TIFF

V4

The first of the Toronto Film Festival announcements just in.  If it says World or North American premiere I assume that means it’s not going to Telluride. If it says Canadian Premiere, it is.

Opening Night Film
Demolition Jean-Marc Vallée, USA World Premiere In Demolition, a successful investment banker, Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father-in-law (Chris Cooper) to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts) and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two strangers form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.

Beeba Boys Deepa Mehta, Canada
An adrenaline-charged violent Indo-Canadian gang war mixes guns, bhangra beats, bespoke suits, cocaine, and betrayal. Gang boss Jeet Johar and his loyal, young crew are audaciously taking over the Vancouver drug and arms scene from an old-style crime syndicate. Hearts are broken and family bonds shattered when the Beeba Boys (known as the “nice boys”) do anything “to be seen and to be feared” — in a white world.

The Dressmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia World Premiere Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker is a bittersweet, comedy-drama set in early 1950s Australia. After many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, Tilly Dunnage, a beautiful and talented misfit, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly, and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy, but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, Tilly sets out to right the wrongs of the past and transforms the women of the town but encounters unexpected romance along the way. Starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving.

Eye in the Sky Gavin Hood, United Kingdom World Premiere
Forsaken Jon Cassar, Canada World Premiere Tormented by a dark secret, an aging gunfighter abandons a life of killing and returns home, only to discover his mother has died. He’s forced to confront his estranged father and the life he left behind. Starring Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland and Demi Moore.

Freeheld Peter Sollett, USA World Premiere Based on the Oscar-winning documentary and adapted by the writer of Philadelphia, Freeheld is the true love story of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree and their fight for justice. A decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard-earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie. However the county officials — the Freeholders — conspire to prevent Laurel from doing so. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells and activist Steven Goldstein come together in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality. Starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael
Shannon and Steve Carell.

Hyena Road (Hyena Road: Le Chemin du Combat) Paul Gross, Canada World Premiere A sniper who has never allowed himself to think of his targets as humans becomes implicated in the life of one such target. An intelligence officer who has never contemplated killing becomes the engine of a plot to kill. And a legendary Mujahideen warrior who had put war behind him is now the centre of the battle zone. Three men, three worlds, three conflicts — all stand at the intersection of modern warfare, a murky world of fluid morality in which all is not as it seems.

LEGEND Brian Helgeland, United Kingdom International Premiere The true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, brothers Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an amazing double performance. LEGEND is a classic crime thriller that takes audiences into the secret history of the 1960s and
the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray twins.

Lolo Julie Delpy, France North American Premiere
London-based military intelligence officer Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is remotely commanding a top secret drone operation to capture a group of dangerous terrorists at their safe-house in Nairobi, Kenya. The mission suddenly escalates from a capture to a kill operation, when Powell realizes that the terrorists are about to embark on a deadly suicide mission. American drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is poised to destroy the safe-house when a nine-year-old-girl enters the kill zone just outside the walls of the house. With unforeseen collateral damage now entering the equation, the impossible decision of when to strike gets passed up the kill chain of politicians and lawyers as the seconds tick down. Also stars Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi and Iain Glen. While on holiday in the south of France, Parisian sophisticate Violette falls in love with carefree geek Jean-René. As their relationship blossoms, Jean-René heads to Paris to spend more time with Violette but finds himself up against her possessive teenage son Lolo who is determined to sabotage their relationship by any means necessary. A razor-sharp comedy from Julie Delpy.

The Man Who Knew Infinity Matthew Brown, United Kingdom World Premiere A true story of friendship that forever changed mathematics. In 1913, Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematics genius from India, travelled to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he forged a bond with his mentor, the eccentric professor GH Hardy, and fought to
show the world the magic of his mind. Starring Dev Patel and Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.

The Martian Ridley Scott, USA World Premiere During a manned mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, The Martian features a star-studded cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald
Glover.

The Program Stephen Frears, United Kingdom World Premiere From Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) and producers Working Title (The Theory of Everything), comes the true story of the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most celebrated and controversial men in recent history, Lance Armstrong. Starring Ben Foster, Dustin Hoffman, Chris O’Dowd and Guillaume Canet.

Remember Atom Egoyan, Canada North American Premiere Remember is the contemporary story of Zev, who discovers that the Nazi guard who murdered his family some 70 years ago is living in America under an assumed identity. Despite the obvious challenges, Zev sets out on a mission to deliver long-delayed justice with his own trembling hand. What follows is a remarkable cross-continent road-trip with surprising consequences. Starring Academy Award winners Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau.

Septembers of Shiraz Wayne Blair, USA World Premiere A thriller based on the New York Times bestseller, this is the true story of a secular Jewish family caught in the 1979 Iranian revolution and their heroic journey to overcome and ultimately escape from the deadly tyranny that swept their country and threatened to extinguish their lives at every turn. Starring Salma Hayek and Adrien Brody.

Stonewall Roland Emmerich, USA World Premiere This fictional drama inspired by true events follows a young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) finds himself alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, until he befriends a group of street kids who introduce him to the local watering hole, The Stonewall Inn — however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate Stonewall erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born. Starring Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ron Perlman and Joey King.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, USA Canadian Premiere A man struggles with his inability to connect with other people. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan and David Thewlis.

Beasts of No Nation Cary Fukunaga, USA/Ghana Canadian Premiere — NETFLIX
Based on the highly acclaimed novel, director Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation brings to life the gripping tale of Agu (newcomer Abraham Attah), a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Idris Elba dominates the screen in the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.

Black Mass Scott Cooper, USA Canadian Premiere In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish-American gangster Jimmy Bulger to act as an informant for the FBI in order to eliminate their common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement while becoming one of the most ruthless and dangerous gangsters in Boston history. Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Corey Stoll and Peter Sarsgaard.

Brooklyn John Crowley, United Kingdom/Ireland/Canada Canadian Premiere Set on opposite sides of the Atlantic, this drama tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters.

The Club Pablo Larraín, Chile North American Premiere Four men live in a secluded house in a seaside town. Sent to purge sins of the past, they live under a strict regime and the watchful eye of a caretaker. Their fragile stability is disrupted by the arrival of a fifth man who brings with him their darkest secrets.

Colonia Florian Gallenberger, Germany/Luxembourg/France World Premiere Colonia tells the story of Lena and Daniel, a young couple who become entangled in the Chilean military coup of 1973. Daniel is abducted by Pinochet’s secret police and Lena tracks him to a sealed off area in the south of the country called Colonia Dignidad. The Colonia presents itself as a charitable mission run by lay preacher Paul Schäfer but, in fact, is a place nobody ever escapes from. Lena decides to join the cult in order to find Daniel. Starring Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl and Michael Nyqvist.

The Danish Girl Tom Hooper, United Kingdom North American Premiere The Danish Girl is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener (portrayed by Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander), directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

The Daughter Simon Stone, Australia North American Premiere A man returns to his hometown and unearths a long-buried family secret. As he tries to right the wrongs of the past, his actions threaten to shatter the lives of those he left behind years before. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Paul Schneider, Miranda Otto and Sam Neill.

