Hollywood has come to Canada this week for the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The annual festival kicked off September 8th and will run until September 18th, and features films from around the world. While the festival is a great opportunity to see some of the smaller films as well as Canadian films, TIFF is also considered by many to be the kick-off to the film industry’s award season. Some of the films that are premiering at the festival are considered front runners for this years Academy Awards. So for all you film buffs who want to stay in the know about the seasons biggest films, here’s a few that are screening at TIFF that you’ll want to keep your eye out for.
Despite being one of the bigger films of the festival, this one also has a strong Canadian connection due to its director, Denis Villeneuve, a native of Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada. Villeneuve has already made quite a name for himself in Hollywood having directed such acclaimed films as Prisoners and Sicario. His latest film deals with the arrival of an alien spcaecraft on Earth and a lingusit who is recruited by the military to open communications with the alien visitors. Don’t go in expecting Independence Day or War of the Worlds– word is this is a much more cerebral entry into the alien movie genre, examining the nature of humanity. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.
The Birth of a Nation
This film has been all over the headlines for months, though maybe not always for positive reasons. It tells the true story of Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in antebellum South who eventually led a rebellion against the white slavers. The film is the passion project of Nate Parker, who serves as writer and director as well as starring as Turner in the film. Recent revelations about Parker’s past has soured his success, but if you’re able to separate the artist from the art, word is the film is an important piece of American history not to be overlooked.
The movie award season is usually packed with true-story films as those seem to be looked upon as the ‘prestige pictures’ and certainly Deepwater Horizon looks to capitalize on that fact. The story, as you might have guessed, details the infamous explosion and oil spill on the drilling rig and the rescue attempt of those trapped on the rig. It comes from director Peter Berg whose past films like The Kingdom and Lone Survivor are steeped in American heroism and this looks to follow that trend. It has the potential to be an entertaining crowd-pleaser.
We’ve seen countless U.S Presidents honoured (and dishonoured) by having their story brought to the big screen. Lincoln, JFK, Nixon, Bush– all have been the subject of films, but we rarely get a glimpse at the First Lady’s story. Certainly this is one of the more significant tales of the president’s wife, as the film follows Jackie Kennedy in the days immediately following the assassination of JFK. The First Lady will be played by Academy Award winner Natalie Portman and could be a tremendous acting showcase for her.
As if to prove my previous point, the festival also includes a film about the life of a US president. This film from director Rob Reiner trashes the life of Lyndon B. Johnson from his childhood in West Texas to his turbulent days in the White House where he took over the presidency after the death of JFK. Woody Harrelson looks unrecognizable under all the make-up used to transform him into LBJ, but his talents as an actor will certainly shine through.
La La Land
What was a big question mark mere weeks ago has suddenly become the front-runner for the best picture of the year. This throwback to big musical romances film of the 50s was met his overwhelming praise when it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival and now Toronto audiences get to see what all the buzz is about. The film stars Emma Stone as a young aspiring actress in Hollywood who forms a bond with a jazz pianist, played by Ryan Gosling.
The Magnificent Seven
While these festivals are usually filled with the more serious of film fare, there is still room for the occasional popcorn flick, and this one seems to fit the bill nicely. This is a remake of the classic Western about a rag tag group of mercenaries who are hired to protect a helpless town from an army of ruthless killers. This time around the gang of seven is made up of the likes of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio and is helmed by action movie director Antoine Fuqua.
Manchester By the Sea
Occasionally you stumble across a film that sounds like the kind of film you’ve seen dozens of times before, but then surprises you by giving you something unexpected. That seems to be the case with this film from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan which tells a familiar tale of a immature man who is made guardian to his nephew after the death of the boy’s father. What seems to set this film apart is the amount of humour it infuses into the tragic tale. The film stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler.
Oliver Stone is a infamous director who is not afraid to tackle subject manners that are very much in the public eye. He has directed films such as Platoon, JFK, W., and Word Trade Center to name just a few. No surprise then that he is adapting the story of the man responsible for the biggest information leak in American history. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden and the film also stars such people as Nicholas Cage, Melissa Leo and Shailene Woodley.