of intriguing ideas about its fictional retreat but it’s the relationship between Ines and Emilie that drives the film. And it’s that relationship that fails to convince. It’s a shame too because Vikander and Green are completely believable as sisters. From the very first scene, their chemistry works and their body language alone raises questions about their shared history that Langseth’s script doesn’t offer very interesting answers to. The two actresses try their best to breathe life into characters that never really come together on the page but it’s just not enough. The climatic scene is so beautifully acted and directed that it almost makes up for the film’s many faults but it only winds up driving home what a missed opportunity the whole thing was.

Angels Wear White– I don’t love that my first two films of my post on Female Directors at TIFF were so uninspired. Thank God for Vivan Qu.

Angels Wear White is the second feature from Chinese writer-director Vivian Qu. Unlike Battle of the Sexes and Euphoria, it takes its time developing complex and believable characters. While working at a quiet seaside inn, eighteen year-old Mia witnesses the assault of 12 year-old Wen by a prominent male member of the community.. Despite possessing physical evidence that could jump start a police investigation that’s getting nowhere, Mia is reluctant to get involved. It soon becomes clear that she has reasons of her own for keeping her head down.

Angels Wear White is a multi-layered look at the exploitation of women by powerful men and how some men of privilege can easily escape the consequences of their actions. It’s a film that trusts its audience to be outraged by the outrageous instead of manipulating its audience to feel a certain way. I highly recommend Qu’s latest film. I only wish that I had stuck around for her Q&A.

So, there you have it. Three films by female directors. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes details of my TIFF Bingo victory.


28 thoughts on “TIFF 2017: Bingo! I Got Bingo!, Part 1

  1. Jay

    They can’t all be winners and part of the fun of TIFF is taking risks. Funny how the films with big, recognizable names attached didn’t’ deliver while a foreign film proved its worth. Can’t wait to read about the rest!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Matt Post author

      That was my problem this year. Usually I discover lots of hidden gems at TIFF but this year I found I spoiled myself with lots of movie star movies with- as you’ll see- mized results.


  2. Carrie Rubin

    I’ll definitely look for that last one. As for the bingo, three movies in one day? It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that! Then again, I’m not a movie critic. As my son repeatedly likes to remind me.


    1. Matt Post author

      Ha I feel you and your son should have a podcast where you debate about movies. I’d definitely watch that.
      I saw four movies on Sunday! It’s hard to even find time to eat.


      1. Carrie Rubin

        Ha, that would be an interesting podcast for sure. I think I’d come out the loser. There would be many eye rolls and head shakes when I said things like, “Wes Anderson movies aren’t really my thing.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Birgit

    I’m not surprised that the foreign film seems to be the best out of the 3. I remember the billy jean King vs Bobby Riggs. I was young but I thought he was a total idiot. I know he was good in his day but he was such a moron. My dad said he was just playing this up so he could be on the air more and I think my dad was right. The 2nd film sounds like a bit of a downer and i would have to be in the right mood to see this one. The 3rd film sounds intriguing but also heavy. Congrats on the Bingo!


    1. Matt Post author

      The movie seems to paint him as just a clown who privately really respected Billie Jean. Apparently they remained friends right up until the end.


  4. Christopher

    Why is “Thank a volunteer” the free spot? Maybe I’ve forgotten how to play Bingo but I thought that was the spot you got for not doing anything and the act of thanking a volunteer seems like it should be encouraged.
    “Denzel remains handsome”, on the other hand, is always going to be a given, right up there with “Samuel L. Jackson still so cool his core temp is absolute zero”.


    1. Matt Post author

      That’s a good point. I think they just wanted to make that an easy one to try and make sure everyone was doing it.
      Denzel remaining handsome may be a given but unfortunately I never got to see him being handsome. I didn’t even realize that he was in town until yesterday.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. J.

    All three of these sound very worthwhile projects, so it’s disappointing that only one of them delivers in spades. I may still check out Battle… and Euphoria if / when they appear on Netflix or the likes, though Angels will be the one I look out for.


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