Desierto Jonás Cuarón, Mexico World Premiere Moises is traveling by foot with a group of undocumented workers across a desolate strip of the border between Mexico and the United States, seeking a new life in the north. They are discovered by a lone American vigilante, Sam, and a frantic chase begins. Set against the stunningly brutal landscape, Moises and Sam engage in a lethal match of wits, each desperate to survive and escape the desert that threatens to consume them. Starring Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Dheepan Jacques Audiard, France North American Premiere To escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a former Tamil Tiger soldier, a young woman and a little girl pose as a family. These strangers try to build a life together in a Parisian suburb.

Families (Belles Familles) Jean-Paul Rappeneau, France World Premiere When Shanghai-based businessman Jérome Varenne learns that his childhood home in the village of Ambray is at the centre of a local conflict, he heads there to straighten things out and finds himself at the centre of familial and romantic complications. Starring Mathieu Amalric.

The Family Fang Jason Bateman, USA World Premiere Annie and Baxter Fang have spent most of their adult lives trying to distance themselves from their famous artist parents. But when both siblings find themselves stalled in life, they return home for the first time in a decade where they become entangled in a dark mystery surrounding their parents’ disappearance. Jason Bateman directs and stars, along with co-stars Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken, in this film based on the New York Times bestseller.

Guilty (Talvar) Meghna Gulzar, India World Premiere Based on true events that set off a media frenzy all over the world, Guilty follows the 2008 Noida Double Murder Case of an investigation into the deaths of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and 45-year-old Hemraj Banjade, a domestic employed by Aarushi’s family, in Noida, India. The controversial case lives on in the mind of the public, despite a guilty verdict that sentenced the parents of the murdered girl to life in prison. Starring Irrfan Khan.

I Smile Back Adam Salky, USA Canadian Premiere Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Amy Koppelman, I Smile Back explores the life of Laney (Sarah Silverman), a devoted wife and mother who seems to have it all — a perfect husband, pristine house and shiny SUV. However, beneath the façade lies depression and disillusionment that catapult her into a secret world of reckless compulsion. Only very real danger will force her to face the painful root of her destructiveness and its effect on those she loves.

The Idol (Ya Tayr El Tayer) Hany Abu-Assad, United Kingdom/Palestine/Qatar World Premiere A young boy in Gaza, Mohammad Assaf, dreams of one day singing in the Cairo Opera House with his sister and best friend, Nour. One day, Nour collapses and is rushed to the hospital where it is discovered that she needs a kidney transplant. Nour leaves Mohammad with a dying wish that someday, he will become a famous singer in Cairo. Escaping from Gaza to Egypt against unbelievable odds, Mohammad makes the journey of a lifetime. From two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad comes this inspirational drama inspired by the incredibly true story of Mohammed Assaf, winner of Arab Idol 2013.

The Lady in the Van Nicholas Hytner, USA/United Kingdom World Premiere Based on the true story of Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who “temporarily” parked her van in writer Alan Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years. What begins as a begrudged favour becomes a relationship that will change both their lives. Filmed on the street and in the house where Bennett and Miss Shepherd lived all those years, acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner reunites with iconic writer Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George, The History Boys) to bring this rare and touching portrait to the screen. Starring Maggie Smith, Dominic Cooper and James Corden.

Len and Company Tim Godsall, USA A successful music producer shattered when both his estranged son North American Premiere quits the industry and exiles himself in upstate New York, but the solitude he seeks is and the pop-star (Juno Temple) he’s created come looking for answers. (Rhys Ifans) (Jack Kilmer)

The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/United Kingdom/Greece/France/Netherlands North American Premiere In a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days or are transformed into animals and released into the woods. Starring Colin Farrell, Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux and Ben Whishaw.

Louder than Bombs Joachim Trier, Norway/France/Denmark North American Premiere An upcoming exhibition celebrating photographer Isabelle Reed three years after her untimely death brings her eldest son Jonah back to the family house, forcing him to spend more time with his father Gene and withdrawn younger brother Conrad than he has in years. With the three men under the same roof, Gene tries desperately to connect with his two sons, but they struggle to reconcile their feelings about the woman they remember so differently. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg.

Maggie’s Plan Rebecca Miller, USA World Premiere Maggie’s plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with John, a married man, destroying his volatile marriage to the brilliant Georgette. But one daughter and three years later, Maggie is out of love and in a quandary: what do you do when you suspect your man and his ex-wife are actually perfect for each other? Starring Julianne Moore, Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph.

Mountains May Depart (Shan He Gu Ren) Jia Zhang-ke, China/France/Japan North American Premiere
Office Johnnie To, China/Hong Kong International Premiere Billion-dollar company Jones & Sunn is going public. Chairman Ho Chung-ping has promised CEO Chang, who has been his mistress for more than 20 years, to become a major shareholder of the company. As the IPO team enters the company to audit its accounts, a series of inside stories start to be revealed. Starring Chow Yun Fat, Sylvia Chang, Tang Wei and Wang Ziyi.

Parched Leena Yadav, India/USA World Premiere Three ordinary women dare to break free from the century old patriarchal ways of their village in the desert heartland of rural India. Starring Tannishtha Chaterjee, Radhika Apte and Surveen Chawla, this unforgettable tale of friendship and triumph is called Parched.

Room Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland/Canada Canadian Premiere Told through the eyes of five-year-old-Jack, Room is a thrilling and emotional tale that celebrates the resilience and power of the human spirit. To Jack, the Room is the world… it’s where he was born, where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. But while it’s home to Jack, to Ma it’s a prison. Through her fierce love for her son, Ma has managed to create a childhood for him in their 10-by-10-foot space. But as Jack’s curiosity is building alongside Ma’s own desperation — she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely. Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers and William H. Macy.

Sicario Denis Villeneuve, USA North American Premiere In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a clandestine journey that forces Kate to question everything that she believes.

Son of Saul (Saul Fia) László Nemes, Hungary Canadian Premiere October 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners isolated from the camp and forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination. While working in one of the crematoriums, Saul discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task: save the child’s body from the flames, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.

Spotlight Tom McCarthy, USA International Premiere Spotlight tells the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James and Billy Crudup.

The new film from master filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke (A Touch of Sin) jumps from the recent past to the speculative near-future as it examines how China’s economic boom has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.

Summertime (La Belle Saison) Catherine Corsini, France North American Premiere Delphine, the daughter of farmers, moves to Paris in 1971 to break free from the shackles of her family and to gain her financial independence. Carole is a Parisian, living with Manuel, actively involved in the stirrings of the feminist movement. The meeting of the two women changes their lives forever. Starring Cécile De France, Izia Higelin, Noémie Lvovsky and Kévin Azaïs.

Sunset Song Terence Davies, United Kingdom/Luxembourg World Premiere Terence Davies’ epic of hope, tragedy and love at the dawning of the Great War follows a young woman’s tale of endurance against the hardships of rural Scottish life. Based on the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon and told with gritty poetic realism by Britain’s greatest living auteur, Sunset Song stars Peter Mullan and Agyness Deyn.

