If previous years are any indication, there’s a pretty good chance that the next Academy Award best picture winner is buried somewhere among the almost 300 movies set to unspool at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday.
There’s no cinematic crystal ball that will tell us which title will have the appeal of Argo, the whimsy of The Artist or the gravitas of 12 Years a Slave, but here are 10 titles that Canadian Press reporters will be rushing to the theatre to see.
Boychoir – With a blue-chip cast headed up by Dustin Hoffman, Debra Winger and Kathy Bates, direction from Quebec master Francois Girard (Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, T“) and an against-all-odds story about a troubled Texas boy who lands at a prestigious choir school, this one’s got all the elements of a winner.
Foxcatcher – This star-studded true-life character study arrives at TIFF after being cemented as an Oscar contender at its Cannes coronation. Starring an against-type Steve Carell as a twisted millionaire who takes a toxic interest in the life of a troubled Olympic wrestler portrayed by beefcake box-office champ Channing Tatum.
The Good Lie — Reese Witherspoon plays an American woman who takes four refugees from the Sudanese civil war under her wing in this drama that’s drawing comparisons to that formulaic heart-tugger The Blind Side. Still, don’t count out the nuance that will no doubt be added by Quebec director Philippe Falardeau, the Oscar-nominated auteur who brought us the exquisite Monsieur Lazhar.
Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch, who starred in last year’s Wikileaks drama and TIFF opener The Fifth Estate returns to the festival this year in the role of Alan Turing — a brilliant British mathematician whose code-cracking skills help hasten the end of the Second World War. The man able to reveal the enemy’s secrets has a dark one of his own though, and the film, co-starring Keira Knightley, promises action, drama and suspense.
Mommy – When 25-year-old Quebecois auteur Xavier Dolan unveiled his latest feature at Cannes this summer, it was met with deafening buzz and went on to win the prestigious Jury Prize. Starring Anne Dorval as a widowed single mother who enlists a mysterious neighbour (Suzanne Clement) to help care for her explosive son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), who has ADHD, Mommy promises powerful performances and masterful storytelling from its talented young director.
The Riot Club – Danish director Lone Scherfig made a splash at TIFF a few years back with the smart, stylish drama An Education. Here she takes on the story of the exclusive Oxford University society known as The Bullingdon Club. While that earlier film introduced audiences to the multi-talented Carey Mulligan, Scherfig’s latest also boasts a fleet of promising newbies, including Max Irons (son of Oscar-winning dad Jeremy) as well as Hunger Games stars Sam Claflin and Natalie Dormer.
Rosewater — Jon Stewart took a break from hosting The Daily Show to make his directorial debut on this much-anticipated true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s five-month imprisonment in Iran. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Bahari, who was arrested after appearing on Stewart’s show while covering elections in Iran in 2009. Stewart recently told Entertainment Weekly he got input from J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard as he adapted Bahari’s memoir Then They Came For Me.
St. Vincent — Perhaps only two words are required to explain the feverish anticipation for this film: Bill Murray. The comic jedi portrays a living-on-the-edge retiree who strikes up an unlikely friendship with his 12-year-old neighbour in this debut feature from director Theodore Melfi. Rounding out an extremely talented cast are Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard and Naomi Watts.
The Theory of Everything — At 21, a Cambridge cosmology student named Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a fatal illness and given two years to live. Galvanized by the love of a fellow student, Jane Wilde, Hawking went on to become one of the most brilliant scientists of our time. Starring a physically transformed Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and Felicity Jones as Wilde, this biographical drama directed by James Marsh is likely to pack a powerful emotional punch.
Wild – Reese Witherspoon looks like she put herself through the wringer to portray a divorcee who treks nearly 1,800 kilometres along the Pacific Crest Trail after years of heroin use and reckless sex. Quebec director Jean-Marc Vallee, whose Dallas Buyers Club won three Oscars earlier this year, directed while acclaimed writer Nick Hornby adapted the story from Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir.