After having researched and written about all 300 or so films for TIFF12, the idea of forming a shortlist of the ones I’m most excited about seeing is a daunting task. The list just keeps changing and morphing. But by hell or high water, here are 13 films that I can’t wait to see, including a couple that I have seen, in alphabetical order.
At Any Price Iranian-American helmer Ramin Bahrani is one of the leaders in the new generation of great American directors. He leaves his neo-realistic style and makes a more purely classic American piece that recalls films such as Breaking Away (1979) and Silkwood (1983). Dennis Quaid delivers one of his very best performances as a tragic figure in the mold of Willy Loman in this mid-western drama about modern agri-business and the price to be paid in the soul when winning at all costs is a detriment to your neighbor. Zac Efron stars as his rebellious, race-car driving son. I think this is a great American film.
Bad 25 I can’t wait to see what Spike Lee does with this celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson‘s album Bad, the only album to feature 5 consecutive #1 singles. I was coming of age at the time of this album’s release and remember it like it was yesterday wearing out that tape in my walkman. You listen to songs like “Man in the Mirror” now and they’re still just as powerful.
Berberian Sound Studio Peter Strickland‘s 70′s-set thriller about a UK editor sent to Italy to sound-engineer a new Argento-like horror flick has been all the rage at the horror and fantasy fests leading up to TIFF. A great movie about the movies. Seems appropriate viewing for TIFF.
Cloud Atlas I hope this is a great movie. The extended trailer is glorious as 6 different story threads involving fate, chance and destiny weave together. Great cast, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and a neat directing team-up of Tom Tykwer (Perfume, The Princess & The Warrior) and the Wachowski siblings (Bound, The Matrix).
Passion I’m hoping this will be more Femme Fatale (2002) than Black Dahlia (2006). The Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace factor makes me hopeful.
Rebelle (War Witch) One of the few movies on my list that I’ve had the privilege of already discovering, this is one of the best Canadian-produced films I’ve seen. The idea of going to see a film about child soldiers in some unnamed, war-torn African nation probably sounds too depressing for even many film lovers. But this is not a depressing film. Montreal writer-director Kim Nguyen tells it with urgency, purpose, and assurance. The debut of Rachel Mwanza is in league with Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple and more recently, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. She plays Komona, a young teenager kidnapped by local rebel militias, forced to kill her parents, and then trained as a child soldier. Mwanza appears in every scene, evolving from victim to soldier, from being someone’s daughter to becoming a parent. It’s a brave performance that earns our tears while she never asks for an ounce of our sympathy, playing Komona as a girl who must rely on her inner strength and resourcefulness to survive.
Rhino Season Iranian writer-director Bahman Ghobadi is probably my favorite director from that region in the world. His deeply humanistic films cast spell after spell over me, from A Time For Drunken Horses (2000) to Turtles Can Fly (2004) to Half Moon (2006). This is another travelogue and it details the release of a Kurdish-Iranian poet who makes his way across Turkey in order to try to locate his wife.
Seven Psychopaths Martin McDonagh made one of the best first-films in a long time when In Bruges was released in 2008. I love, love, love that movie and I hope his new one does well here.
Something in the Air Olivier Assayas has been one of my favorite directors in recent years with the riveting crime-saga series Carlos (2010) and his romantic-drama Summer Hours (2008). His new one just got a hot reception at Venice. Can’t wait.
The Suicide Shop Patrice Leconte is one of my favorite French directors. The creepy Monsieur Hire (1990), the sexy The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992), the sensuous black & white Girl On the Bridge(1999), and the magical drama The Man on the Train (2003) are some of my favorite of his. This marks his first animation effort, about a euthanasia shop that ensures you can have the death that suits you best. Can’t wait.
To the Wonder I won’t miss Terence Malick‘s first trip to TIFF for the world, particularly after directing this only a year after his thoughtful and moving masterpiece The Tree of Life. Starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams.
It’s an early trailer and MovieJay has gave it its thumbs-up as part of his great preview of the Special Presentations Programme that the film is playing in during the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace and powered by the very talented Brian De Palma, Passion just dropped its first trailer and the film looks great. It’s sensual, creepy and really increases my interest in the film.
What say you?
About The Film Passion is directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, Mission Impossible, Snake Eyes, The Black Dahlia, Redacted), and the film is actually a remake of the 2010 French film Love Crime directed by Alain Corneau, starring Kristen Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as two feuding corporate executives. In this version, a young businesswoman named Isabelle (Rapace) plots murderous revenge after her boss and mentor Christine (McAdams) steals some of her fresh ideas. Things only get more complicated when Isabelle ends up in bed with one of Christine’s lovers. De Palma wrote and directed the film, which will premiering at the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals this fall.
With the final block of 18 Special Presentation films announced this week, let’s see…that brings the grand total to 63 for this programme, and that’s not counting 7 Canadian features that we’ll cover in a special Canuck preview all its own.
TIFF is so bursting at the seams with titles that we had to cut the baby in three!
Films in this programme typically find distribution in North America, tend to combine a pedigree of talent from directing to acting, win tons of awards, and can most often be seen premiering at either the Elgin or the Ryerson Theaters.
Here are the deets on the final 18:
Arthur Newman Dante Ariola‘s feature directing debut stars Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) along with Emily Blunt as two people who have run away from their lives and who form a connection while they squat or break into other people’s homes. I stopped reading the synopsis when it got up to the part of them being “damaged souls”. Ya think? The director is an unknown quantity, but the leads are first-rate and Becky Johnston pens her first screenplay here since The Prince of Tides and Seven Years in Tibet back in the mid-90′s.
Bad 25 It’s a double dose of Spike Lee this summer, what with his indie pic Red Hook Summer opening in limited release and feat. Mookie delivering pizzas in a brief cameo. And then on the heels of that, his new Michael Jackson doc premieres at TIFF, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bad–the follow-up to the phenomenon which was Thriller, still the #1 bestselling album of all time. Bad hangs tough as the #5 bestseller around the world and although Thriller remains higher in sales, Bad continues to hold the record for most #1 singles (5) off one album with “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana“. The doc promises a “treasure trove” of new footage, some of which Jackson shot himself, and will no doubt be wall-to-wall with music. Totally hyped for this one. Shamon!
Disconnect Henry Alex Rubin makes his long-awaited follow-up to Murderball (2005) which is one of the most exhilarating documentaries you’ll ever see, about paraplegics who take to specially-made wheelchairs to play their own Mad Max version of rugby. That was nominated for an Oscar that year. This marks his first fiction film in another of TIFF’s big hyperlink dramas featuring multiple storylines and characters who are seeking some kind of connection in their lives in this age of social technology. It stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, and Paula Patton (the teacher in Precious) among several others. I’m a sucker for hyperlink flicks and I hope this is great.
Do Not Disturb Tel Aviv native Yvan Attal brings his third directing effort to TIFF since My Wife Is an Actress (2001) and …They Lived Happily Ever After (2004). As an actor, Attal has appeared in titles including Munich and The Interpreter. His new dramedy stars himself as a still free-spirited, wildflower type who barges into his old friend Ben’s place, played by France’s Dustin Hoffman, Francois Cluzet–who just appeared in the multiple Cesar-winning The Intouchables). Charlotte Gainsbourg (the ice queen mother in Melancholia) co-stars.
Greetings from Tim Buckley It opened to mixed reviews, but I thought Daniel Algrant‘s People I Know (2002) was a delicious New York City drama with one of Al Pacino‘s best performances of the last decade. Now, after a long hiatus, Algrant returns with a musical drama about the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, one of my favorites from the 90′s. This story recounts the events leading up to his 1991 tribute performance to his late father Tim, at New York’s St. Ann’s Cathedral. The intense performance launched the young performer’s short career, which gave us Grace, one of the best records of the last couple decades. Penn Badgley (Margin Call) stars as Jeff Buckley, along with Imogen Poots (Blanche from last year’s Jane Eyre, also here with A Late Quartet). Finally, a movie about Jeff Buckley!
Lines of Wellington Chilean native Valeria Sarmiento (frequent collaborator to Raoul Ruiz) returns to TIFF for the first time in a decade with her own film (she edited Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon last year). It covers the 1810 invasion of Portugal by France. John Malkovich stars as the leader of the Anglo-Portuguese army, General Wellington.
Love is All You Need And a good screenplay. Oscar-winner for foreign language pic In a Better World two years ago, Danish helmer Susanne Bier is back this with a dramedy starring Pierce Brosnan as an English widower in Denmark, along with Paprika Steen (Applause).
On the Road Festival fave Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries, Linha de Passe) returns with another highly-anticipated travelogue, this one based of course on the Jack Kerouac novel about a young writer and the free-spirited couple he meets on the road while on an existential search for everything in post WWII, beat-generation America. Sam Riley (played Ian Curtis in Control) stars as Sal, Garrett Hedlund (Jeff Bridges‘ son in Tron: Legacy) as Dean, and Kristen Stewart as MaryLou. Do you suppose the TIFF audience will greet her politely after her recent philandering? We’ll see.
Passion Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace are a corporate duo who face off against each other, with McAdams seeking revenge on her protege Rapace. Brian De Palma returns to TIFF for the first time since his indie Iraq drama Redacted in 2007, though this stuff thematically has more in common with Femme Fatale, which was a festival hit 10 years ago. Can’t wait.
Rhino Season Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has brought virtually all of his films to Toronto since his incredible debut in 2000 with A Time for Drunken Horses. His 2004 drama Turtles Can Fly was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film and told the story of kids who take money from both Iraqi and U.S. officials to go out and find landmines that haven’t done their thing yet. In 2006 he brought us Half Moon, another poetic neo-realism flick about an old Kurdish musician trying to get to a show he needs to perform at, travelling all the way around the U.S. occupied Iraq of the time. His films were the first on-the-ground efforts where we could feel the war in Iraq in the air from the perspective of the people over there, even if they were not war stories. His new one is another travelogue, this time about a freed Kurdish-Iranian poet from prison who sets out across Turkey in order to find the wife who must imagine him to be dead. Ghobadi is a treasure.
Spring Breakers Harmony Korine. I really only need to type his name and if you’re any kind of indie movie lover of the last 15 years, that name just went in your eyes and set something off in your brain and now you either really need to see his new one or you really don’t. He’s sort of by himself over in the corner, an untamed indie writer-director that makes almost every other indie movie look a lot more mainstream. He wrote much of the screenplay for Kids (1995) as a teenager. That was one of the best films of the 90′s. On his own as a director, he is even more surreal and free-spirited. Part of the wonder is that his movies even got made, like with Mister Lonely (2004) which tells of characters who live as impersonators of famous people like Michael Jackson and the Pope, or Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) told from the viewpoint of a young schizophrenic and also featuring that mesmerizing performance by Werner Herzog. His new one appears to have a budget to go with stars James Franco and Selena Gomez, in this spring break comedy that I’m betting won’t be just another vanilla one.
The Master One of the last movies I saw at the old Uptown Theater at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto was the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). That was an event. It was the 6th film playing that day in the large #1 theater that was famous for its expansive front row where you could put your coat and book-bag up on that stage in front of you instead of under your seat or in your lap. It got going closer to midnight when it had been scheduled for about 10:30 as I recall, and it didn’t matter because we were going to see a PTA movie on a screen we knew it would never show on again. All of his movies are like that for me; I remember the day, the weather, where I saw it, who with, what we ate after. PTA is this generation’s humble heavyweight director and a student of the game, his work recalling heavyweights such as Scorsese, Altman, Kubrick and Ophuls. His new one stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a drama soaked in dogmatic themes in McCarthy-era America.