Trumbo Jay Roach, USA World Premiere The successful career of 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) comes to a crushing end when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo tells the story of his fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom, which entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne to Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

Un plus une Claude Lelouch, France World Premiere Charming, successful, Antoine (Jean Dujardin) could be the hero of one of those films he composes the music for. When he leaves for a job in India, he meets Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), a woman who isn’t like him at all, but who attracts him more than anything. Together, they are going to experience an incredible journey.
Victoria Sebastian Schipper, Germany Canadian Premiere

Where to Invade Next Michael Moore, USA World Premiere Oscar-winning director Michael Moore returns with what may be his most provocative and hilarious movie yet. Moore tells the Pentagon to “stand down”— he will do the invading for America from now on. Discretely shot in several countries and under the radar of the global media, Moore has made a searing cinematic work that is both up-to-the-minute and timeless.

Youth Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France/United Kingdom/Switzerland North American Premiere
Youth explores the lifelong bond between two friends vacationing in a luxury Swiss Alps lodge as they ponder retirement. While Fred (Michael Caine) has no plans to resume his musical career despite the urging of his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), Mick (Harvey Keitel) is intent on finishing the screenplay for what may be his last film for his muse Brenda (Jane Fonda). And where will inspiration lead their younger friend Jimmy (Paul Dano), an actor grasping to make sense of his next performance? From Italy’s Oscar-winning foreign language film writer and director Paolo Sorrentino, Youth asks if our most important and life-changing experiences can come at any time — even late — in life.

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Documentarian filmmaker Michael Moore announced via Twitter that his new film, Where to Invade Next, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September. He made the announcement via Twitter.

More Tiff announcements coming later today.

SteveCarellFoxcatcher1

The Toronto Film Festival always brings the big names. Maybe that’s the problem and the reason why many in the industry are starting to skip it in favor of Telluride. I know quite a few people doing both this year, and at Telluride last week, almost all of them were cringing at the thought of going to Toronto. That’s just the way it’s been the last few years with Telluride being the more intimate and friendly festival with less of the glitz and glamour of TIFF.

2013 was a landmark year for movies, which translated into one hell of a festival season. I remember Sasha raving about the dynamic duo of “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” at Telluride and yours truly following suit not too long after at TIFF. It doesn’t look like there will be such intense, invigorating movie-going experiences this year until the New York Film Festival when “Gone Girl” and “Inherent Vice” screen in October.

Want to know how strong 2013 was? Some of last year’s fest films can already count as some of the best released of this year: “Under the Skin”, “Only Lovers Left Alive”, “Stray Dogs”, “Ida”, “Enemy”, “Snowpiercer”, “Stranger By the Lake”, “The Double”, “Abuse of Weakness” and “The Immigrant” all had their debuts at various films fests last year, the majority of them at TIFF. So with that in mind, can the 2014 festival season actually live up to 2013? Of course not – it’s not possible to maintain that kind of high quality year after year. Think of 1999, a year that many – including myself – believe to be one of the greatest cinematic years in movie history. It was followed by one of the worst the following year – a year that pitted “Gladiator” vs. “Erin Brokovich” vs. “Traffic” in the Oscar Race, the first two aforementioned movies coincidentally released in

March and May. Those ain’t Oscar months, but 2000 was so weak that that year they were.

And so we come to 2014, where we already have three strong – although bewildering – contenders emerging from Telluride: “Foxatcher”, “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game”. Two of those three will be at Toronto and it will be interesting to see the reception they both get. “The Imitation Game” looks to be a crowd pleaser that might sneak out with a bigger high once the fest ends at the end of the next week, or it might not and another contender will emerge instead. With that in mind, here are the burning questions I have about the festival, which will start tomorrow morning with its first batch of screenings.

1) “The Imitation Game”

Telluride loved it but the critics have so far been safe and cautious about their enthusiasm for this movie. If you take a look at Metacritic, its 9 reviews and score of 70 will tell you this won’t be a critic’s darling like “Foxcatcher” or “Birdman”, but it will have something more powerful on its side: word of mouth. “The Imitation Game” looks like it will be THE crowd pleaser to beat once its first screenings start this week. Will it sustain what it built up at Telluride? I’m on the fence about it but I sure hope Sash, Kris and Co. are right about this one – which also features an unproven filmmaker at its helm. From what I’ve been hearing, Benedict Cumberbatch is emerging as a force to be reckoned with in
the Best Actor category, but that the film itself is routinely pleasing.

2) “Foxcatcher”

The momentum will most likely not stop for this Benneth Miller film. Miller has become a real fixture of the Oscar race with “Capote” and “Moneyball”, but more importantly has become one of the genuinely brilliant American filmmakers out there. His classical style of filmmaking is done so well and with such genuine passion that I can just picture “Foxcatcher” coming out of TIFF with its profile skyrocketing. Especially when it comes to Steve Carrell, who’s been carrying a wave of praise ever since Cannes.

3) Witherspoon in “Wild” and “The Good Lie”

Reese Witherspoon is loved, we all know that. Her performance in “Wild” seems to be the real deal as well. She went all out to nail this role and I have no doubt that her buzz will continue onwards at TIFF. However, don’t discount this movie as just a strong central performance kind-of-movie. I reside in Montreal and have seen the staggering rise of Quebecois filmmakers in Hollywood the last few years. Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”, “Enemy”) is just one of many French-Canadian filmmakers trying to make art out of commerce in Tinseltown, and Xavier Dolan – who’s “Mommy” is also screening at the fest – is on his way to big things.

Jean-Marc Vallée is clearly another good example. I met Vallée 4 years ago at the premiere of his then new film “Café de Flore”. He seemed happy with what he was doing – making homegrown, personal movies – but I have a feeling he likes the freedom Hollywood is giving him at the moment. With “Dallas Buyers Club” he proved his worth and with “Wild” he will likely continue his rise among the best mainstream filmmakers working today.

Another Quebecois filmmaker at the fest? Philippe Falardeau, Oscar nominated for “Monsieur Lazhar” a few years ago and making his American film debut directing – again – Witherspoon in “The Good Lie”, a film that is getting its fair share of buzz as well and might make it a banner year for the incredibly talented actress.

4) “The Theory of Everything”

Oh, boy. Here’s a film that no one really knows what to make of. This is the story of Stephen Hawking’s life as told by James Marsh, who made the brilliant documentary “Man on Wire”. He might just break through with this film, or it might be one of many films that have come out of Toronto down, out and defeated. The potential is there. They will be screening the film in Los Angeles at the same time as TIFF. It’s about time someone made a movie about the brilliant Hawking, a man whose life was filled with so many ups and downs that I’m surprised Hollywood didn’t come knocking at his door sooner. We’re going to have to just wait and see with this film, but since the comparisons I’ve been hearing and seeing to “The Imitation Game” are dumb and unfounded, I’m not sure what people are thinking comparing these two genuinely different movies. They are looking at them from an Oscar campaigning perspective (because everyone is an expert) and assuming that both men are geniuses, both men are struggling with disabilities. But there is a huge difference between contracting a body debilitating illness and being gay at a time when it was illegal, not to mention these being two different time periods and two different countries. But hey, they look like Oscar movies!

