HOLLYWOOD REPORTER CRITICS’ PICKS: 20 BEST FILMS FROM THE TORONTO AND VENICE FESTIVALS

Career highs from Frances McDormand and Kate Winslet, a new Spike Lee joint, Regina King's feature directorial debut and gems from Greece, Iran, Japan and Ivory Coast are among favorites.

'Sun Children, David Byrne's 'American Utopia,' 'Ammonite, 'Nomadland,' 'Apples' (Courtesy Photos)

Career highs from Frances McDormand and Kate Winslet, a new Spike Lee joint, Regina King’s feature directorial debut and gems from Greece, Iran, Japan and Ivory Coast are among favorites.

  • ’76 Days’ (Toronto)

    76 Days
    Courtesy of TIFF – ’76 Days’

    Filmed at four hospitals in Wuhan, China, during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown, this documentary from U.S.-based director Hao Wu and two reporters he’s never met in person, Weixi Chen and a journalist-filmmaker who has chosen to go unnamed, puts viewers in the eye of the medical storm. An emotional-wringer group portrait, it doesn’t have time for talking heads or long-view commentary; 76 Days is a work of true direct cinema, and its specifics make it — to use an overused word — unprecedented. — SHERI LINDEN


    ‘Ammonite’ (Toronto)

    'Ammonite'
    Credit: See-Saw Films – ‘Ammonite’

    Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan play emotionally isolated mid-19th century British women of different classes opening themselves up to passion in Francis Lee’s (God’s Own Country) exquisite, transfixingly quiet drama. This is the work of a filmmaker in full command of his voice, yielding remarkable performances — especially Winslet’s complex study of stoicism and desire, possibly the best turn of her career. — DAVID ROONEY


    ‘Apples’ (Venice, Toronto)

    Apples Venice FIlm Festival
    Courtesy of the Venice FIlm Festival – ‘Apples’
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    Debuting Greek director Christos Nikou creates an arresting account of one man’s efforts to reprogram himself in a society afflicted by viral amnesia. Somber and surreal, this is a haunting, meticulously crafted movie with a wonderful central performance by Aris Servetalis, who seems affectless but uncovers layers of feeling. — D.R.


    ‘City Hall’ (Venice, Toronto)

    City Hall
    Venice Film Festival ~ ‘City Hall’
    At a time when America seems to be tearing apart at the seams, there’s something deeply inspiring about the new doc from Frederick Wiseman, which chronicles municipal life in his hometown of Boston. Like the director’s 2015 In Jackson Heights, it’s a methodical, stirring paean to a place where folks from all backgrounds get together and make things happen. — JORDAN MINTZER
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