The Paperboy Matthew McConaughey‘s on fire this year. This will be his fourth movie in four months and the second deep-fried gothic thriller in a row following Killer Joe, Bernie, and Magic Mike. He’s been very good in all of ‘em so far, with Bernie being one of the most unfairly neglected movies of the year. Here he stars in Lee Daniels‘ highly-anticipated follow-up to the 2009 TIFF Audience Award winner, Precious. Zac Efron (also here with At Any Price) plays a journalist who goes back home to Florida in order to involve himself with a death row inmate. That’s about as far as I got in the synopsis of this 60′s-set drama, which I can’t wait to see, but want to see cold. Looks Oscary. Hope it’s more Dead Man Walking than Life of David Gale.
The Son Did It Italian director Daniele Cipri makes his long-awaited TIFF debut with this crime-drama detailing the mistaken killing by the Mafia of a young peasant family’s daughter. Remarkably–and I love stumbling across this kind of stuff–Cipri’s bio on the IMDB shows him being nominated wearing four different hats, from his writing and directing, to his editing and cinematography work on movies like Marco Bellocchio‘s Vincere and Dormant Beauty, which also premieres at TIFF this year.
The Suicide Shop I went and saw Patrice Leconte‘s haunting Monsieur Hire after Siskel & Ebert raved about it in 1990, and I was hooked after that. At his best, he explores the obsessions of his characters with a singular focus and fascination with them. The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992) was about a young boy who vowed he’d marry a hairdresser, and finally in middle-age, he does just that. That was one of the best films of the 90′s along with Hire and the wondrous black & white Girl on the Bridge (1999), with that unforgettable Vanessa Paradis performance. This marks his first foray into animation, with the bleak story of an even bleaker family who run a little shop specializing in euthanasia. I’m totally there. Every single Leconte film that has been brought to TIFF has been very good at the least and a masterpiece at best.
Therese Desqueyroux French director Claude Miller‘s (A Secret) posthumous last film stars Audrey Tautou in a study of what it might have been like to be a Catholic landowner’s wife in rural France in the 1920′s, except for the part where she poisons her husband with arsenic of course. Tautou plays a woman stifled by an arranged marriage and differing values that clash with her time in this adaptation of one of French author Francois Mauriac‘s most famous novels.
White Elephant French actor Jeremie Renier (L’Enfant, In Bruges) stars as a young priest who’s been brought on by an older Argentinian one played by Richardo Darin (earning amazing reviews for his current Chinese Takeaway) to work on a housing project in the slums of Buenos Aires. Writer-director Pablo Trapero was last at TIFF with the good crime-dram Carancho in 2010 and his new one earned very good reviews out of competition at Cannes.
Yellow Remarkably, this is Nick Cassavetes first return to TIFF since his first film, 1996′s Unhook the Stars. In that time he has tackled more indie-flavored fare with the gritty She’s So Lovely (1997) and helped to catapult Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams into bonafide stardom after 2004′s The Notebook. Those were good films while his more recent My Sister’s Keeper (2009) is my favorite. Yellow appears to mark a return back to a grittier feel with Sienna Miller as a young woman with drug and other problems. He’s always got a great cast all the way down the line and here is no exception, with the likes of Gena Rowlands, David Morse, Ray Liotta and Melanie Griffith.
The 45 movies announced so far in the Special Presentations program for TIFF ’12 are a strong and varied crop, and represent just how bursting-at-the-seems that Toronto has become in kicking off the big fall movie season. Previous Special Pres’ have included Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Atonement and The Wrestler.
When you go to a Special Pres’ screening, you’re going to find reliable international directors and actors and just as many “big” films as you’d find in the Gala section. From Oscar bait to hidden gems, foreign flicks to common narrative themes, here’s an attempt to make some sense of this year’s selections in the most crowded programme of films at TIFF.
