As the Toronto International Film Festival goes on, more entries seek out the attention of festival-goers, film pundits, and Oscar voters alike. All three of them can help bring a film from obscurity to Oscar gold. Some of these films need a little help, other ones are already on their way to being future nominees. It’s just deciding which will be the heavy-hitters and which will go home empty-handed. So now it’s time to continue this preview after our first instalment of which films are on the hunt for great word-of-mouth, top-class reviews, and a lot of love from audiences.
A Star is Born | September 9th
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut saw a very positive reception from its premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 31st, and it hopes to continue the positive vibes into Toronto. A tale as old as 1937, when the first film to have this title was released, Cooper also stars in A Star Is Born, with Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, and Sam Elliott rounding out the main cast. Based on the 90% Rotten Tomatoes score, it seems like critics are liking this one, and many are labeling Lady Gaga as the new Bette Midler, whose first big role in The Rose earned her a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. The same may be in store for Gaga. Also Cooper received great reviews, both as a director and an actor. Sam Elliott may also land himself his first nomination for his supporting role. This is one star that’s not falling anytime soon.
First Man | September 9th
Damien Chazelle continues his march to return to the Dolby Stage with his newest film about Neil Armstrong. If you’ve been following my articles about this film opening the Venice Film Festival, and how it’s probably looking at being the frontrunner for Best Picture in the coming months, you know that I’m behind this one. We could easily see it earn ten or more nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor for Ryan Gosling, Supporting Actress for Claire Foy, Adapted Screenplay, and a slew of tech nominations. The only thing that’s a slight negative about this one, aside from a ridiculous controversy spewing from folks who haven’t even seen the film, is the Rotten Tomatoes score. While Chazelle’s first two films, Whiplash and La La Land were both above 90% on the Tomatometer, First Man sits at 88% at the time of me writing this article. Sure, it’ll probably go up as more critics view the film, but regardless, this one is shooting for the moon, and may hit it.
If Beale Street Could Talk | September 9th
I think there’s a groundswell on the web right now for a battle between directors Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins again this year at the Oscars. And with both of them having strong-looking projects up their sleeves, it may well happen. Jenkins’ new film, based on the James Baldwin novel, centers on a black couple that is broken up when the man is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Again, this could be a ton of nominations coming, with Best Picture, Director, Lead Actress for Kiki Layne, Supporting Actress for Regina King, and Adapted Screenplay being early bets. We’ll see if those tech nominations for Moonlight also apply here, too. This is one of my more anticipated premieres at TIFF this year, and with Jenkins at the helm, I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
Mid90s | September 9th
One of the midnight lineups this year is Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s. It’s a skateboarding coming-of-age story, and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever have to write that phrase before now. Honestly, the trailer gave me mixed emotions, with part of me interested in the dynamic between young star Sunny Suljic and Lucas Hedges, who play brothers in the film. Otherwise, the street scenes of skateboarding come off as dull to me. Still, A24 is the distributor here, and if we’ve learned anything from them, it’s never count them out entirely.
Peterloo | September 10th
On that note, we also can’t count out Mike Leigh, who’s had himself quite a career at the Oscars over the years. His last film, Mr. Turner, didn’t earn any big nods (though it did garner four tech nominations) but his new film, the historical drama Peterloo may change that. Set during the Peterloo Massacre of 1818, Leigh decided to cast his epic with unknowns instead of big stars. Usually his pieces have award-worthy performances, so maybe there could be some stars in the making here. Based off of the reviews from Telluride and Venice, Peterloo’s a bit of a mixed bag, with some calling it visceral and others downright calling it boring. This might be Mr. Turner all over again for Leigh, but if that means it still gets some love from the tech categories, so be it.
Roma | September 10th
Arguably one of the best-reviewed films out of both Telluride and Venice is Alfonso Cuaron’s long-awaited follow-up to Gravity, Roma. And based on the reviews, this was worth the wait. Netflix will likely put all their cards on the table for this one, especially with a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics in particular are saying Cuaron will likely be up for Best Director once again this year, with his intimate storytelling, lovely characters, and breathtaking visuals. Shooting the film in black and white may really have helped him, too, as that’s another things critics are digging. It looks like December can’t get here fast enough for us who can’t see it this early.
