The ninth Twin Cities Film Festival kicks off this Wednesday at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON in St. Louis Park, allowing Minnesotans who couldn’t make it to the Toronto or Venice film festivals this year to get an early peek at a strong slate of buzzy movies.
Kerasotes Showplace ICON Theatre at West End
$12; $20 gala screenings; $80-$120 festival passes
Screenings scheduled for the 11-day cinematic sampler run the gamut. There are social-justice and pop-culture documentaries, white-knuckle thrillers, conversation-sparking dramas, and indie shorts. Past fests have included award-winning movies like Moonlight, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Florida Project.
The following is a roundup of some of the most buzz-worthy films at this year’s TCFF.
Time for Ilhan
What it's about: In 2016, the Mogadishu-born Ilhan Omar ran an uphill (to put it mildly) campaign to unseat a 43-year incumbent holding the Minnesota State Senate spot for District 60B in Minneapolis. Her victory made her the first Somali Muslim to hold state office in the United States.
Why you should go: At this time, Noah Shapiro’s inspiring made-in-Minnesota documentary is still hunting for a distributor, which would help it be seen outside of festivals and, importantly, by Academy voters. In the meantime, given how the movie hits on the nation-changing intersection of politics, religion, ethnicity, and immigration -- not to mention the dramatic backdrop of Omar’s likely election next month as one of the first Muslim women in Congress -- this is one of those can’t-miss movies about a can’t-ignore story.
If you go: Wednesday, October 17, at 5:45 p.m.
What it's about: In the 1960s, a rough-around the-edges white bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) drives a refined and renowned classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) to concert dates in the deep South. Complications ensue. Personalities clash. Lessons are presumably learned.
Why you should go: Director Peter Farrelly is a long way away from his There’s Something About Mary days here. In this movie, based on a true story, Mortensen’s method skills look on point as the salty Bronx character who ends up in a lovingly bickering Odd Couple friendship with Ali’s persnickety aesthete. Green Room was the dark-horse winner of the Toronto International Film Festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award (A Star Is Born was the presumed favorite), putting it in prime position for end of the year attention.
If you go: Wednesday, October 17, at 7:45 and 8:15 p.m.
Genre: Action, suspense, drama
What it's about: After her arch-criminal husband (Liam Neeson) is killed by the police, leaving her with his debts, Viola Davis gathers the widows -- Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo -- of the rest of his gang to pull a heist.
Why you should go: Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) based the script for this movie on the British TV series of the same name from Lynda La Plante, shifting the action to Chicago. Steve McQueen directs, taking a sharp detour from dramas like 12 Years a Slave and Hunger, and, if reports from Toronto and the BFI London film festival are true, adding political depth and style to a grandly pulpy premise. Also: Davis and Neeson as a criminal couple, plus a cast that includes Robert Duvall, Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, and Carrie Coon? Yes, please.
If you go: Saturday, October 20, at 6:15 p.m.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Genre: Drama, comedy
What it's about: After the career of biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) takes a dive, she discovers a remunerative sideline: writing and selling hundreds of forged letters she claimed were written by Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary legends. Eventually, though, her golden goose stops laying eggs and the walls start to close in.
Why you should go: The real Ms. Israel was a fascinating piece of work, famously saying she considered the forgeries “my best work.” From the confidence-inspiring trailer (an addictive blend of boozy banter and dark New York bookstore interiors) and early screening buzz, this looks like the kind of vulnerable yet tough and resourceful character that McCarthy could play all the way to an Oscar nomination. Plus: Richard E. Grant plays her alcoholic accomplice like a more venomous Hugh Grant.
If you go: Tuesday, October 23 at 7:00 p.m.
What it's about: Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, this is the story of a college student (Lucas Hedges) sent to gay conversion therapy by his fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher father (Russell Crowe) and somewhat more understanding but still fundamentalist mother (Nicole Kidman).
Why you should go: Feedback from the Telluride premiere was positive but mild, but word on the street is that Hedges and Kidman have very strong shots at Oscar nominations. The horror story of gay conversion “therapy” is getting some long overdue play in popular culture, and was already the subject of this summer’s affectingly romantic The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Director/writer Joel Edgerton could be the hidden secret strong point here, having done surprisingly subtle work with his creepy noir debut, 2015’s The Gift.
If you go: Friday, October 26, at 7 and 10 p.m.
Genre: Comedy, historical drama, WTF
What it's about: In early 18th-century England, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is doddering on the brink of insanity while her good friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) operates as the real power behind the throne. Meanwhile, a new servant (Emma Stone) shows up as a fallen aristocrat turned servant with an agenda.
Why you should go: After blowing audiences away at Venice, this loony-looking madhouse farce could be on the road to some award recognition for director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose deliriously Kafka-esque absurdist black comedies like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer might have won a deep core of cult followers but have so far have frightened off or just plain annoyed the Academy. That’s, of course, assuming it doesn’t get lost in comparisons to this year’s other battling queens epic, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan’s Mary Queen of Scots, hitting theaters in early December, just a couple weeks after this one.
If you go: Saturday, October 27 at 2:45 p.m.
Genre: Documentary, music
What it's about: In decades past, roller rinks dotted the American landscape, serving as both communal gathering places for a subset of dedicated black skate fans and concert halls for up-and-coming rappers ranging from Queen Latifah to NWA. Now, as rezoning shuts down rink after rink, this subculture battles to keep their community alive and thriving.
Why you should go: Although a long shot for this year’s Oscars, it won the Audience Award at Tribeca and closed out the prestigious AFI Docs festival. More importantly, United Skates is one of the more deliriously fun and meaningful movies you’re going to see this year. Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s deft storytelling weaves poignant individual stories together with broader cultural and racial themes, packaging the whole thing in hypnotic sequences of skaters swirling around rinks with gleeful abandon to a killer R&B and hip-hop soundtrack.
If you go: Saturday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m.