There are arguably five great film festivals in the world: New York, Sundance, Cannes, Venice and Toronto. (Yes, you could argue Berlin is in that mix as well, but how many noteworthy premieres do they really get?) Out of that group, no festival has as many artistic highs and lows as Toronto. It’s partly because of their huge program, partly because it’s a pseudo fall film market and, well, they sort of like to have lots of famous people walk their red carpets (tough love, TIFF, tough love).
This will be my ninth-straight Toronto and it’s become very easy to look over the program and guess what could be great and what might be a waste of two hours. Taking my experiences into account, here are my initial reactions to this year’s slate. Can you tell which ones are really worth seeing?
“American Dreams in China” (Peter Ho-Sun Chan)
Huge blockbuster in China. Curious how the American press will take it.
“The Art of the Steal” (Jonathan Sobol)
Jay Baruchel and Kurt Russell in a movie together? Hope it’s a Canadian classic.
“August: Osage County” (John Wells)
Talk about a red carpet. Personally, I’m a tad worried about the accent Streep is using in the trailer, but when was the last time she made a bad creative choice? 1989?
“Cold Eyes” (Cho Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo)
New thriller from Korea. Will get to it if I can.
“The Fifth Estate” (Bill Condon)
Just happy to see Condon get to flex his muscles on something serious again.
“The Grand Seduction” (Don McKellar)
Love McKellar’s “Last Night.” Hoping Taylor Kitsch’s recent bad luck on the big screen turns around here.
“Kill Your Darlings” (John Krokidas)
Nice move by Sony Classics to hold the Sundance player until fall. Needs a second look from press and critics to get the attention it deserves. Oh yeah, and, duh, Daniel Radcliffe on the red carpet.
“Life of Crime” (Daniel Schechter)
Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch” with Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes, Will Forte and Mos Def. Wait – Jennifer Aniston is in this?
“The Love Punch” (Joel Hopkins)
Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan? Check. I’m there.
“The Lunchbox” (Ritesh Batra)
Screened at Critic’s week at Cannes. People liked.
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (Justin Chadwick)
Could be awkward timing with Mandela in his last days. Hope it’s good.
“Parkland” (Peter Landesman)
“A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.” Yeah, I’m worried about this one…
“The Railway Man” (Jonathan Teplitzky)
Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth. These two are at TIFF almost every year. Do they have time shares yet?
“The Right Kind of Wrong” (Jeremiah Chechik)
Catherine O’Hara’s in it. That’s all I needed to know.
“Rush” (Ron Howard)
Even with Chris Hemsworth on board, Universal will need strong reviews and lots of publicity to help open this racing flick in the states. Is it really an awards player?
“Shuddh Desi Romance” (Maneesh Sharma)
Bollywood romantic comedy. Looks cute.
“Supermensch” (Mike Myers)
Myers’ directorial debut as a documentary filmmaker. Curious.
“12 Years a Slave” (Steve McQueen)
Can’t wait. Hoping it screens at Telluride.
“All is By My Side” (John Ridley)
Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix. John Ridley directs. Hmmm. Could go either way.
“Attila Marcel” (Sylvain Chomet)
Director of “The Triplets of Belleville.” Check.
“Bad Words” (Jason Bateman)
Looks like an acquisition battle over this one. Screams commercial.
“Belle” (Amma Asante)
Searchlight flick with stellar cast. Awards season crasher?
“Blue is the Warmest Color” (Abdellatif Kechice)
Good, but not great. Wonder what the reaction will be on this side of the Atlantic?
“Can a Song Save Your Life?” (John Carney)
Looks like the most commercial thing Carney has done since “Once.” Terrible title though.
“Cannibal (Caníbal)” (Manual Martín Cuenca)
Spanish thriller. Eh.
“Dallas Buyers Club” (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Focus’ big awards player that has – smartly – been very under the radar.
“Devil’s Knot” (Atom Egoyan)
Well, good luck avoiding Doctor Strange questions from the fanboy press Mr. Egoyan.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her” (Ned Benson)
James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain together? Check.
“Dom Hemingway” (Richard Shepard)
Intriguing. Searchlight isn’t releasing this film until April of next year, but will let it premiere at Toronto. What’s the benefit?
“Don Jon” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Nice little publicity tour before it opens in October. Should be a crowd-pleaser.
“The Double” (Richard Ayoade)
Ayoade’s “Submarine” was the surprise of Toronto three years ago. Here’s hoping he goes two for two.
“Enough Said” (Nicole Holofcener)
James Gandolfini. R.I.P.
“Exit Marrakech” (Caroline Link)
Gonna have to be convinced to make time for this one.
“Felony” (Matthew Saville)
Joel Edgerton stars in this thriller he wrote with Jai Courtney and Melissa George. Aussie. Aussie. Aussie. Oi. Oi. Oi.
