Toronto: land of prestige films, poutine, and Oscar buzz. At least, that’s what happens every September during the Toronto International Film Festival (poutine is, of course, available year-round). With the festival kicking off later this week, we thought it prudent (and let’s be honest, sort of necessary and obvious) to run through the list of our most anticipated titles set to screen at TIFF. It’s a hell of a list, mainly because unlike so many other film festivals, a large number of the films set to screen at TIFF are already kitted out with their own (upcoming!) wide release date. This isn’t Sundance, where you can wait two years for a film that was beloved at the festival to come to a town near you. (Though, this is TIFF, where you can wait seven years for a film that was beloved at the festival to come to a town near you – looking at you, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane!)
In any case, there are dozens upon dozens of films screening at TIFF (many of which sound alike), but only one dozen that we’ve deemed our Most Anticipated of the festival. Which one will be the breakout hit? Which one will pull in all the awards? Which one will you get to see in seven years? Let’s find out.
TIFF has done well by director Jason Reitman – three of his previous four films screened at the festival and he’s bringing one of his trademark live readings to Toronto this year – so it’s no surprise that his latest is debuting at the fest. Based on Joyce Maynard’s novel of the same name, the film centers on a single mom (Kate Winslet) and her teen son (newcomer Gattlin Griffith) who bring home something really unexpected from a shopping trip – escaped felon Josh Brolin. What unfolds isn’t just another home invasion flick, but a story of emotional invasion, the kind that might not be totally unwarranted and unwanted.
Alfonso Cuarón’s 3D space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney would top most anticipated lists no matter where it shows – we’ve been looking forward to this one for so long that they could screen it on the back of a building in Nova Scotia and we’d turn out for it. Rampant excitement based on talent and plot alone has only been increased by positive buzz and a series of terrifying trailers – basically, everything we’ve seen and heard so far make Gravity sound like a can’t-miss.
While we’ve already been treated to another eco-terrorism thriller by a beloved indie team with this year’s The East, Kelly Reichardt’s own take on the subject comes without the mindset of an outsider, making Night Moves sound like the much more intimate (and likely consuming) of the pair. With a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard, it’s Reichardt’s latest move to the big time that still sounds indelibly like her own work.
The tale of the West Memphis Three has bred a number of high-profile documentaries since the crimes of 1993, but Atom Egoyan has finally brought the story of a three murdered boys, three accused teens, and a town gripped by fear and anger to the big screen in a dramatized fashion. With a giant cast made up of both big stars and newbies, including Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, and Amy Ryan, Devil’s Knot sounds compelling on its own – but after years of docs on the subject, we can’t wait to see how it translates to a dramatic feature.
12 Years a Slave
We’ve long been looking forward to director Steve McQueen’s Shame follow-up, the true tale of a freeman kidnapped into slavery (the wonderful Chiwetel Ejiofor), and it was always going to be a big title at TIFF, but the buzz coming out of Telluride ensures that this one is a can’t-miss of the highest order.
Yes, we’re all in for Denis Villeneuve’s twisted tale of a horrific Thanksgiving kidnapping of two young girls. While some people bemoaned a seemingly paint-by-the-numbers slew of trailers, we’ve long been intrigued by the possibility that something totally bonkers lurks at the center of the Hugh Jackman- and Jake Gyllenhaal-starring film. If Telluride praise is to be believed, Prisoners’ most bonkers trick might be surprising everyone with just how damn good it is.
August: Osage County
Oscar bait? Meet TIFF. TIFF? Meet Oscar bait. We’ll just be there for some Oscar level yelling from both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
David Gordon Green returning to form with Nicolas Cage in a starring role? What a no-brainer.
Blue Is The Warmest Color
The captivating Cannes winner is smack in the middle of its fall festival run (it just showed at Telluride, and it will follow TIFF with a NYFF showing), and the praise for Abdellatif Kechiche’s unflinching portrayal of the troubled romantic relationship between a pair of passionate young ladies doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This is the film people have been talking about since May, and we can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her
We have no idea how director Ned Benson’s vision – one story, told from two perspectives, and as two separate films – will translate to the big screen. We can’t wait to see it for ourselves.
All Cheerleaders Die
If you’re only going to catch one Midnight Madness title, make it Lucky McKee and Chris Siverston’s tale of a vengeful teen and the captain of the football team who is going to pay – big time – for his crimes. You can’t miss.
Here’s a case of pre-festival buzz rocketing a film on to everyone’s most anticipated list. From illusionist duo Penn and Teller, the 80-minute doc plunges into an art world mystery – just what did celebrated painter Johannes Vermeer use to make his highly realistic works in a time when the camera was still 150 years away from being invented? – which sounds like just about the strangest thing ever. And yet everyone at Telluride appeared to love this film, and it’s been deemed the crowd-pleaser of the fest. Sold.
TIFF runs from September 5th until September 15th.