Toronto is on the menu

TIFF is back, with a ‘Knives Out’ sequel, a semi-autobiography by Spielberg, a parody biopic by Weird Al and ‘The Menu’

For the first time since 2019, the 47th Toronto International Film Festival is showing full-capacity screenings in its halls and screaming hordes of rubber star-watchers flood the streets. What deadly virus? The pandemic is a blow. Just look at Rian Johnson’s outrageous Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which had its world premiere on Saturday night to a delighted TIFF audience – and largely without a mask. One of his perversely wealthy characters is actually taking advantage of the global health crisis to force cash-strapped France to lend him the real Mona Lisa. “The pando’s fault,” he sighs.

The latest murder mystery starring master investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) takes place in May 2020 and begins with a Zoom-call sight gag, a Manhattan bacchanalia with hundreds of revelers sharing a social “pod,” a eccentric billionaire self-quarantining on a private Greek island, and glamourpuss Kate Hudson wearing a gold fishnet mask. Want to heal your film’s plot on the coronavirus narrative? Just have Ethan Hawke get out of a fancy car with a spray gun and shoot mysterious mouth spray into the mouths of all the main characters. “You’re good,” he said to reassure them, telling them to ditch their masks without any explanation. “You’re good.”

Also good: Glass Onion, a wildly entertaining whodunit, just as gleefully overprinted as Knives Out and just as vicious when it comes to confusing the rich and the desperate. This time, the man at the center is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), a super-rich tech visionary who invites five of his closest friends to a special murder mystery night at his futuristic resort surrounded by the Aegean Sea. “All of you clinging to Miles Bron’s golden breasts,” a sullen guest snorts at the others, ruffling feathers and almost guaranteeing the bodies will fall.

Johnson’s posh puzzle wasn’t the only rich-killing satire to debut over the weekend. Also on the menu was The Menu, a deadly amuse-bouche from producer Adam McKay and helmed by Succession director Mark Mylod that brutally confuses the haute cuisine scene. Imagine a painfully exclusive restaurant with a strictly limited number of diners, all overpaid and insufferable in their own way. Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) oversees their palettes, a stern master of gastronomic delights whose grimly serious agenda that night includes ritual suicide, performance art drowning, and an incendiary dessert that brings the house down. Anya Taylor-Joy plays an unexpected guest who confronts Slowik with her hard-hitting rejection of deconstructed foods and a sly preference for cheeseburgers.

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Menu”.

Amid the class war, there were also a few high-profile origin stories, including Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical drama The Fabelmans, his first film to play at TIFF. The Oscar-winning hit director rarely makes the festival circuit, so news that his heartfelt Thanksgiving outing would in fact have its world premiere two months earlier in Toronto raised more than a few eyebrows. It’s a clear ploy to create buzz among attending journalists and Oscar voters, which explains the fully-equipped press screenings at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning.

His movie didn’t need a bump free muffins and fresh cut fruit: The Fabelmans is a delicious revelation on its own. Spielberg’s most overtly personal film eloquently explains the birth of a Hollywood legend. Far from soft and light, her journey begins with terror and becomes filled with personal guilt, anger, rejection, frustration and a disturbing realization that her hobby-turned-obsession also holds daunting power. that he doesn’t fully understand.

Look, it’s the young Steven Spielberg who discovers the joys of cinema in “The Fablemans”.

Spielberg’s remarkable production is also an impressive showcase for Michelle Williams as his arts-addicted mother, a frustrated concert pianist whose lust for life fuels her son’s budding ambition. Best for Last is a stunning coda with the unlikely but brilliant cast of David Lynch as a crass late-career John Ford.

But the biopic’s real revelation at TIFF was Roku’s first original production, Bizarre: The Al Yankovic Story. This brilliantly curated selection from the opening night of the festival’s infamous Midnight Madness section was born as Eric Appel’s 2013 Funny Or Die Parody Trailer, and the filmmaker’s feature version is a firehose of supreme stupidity. Fanatically committed Daniel Radcliffe plays ’80s fake rock wizard and accordion fiend Weird Al in a role that takes him from illicit polka parties to rocket-fueled stardom, a destructive sexual relationship with a sociopathic Madonna ( Evan Rachel Wood) and a Rambo encounter with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. What better way to tell the story of a parody songwriter than by making an outrageous parody?

“Al thought it was the right time,” Appel said during a 2 a.m. onstage Q&A after the screening ended. Yankovic had been playing the parody trailer at his gig for years and people kept asking for a real version of the fake movie. In 2019, after the success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, the mastermind behind “Another One Rides the Bus” and “Amish Paradise” made the call. So they wrote the script and organized the low-budget 18-day shoot. “There was very little conviction,” Radcliffe said when they offered him the job, although he confessed he never mastered the accordion. “I did what I could,” he apologized. “It’s a very tough instrument.”

Bizarre has a brutal ending that drives a nail in the coffin of Yankovic’s story. But that didn’t stop an audience member from asking if there will be a sequel. “I think there must be,” Weird Al said.

Daniel Radcliffe and Rain Wilson Dare to Be Stupid in ‘Weird’.

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