5) Two Adam Sandler movies? “Men, Women and Children” & “The Cobbler”

Yea, you heard me right: Sandler has two films premiering here, and not just by any directors. I remember a time when Sandler had a small teeny weeny phase where he decided to make more mature, serious fare with well renowned filmmakers such as Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks and Paul Thomas Anderson. Remember “Punch-Drunk Love”? Still Sandler’s best movie and performance.

The Sandler film most people are talking about is “Men, Women and Children”, which is directed by Jason Reitman, who really needs another well received film after last year’s decent but average “Labor Day” walked out of Toronto with practically nobody talking about it. His new movie looks more socially relevant and seems to harken back to the style of his older more mature efforts like “Thank You for Smoking” and “Up in the Air”. This new film tackles the internet age and our communication breakdown in the age of the internet.

Although I am looking forward to seeing “Men, Women and Children”, the Sandler film I am most looking forward to see also closely resembles “Punch-Drunk Love” in terms of its magical realist style, or at least that’s what I gathered when reading the synopsis for Tom McCarthy’s new film “The Cobbler”. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t McCarthy one of the singular, most underrated American directors around today?

“The Station Agent”, “The Vistor” and “Win Win” are all movies that get better with age, and his minimalist approach to filmmaking is really a breath of fresh air. Having Sandler star in one of his movies is as big a what-the-fuck as Paul Thomas Anderson casting him in 2002. It worked then and I hope it works now. Can’t wait.

6) Richard Gere and Jennifer Aniston for an Oscar? “Time Out of Mind” and “Cake”

So here’s the deal, Gere and Aniston have never been nominated for an Oscar. In fact, the year we thought Gere had a shot at winning a supporting actor trophy he ended up not even getting a nomination for “Chicago”. He’s continued giving us stellar work over the years, most notably a few years ago in “Arbitrage” which was a strong performance, but sadly that year was one of the strongest Best Actor lineups in years. Sucks, bad luck. Not even a nomination over the years for far ranging work like “American Gigolo” or “Primal Fear”. In “Time Out of Mind” he is directed by Oren Overman, an Israeli born filmmaker who now resides in New York. Overman has turned some heads over the last few years, directing “The Messenger” and “Rampart” back to back. No matter what happens in this year’s Oscar race, Gere is and always will be an underrated talent.

On the other end of the spectrum is Jennifer Aniston. Her new film is “Cake” and it looks to be the darkest role she’s ever tackled. She’s proven her worth as a serious actress in the past, most notably in Miguel Arteta’s “The Good Girl”, but never has she fully been taken seriously on the big screen. Some actors just can’t get past their iconic small screen roles, and Aniston’s Rachel is and always will be her legacy, and so her most successful big screen endeavors have all been in comedies. However, “Cake” is her chance. It really is. She is surrounded by a top notch cast of talents which include Anna Kendrick, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, and the role seems to dig into some of the darkest territory the actress has ever pursued. I think she can pull through and hit this out of the park.

7) “Cannes” they do it? “Leviathan”, “Timbuktu”, “Mommy”, “Winter Sleep”, “Goodbye to Language”, “Two Days, One Night”, “Wild Tales”

This year’s Best Foreign Film race kick-started at Cannes and continues over at TIFF. These are not films that are “Oscar material” and that’s sometimes a good thing. They don’t follow anything about formula and they go by their own furious beat. Here are films by filmmakers trying to reinvent the language of cinema and tell their stories in ways that have never been attempted before. “Wild Tales” had such an impressive showing at Telluride last week that people were demanding another screening at a bigger location and they got it. Word of mouth is building and this could be our next Foreign Language winner.

8) What to make of “The Judge”

I have my reservations about this courtroom drama starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. For starters, the director is David Dobkin, who’s more known for his work in comedy (Wedding Crashers) than drama. However, I wouldn’t bet against the cast. Downey Jr. especially. He’s proven to us time and time again what a great actor he can be – just take a look at “Chaplin”, “Tropic Thunder” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” for proof. The guy has talent. He’s never won an Oscar and this is major Oscar bait. If he hits it out of the park he can become a major player in the race. As for Robert Duvall, well…it’s Robert Duvall.

9) Will American indies have a surprise up their sleeves?

Remember when the Oscars was just five nominees for Best Picture? And usually one of those spots was reserved for a small indie gem”? “Juno”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “In the Bedroom” and in later years “Precious”, “Winter’s Bone”, “An Education”, “The Kids Are All Right” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. It happens. Most of the time these movies start off at Sundance and only grow in momentum as the year goes. This year the only film that can possibly do that is also a film that won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance: “Whiplash”. I have already seen Damien Chazelle’s film and it really is an amazing watch. Miles Teller and J.K Simmons are both phenomenal and would most likely garner an instant Oscar nomination if we didn’t live in such a cruel world. Reality is that there will be a struggle for “Whiplash” to even nab one Oscar nom, but I’m betting that if it garners the reception that I think it deserves in Toronto, then watch out, because this is a movie that deserves everything that might be coming its way.

10) The fate of “Mr. Turner”

Ever since its triumph at Cannes, Mike Leigh’s newest film hasn’t kept up with the momentum that it built at La Croisette. TIFF is most likely the make or break moment for the film and will tell us a little more of what to expect come awards season. I just want it to be a great movie, awards or not. That’s why I’m here watching 3-4 movies a day – I want to watch stuff that’ll knock me out, put me on a high and have me talking about it for days on end. That is why most of us are here in the first place.

11) Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young”

This finally leads me to Noah Baumbach’s newest film. Here’s a director I greatly admire who has never gotten the awards recognition he deserved. Well, that’s too bad. That means people have missed out on such Baumbach gems as “The Squid and The Whale” and “Frances Ha”. Not surprisingly, this Brooklyn born filmmaker started out as a writer for another Oscarless but brilliant filmmaker: Wes Anderson. “While We’re Young” is one of my most hotly anticipated films of the fest, yet I doubt it will get recognized in any categories. Consider that a good thing. It means he doesn’t play by the rules and has a unique vision all his own, and I wouldn’t want it another way. Word of mouth is building and this could be our next Foreign Language winner.

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The plot: A small town teenager in the 1960s believes her dreams of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock star idol gets stranded in town. But a leak in a nearby chemical plant that is believed to be causing mass mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare.

Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, starring Jane Levy.

