Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Toronto International Film Festival, which every year manages a satisfying mix of auteur-driven works, indie gems, slick studio productions, and pensive foreign fare. Now in it’s 39th year, no other film festival is as varied as this one, or as important to Hollywood’s awards season, as TIFF is often seen as the unofficial kick-off to the Oscar race. To help wade through the 300+ plus movies being screened from over 60+ countries, we’ve compiled a short list of five intriguing films to look out for in the coming months, and stay with us for additional coverage of this year’s festivities throughout the next two weeks.
Jon Stewart took last summer off The Daily Show to direct this, his first feature film. Adapting from BBC journalist Maziar Bahari’s best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, the drama revolves around a reporter arrested by the Iranian government while covering the country’s turbulent 2009 elections. If we’re to believe the press out of Telluride this past week, it looks like Stewart has crafted a compelling and timely character study amid all the current turmoil in the Middle East.
Men, Women and Children
Jason Reitman’s last film, Labor Day, was an unfortunate misfire of baked goods and undercooked drama for a director who, until then, had a flawless filmography. But the director seems poised for a rebound with his latest effort, a snapshot of our ever-evolving relationship with technology. Although critics often bemoan Reitman’s tendency to revel in the saccharine, his previous efforts–Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air–still hold up. There are flashes of vulnerability to his characters that feel like cracks in their shields of snark and sarcasm.
Put a photo of Pier Paolo Passolini next to Willem Dafoe and you’ll struggle to tell them apart. The legendary actor bears a striking a resemblance to the iconoclastic Italian filmmaker. It’s no surprise that Abel Ferrara decided to cast Dafoe in the eponymous role. It would be a sin not to. An interesting tidbit: according to the TIFF press release, Ferrara actively drew from a screenplay Pasolini was working on around the time of his death. Here’s hoping the man who brought us Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, and other crime classics veers clear of hagiography and captures the man, not the legend.
Love & Mercy
Following the trend of anticipated biopics and ampersands in the title, Love & Mercy explores the sordid life and times of Brian Wilson, the notoriously eccentric founder of The Beach Boys. With Paul Dano and John Cusack playing the troubled singer/songwriter at different stages in his life, Bill Pohlad first foray into directing promises to be — if nothing else — a fascinating one. Now it’s time for a true film about The Beatles.
While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach is no longer just a director. He’s an institution. With seven features under his belt, the Brooklyn native has carved out a place for himself in an oft-homogenized industry. And if his last film, the rhapsodic comedy Frances Ha is any indicator, Baumbach has found and solidified his voice. In While We’re Young, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play two people in a stagnant marriage who get an unexpected jolt from a free-spirited couple played by professional scene-stealer Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, in a role originally intended for Baumbach’s girlfriend, Greta Gerwig