By John H. Foote

By day eight the normally jam packed concourse area of the huge Scotiabank Cinemas looks empty, only a few press remain, catching the films we have not yet seen. The screenings, previously at capacity are now half or less filled as the festival winds down. Always top heavy, that first weekend is huge, bringing the major and minor studios to the city to promote their films. Anxious publicists wait outside the screenings to pounce on press gauging their reactions.

2018 was a fine festival, though not close to the bounty of great cinema provided at TIFF 2007. Now THAT was a great year, yet to be equaled, perhaps never to be surpassed.

First Man, Damien Chazelle’s soaring yet gritty Neil Armstrong biography leaves here headed for the Oscar race, along with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in their triumph, A Star is Born. Cooper could join Orson Welles and Warren Beatty in being nominated for four Academy Awards for his extraordinary directorial debut.

Melissa McCarthy appears headed for the race with her fine dramatic performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, while Viggo Mortenson leaps into the front runner position for Best Actor in the warm, nostalgic, sometimes heartbreaking Green Room. Co-starring with the elegant Mahershala Ali, both men deserve nods for Best Actor.

The Netflix backed Roma, directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron earned high praise from press, though I confess I missed it.

Nicole Kidman raged her way through Destroyer as a destructive, badass cop and richly deserves a nod for Best Actress.

Beautiful Boy contained lovely performances from Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet as a father and son at war with the son’s drug addiction. Both actors excel in a tough movie that became, for me, a tad redundant.

Widows rocked. Steve McQueen, made a mainstream genre picture and in doing so turned the genre on its ear with blazing performances from Viola Davis, and the astonishing Daniel Kaluuya, who is pure evil and intense menace.

And The Hate U Give was a surprise, effective without preaching and an astonishing performance by Amandla Stenberg in the lead. She was pegged to be a star as the doomed Rue in The Hunger Games (2012) and is on that path.

As always there were disappointments.

The Sisters Brothers and The Frontrunner were busts, just did not work for me. Ben is Back has a superb performance from Julia Roberts but felt for all the world like an HBO film.

2018 marks the curtain call for TIFF CEO Piers Handling. Best of luck, a hearty thank you sir for taking this festival to the remarkable heights you have. You will be missed.
Signing off TIFF 2018, I will announce their awards on Sunday.

Thanks to the team, Alan, Nick, Craig and Emma for all their efforts behind the scenes in making this all happen.

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