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The Toronto Film Fest unfurls September 4th through the 14th. New York kind of pulled an announcement coup, being the first major North American fest to announce the premiere of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, with Inarritu’s Birdman closing. But TIFF is right up on its tail, announcing a partial slate today. Among those announced early, Ed Zwick’s chess drama Pawn Sacrifice (I can’t wait – being an avid chess player myself), with Tobey Maguire as the great Bobby Fischer and Liev Schrieber as the equally great Boris Spassky. Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Cronenberg will hit it with Cannes player Maps to the Stars, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children is also coming. Here is a list, via we got this covered:

GALAS

Black and White Mike Binder, USA

Black and White is the story of a widowed grandfather who is left to raise his bi-racial granddaughter. When the little girl’s paternal grandmother seeks custody, a bitter legal battle ensues that forces the uneasy family members to have an honest conversation about life, death, anger and America’s racial divide. Starring Academy Award-winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, as well as Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr, Andre Holland and Jillian Estell.

The Equalizer Antoine Fuqua, USA World Premiere

In this big-screen adaptation of the cult ‘80s TV show, McCall believes he has put his past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri, a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by –— he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to extract vengeance upon anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer. Starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller, USA Canadian Premiere

Based on true events, this film tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller.

Haemoo Shim Sung-bo, South Korea International Premiere

The ragtag crew of a fishing boat takes on a dangerous commission to smuggle a group of illegal immigrants from China to Korea, in this tense high-seas adventure co-scripted by South Korean genre-movie guru Bong Joon-ho. Starring Kim Yoon-seok and Park Yoo- chun.

The Judge David Dobkin, USA World Premiere

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth, and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton.Closing Night Fil

A Little Chaos Alan Rickman, United Kingdom World Premiere

A landscape gardener with a taste for the unconventional is invited to design one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles. As she battles with the weather, the perilous rivalries at the court of Louis XIV and her own private demons, she finds herself drawn closer to the formality and enigma of the architect who hired her. Starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Alan Rickman and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Maps to the Stars David Cronenberg, Canada/Germany North American Premiere

David Cronenberg forges both a wicked social satire and a very human ghost story from today’s celebrity-obsessed culture. Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson.

The New Girlfriend (Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon, France World Premiere

When her best friend Lea dies, Claire falls into a deep depression. However, after making a surprising discovery about her late friend’s husband, she’s given a new lease on life. Starring Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier and Raphaël Personnaz.

Pawn Sacrifice Ed Zwick, USA World Premiere

In this remarkable true story set in the height of the Cold War, chess legend Bobby Fischer is locked in a gripping championship clash with the Soviets as he struggles against his own psychological demons while the whole world anxiously awaits the outcome. Starring Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber.

The Riot Club Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom World Premiere

A privileged young man is inducted into the exclusive, debaucherous company of Oxford’s elite “Riot Club,” in this scathing dissection of the British class system. Based on the hit play Posh, the film stars Natalie Dormer, Max Irons, Sam Clafin, Jessica Brown Findlay and Douglas Booth.

Samba Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, France World Premiere

Samba migrated to France 10 years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burnout. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives — Samba’s willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track — until fate draws them together. Balancing light-hearted moments with heavier emotion, Samba is a story about two strangers on a new path to happiness. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Sy and Tamar Rahim.

This is Where I Leave You Shawn Levy, USA World Premiere

Shawn Levy’s dramatic comedy follows four adult siblings who return home after their father’s death to spend a week with their over- sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and frayed relationships among those who know and love them best, they reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn.

Wild Jean-Marc Vallée, USA International Premiere

After years of reckless behaviour, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed makes a rash decision. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. Wild powerfully reveals Cheryl’s terrors and pleasures as she forges ahead on a journey that maddens, strengthens and ultimately heals her. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann and Kevin Rankin.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

99 Homes Ramin Bahrani, USA

After his family is evicted from their home, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver, the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him. Starring Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Michael Shannon.

American Heist Sarik Andreasyan, USA World Premiere

Two brothers with troubled pasts become embroiled in a high-stakes bank robbery, in this indie action thriller. Starring Adrien Brody, Hayden Christensen, Jordana Brewster and Akon.

Before We Go Chris Evans, USA World Premiere

Set in Manhattan, the story follows two strangers after their serendipitous meeting in Grand Central. Over the course of one night, they form an unlikely bond and the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for exploration into each other and themselves. Starring Chris Evans and Alice Eve.

Breakup Buddies Ning Hao, China World Premiere

Recently cuckolded and reeling from a messy divorce, a hapless former singer hits the road — and the bar — with his all-too-helpful best bud, in this hilarious romantic comedy.

Cake Daniel Barnz, USA World Premiere

Cake tells the story of the acerbic Claire Bennett who has managed to alienate everyone from her life, with the exception of her loyal housekeeper. When Claire becomes fascinated with the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group, she develops a poignant relationship with the woman’s grieving husband and comes to terms with her own personal tragedy, catapulting her forward into life. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman and Sam Worthington.

Coming Home Zhang Yimou, China North American Premiere

Lu Yanshi and Feng Wanyu are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labour camp as a political prisoner, just as his wife is injured in an accident. Released during the last days of the Cultural Revolution, he finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize Lu, she patiently waits for her husband’s return — until Lu determines to resurrect their past together and reawaken his wife’s memory. Starring Chen Daoming and Gong Li.

The Dead Lands (Hautoa) Toa Fraser, New Zealand/United Kingdom World Premiere

Hongi, a Maori chieftain’s teenage son, must avenge his father’s murder in order to bring peace and honour to the souls of his loved ones after his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery. Vastly outnumbered by a band of villains led by Wirepa, Hongi’s only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden “Dead Lands” and forge an uneasy alliance with a mysterious warrior, a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years. Starring Xavier Horan, Raukura Turei, Rena Owen, James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare and Te Kohe Tuhaka.

Dearest Peter Ho-Sun Chan, China/Hong Kong North American Premiere

Drawing on remarkable true stories, Peter Chan delivers a moving drama about child abduction in China. Huang Bo stars as a father whose young son disappears in the streets of a big city. He sets out on a search across China, stopping at nothing to find him. In this star-studded cast, Zhao Wei plays the role of a mother from a poor rural area.

The Drop Michael R. Roskam, USA World Premiere

The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski through a covert scheme of funnelling cash to local gangsters in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv, Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living — no matter the cost. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts and John Ortiz.

Eden Mia Hansen-Løve, France World Premiere

In the ‘90s, French electronic music is developing at a fast pace. Entering this exciting Parisian nightlife, Paul and his best friend form a DJ duo called Cheers. But just as they rapidly find their audience, they are caught up in a euphoric and short-lived rise to fame. Eden retraces the steps of the “French touch” generation from 1992 to today — a generation that still enjoys outstanding international success thanks to DJs like Daft Punk, Dimitri from Paris and Cassius. Starring Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani, Laura Smet and Vincent Lacoste.

Far From Men (Loin des Hommes) David Oelhoffen, France North American Premiere

Algeria, 1954. While the rebellion rumbles in the valley, two very different men thrown together by a world in turmoil are forced to flee across the Atlas mountains. In the midst of an icy winter, Daru, a reclusive teacher, has to escort Mohamed, a villager accused of murder. Pursued by horsemen seeking summary justice and vengeful settlers, the two men decide to confront the unknown. Together, they fight to gain their freedom. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb.

