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Some TIFF 2019 recommendations for the Toronto Raptors

With the Toronto International Film Festival going on, and the Raptors still on vacation, we thought it would be a good time to give each member of the team some cinematic inspiration.

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it through the first weekend of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, with all of its many film screenings, the closure of a chunk of King Street West, and more celebrities than you can shake a selfie-stick at. (Most random sighting for me: Serj Tankian.) But now we settle into the second half of the festival, when the serious movie watching gets going for real — and tickets become more available.

In that spirit, and with the Raptors still on vacation, I thought it was a good time to bring back one of my favourite traditions: making film recommendations for each member of the squad. So, here we go, some cinematic inspiration for the Raptors at TIFF.

(And for reference, here’s what I’ve seen and will be seeing at the fest. Check out all my reviews at Brief Take and a pair at Cinema Scope)

Kyle Lowry Should See: Uncut Gems

As a Philly guy, maybe Lowry getting into the oeuvre of the New York-based (and inspired) Safdie brothers goes against his personal grain. Then again, there’s a rangy, never-say-die attitude to their films that I feel like Lowry can relate to. Here we’ve got Adam Sandler as a harried jeweler who must “perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.” That certainly fits with the story of Lowry’s career — including that ultimate win.

Pascal Siakam Should See: Crazy World

Yes, it’s an African film; no, it’s not from Pascal’s native Cameroon; yes, it has energy upon energy upon energy; no, I have no idea what to expect; yes, it could be something special; no, we have no concept yet as to what exactly that means. Wait, am I still talking about IGG Nabwana’s action film... or Siakam?

Serge Ibaka Should See: The Whistlers

The Whistlers is epic and droll. It’s worldly and a bit silly. It features a twisting and turning narrative that only makes sense after the fact. It’s a love letter to movies and to love itself. Its maker, Corneliu Porumboiu, is accomplished yet still striving. And his film stars at least one extremely beautiful person (Catrinel Marlon). You’re telling me Serge Ibaka wouldn’t find himself in all that?

Marc Gasol Should See: Pain and Glory

I’ll eat my hat if Gasol hasn’t heard of his countryman Pedro Almodóvar. And I’m comfortable in asserting that he would enjoy this film, starring Antonio Banderas, about an aging filmmaker looking back and forward on his life. Maybe it’s obvious to pick a Spanish film for Toronto’s Big Spain, but it also fits thematically as Gasol enters the final year of his latest contract — and the twilight of his career.

Norman Powell Should See: Parasite

You have to see Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite to believe it, which is also how best to understand the legacy and presence of Norman Powell. The film, which I can’t really describe without spoiling, involves a family willing to go to great lengths to put themselves in a good position. Powell isn’t nearly as desperate as that bunch, but his game is definitely explosive in the same way — and he’s not quite settled into his role in Toronto.

OG Anunoby Should See: Three Summers

A great sense of humour courses through Three Summers, a Brazilian film about a housekeeper/manager named Madá (Regina Casé) who is actually much more than that. While events well beyond her purview play out, Madá stays the course, working diligently and with a sense of uproarious flair, towards her goals. If this is not OG Anunoby after his third summer in the league I don’t know what is.

Fred VanVleet Should See: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

VanVleet may be interested in this one as both as a relatively new father (again) and as a player looking to continue bringing his calming spirit to the Raptors. We know the story here: Marielle Heller’s film revolves around Mr. Rogers and his titular neighbourhood. For a guy who remains as imperturbable (and lovable!) as FVV, we can likely add him to the list of fans of Rogers (and Tom Hanks).

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Should See: Zombi Child

A cross between a zombie film and a high school drama, director Bertrand Bonello wants to combine a few different elements to tell a complex story about “how colonialism and cultural appropriation refuse to die.” I feel like there’s an emotion here, one captured by Hollis-Jefferson’s multi-faceted game (and even his hyphenated name!) that achieves a certain synchronicity. He’s also trying to resurrect his career — get it?

Stanley Johnson Should See: About Endlessness

Roy Andersson’s films defy description. They’re vignette-based, often getting at broader spiritual matters about human existence, with jokes and grief in equal measure. If I’m Stanley Johnson, now entering my fifth year and joining my third team, I’m reckoning with what my role is in all of this — and trying to maintain both perspective and a smile. That sounds like it sums up Andersson’s latest film, or at least the spirit of his work, too.

Patrick McCaw Should See: Anne at 13,000 ft.

After three years of up-and-down play, and some weird off-court drama involving his contract, are we all ready to take a leap of faith with McCaw and his chaos energy? The Raptors appear set to do just that, and Kazik Radwanski, noted Toronto filmmaker and Raps fan, is ready to jump into the big leagues with his latest feature — built once again from a lot of improvization. Here’s hoping some of the buzz from the latter transfers to the former.

Malcolm Miller Should See: The Climb

To be clear, Miller is not like the hopeless dopes in Michael Angelo Covino’s film. He’s still trying to ascend in the ranks of the NBA, but he’s not willfully destroying himself over the years. There’s been some bad luck — e.g. injuries — but as with the film, Miller appears to have a sense of humour about it. I bet he’d enjoy this well-structured long-take comedy.

Matt Thomas Should See: Wet Season

Don’t even know what it’s about — just look at that title though! Could sharpshooter Matt Thomas, who has yet to play a second in the NBA but already has us extremely hyped, ever possibly consider seeing a different film? No way.

Chris Boucher Should See: Deerskin

On the one hand, this is a French movie starring the guy from The Artist about a man obsessed with a jacket. On the other hand, it’s not a stretch to understand Boucher as a man driven by his love of the three-point shot and the confidence it takes to totally sell your own self on that premise. I suspect both man and film will find a similar bold wavelength.

Terence Davis Should See: Red Penguins

Davis probably doesn’t know or care much about hockey, but there’s something about the wild tale of the post-Soviet-collapse sports landscape in Russia that may intrigue him nonetheless. (His story over the past few months has seemed pretty wild to me, anyway.) This is a documentary featuring some “larger-than-life” figures, and to be honest I feel like Davis may be one of those himself. Let’s see.

Dewan Hernandez Should See: How to Build a Girl

There are no tangible links between Hernandez and this film (it’s set in England and centred on a young girl), but there is a figurative one: it’s a coming-of-age story. For the newest draftee on the Raptors, any story that involves the aches and pains that come with growing up and into the role of a lifetime should capture Hernandez’s attention. And here’s hoping some of the love that star Beanie Feldstein has drawn as of late will find its way to Dewan, providing yet another boost.

Cameron Payne, Oshae Brissett, Sagaba Konate, Devin Robinson Should See: Heroic Losers

Look, I know how that title sounds. It sounds harsh. But the foursome currently occupying spots 16 to 19 on the Raptors roster know there is a distinct chance they will not be in Toronto next season, or the NBA at all. Heroic Losers, starring the beloved Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin, should be an inspiration then. He leads a film with a cast of characters banding together to steal back what should be rightfully theirs. Let’s get fired up together!

Nick Nurse Should See: Western Stars

Because it feels unlikely that Nurse would not be into a movie about Bruce Springsteen.


With TIFF ending on September 15th, there are still seven days left (including today) of movie-watching to go, and plenty of films to see. Hope everyone gets the tickets they want. If anyone needs me, I’ll be standing in a line somewhere, waiting for a movie to start.

Happy TIFF-ing everyone!