The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival ends this weekend, and the king of all Canadian cities is alight with culture, film lovers, cinema goers, and visionary directors and actors. A good predictor of awards season, in the past Toronto International Film Festival has shepherded stunning works like “12 Years a Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire” into public awareness. Here are 10 films from the Toronto Film Fest we can’t wait to see.
Sources: thewire.com, imdb.com, tiff.net, guardian.com
Based upon the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, this looks to be one of two films premiering at Toronto International Film Festival that showcases Reese Witherspoon’s talent and range, almost out of sight since her 2006 Oscar win for “Walk the Line.” She portrays Strayed during a tumultuous period when Strayed lost her mother, picked up a heroin addiction, and divorced her husband. Her decision to purge her demons on a 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail looks to be visualized with truth and splendor.
A Cannes darling (Bennett Miller won Best Director at the festival), this is a true story of a harrowing murder committed by disturbed millionaire John du Pont, who killed David Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo), brother of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) and du Pont’s sponsor and mentee. Funny guy Steve Carrell’s performance as the paranoid du Pont has received some Oscar buzz, looking to move him into the arena of serious dramatic actors. It also stars Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller.
When a David Cronenberg film is released, it’s guaranteed deranged entertainment for all. The auteur of “A History of Violence” and “The Fly” has darkened the corners of Hollywood obsession, showing the lengths to which Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) will go to achieve stardom. It looks like apparitions, betrayal, unadulterated sex, and sinister dealings wind through this storyline. The gallery of actors (Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowsa, Carrie Fisher, and John Cusack) don’t look like they play healthy Californians either. Moore’s Cannes-winning performance is a definite lure into the theater.
Xavier Dolan is the wonderchild of world cinema, the Quebecois Orson Welles, a pop figure who generates some provocative and lauded films. His first directed feature, “I Killed my Mother,” (2009) received international acclaim for him at age 20. Now he is 25 and “Mommy” has been described as “a splashy, transgressive treat, from trailer-trash chat to unexpected sex and surprising emotional depth,” according to Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian). Starring Anne Dorval as a widowed mother caring for her very wayward son, this film is Dolan’s newest treatise on how bizarre and beautiful parents and children can be as units.
Jennifer Aniston received Oscar buzz once before for the low-budget 2000 film “The Good Girl,” arguably too tiny a movie to gain traction for the former sitcom star. Judging by the photos alone, Aniston looks like she’s at the emotional center of a potentially stunning American drama which. Like Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball” or Charlize Theron in “Monster,” Aniston portrays a beautiful actress’s vanity in a raw and original performance. A car-crash survivor covered in body and soul in scars, she finds solace in her chronic pain support group. Her character is flanked by the acting backup of Anna Kendrick and Sam Worthington.
This film threw Cannes for a loop, capturing the Palme d’Or from a jury with Jane Campion on it. This 196-minute, low-budget Turkish chamber film is about a handful of miserable people snowbound in a country hotel. However, films by Nuri Bilge Ceylon — known as Turkey’s national film maker — are normally considered masterpieces. If it’s anything like “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” or “Three Monkeys,” “Winter Sleep” will be as the critics say: slow, thoughtful, devoid of time, horrifying and deeply meaningful.
Let’s all pray together for a great Jane Fonda performance. It’s a long time coming. While it’s hard for a comedy to land these days, perhaps the combined forces of Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Batmen, Rose Byrne, and Adam Driver will brighten up the Toronto screens. Four siblings unite under the same roof for the first time in years after their father’s death, sitting shiva and dealing with the overbearing, corralling force of their mother, played by Fonda. Directed by Shawn Levy and based upon the novel by screenwriter Jonathan Tropper, this film got mixed critics’ reviews.
British darling Mike Leigh has made another film that everyone is roaring about. Cannes Best Actor Timothy Spall plays 18th century English painter Joseph Mallard William Turner, eccentric and troubled, celebrated and eventually canonized. Cinematographer Dick Pope was given special mention at Cannes for his camerawork, and Leigh, the master behind kitchen-sink dramas like “Secrets and Lies” and “Vera Drake,” has never made a bad film. Period.
And again here’s Reese Witherspoon, covering all the bases in another fact-based story of an American woman who takes in four Sudanese refugees after they flee from their devastated country. Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Kuoth Wiel, and Emmanuel Jal are actually refugees playing refugees. Witherspoon plays the sharp-tongued, momma-bird Carrie Davis with comparisons to Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for her performance in “The Blind Side.”
We should have seen it coming: a Stephen Hawking film, and right now in Canada its release is imminent. Awards hype has swirled around the performances. “Les Miserables” ingenue Eddie Redmayne spans decades playing Hawking, the theoretical physicist who contracted the degenerative ALS disease and became paralyzed. The film is based on the memoir, “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” by his ex-wife, Jane Hawking. Felicity Jones plays Jane, the love of the brilliant man’s life. Some are already saying this film is the festival’s most triumphant. Hawking allegedly had to have tears wiped away from his face after viewing what he described as a “largely genuine” depiction of his story (Imdb.com).