Force Majeure Ruben Östlund, Sweden/Norway/Denmark/France North American Premiere

A Swedish family’s ski trip in the French Alps is cut short by news of an oncoming avalanche, during which an impulsive decision by the father Tomas drives a wedge between him and his wife, Ebba — he has run for his life, while she has stayed to protect her children. When the anticipated disaster fails to occur, reality and embarrassed relief returns to the mountainside resort, but the family’s world has been shaken to its core. Force Majeure is an observational comedy about the role of the male in modern family life. Starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius.

The Gate Régis Wargnier, France World Premiere

Two decades after forging an unlikely alliance in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, a French ethnologist and a former Khmer Rouge official meet again after the latter is arrested for crimes against humanity, in this drama from top French director Régis Wargnier.

Good Kill Andrew Niccol, USA North American Premiere

A Las Vegas-based fighter pilot turned drone pilot fights the Taliban by remote control for 12 hours a day, then goes home to the suburbs and feuds with his wife and kids for the other 12. But the pilot is starting to question the mission. Is he creating more terrorists than he’s killing? Is he fighting a war without end? This story follows one soldier’s tale with epic implications. Starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones.

The Good Lie Philippe Falardeau, USA World Premiere

Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and an ensemble of young Sudanese actors — all of whom have direct personal ties to the war in their country — bring the inspiring and uplifting story of The Lost Boys of the Sudanto the screen in a film about heartbreak and hope, survival and triumph. Also starring Corey Stoll, Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany, Emmauel Jal and Femi Oguns.

Hector and the Search for Happiness Peter Chelsom, Germany/Canada North American Premiere

Hector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. Deciding to break out of his deluded routine, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive formula for true happiness… and so begins his larger-than-life adventure with riotously funny results. Starring Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Simon Pegg, Stellan Skarsgård and Jean Reno.

The Humbling Barry Levinson, USA North American Premiere

The Humbling tells the story of a legendary stage actor who has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age at a secluded country house in Connecticut. Based on Philip Roth’s final novel, it is a tragic comedy about a man who has lived inside his own imagination for too long. Starring Al Pacino, Mandy Patinkin, Dianne Wiest and Greta Gerwig.

Hungry Hearts Saverio Costanzo, Italy International Premiere

Mina and Jude meet while stuck together in the restroom of a restaurant, marking the beginning of a true love story. They move in together. They get married. And anticipate the arrival of their baby — until a spiritual guide tells Mina she is bearing an “indigo” child. Starring Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher and Roberta Maxwell.

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, United Kingdom/USA Canadian Premiere

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Canada/France/Lebanon/Qatar/USA World Premiere Roger Allers, Gaëtan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz,Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar and Michal Socha

Inspired by the beloved classic, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is a richly-animated story and celebration of Gibran’s book, created by artists, animators and musicians from around the world. Starring Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek-Pinault, John Krasinski, Frank Langella, Alfred Molina, John Rhys-Davies and Quvenzhané Wallis.

The Keeping Room Daniel Barber, USA World Premiere

Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women — two sisters and one African-American slave — must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army. Starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller.

The Last Five Years Richard LaGravenese, USA World Premiere

In this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie, a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy, a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. The film, told almost entirely through song and a beautiful pop music score, portrays an honest, heartbreaking, often funny, exploration of love and its consequences on individual identity. Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Learning to Drive Isabel Coixet, USA World Premiere

As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other’s company, they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel. Starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

Love & Mercy Bill Pohlad, USA World Premiere

Focusing on Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys, Love & Mercy paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments in his life, from his artistic genius to his profound struggles, and the love that keeps him alive. Starring Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

Manglehorn David Gordon Green, USA North American Premiere

Angelo Manglehorn is a small town locksmith who never got over the love of his life. Clara was a beautiful, idealized woman who left him heartbroken 40 years ago. He still writes her letters obsessively as he tries to find her and get back the woman of his dreams. Manglehorn is the journey of this magical man, his son, his cat and a beautiful new woman trying to help him put the pieces of his heart back together. Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Chris Messina.

Mary Kom Omung Kumar, India World Premiere

Glamorous Indian star Priyanka Chopra completely transforms herself to play Mary Kom, world champion in women’s boxing. From traditional village life in remote Manipur state to high-stakes bouts in India and around the world, this is a remarkable story of triumph.

Men, Women and Children Jason Reitman, USA World Premiere

Men, Women and Children follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. Starring Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler and Judy Greer.

Miss Julie Liv Ullmann, Norway/United Kingdom/Ireland World Premiere

A country estate in Ireland in the 1880s. Over the course of one midsummer night, Miss Julie explores the brutal, charged power struggle between a young aristocratic woman and her father’s valet. Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton.

Mr. Turner Mike Leigh, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere

This biopic explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, until his death. Throughout his life, the popular — if anarchic — member of the Royal Academy of Arts travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Joshua McGuire, Ruth Sheen, David Horovitch and Karl Johnson.

My Old Lady Israel Horovitz, USA World Premiere A down-and-out New Yorker inherits an apartment in Paris from his estranged father and is stunned to find a refined old lady living there with her protective daughter. Starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Ned Rifle Hal Hartley, USA World Premiere

Ned Rifle is the third and final chapter of Hal Hartley’s tragicomic epic begun with Henry Fool (1997) and continued with Fay Grim (2007). At once a saga concerning the Grim family of Queens and how their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the self- proclaimed genius Henry Fool, the trilogy is also an illustration of America’s grappling with ideas, art, politics, and religion over the course of 20 years. In this swiftly paced and expansive conclusion, Henry and Fay’s son Ned sets out to find and kill his father for destroying his mother’s life. But his aims are frustrated by the troublesome, sexy and hilarious Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even his arrival in the lives of the Grim family.

Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy, USA World Premiere

Lou Bloom, a driven young man, discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem, Lou makes his own place at the table, aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news. Blurring the line between observer and perpetrator, Lou finds his calling in a murderous world reduced to transactions. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton.

Pasolini Abel Ferrara, France/Italy/Belgium North American Premiere

Rome: on the night of November 2, 1975, the great Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is murdered. Pasolini is the symbol of an art that’s fighting against the power. His writings are scandalous, and his films are persecuted by the censors; many people love him and many hate him. The day of his death, Pasolini spends his last hours with his beloved mother and later with his dearest friends, until he finally goes out into the night in his Alfa Romeo in search of adventure in the eternal city. At dawn Pasolini is found dead on a beach in Ostia on the outskirts of the city. In a film dreamlike and visionary, blending reality and imagination, it reconstructs the last day in the life of this great poet. Starring Willem Dafoe.

Phoenix Christian Petzold, Germany World Premiere

Nelly Lenz is a concentration camp survivor who has been left with a disfigured face. Following facial reconstruction surgery, Nelly begins the search for her husband Johnny. When she finally does find him, he does not recognise her. Nevertheless he approaches her with a proposal: since she resembles his wife, whom he believes to be dead, he asks her to help him claim his wife’s considerable inheritance. Nelly agrees, and becomes her own doppelganger — she needs to know if Johnny ever loved her, or if he betrayed her. Starring Nina Hoss.