Going for the Gold These Oscar contenders have been preparing for this moment all of their lives. Ok, that’s post-Olympics fever talking. I don’t know how long they’ve been preparing, but this group of films are looking to launch big at TIFF this year, propelling them right into the busy fall Oscar season.
To the Wonder Incredibly, Terrence Malick makes his first appearance at Toronto with To the Wonder, his new marital character drama featuring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. It’s already a wonder how he has managed to pull off making movies in consecutive years, also a first for Malick. With cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki returning–Tree of Life, Children of Men, Sleepy Hollow–this mostly Oklahoma filmed production promises to be another feast for our eyes.
Cloud Atlas When the directing team of Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski dropped their 5-minute trailer and subsequent interview on the net a couple weeks back, the buzz on this huge international production of the David Mitchell bestseller only increased about ten fold. It fashions together 6 stories, all of which are told in different eras. Fans of hyperlink movies, where many characters and story threads weave into one big tapestry that is meant for us to sometimes draw our own conclusions, should have a good time. With what looks like a fine piece of dramatic, sci-fi pop-philosophy the film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant, among many others.
Anna Karenina Will the third time be the charm? Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley team up again with a lush production of what Leo Tolstoy referred to as his first real novel. Jude Law and Aaron Johnson co-star, but the overlooked story here is that this pic represents the return of writer Tom Stoppard after a hiatus of a decade at the movies. He’s been missed since Shakespeare in Love and Enigma.
The Place Beyond the Pines Say what? Ryan Gosling‘s a stunt guy again? Sure is, this time he gets out from behind the wheel and onto a motorcycle in what appears to be another dramatic, existential thriller. Director Derek Cianfrance could move straight to the A-list after his Oscar nominated Blue Valentine, also with Gos. Bradley Cooper–aka the guy who’s in everything lately–co-stars along with Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta.
At Any Price I’m hoping for Iranian-American indie director Ramin Bahrani to make a big splash with his new middle-American drama set against the backdrop of agribusiness in these tough times. He came to the festival previously with Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo and brings a refreshing neo-realism to American cinema that we’re more accustomed to with European and Middle-Eastern productions. This time he’s got a budget and big stars in Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron–who is looking for more serious cred here, playing Quaid’s rebellious son. This isn’t on the radar yet, but I’ll bet the farm it will be very soon.
Caught in the Web One of the most intriguing foreign films looking to break out this year comes from Chinese director Chen Kaige (Farewell, My Concubine, Sacrifice) and his social commentary piece involving three women, the internet, how rumors can go “viral”, all set against the backdrop of a fast-moving cultural revolution in China.
Rust & Bone Jacques Audiard just keeps getting better and better. After his arthouse hits with the romantic thriller Read My Lips and the crime drama The Beat that My Heart Skipped, he went onto an Oscar nomination and a Grand Jury Prize win at Cannes for his crime saga The Prophet back in 2009. He’ll be looking to launch another Oscar run from France again this year when this family drama-thriller starring Marion Cotillard premieres at TIFF. She plays a killer whale trainer this time. Can’t wait.
End of Watch David Ayer, the screenwriter of Training Day and Dark Blue, was last at TIFF with his directing effort Harsh Times, starring Christian Bale. He returns with another cop drama, this time with Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and the dependable Michael Pena (Crash, The Lucky Ones) in tow.
The Iceman Is Michael Shannon the most interesting American actor working at the moment? From Bug to Take Shelter to his supporting work in Revolutionary Road, he casts a spell over us onscreen and our fascination with him should continue here. He’s playing Richard Kuklinski, the lifelong contract killer and loving family man who apparently killed over 200 people in the over 30 years he was active in that, umm, profession.
The Impossible Juan Antonio Bayona directed the first-rate ghost thriller The Orphanage in 2008, and now he turns to real life and this devastating recreation of the deadly Christmas tsunami in southeast Asia, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. He transcended the horror genre with his ghost flick; here’s hoping he can do the same for disaster epics.