The Old Man and the Gun | September 10th
It appears Robert Redford is going to hang his hat on his acting career, and he may have picked a great film to go out on for his work in front of the camera. David Lowery’s latest offering, which co-stars Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek, premiered at Telluride to very positive reviews, and with one exception, everyone loved Redford’s portrayal of the real-life elderly bank robber Forrest Tucker. While he’s an obvious target to land one more acting nomination, Spacek might also get some love from the acting branch later this year, though none of the early reviews spotlighted her as a stand-out from the rest of the cast. I guess it’s all in the title, with the “Old Man” being the one nomination this film is really looking for.
Wildlife | September 10th
Paul Dano’s directorial debut premiered this January at Sundance, where it earned all positive reviews. We’ll see if that luck holds as he screens his film at TIFF. Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan star as a dysfunctional couple who move their family to Montana, where soon thereafter the mother falls for another man. Gyllenhaal and Mulligan were both handed enthusiastic reviews for their performances, and both have been overlooked in previous years. Gyllenhaal should have been nominated for Nightcrawler, Nocturnal Animals, and Stronger, and Mulligan missed out for her great performance in Suffragette. Let’s hope that changes as Wildlife opens next month.
Boy Erased | September 11th
Joel Edgerton’s second film, Boy Erased, is another hot commodity at TIFF this year. The story of a young man who’s outed by his parents for being gay, then taken against his will to a conversion camp, will likely overshadow another film on the same subject matter, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Both may end up having a hand in the Oscar race, but Boy Erased looks like the better bet, especially off of fantastic reviews from Telluride, where stars Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Edgerton himself all earned rave reviews for their performances, and Edgerton also received some credit for his work behind the camera. If this film isn’t on your Oscar radar yet, maybe the screenings at TIFF will change that.
Colette | September 11th
Keira Knightley’s newest film was a favorite at Sundance this year, and now it’s on its way to Toronto. The story of Gabrielle Colette, whose famous novels were not fully credited to her in 20th century England, the film promises to be a heavy-hitter in both the acting and technical categories. With Best Costume Design and Best Production Design being likely nominees, Knightley herself could earn her third acting nomination for her work here, and based off the trailers, she may well deserve it.
Green Book | September 11th
It’s always very interesting when you have a famous comedian, whether that’s behind the camera or in front of it, step into the drama world. Sometimes it works wonders, like it did for Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Maybe the same can be true for one of Carrey’s frequent collaborators, Peter Farrelly, one half of the Farrelly Brothers. The movie features Viggo Mortensen as a Bronx bouncer driving a black pianist, Mahershala Ali, through the southern states in 1960s America. Green Book is one of four films that focus heavily on race that will be in play for the Oscars this year. While that doesn’t mean all four will be nominated, two of those other films, If Beale Street Could Talk and BlacKkKlansman both are more primed for the spotlight. Maybe this one can break through, too.
The Kindergarten Teacher | September 13th
The last film featured here is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s latest film, The Kindergarten Teacher. The film earned almost all positive reviews when it premiered in January at Sundance, and Netflix picked up the rights lickity split. A remake of an Israeli film, it features Gyllenhaal as a kindergarten teacher (duh) who’s enchanted by one of her student’s talent for poetry, and will stop at nothing to make sure his work gets out to the world. Netflix has slotted it to stream on October 12th, so before it becomes an Oscar hopeful, this is the last festival for it to hit. While Gyllenhaal hasn’t been as looked-over as her brother (arguably), the Academy may pay attention to this one, especially after director Sara Colangelo took home the Directing prize at Sundance.
The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival opens on September 6th and will close on September 16th, and unlike Venice and Telluride, for the most part, these films will have multiple screenings. I believe this is part of the reason Telluride and Venice are fondly looked at, but not as heavily worshiped as TIFF, where there’s a more welcoming atmosphere about screenings and celebrating films, unlike the other two where if you miss a film, you’re out of luck. Here there’s a better chance to catch your favorites and try to get a heads up on which films will be big-time contenders in the coming months for the big dance.
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