The Reach Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, USA World Premiere

Ben, a young man who works as a hunting guide, gets a job of a lifetime when he is hired by Madec, a wealthy businessman from Los Angeles, to hunt a bighorn sheep. Their excursion in the Southwestern desert quickly goes from bad to worse when overly-eager Madec gets trigger happy, accidentally killing an old prospector. He attempts to bribe Ben for his secrecy, but Ben staunchly refuses. Outraged, Madec turns on Ben, determined to eliminate the only witness to his crime. Trapped in a sadistic cat-and-mouse game, Ben has to rely on his basic survival skills to make it out alive. Starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Hannah Mangan, Lawrence and Ronny Cox.

Red Amnesia (Chuangru Zhe) Wang Xiaoshuai, China North American Premiere

A retired widow has her daily routine derailed when she starts receiving mysterious, anonymous phone calls, in this scintillating thriller from Chinese “Sixth Generation” master Wang Xiaoshuai. Starring Lü Zhong, Shi Liu, Feng Yuanzheng, Qin Hao and Amanda Qin.

Return to Ithaca Laurent Cantet, France North American Premiere

A terrace overlooking Havana. Five friends gather to celebrate the return of Amadeo after 16 years of exile. From dusk to dawn, they reminisce about their youth, the group they used to form, the faith they had in the future — also their disillusionment.

Rosewater Jon Stewart, USA Canadian Premiere

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with the true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal), whose appearance on Stewart’s show in 2009 precipitated his five-month imprisonment by the Iranian government.

A Second Chance (En chance til) Susanne Bier, Denmark World Premiere

How far are decent human beings willing to go, when tragedy blurs the line between just and unjust? Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen have crafted a startling yet moving drama, about how easily we lose our grasp on justice when confronted with the unthinkable, and life as we know it hangs by a thread. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lykke May Andersen.

Still Alice Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, USA World Premiere

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested. Alice’s struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Starring Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Julianne Moore.

The Theory of Everything James Marsh, United Kingdom/USA World Premiere

The extraordinary true story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Hawking receives an earth-shattering diagnosis at age 21. Together, Stephen and Jane defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis and Emily Watson.

Time Out of Mind Oren Moverman, USA World Premiere

George, a man on the decline, enters the New York City homeless shelter system when he runs out of options. George struggles to navigate his way through this new world with the help of Dixon, a shelter veteran while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Maggie. Starring Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeremy Strong, Yul Vasquez, Coleman Domingo, Geraldine Hughes, Michael Kenneth Williams and Steve Buscemi.

Top Five Chris Rock, USA World Premiere

Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, Top Fivetells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Anders Holm and Michael Che. And featuring music by Questlove.

While We’re Young Noah Baumbach, USA World Premiere

Noah Baumbach’s exploration of aging, ambition and success, stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz.

Whiplash Damien Chazelle, USA Canadian Premiere

Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability — and his sanity. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Max Kasch and Damon Gupton.

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) Damian Szifron, Argentina/Spain Canadian Premiere

More than living up to its title, director Damián Szifron’s compendium of outrageous, hilarious and truly bizarre anecdotes offers a subversive, blackly comic portrait of contemporary Argentina. Starring Ricardo Darin, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg and Dario Grandinetti.

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One of the joys of being in Toronto is bumping into people you really admire so much. Seeing Chiwetel Ejiofor sneaking into a quick afternoon screening and of course bumping into Harvey Weinstein, hiding his nerves, right before the first press screening of “August:Osage County”.

The critics were in town too, I caught a glimpse of the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick quite a few times, Newsweek’s David Ansen lining up for the new Miyazaki and caught up with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly on what’s been the best of the fest so far – we both agreed “12 Years A Slave” and “Gravity” by a landslide.

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As selected by a panel from the Toronto International Film Festival

(in alphabetical order)

Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg
The End of Time, Peter Mettler
Goon, Michael Dowse
Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan
Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta
My Awkward Sexual Adventure, Sean Garrity
Rebelle, Kim Nguyen
Still, Michael McGowan
Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley
The World Before Her, Nisha Pahuja

According to Steve Pond over at The Wrap, David O. Russell would like his movie to be thought of as an underdog. But that’s not going to happen. According to Anne Thompson, Dave Karger has now joined the list of those calling it a major contender and Steve Pond opens his column this way:

David O. Russell may not want to have this announced publicly, but Saturday’s Toronto International Film Festival brought us a new heavyweight in the Oscar race.

“The Silver Linings Playbook,” Russell’s first movie since the Oscar-nominated “The Fighter” two years ago, came to Toronto without much buzz but debuted on Saturday night in Roy Thomson Hall to a roaring ovation.

Featuring a career-changing performance from Bradley Cooper (Ieft with David O. Russell and producer Jonathan Gordon) and another brilliant one from Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings” is a perfectly calibrated comedy that is also deeply moving; it’s another major step in Russell’s comeback from movie limbo, and a mainstream film with enough heart and clout to immediately figure into a number of Oscar races, definitely including Best Picture.

But Pond does caution:

That much, at least, seems unlikely, though the Academy’s bias against comedy may prevent “Silver Linings” from becoming a frontrunner.

Meanwhile, the Huffpo got in on the Oscar talk too.

Both Indiewire’s Anne Thompson and Jeff Wells have invoked the “O” word with the Silver Linings Playbook in Toronto. The David O. Russell film stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

Anne says:

#TIFF12 the Oscar race is on: silver linings playbook with a happily smiling harvey behind it will be a major contender across the board.

And Jeff says:

I haven’t felt this knocked over & blown away by such a surprise hit in years. David O. Russell’s biggest hit of his career. Total winner!

Jeff goes on to write a longer review but it seems like a big celebration all the way around. It looks like a good year, once again, for the Weinstein Co. Silver Linings might be sappy enough to win Best Pic (if anyone can convince them David O. Russell is a nice guy and Bradley Cooper is an Oscar-worthy leading man it’s Harvey Weinstein). Also on their slate, The Master, which just won in Venice (but getting 6,000 Oscar voters to pick that one? Nearly impossible) and way, way overdue cinematic genius, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. You have to choose, Sophie. I don’t know how they will juggle these three titles.

Funny, of all of the films the Weinstein Co. showed footage of in Cannes, this one seemed the least interesting. But maybe coming from the behind is always the better way to take on Oscar. But without solid reviews yet it’s hard to say where it will go. This is always the case with much buzzed about films at festivals by bloggers and not critics. Announcing a film is going to be a major Oscar player is incredibly difficult to do early on. But if you go by festival buzz, Argo, The Master and The Silver Linings Playbook just entered the Oscar race, joining Moonrise Kingdom, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wild cards would be The Dark Knight Rises and Anna Karenina.

Sasha nearly missed Stories We Tell because she was feeling under the weather. Resolving to soldier on, tap into energizing mountain air and make the extra effort on the last day it screened, she says in her capsule review, “of course it turned out to be one of those films that changes how you see the world.”