And Now for Something Completely Different…
A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman Monty Python fans are salivating over this one, an animated movie about the late Chapman, known mostly for being the “dead one” but who will no doubt conjure nostalgia with this special screening. Chapman stars posthumously in this one from archived commentary he made decades ago from his own personal treasure-trove of memoirs, and everyone else is back for this one too, including John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. Can’t wait.
Much Ado About Nothing Joss Whedon takes a break from his superhero antics of The Avengers to direct a modern-day reinventing of the classic Shakespeare comedy, shot in 12 days and starring Angel’s Amy Acker and How I Met Your Mother‘s Alexis Denisof. Remarkable change of pace for Whedon. Should be interesting.
Mr. Pip Andrew Adamson is another director switching gears this year. The Shrek and Chronicles of Narnia helmer goes to Bougainville to recount the 1991 war over a copper mine on the small South Pacific island. The story follows a young teenage girl played by newcomer Xzannjah Matsi in a performance generating a lot of pre-festival buzz, who becomes obsessed with Charles Dickens‘ Great Expectations, which is being read to her school by the only white guy around for miles, played by Hugh Laurie.
Quartet Dustin Hoffman proves you really can teach an old dog new tricks. The two-time best actor Oscar winner–for Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man–goes behind the camera for the first time, at 75 years young this year. What’s it about? Retired opera singers played by Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith, among others.
A Late Quartet Every year at TIFF you get your schedule, you make a long list of must-sees, and invariably there are a couple of titles everyone mixes up. Is A Late Quartet the one directed by Dustin Hoffman, or was that Quartet? No, that’s the Philip Seymour Hoffman one. No, wait, which is which again? This one stars P.S. Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken as, wait for it…..wait for it….lifelong members of a string quartet who see each other through good, bad, and lusty times.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Hands down the best actor under 25 right now is Ezra Miller. Last year he was a devil child in We Need to Talk About Kevin, a stunningly assured performance. I think if Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep were to give birth to an acting hybrid of themselves, it would be him. This fall he is going to appear in this dramedy as a flamboyantly gay high schooler alongside Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, and I’m betting that the contrast in roles will cement his status as the hottest young actor in Hollywood.
TIFF runs September 6-16. Ticket packages are on sale now. Keep it tuned to Xavierpop for the sweet ‘n lowdown on all the films showing this year.
When the programming team for the 37th Toronto International Film Festival announces the first lineup of films premiering at this year’s festival, here’s a good bet at some–okay, 50 some odd–of the most anticipated titles you might expect to see this year.
The festival runs September 6-16.
Stay tuned to Xavierpop for more updates and ongoing coverage of this year’s #TIFF12. Included will be our “How to TIFF” guide that will follow in these dog days of summer in order to give you the inside track on how to get tickets, even if the film you want to see is sold out.
Last year, the festival broke with tradition when it announced its first ever non-flag-waving Canadian pic with the U2 rock-doc From the Sky Down. Should they decide to make another splash this year, they may finally bring Terrence Malick to Toronto for the first time with To the Wonder, his new drama starring Canada’s own Rachel McAdams, along with Rachel Weisz.
Maybe they’ll look to one of the several huge Ryan Gosling flicks set to debut during Oscar season, like Derek Cianfrance‘s Blue Valentine follow-up The Place Beyond the Pines, with Gos as a stuntman once again, this time of motorcycles; or perhaps Nicolas Winding Refn‘s follow-up to Drive called Only God Forgives, an even darker tale with Gosling and Kristin Scott-Thomas; or maybe the fest could decide to harken back to an L.A. Confidential-type pick with the 30′s and 40′s crime-sage Gangster Squad, featuring Gosling alongside Sean Penn and Emma Stone.
Mumbai is the fest’s City-to-City pick this year, so look for Canadian helmer Deepa Mehta to figure into the big opening night slot with Midnight’s Children, with a screenplay by Salman Rushdie from his own novel. The drama centers on India’s transition into independence from Britain 60 years ago.
Tom Hooper took the People’s Choice Award two years ago with The King’s Speech, which eventually went on to Oscar glory. He’ll try to duplicate that success with the huge musical-drama of Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables, which would be right at home on opening night at the Princess of Wales, where it ran for much for the late 80′s and early 90′s. It stars Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, and Anne Hathaway.
Who really knows? Opening night is a crapshoot.
Other titles looking for big slots in the Gala and Special Presentation lineups look to be festival favorite Ang Lee with Life of Pi, an intriguing drama about a zookeeper’s son at sea with a hyena and a Bengal tiger based on the international best-seller by Yann Martel and starring Tobey Maguire and Irfan Khan.
He hasn’t appeared in Toronto since 2002′s Punch-Drunk Love, but Paul Thomas Anderson‘s faith-based drama The Master is one of the fall’s first big contender’s for best actor gold with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix starring.
True Grit skipped the entire festival circuit two years ago, but the Coen Bros. are TIFF favorites and if they don’t pop up with their 2013 release Inside Llewyn Davis with Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, than their screenplay-credited British caper flick Gambit should show, starring Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Cameron Diaz, directed by Michael Hoffman (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Last Station).
Ben Affleck scored a huge hit here with his second directing effort The Town, and his new political-thriller Argo involving the Iran hostage crisis looks primed for a TIFF pick-up. It stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
Amour is the Palme D’Or winner this year from Cannes and the leading contender for best foreign language film this year, about an 80-something couple in the last flickers of a twilight that brings illness to one of its partners. Director Michael Haneke is another festival fave, having appeared here numerous times with The Piano Teacher, The White Ribbon, and Cache, just to name a few.
Brian De Palma hasn’t been to the fest in a decade, since his taut and sexy Femme Fatale. His new 2013 release is Passion, and it only stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in another European noir.
Joe Wright and Keira Knightley team up once more in Anna Karenina, the much-anticipated follow-up to their wonderfully sad Atonement. The pic also features rising star Aaron Johnson (Albert Nobbs, Savages).
Killing Them Softly is the new mobster flick from Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Robert Ford) with Brad Pitt returning and co-starring James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta.
Lawless is another dark crime-drama, this one from John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBoeuf and Guy Pearce.
Olivier Assayas scored a hit here with Summer Hours with Juliette Binoche in 2008, and then followed that with the smart, terrific Carlos, about infamous international terrorist Carlos the Jackal. His new one is Something in the Air, a 1960′s coming-of-age drama with the cultural revolution as a backdrop.
Laurence Anyways is Canadian helmer Xavier Dolan‘s Un Certain Regard winner for best actress (Suzanne Clement) from Cannes that tells of the complexities of an unlikely love story between a man and woman when the man decides to have a sex change. His previous films include Heartbeats as well as his auspicious debut, I Killed My Mother. It’s one of Canada’s great big hopes this year for Toronto.
Jeff Nichols‘ Take Shelter was my pick for best film of 2011, and he should return with Mud, another southern drama, w/Matthew McConaughey and Michael Shannon.
Lee Daniels took home the People’s Choice Award three years ago for his Oscar-nominated debut Precious. His new thriller The Paperboy stars McConaughey, Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman.
Portuguese wunderkind Manoel de Oliveira will be 3 months shy of 104 years young when his Gebo et L’Ombre undoubtedly finds its way into lineup. The 19th century drama stars Jeanne Moreau and Michael Lonsdale. It represents de Oliveira’s 59th film. His 60th is in pre-production. Age really is just a number.
Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light) will no doubt make it into the lineup after winning the directing prize at Cannes for Post Tenebras Lux, another intriguing and complex Mexican drama.
Leos Carax (Pola X) should also find himself back in Toronto after winning La Prix de la Jeuness at Cannes with his highly-touted Holy Motors, starring Denis Lavant (Tokyo!) as Monsieur Oscar, a character who travels through many lives.
