TIFF ’16 Preview

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Damien Chazelle’s throwback musical LA LA LAND. (Photo: Lionsgate)

Each September, John Toner and I take an annual pilgrimage up to the Canadian side of Lake Ontario for the Toronto International Film Festival. Over six days, we plan to jointly take in 25–30 films (depending on how much we overlap on “must see” titles) in search of the hottest titles to bring to our screens. Falling in line right after the Venice and Telluride festivals, TIFF marks the official start of Oscar season. And a number of movies that have placed highly in the festival’s awards tend to take home a Golden Statue or two come February.

This year’s fest has a lot of high profile films looking to kick their campaigns into high gear. But with close to 400 films in the festival, there are most than just awards hopefuls gracing the screens of Queen City. There are docs, foreign, indie, genre, and even TV shows making their debuts. We will barely make a scratch in what there is to offer, but hoping that we are able to spot a couple diamonds. You can follow us live throughout the festival on twitter — @PhillyCRC and @JohnTonerRenew — and will be looping back at the end with a wrap post.

Here are the big titles that we are going to aim to catch:

La La Land — Princeton-native Damien Chazelle’s hotly-anticipated follow-up to Whiplash. The throwback Hollywood musical (think Astaire and Rodgers) starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone received gushing reviews from it’s premiere in Venice.

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in Jeff Nichols’ LOVING. (Photo: Focus Features)

Loving — Has Jeff Nichols made a bad movie? The director of Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special is already garnering Awards-season buzz for his nuanced telling of the story of Richard and Mildred Loving and their landmark legal battle.

Kristen Stewart in the fashion world ghost story PERSONAL SHOPPER. (Photo: IFC Films)

Personal Shopper — The Clouds of Sils Maria was one of my favorite films of 2015 and director Oliver Assayas has once again teamed up with Kristen Stewart. A ghost story set in the underground Paris fashion world. Can’t wait.

Adam Driver reps NJ Transit in PATERSON. (Photo: Bleecker Street Media)

Paterson — A Jim Jarmusch film about a bus driver in suburban NJ who writes poetry starring Adam Driver. Game on!

Amy Adams in the cerebral scifi ARRIVAL. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Arrival — Denis Villeneuve has become a TIFF staple. And if his recent films (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) are any indication, his newest — a cerebral scifi drama starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker— is going to be a wild ride. Coupled with rave reviews from Venice, this is one that we are dying to see.

Tom Ford’s stylish NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. (Photo: Focus Features)

Nocturnal Animals — Fashion designer Tom Ford returns to the director’s chair with his first film since A Single Man. Amy Adams stars along with Jake Gyllenhaal, and Armie Hammer in this tightly-wound psychological study of a woman in crisis. We know the film is going to be stylish, but word is it is also a taut and deliciously-paced thriller.

Tom Wilkinson in the Holocaust legal drama DENIAL. (Photo: Bleecker Street Media)

Denial — Acclaimed playwright David Hare wrote the powerful screenplay for this legal thriller. Based on the real life case of an American historian who was sued for libel after accusing a British author of Holocaust denial. Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, and Timothy Spall.

Dev Patel used the internet to track down his family in LION. (Photo: The Weinstein Company)

Lion — Dev Patel stars in this personal account of one man’s quest. As a young boy, Saroo becomes lost in the busy streets of Calcutta and must survive many challenges before being adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, he is determined to locate his birth family Also with Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman.

Somehow also need to find time for:

  • Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut adaptation of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral;
  • Amma Asante (Belle) helmed Seretse Khama biopic A United Kingdom with David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike;
  • Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy in a WWII period piece Their Finest directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education);
  • Barry Jenkin’s stirring drama Moonlight;
  • the Emily Dickinson biopic A Quiet Passion by Terrence Davies;
  • Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s newest Julieta;
  • Terrence Malick’s long-awaited, IMAX-format, and eons-spanning documentary Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey;
  • Oscar Issac and Christian Bale in the WWI drama The Promise;
  • Ana Lily Amirpour’s postapocalytpic The Bad Batch with Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey;
  • Bill Nighey in a Victorian murder thriller The Limehouse Golem;
  • Christopher Guest’s newest mockumentary about professional sports Mascots;
  • Ben Wheatley’s throwback crime thriller Free Fire;
  • Christian Mungiu’s morality play Graduation; and
  • Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in father-and-son crime drama Trespass Against Us.

Hey wait — there are some big titles that are playing at TIFF that I haven’t mentioned. We actually had a chance to catch Kenneth Lonergan’s highly-praised Manchester by the Sea, the controversial The Birth of a Nation, the tragi-comic Toni Erdman, Kelly Reichardt’s contemplative Certain Women, and Oliver Stone’s Hollywoood-take on whistleblower Snowden ahead of the festival. I wrote about Manchester and Certain Women when I saw them at Sundance. We will include our thoughts on Birth, Erdman, and Snowden in our festival wrap post.

Stay tuned! Lots of news and reports coming your way shortly. Follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute reports. Or check back in next week for our full wrap.