“For Those Who Can Tell No Tales” (Jasmila Žbani)
“Gloria” (Sebastián Lelio)
Roadside Attractions will release this hit Chilean drama later this year. Not a bad endorsement. Berlin hit.
“Going Away (Il est parti dimanche)” (Nicole Garcia)
99% sure I won’t get to this.
“Gravity” (Alfonso Cuarón)
Venice, Toronto…Telluride? Hope it’s not playing in the Roy Thompson. I can’t imagine the 3D will look good in that venue.
“The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)” (Paolo Sorrentino)
Missed it at Cannes. Heard mixed.
“Half of a Yellow Sun” (Biyi Bandele)
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s second movie at the fest after “12 Years A Slave.” Looking for a U.S. distributor.
“Hateship Loveship” (Liza Johnson)
I think Kristen Wiig is very talented. I’m not sure she’s a leading dramatic actress yet.
“Ida” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
“My Summer of Love” helmer looking for a comeback?
“L’intrepido” (Gianni Amelio)
Acclaimed Italian director looking for more love in Toronto. Assuming this will be at Venice as well.
“The Invisible Woman” (Ralph Fiennes)
Thought Fiennes did a superb job directing “Coriolanus.” Looking forward to this one.
“Joe” (David Gordon Green)
David Gordon Green in serious mode with Nic Cage? Surprise me guys.
“Labor Day” (Jason Reitman)
A Jason Reitman movie at the Toronto International Film Festival? Shut up! When has that ever happened before?
“Like Father, Like Son” (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Saw it a Cannes. Solid. Potential foreign language film winner.
“Man of Tai Chi” (Keanu Reeves)
I would love to believe this is an amazing film and its inclusion in the festival isn’t just about having Reeves walk the red carpet. Again, I’d love to believe that.
“MARY Queen of Scots” (Thomas Imbach)
Can we get enough movies about the Elizabethan era? Nope.
“Night Moves” (Kelly Reichardt)
Reichardt is a great American filmmaker. Must see.
“Omar” (Hany Abu-Assad)
Missed it at Cannes.
“One Chance” (David Frankel)
Looks like another movie from Frankel your parents would love.
“Only Loves Left Alive” (Jim Jarmusch)
I feel I’m part of a small minority that really enjoyed it at Cannes. Hoping it finds more fans at TIFF.
“The Past (La Passé)” (Asghar Farhadi)
Expected. Also expected at Telluride.
“Philomena” (Stephen Frears)
Would love Frears to make a great movie again. Fingers crossed. Probable Venice premiere.
“Pioneer (Pionér)” (Erik Skjoldbjærg)
“Prisoners” (Denis Villeneuve)
Warner Bros. really believes in this one. They don’t see it as just another star-packed thriller.
“Quai d’Orsay” (Bertrand Tavernier)
Someone’s gonna have to convince me.
“REAL” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Already opened in Japan. Not feeling it.
“Starred Up” (David Mackenzie)
The director of “Young Adam.” Yeah, it’s been awhile since he’s made anything with that much buzz.
“Third Person” (Paul Haggis)
Haggis goes “Babel!” Sort of.
“Those Happy Years (Anni Felici)” (Daniele Luchetti)
Another Italian filmmaker. Another film someone’s gonna have to convince me to make time for.
“Tracks” (John Curran)
Adam Driver and Mia Wasikowska make a movie in Australia. Fun!
“Under the Skin” (Jonathan Glazer)
Glazer hasn’t made a movie in nine years. This one has been buzzed about for over a year. Good? Bad? We’re gonna find out.
“Violetta” (Martin Provost)
The man did “Seraphine.” Might need to make time for this one.
“Visitors” (Godfrey Reggio)
It’s been 10 years since the QATSI trilogy ended. Hoping this one makes Telluride first.
“Walesa. Man of Hope. (Walesa. Czlowiek z nadziei.)” (Andrzej Wajda)
One of Europe’s greatest filmmakers chronicles the life of Lech Walesa? Yes please.
“We are the Best! (Vi är bäst!)” (Lukas Moodysson)
Three tween girls starting a punk band in 1982 Sweden. If I don’t see it at TIFF I may never have the chance to see it anywhere else.
“Le Week-End” (Roger Michell)
I’m still trying to get Michell’s last two terrible films out of my head. At least this one has Jeff Goldblum in it.
“You Are Here” (Matthew Weiner)
The feature film directorial debut of the creator of “Mad Men” with Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. Tough ticket.
“Young and Beautiful (Jeune & jolie)” (François Ozon)
The teenage prostitute dramedy you’ll completely forget a few hours after you see it. Again, “a teenage prostitute dramedy” that doesn’t stick with you. Yeah…
Which of these TIFF titles are you most intrigued by? Share your thoughts below.