Waiting for a good film—a really good one—can be like waiting for a bus. Plenty will pass before the right one comes along. Then there's the bullet train that is the Toronto International Film Festival and, from the moment I arrive in that great Canadian city, the pace at TIFF is frantic. Nearly 300 feature films are wedged into TIFF's 10 days of morning, noon and midnight madness. I wouldn't miss it for the world. The reason is simple: during each festival visit I get to share with Boise Weekly readers the first glimpse of what undoubtedly will be the best films of the year and, nearly always, the big Oscar winners. This year, TIFF host 266 world or North American premieres--more than at any other festival in the world. Below is a list of just a few:
The Best of the Fest
Unless my radar is off, Loving will jump to the top of filmgoers' must-see lists. It tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose union in 1958 led to a landmark civil rights decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding interracial marriage.
Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler in the much-anticipated return from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me).
The early buzz on La La Land, a full-out musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is that it's a visual wonder and heading to Oscar's short list.
The Walt Disney Studio strays a bit from its fantasy-driven projects to produce Queen of Katwe, is the true story of a girl who emerges from poverty in the streets of Uganda to become a world-class chess champion.
Denial, based on the bestseller Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, tells the riveting true-life drama of a historian going toe-to-toe with notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.
Nocturnal Animals is the long-awaited thriller drama from writer/director Tom Ford (A Simple Man), starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Sheen.
Jackie stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in the days following the assassination of her husband, U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
The Birth of a Nation, an epic tale of America's tragic history of slavery, was tagged as the Best Picture Oscar front-runner—until its star, director and co-writer Nate Parker, was revealed to have been a co-defendant in a 1999 trial related to an alleged rape of a Penn State University student. Parker was acquitted, but it was also recently revealed the alleged victim committed suicide in 2012. In addition to its premiere at TIFF, Parker will take questions—his first opportunity to face the press since the controversy boiled over.
Elle is controversial from the get-go, beginning with the fact that it's directed by Paul Verhoeven, the man behind the lens for Basic Instinct, RoboCop and Showgirls. Elle may be his most provocative film yet, telling the story of a rape victim who seeks unorthodox revenge on her assailant. Its premiere at Cannes triggered as many laughs as gasps.
Blockbusters abound at TIFF, including the world premiere of The Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt; Deepwater Horizon, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell in the big-budget telling of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion; Arrival, the sci-fi epic of an American linguist (Amy Adams) called in to communicate with aliens; and Snowden, director Oliver Stone's much-buzzed biopic about Edward Snowden.
Sing, an animated musical holiday release, will have its world premiere at TIFF; for Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, the eponymous pop star teamed with Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme to chronicle his world tour; and A Monster Calls is the story of a 12-year-old boy struggling with his mother's illness with the help of a wild and relentless beast (Liam Neeson).
Things That Go Bump
TIFF's Midnight Madness track never fails to thrill. This year's lineup includes a re-booted Blair Witch film; Free Fire, a bloody gang shoot-'em-up; Raw, which sees something go horribly wrong when a teenager eats meat for the first time; and Rats, a horror documentary about the planet's harbinger of disease and death.
I'll be sending daily dispatches from all of TIFF's premieres Thursday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 18. Find them at boiseweekly.com.