Tom Hall at Hammer to Nail has written a full-fledged review from TIFF but it’s hard for me to pull a proper excerpt because I think this is one of those movies I want to know next to nothing about when the lights go down.

What is so thrilling about Stories We Tell is not that the film ineffably expresses its themes, but rather how it directly confronts them, constantly calling into question the adequacy of what the film is setting out to do and drawing in different opinions about what might be accomplished by telling Diane and the family’s story. This constant questioning of its own premise and presumptions gives Stories We Tell a real power, forcing viewers to not only examine the film’s storytelling devices and strategies, but ultimately, their own position in their own lives, their own secrets and those of the people they love, the memories that they can no longer fully call to mind, the way in which their own lives are re-created in the stories they tell themselves.

Directed by Sally Potter. Who’s Alice Englert? She’s Jane Campion’s daughter. Nice to hear The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

London, 1962. Two teenage girls – Ginger and Rosa — are inseparable; they play truant together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ frustrated domesticity. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered – by the clash of desire and the determination to survive.

Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival® today announced the Canadian features lineup including first-time feature filmmakers Jason Buxton, Brandon Cronenberg, Igor Drljaca and Kate Melville, as well as filmmakers returning to the Festival —including Bruce Sweeney, Sarah Polley, Xavier Dolan, Michael McGowan and Bernard Émond.

“Through comedy, thrills, drama and suspense, films in the lineup present stories of youth and violence, coming of age, the environment, dysfunctional families, sex and celebrity,” said Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF. “From intimate, affecting stories with big impact to films with global scope, the Canadian films in this year’s Festival will move audiences.”

Some of the films announced today will be eligible for the City of Toronto + Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film — given out annually to a Canadian filmmaker — and the SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film — presented annually to a Canadian filmmaker for an impressive debut feature. The Canadian awards jury responsible for selecting this year’s winners includes producer and filmmaker Jody Shapiro, CPH PIX Festival Director Jacob Neiiendam, actor and filmmaker Valerie Buhagiar and director, writer and producer Patricia Rozema.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Antiviral Brandon Cronenberg, Canada/USA North American Premiere
Syd March is an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. When he becomes infected with the disease that plagues superstar Hannah Geist, he must unravel the mystery surrounding her before he suffers the same fate. Starring Caleb Landry Jones and Sarah Gadon.

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The screenings of Day Eleven of TIFF provided a great way to end the festival. After the awards baity viewings of Shame, The Descendants, and Alert Nobbs, my final three films showed what the festival should be all about. My final films were all fun, yet they were also substantial, well-crafted pieces that prove that film can be art as well as entertainment. Moreover, all three are relatively small-scale films that might not receive as wide a release as they deserve. The last day of TIFF therefore yielded some of the festival’s hidden treasures.

The first gem to be uncovered was Violet & Daisy, the directorial debut by Geoffrey Fletcher, screenwriter of Precious. I was especially excited to see this film because the first TIFF Gala I ever attended was the 2009 screening of Precious. Never have I been in a room with the same level of energy that filled Roy Thomson Hall on the night that Oprah introduced Precious to the festival, where it then went on to claim the People’s Choice Award.

The screening room for Violet & Daisy was admittedly more subdued (what film wouldn’t be at nine in the morning). However, the film marks a pleasant start for Fletcher in the director’s seat, as he moves in a wholly different direction than Precious and offers something fresh and fun. Violet & Daisy is a farcical romp of girls and guns, with Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel starring as a pair of hip young assassin chicks. Violet and Daisy take a seemingly simple hit on an unknown subject; however, when the man (James Gandolfini) becomes a willing accomplice in his own death, Violet and Daisy see both their work and their relationship enter territory for which they are unprepared. Think of a twin version of Hanna but without the transnational theme and the pulsating score of the Chemical Brothers.

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Cadillac People’s Choice Award: Where Do We Go Now?
· First runner-up: A Separation
· Second runner-up: Starbuck
Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary: The Island President
Cadillac People’s Choice for Midnight Madness: The Raid
Int’l Critics Special Presentations Prize: The First Man
Int’l Critics Discovery Programme Prize: Avalon
Best Canadian Feature: Monsieur Lazhar
SKYY Vodka Award for Best First Canadian feature: Edwin Boyd
Best CDN short film goes to: Ian Harnarine’s Doubles With Slight Pepper

There was a trend to the movies on my screening list for day ten at TIFF. In all four of the films I attended, a lead actress shone in a plum role; however, all four of cases also fell short of providing a film to match her talents. I started the day with a double shot of Canadian content and began with Winnie, the Canadian-South African co-produced biopic about Winnie Mandela, the political activist and former wife of President Nelson Mandela, played by Jennifer Hudson.

Winnie might not win Hudson a second Oscar, but all those who scoffed at Hudson back in 2006 and deemed that she was not a serious and/or talented actress will surely eat crow after attending a screening of Winnie. (However, the film could score Hudson her first Genie nod.) Hudson dives into her subject with a dual edge and reveals the bipolar sides of Winnie, both humane and maniacal. She does her subject justice and she gives a performance that refuses to shy away from the controversy of the former Mrs. Mandela. Most importantly, Hudson wears the suffering of Winnie’s thirty-odd years of political power, so even when Winnie becomes more like a devious mobster than a devoted philanthropist, her humanity rings true.

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Day nine of the festival yielded one of the collectively stronger days of screenings. Day nine was also one of the heavier days of the festival, with Take Shelter, Tyrannosaur, and Wuthering Heights comprising the last three acts of the line-up. It was therefore a relief to start the day with a comedy, Hysteria. Hysteria is a very funny historical romp that details the invention of the vibrator by a Victorian era physician, Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) and his resourceful friend (Rupert Everett).

Mortimer begins his medical profession as a keen physician. He is eager to dispense with antiquated methods, such as bleeding or leeches, and he treats his patients by putting into practice the latest methods advocated by the leading contemporary research. His methods get the best of him, though, because curmudgeonly old-timers run all London’s hospitals.

Desperate, Mortimer takes a job with Dr. Robert Dalrymple, a wealthy curer of women’s needs (Jonathan Pryce). Dr. Dalrymple believes that over half of London’s women suffer from sexual hysteria, a malady whose symptoms include restlessness, anxiety, and burning desires. Dr. Dalrymple prefers to treat his female patients without use of elixirs or tonics, and he take a more manual approach towards offering his clients relief. He is essentially a gigolo with a medical degree.

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Day eight of TIFF was light for movie-going, as I had only two films on the schedule. The day began with a resounding thud with a screening of That Summer (Un été brûlant). This new feature by French filmmaker Philippe Garrel pits two couples in romantic squabbles as they vacation together in Rome. That Summer ranks among the most flaccid infidelity dramas I have ever seen, aside from one great dance sequence in which Monica Bellucci heats up the screen. The early scenes of That Summer show promise, but the film ultimately becomes as empty and directionless as its four characters. Like an exasperated parent awaiting ‘Back to School’, Summer can’t end soon enough!

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