I am almost embarrassed about how excited I am for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Then again, when you look at the list of movies playing this year, announced this morning by the fest, it is overstuffed with potentially excellent films, and the one problem I have right now is figuring out how I’m going to see everything I want to see. Sometimes, festivals can kick the crap out of you no matter how well you plan, and I’ve certainly had festivals where I felt like the schedule beat me. I think I had a pretty great Toronto last year, and I think it may be one of the best examples of what I want to do at a festival, and part of that is just because I’ve gotten comfortable in the city finally and I feel at ease when I’m there and working. In addition, the people who actually put on the festival have always made me feel, as both journalist and audience member, like I was welcome, like they can’t wait to share the films they’ve programmed.
This year, it looks like they have every reason to be proud of the festival they’re putting together, with a huge buffet of films that represent a pretty spectacular who’s who in filmmaking around the world right now.
For example, Terrence Malick’s going to be there with “To The Wonder.” That’s the film he made with Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, and Rachel McAdams, the one that Emmanuel Lubezki, Malick’s director of photography claims is far more experimental than “Tree Of Life.” That sounds like a must-see, right?
Speaking of Affleck, his newest film as a director will be there, and I really dig the trailer for “Argo,” which is based on a true story about an incident that took place during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in the ’70s. One of the great things about Toronto is how much access you have to the filmmakers and the actors if you want to do an interview, and with two highly anticipated films in the fest, it’s a safe bet I’ll be trying to set up some time to talk to him.
Or how about the opening night movie, “Looper”? Are you excited yet for Rian Johnson’s brain-bending and big-hearted science-fiction chase film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, and Bruce Willis in one of his very best recent performances? Because you should be. You really, really should be.
I was talking to someone the other day who has already seen David O. Russell’s new film “The Silver Linings Playbook,” and they swore to me that it was both hilarious and heartbreaking, with tremendous work from both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It certainly looked like it could work based on the short clip reel we saw at Cannes between footage from “The Master” and footage from “Django Unchained,” and I look forward to seeing the finished film in Toronto.
I’ve seen and reviewed some of the other movies announced today thanks to Cannes and Sundance, and I can vouch that “Rust and Bone,” “The Sapphires,” “The Sessions,” “The Hunt,” and Matteo Garrone’s “Reality” are all worthwhile additions to this year’s line-up. I’m glad I’ve seen them, because that gives me that little bit of extra time to dig into the other movies that are showing.
I thought “Blue Valentine” was quietly devastating, and I’m eager to see Gosling work with director Derek Cianfrance again in “The Place Beyond The Pines.” The combination of Deepa Mehta and Salman Rushdie on “Midnight’s Children” seems sort of irresistible to me, as does the pull of watching Bill Murray play FDR in Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park On The Hudson.” It seems like every Toronto requires at least one modern adaptation of a classic novel, and this year we’ve got Ralph Fiennes starring in Mike Newell’s spin on “Great Expectations,” as well as Joe Wright’s eagerly anticipated “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley in the lead. If those don’t do it for you, Zhang Ziyi’s starring in a new version of “Dangerous Liaisons,” and Joss Whedon’s bringing his take on “Much Ado About Nothing,” both of which sound exciting to me.
It’s the sheer diversity of subjects and titles and styles that gets me going when I look at the Toronto line-up this year. Want to see a documentary about the most famous sisters in tennis? “Venus and Serena” should do it for you. How about a thriller directed by Robert Redford and starring Shia LeBeouf, Redford, and Julie Christie about a former radical ’60s activist who is discovered in hiding by a journalist who wants to write about him? That’s “The Company You Keep.” David Ayer’s bringing his found-footage LA cops film “End Of Watch” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson should be on hand for the debut of their film “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are going to have their new film “Imogene,” about a playwright who decides the best way to win back her ex-boyfriend is by staging a near-suicide, but as a result, she ends up in the court-ordered custody of her mother, a gambling addict she barely knows. Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening make that feel like a must-see for me.
There’s a new Noah Baumbach film starring Greta Gerwig called “Frances Ha.” There’s a new Neil Jordan film called “Byzantium” with Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a mother and daughter pair of vampires. Sure to cause some confusion are the two films “A Late Quartet” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and “Quartet” directed by Dustin Hoffman. No matter what, I’m going to see the Graham Chapman documentary “A Liar’s Autobiography.” I’m intrigued to see Andrew Adamson pretty far from his “Shrek” and “Narnia” comfort zone with “Mr. Pip” starring Hugh Laurie. And if I just wanted to pick some titles based on interesting filmmakers attached, Sally Potter has a new movie there, Laurent Cantet is bringing his take on the Joyce Carol Oates novel “Foxfire,” Francois Ozon is bringing his latest, Costa Gravas will show up with something called “Capital,” and we’ll finally get to see the tsunami drama “The Impossible” from J.A. Bayona, the director of “The Orphanage.”
See what I mean? It’s all over the place, but in the best possible way. And as if all of those titles weren’t enough, I can finally catch up to “No” by Pablo Larrain, which was one of the most acclaimed films I missed at this year’s Cannes Festival. And I didn’t even realize Takeshi Kitano was working on “Outrage Beyond,” a follow-up to his film “Outrage,” which makes the announcement of it as part of Toronto’s line-up a gorgeous surprise.
Finally, the title I am most excited by at Toronto this year is “Cloud Atlas,” directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer and based on the remarkable, ambitious novel by David Mitchell. The book is a sprawling puzzle box that grapples with notions of identity and reality, and if they’re able to capture even part of what makes it such a great read, it will be a singular experience for film fans.
There were at least 25 other titles announced today as well, but many of them are completely unfamiliar to me, and that’s exactly as it should be. Festivals are one of the few places I get to walk into films with almost no knowledge of what they are or what they’re meant to be, and some of my best moments as a viewer have come from those out-of-left-field screenings.
All I know is that Greg Ellwood and I will be in Toronto for as much of the festival as possible this year, bringing out exhaustive coverage of everything we see and do, and I look forward to this trip each year. Hopefully you guys are as excited for the coverage as we are for the films, so keep your eyes here on HitFix when the festival kicks off September 6th.