The Prophet was a runner-up for the People’s Choice three years ago and Jacques Audiard will no doubt be back to compete again with his celebrated Rust and Bone, starring Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose, TDKR).
Looper is Rian Johnson‘s futuristic sci-fi actioner starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Jeff Daniels. Johnson debuted his Brothers Bloom at the fest just a couple years back.
A screenwriter gets embroiled in L.A.’s criminal underworld after his friends kidnap a gangster’s Shih Tzu in Seven Psychopaths, the hotly anticipated follow-up by writer-director Martin McDonagh, who hit the big screen with a bang in 2008′s In Bruges. This would be a huge pick-up.
Bill Murray is former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson. It would be Michell’s first return to the festival since his Peter O’Toole dramedy Venus in ’06.
The Silver Linings Playbook should see the return of David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings). The drama stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Stiles.
TIFF vet Chan Woo Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is set to return with his 2013 thriller Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska.
Another South Korean vet who remains busy on the festival circuit (here with last year’s Arirang) is Kim Ki-Duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…Spring) who should figure in with his new drama, Pieta.
Don’t forget about that other South Korean fave, Johnnie To (Vengeance) who should find a slot for his new crime-saga Drug War.
David Ayer, screenwriter of Training Day and writer-director of Harsh Times, should find himself back in the big smoke with the beat cop drama End of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.
Iranian-American indie director Ramin Bahrani has appeared in Toronto to great success previously with Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo. Now he’s got a budget with At Any Price, the rural drama about an enterprising farmer starring Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron and Heather Graham.
Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer has a good chance of coming here for his first visit with the sci-fi alien drama Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson.
Festival vet Raoul Ruiz scored a hit two years ago with Mysteries of Lisbon and should return once more with the character drama The Night in Front.
Gomorrah was a huge hit for Matteo Garrone at the 2008 fest, and he should be back with the light comedy Reality this time out.
On the Road is festival fave Walter Salles‘ (Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station) Jack Kerouac pic starring Kristin Stewart, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen.
Wong Kar-Wai‘s (In the Mood For Love) three-years-in-the-making story on martial-arts master (and teacher of Bruce Lee) The Grandmasters was recently announced as a December release in China, meaning he’s got a good shot at returning to Toronto once again.
Turkish director Fatih Akin won acclaim here for Kitchen Stories and The Edge of Heaven. Look for his new doc Garbage in the Garden of Eden to figure in the lineup, with its story about a community that has to deal with the government wanting to turn their area into a garbage dump.
Iranian helmer Bahman Ghobadi has appeared at Toronto with nearly every one of his films (Turtles Can Fly, A Time For Drunken Horses) and this year holds the potential that he brings two new ones with the Turkish-set drama Rhino Season starring Monica Bellucci, and Words with Gods, filmed in Mexico.
Sofia Coppola‘s 2013 crime-drama release The Bling Ring w/Kirsten Dunst and Emma Watson may just be finished in time to premiere here, but if not, look for brother Roman Coppola to debut his long-awaited second feature A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, starring Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray.
Other films to watch out for? Ann Hui‘s A Simple Life follow-up Beautiful; the Ken Burns doc The Central Park Five; Ken Loach‘s Angel’s Share; Christian Mungiu‘s (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) Beyond the Hills; Gotham Chopra‘s doc about his father called Decoding Deepak; Feng Xiaogong‘s (Aftershock) 1942 w/Tim Robbins; Siberian Education, the new one from Gabrielle Salvatores (I’m Not Scared) w/John Malkovich; Vincere director Marco Bellocchio‘s follow-up Dormant Beauty w/Isabelle Huppert; the new untitled James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers) project that the Weinsteins just picked up; Love is All You Need from Oscar winner Suzanne Bier (In a Better World); and finally, Finding Fela!, the new doc from Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Client 9).