Early Tuesday morning, the Toronto International Film Festival will announce its initial wave of films for the 2014 edition of the festival. As usual, there will be a slew of films that have played at either Cannes or Sundance, a number of star-filled projects looking for distribution, some broader studio films that may or may not be awards season fodder and then, of course, the potential Oscar players.
Toronto has long had to juggle landing the best premieres with Venice, but more recently has found their thunder stolen by a little festival in Colorado that actually has Academy members in attendance: Telluride. TIFF has reportedly threatened less-prestigious galas or slots after Wednesday (gasp! not after Wednesday!), but for the most part, Hollywood's studios seem to have taken it all with a collective yawn. Toronto is important, yes. What's best for each individual film's release and publicity campaign is slightly more important.
Venice has already landed Fox Searchlight's “Birdman” as its opening night film. The bigger surprise, however, is the New York Film Festival making something of a comeback snagging two of the most anticipated films of the year with David Fincher's “Gone Girl” opening and Paul Thomas Anderson's “Inherent Vice” as its centerpiece. Oh, and they also landed the aforementioned “Birdman” as the closing night gala. As for “the” most anticipated film of the year, Christopher Nolan's “Interstellar?” We're throwing our hands in the air with that one. It could do any of these major festivals or none of them at all.
That being said, let's review some of the titles in the mix for Toronto and predict their chances for making the cut.
Lowdown: One of Fox Searchlight's major awards players, it's directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Canadian) and star Reese Witherspoon will likely have another film at the festival as well.
Lowdown: Alejandro González Iñárritu's dramedy is opening Venice, but it also hits theaters about six weeks after Toronto. That's too convenient for all the worldwide press in attendance.
Lowdown: Tough call. Does Sony Pictures wait and try to land a premiere AFI Fest slot just prior to opening in theaters or do they start the buzz earlier? Not an easy decision with a mid-Nov. release date.
“This Is Where I Leave You”
Lowdown: Opens in the U.S. a week after the festival ends. Warner Bros. will already be there with other movies. This is the kind of star-filled title TIFF loves to roll the red carpet out for as a gala. I'd be shocked if it's not announced (and that would probably a bad sign about the movie itself).
“The Good Lie”
Lowdown: Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.' drama about the Lost Boys of Sudan stars Reese Witherspoon (who has that other festival movie, “Wild”) and opens less than a month later. Lock it in.
Lowdown: It's still hard to tell if David Dobkin's film is an awards player or not. The bigger question is if Downey can't get free of shooting “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is it even worth it for the studio or TIFF's programmers?
“Kill The Messenger”
Lowdown: “Homeland” executive producer Michael Cuesta (who also directed the pilot) helms this true story which features Jeremy Renner in what could be a showy, awards-worthy role. It also opens less than a month later. All that press up in Toronto? Too hard to pass up.
Lowdown: Open Road Films had tremendous success bringing Jake Gyllenhaal's “End of Watch” to Toronto two years ago. Gyllenhall is no stranger to the festival having screened or debuted films there at least seven times, including “Prisoners” and “Enemy” last year. This is another mid-October release that could use a TIFF publicity push.
Lowdown: The Weinstein Company always brings a number of films to throw up against the wall, er, see how they will be received from the world's critics who have congregated in the Great White North. “St. Vincent” looks like a coming-of-age comedy, but its late-October release date (Oct. 24) suggests something more. The trailer was also shockingly good. If Bill Murray can come, we're guessing the movie does too.
“The Theory of Everything”
Lowdown: With a Nov. 2 release date, Focus Features' drama chronicling the relationship of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) feels solid for TIFF. Although if it is announced as a North American premiere, that means it's going to Venice first. Or, if it's not included in the first wave, it could get a Venice selection on Thursday and be added later.
“The Imitation Game”
Lowdown: The film doesn't debut in limited release until Nov. 21, but if we know anything it's that TIFF wants Benedict Cumberbatch on a Roy Thompson Hall red carpet again (he's not Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Lawrence or Kristen Stewart, but he's close enough). The Weinstein Company could easily screen “Imitation” at Toronto, Venice or Telluride despite the fact that the film is opening the BFI London fest.
Lowdown: New distributor Saban Films acquired Tommy Lee Jones' latest Western after its Cannes premiere. The company isn't completely up and running yet so it has teamed up with Roadside Attractions for a U.S. release. Both companies believe they have awards potential with Hilary Swank and Jones, which likely means a Telluride appearance and TIFF as well.
“Men, Women and Children”
Lowdown: Jason Reitman has only skipped Toronto once in his career. Once. And that was for “Young Adult.” (In hindsight, that was probably a mistake, but that's an essay for another day.) “Children” still doesn't have a release date, which makes this a tougher prediction. Does Paramount hold it until AFI? Or will it premiere at Telluride and screen at Toronto like three of his last four films. It's a fall or winter release and Toronto named a street after his father. What do you think?
Lowdown: There are rumblings this one is going to Telluride, which makes a Toronto screening plausible. Of course, Jon Stewart's directorial debut could also be another candidate for a NYFF bow. Curious, pt. 1.
Lowdown: Four out of the last five Palme d'Or winners have played at Toronto. The only one that didn't, “The Tree of Life,” opened a few weeks after its Cannes debut. It would be very, very surprising if this didn't screen at TIFF (or Telluride, for that matter).
Lowdown: The political unrest in Ukraine makes this fantastic metaphor for Putin's Russia a must on the fall festival circuit. Look for it at Telluride, Toronto and possibly even New York.
“Map to the Stars”
Lowdown: Let's see. An iconic Canadian director in David Cronenberg, check. A Canadian company as a partial financier in Entertainment One, check. A possible awards worthy performance from Julianne Moore, who won Best Actress at Cannes, check. Yep, it's going to have its official North American premiere at Toronto (even if you can probably get it on Blu-ray in France by then). Oh, and did we mention Robert Pattinson could be available for the red carpet?
“Two Days One Night”
Lowdown: The Dardenne brothers' latest will have played a lot of international film festivals since its Cannes debut in May. Even with the star power of Marion Cotillard, will Toronto want to screen it? Or does Sundance Selects wait for a more prestigious NYFF berth? Or, perhaps it just plays Telluride? Curious, pt. 2.
Lowdown: Sony Classics has played this one smartly: a low-key Cannes screening in Director's Fortnight and not one other festival since its Grand Jury win at Sundance. Toronto would provide a nice publicity opp before its limited debut in October. Also, expect to see both the film and potential Best Supporting Actor player J.K. Simmons in Telluride.
Lowdown: Sony Classics' major awards player should screen at both Telluride and Toronto. I mean, trust on this one.
Lowdown: The nation's prodigal son, filmmaker Xavier Dolan, finally got an award of some kind at Cannes. He's coming home to show it off (we kid, sort of), but more importantly, “Mommy” is the best film he's made to date. Look for all the American and UK press who haven't seen it yet to lose themselves on Twitter after it screens. Oh yeah, and it also opens in Canada the Friday after the festival ends. Now, if only there was a U.S. release date…
Lowdown: Edward Zwick's drama chronicling the history-making chess match between American Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) does not have an American distributor yet. Does it screen at Venice and then Toronto in hopes of creating enough heat to close a sale? Or is it just not that good? Curious, pt. 3.
“Knight of Cups”
Lowdown: Terrence Malick's long awaited drama has been buzzed as a late Fall release in the U.S. (strange, since it doesn't publicly have an American distributor yet). Malick's last film, the disappointing “To The Wonder,” did a double hit of Venice and Toronto. If this doesn't duplicate that plan then all eyes will look to New York.
“A Most Violent Year”
Lowdown: J.C. Chandor's follow-up to “All Is Lost” would have appeared to be perfect for NYFF, but the major gala slots are now full. If the film isn't ready yet (a definite possibility), A24 could hold off until AFI Film Fest. If it is? We might be looking at a major Venice, Telluride and Toronto player.
Which film are you most excited about this fall? Share your thoughts below.