This year, I am fortunate enough to be attending another Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a mix of films trying to get noticed for the unfortunate business that is Awards Season and those trying to get distributors. Over the years, I have seen films at TIFF that have gone on to win Oscars (Julianne Moore earned Best Actress for Still Alice), films that have become cult favorites (Machete Maidens Unleashed!), films that have regrettably disappeared ( Barry Levinson's The Bay), and films I can't imagine playing in America (the documnetary ANPO). The festival runs Sept 6 through 16, and I'll be there four of the days. Am hoping to add some more, but the films I have scheduled are listed below. [The premieres are identified by their status the first time the film plays the fest, which is not necessarily when I'll be seeing them.]
Sat, Sept 8
This Changes Everything - World Premiere - Roy Thomson Hall - 12:30p
In this timely follow-up to his documentary Casting By, Tom Donahue explores the insidious and systemic sexism in Hollywood through the voices of marquee celebrities, including Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Sandra Oh, Jessica Chastain, and many other ambassadors of the #TimesUp movement.
The gender gap has become an urgent topic in recent years. But even the most jaded viewers will be taken aback by the film's compelling evidence and anecdotes. Davis (Thelma and Louise) has led groundbreaking research into Hollywood's portrayal of women. Those damning facts become vivid through an array of iconic film clips.
As the film makes plain, Hollywood has been a powerful force in shaping negative gender roles for over a century. Now the industry can play a positive role in recasting those roles for a better future.
Sun, Sept 9
The Front Runner - International Premiere - Elgin Theatre - 12:30p
Jason Reitman (Tully, Up in the Air) directs Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, and J.K Simmons in this biopic about US Senator Gary Hart's 1988 presidential campaign and his scandalous affair that derailed it.
It might seem quaint in today's sensation- saturated news cycle, but it wasn't long ago that a politician at the zenith of his career could be felled by news of an extramarital affair. That was the fate of one-time presidential hopeful Gary Hart, the subject of Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman's enthralling new film. Starring Hugh Jackman and Vera Farmiga - working in perfect harmony here - The Front Runner recreates three weeks that forever changed U.S. politics and how they're covered.
Giant Little Ones - World Premiere - Elgin Theatre - 3:45p
In the latest from Canadian director Keith Behrman, Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello star as divorced parents whose teenage son (Josh Wiggins) faces seismic personal upheaval after an unexpected incident at a party.
Adolescents face enormous pressure to make life-defining decisions every day and they want to lock in their identities sooner than later. All of this pressure is exacerbated by physical and social changes. Franky (Josh Wiggins), the hero of Keith Behrman's exquisite and generous Giant Little Ones, is under more pressure than most. His life was altered when his father (Kyle MacLachlan) left his mother (Maria Bello) for a man. Franky is left confused and angry toward his father for breaking up the family.
Out of Blue - World Premiere - TIFF Bell Lightbox - 9:15p
A homicide detective’s (Patricia Clarkson) investigation into the shooting of a leading astrophysicist and black-hole expert destabilizes her view of the universe and herself, in the third fiction feature from Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life).
In its first scenes, Out of Blue appears to be a standard police procedural. But as it proceeds, it becomes increasingly clear that Carol Morley's film is something more: a highly intelligent, indeed metaphysical, exploration of existence. Led by Patricia Clarkson in an understated but tour-de-force performance as an unconventional homicide investigator, the film draws us into its strange world through the musings of its central character.
Mon, Sept 10
Life Itself - World Premiere - Elgin Theatre - 9:30a
Writer, director, and producer Dan Fogelman’s (This Is Us) affecting drama about life, love, and loss, ambitiously set across years and continents, features an impressive ensemble cast, including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Mandy Patinkin, and Antonio Banderas.
Dan Fogelman's stories have brought millions to laughter and tears, most recently with his award-winning television series, This Is Us. Simply by observing the truth of how we behave with each other, Fogelman invites us to let our guards down and feel. If there's a common theme in Fogelman's work, it's that we can't help but be connected to each other. Life Itself is his most expansive exploration yet of that potent notion.
Wildlife - Canadian Premiere - Princess of Wales Theatre - 2:30p
In Paul Dano’s evocative and emotional directorial debut, a teenage boy (Ed Oxenbould) in 1960s Montana experiences the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s (Carey Mulligan) struggle to keep their lives afloat after his father (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves.
In Wildlife, his striking directorial debut, actor Paul Dano joins a canon of filmmakers who have explored the meaning — and the cost — of the American dream. Collaborating with co-writer Zoe Kazan, Dano chooses for his version a coming-of-age story, set in the postwar American Midwest, told through a feminist lens.
Clara - World Premiere - Ryerson Theatre - 5:30p
An obsessive astronomer and his unconventional research partner probe their difficult pasts while searching for proof of the existence of life on distant planets, in this emotive sci-fi drama about the importance of making contact.
Isaac Bruno is an astronomer consumed with searching the cosmos for evidence of life. When his obsession jeopardizes his career, he ignores a friend's advice to get his life back on track and instead delves deeper into his research — in part to escape from a tragedy in his past. After Isaac meets an artist named Clara, who shares his fascination with space and has a keen eye for detecting patterns, the two begin an unlikely collaboration sifting through mounds of newly released stellar data in the hopes of making a monumental discovery.
Freaks - World Premiere - Scotiabank Theatre - 9:45p
In this genre-bending psychological sci-fi thriller, a bold girl discovers a bizarre, threatening, and mysterious new world beyond her front door after she escapes her father’s protective and paranoid control.
An oblique allegory about refugees, diversity, and fear of difference, Freaks juggles ambiguity and mystery virtually to its last scenes. Presenting events through the eyes of a young girl who is terrified, incapable of understanding all that's going on around her, prone to fantasy, and uncertain about who she can trust, Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky create an unsettling world.
Tues, Sept 11
First Man - Canadian Premiere - Princess of Wales Theatre - 11:30a
The Academy Award-winning team of director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling (La La Land) reunites for this biopic on the adventures and life of Neil Armstrong, from his entry into NASA's astronaut program in 1961 to his epoch-making walk on the moon eight years later.
First Man throws us immediately into the cockpit with Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his fellow test pilots as they break record after record, hurtling beyond the stratosphere in shaky metal prototypes that can barely take the strain. Each time they take off they risk death, which bonds them in a camaraderie that can be both noble and steely. At home, Armstrong maintains the taciturn logic that keeps him alive as a pilot, but it tears at his relationship with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and sons. When he's called on with Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll, also at the Festival in Driven) and Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) to join NASA's Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Armstrong bears down for what might be the ultimate glory… or the ultimate sacrifice.