The Toronto International Film Festival brings close to 400 films from around 70 countries every year. In terms of diversity and quality, TIFF is second to none. Based on the July 28 announcement of the galas and special presentations, these are the top ten films I’m looking forward to the most at this year’s festival.
- The Program
Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) tackles the Lance Armstrong scandal from the perspective of an Irish journalist who is convinced the cyclist is using performance-enhancing drugs. Although the subject matter hardly interests me, Frears has a knack for making emotionally compelling films based on true stories. He isn’t flashy; he directs solid and well-acted stories. Hopefully, this film will not stray too far from Frears’ program.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are two aging artists in Paolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated triumph The Great Beauty. The early word from Cannes says that Sorrentino is working his lush, cinematic magic in his second English feature.
Jean Marc-Valée has been on a bit of a roll. After breaking out from the confined world of Canadian cinema with his powerful Dallas Buyers Club, the Quebecois filmmaker released Wild, which garnered a couple of Oscar nominations. Working with more talented A-listers after Matthew McConaughey in Buyers Club and Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Demolition has a great cast that features Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Polly Draper.
- Louder Than Bombs
In his writer-director debut, Oslo, August 31st, Joachim Trier crafted a heart-wrenching slice of life that tracked a drug addict over the course of the day before ending with his relapse. Roger Ebert called the film “one of the most observant and sympathetic films” he’d ever seen. August 31st had a deliberate pace that slowly creeps up on you to draw tears in its quiet finale. Trier’s English language debut, which stars Jesse Eisenberg, looks like it has the same calm pace but with the same explosive emotions.
I get excited for all of his films, but recently they’re almost always disappointments. Remember doesn’t seem memorable for any other reason than it is directed by the once-great Atom Egoyan, who made masterpieces like Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, and Ararat during the 90s and early 2000s. Christopher Plummer, an Egoyan favorite, plays a man who seeks violent revenge on a living Nazi years after the Holocaust. Even if we won’t remember Remember, we’ll just hope it won’t be another The Captive.
Last year’s Sundance sensation, Frank, made me laugh and feel pathos for a disturbed musician who almost never takes off a paper-mâché head. The director, Lenny Abrahamson, appears to be examining more dark themes in his follow-up, but potentially without the humor. Brie Larson plays a mother who confines her ten-year-old son to a 10×10 room, but things become more complicated as the young boy grows more and more curious.
Sometimes I like the films that get booed at Cannes more than the ones that win the Palme d’Or. Last year’s winner, Winter Sleep, was a nearly three and half hour snooze that a pretentious jury managed to interpret as a plodding, repetitive, and dull masterpiece. Luckily, the director behind this year’s Palme d’Or winner, Jacque Audiard, doesn’t make masturbatory “Art Films.” A Prophet, his breakthrough, was a Scorsese-like gangster epic, and his follow-up, Rust & Bone, was an emotionally devastating fable. He has never made a boring film, but some critics questioned the jury’s choice as they cited some unwieldy flaws that arise in the final act. Either way, Dheepan, will be no cold sleeper.
- The Lobster
The Lobster takes place in a future where singles are taken from the city and transferred to a hotel, where they have to find a mate in forty-five days or they get turned into an animal and released into the woods. Yup, that is the description for a critical darling that premiered at Cannes in May. The Lobster looks like it has one of those crazy ideas that somehow still confounds all expectations.
Charlie Kaufman is one of the greatest auteurs that emerged in cinema during the beginning of the 21st century. Kaufman wrote the witty, poignant and high-concept screenplays for challenging films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. Anomalisa marks the first time Kaufman is working with animation and his second time in the director’s chair. The only description of the film we have is that it’s about a man who “struggles with his inability to connect with other people.” Knowing Kaufman, who put us inside the mind of John Malkovich, and made a film about a theater play, inside a theater play–ad infinitum, there will be a lot more to Anomalisa.
People get excited for Marvel movies and CGI spectacles, but the only film I can remember losing sleep for from my ecstatic anticipation was Denis Villeneuve’s puzzling Enemy. Villeneuve, my favorite Canadian filmmaker, is versatile enough to make a Hollywoodized thriller like Prisoners but also a chilling art-film like Polytechnique. Sicario, a drug cartel thriller, got mostly rave reviews at its Cannes premiere. Although the film appears to fit in with the director’s more accessible work, I’m still excited about Sicario. I might not sleep from now until the start of the festival.
There are plenty more films to be unveiled at this year’s TIFF, but some of the notable ones that were disclosed July 28 include Ridley Scott’s The Martian and Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. It’s become commonplace for journalists to predict what films will be nominated at the Academy Awards based on how they screen to the close to 4000 press and industry that come to the festival. I’m privileged to be representing The Young Folks at the festival, which runs September 10-20, and I’ll be looking for this year’s Argo, 12 Years A Slave, and King’s Speech.