When the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) opens for business on Thursday night, it marks the return of sweater season and serious movies. The sprawling Canadian festival has become a favorite launching point for awards season. This year, the ten-day TIFF has 284 features from 79 countries, a treasure trove for film lovers that includes such potential gems as the buzz-garnering true-crime drama Foxcatcher and Jennifer Aniston as a physically and psychologically scarred woman in the indie Cake. Here’s our picks for the ten key Toronto movies you’ll be hearing a lot about soon:
Jennifer Aniston gets a make-under and major facial scarring to play tough-talking Claire, who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain-management support group in this small-scale drama. Given that two of Aniston’s best big-screen roles — Office Space and The Good Girl — were in indies, this could be a wise career move.
After the disastrous romcom Blended, Adam Sandler takes a serious turn as the New Yorker shoemaker Max. He discovers a magic family heirloom that lets him see the world from his customers’ perspective, stretching the metaphor of walking in another man’s shoes in the latest from writer-director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent).
In the late James Gandolfini’s final movie, he plays the owner of a Brooklyn bar who launders dirty money with his cousin (Tom Hardy). When the bar gets hit and money goes missing, the two have a hefty tab to pay to some dangerous customers.
Denzel Washington reunites with Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) in a hardcore vengeance fantasy based on the somber ’80s TV drama. Washington plays a former black ops agent turned Home Mart worker who returns to wet work to protect a teen prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) from her Russian mob bosses.
In Ruben Ostlund’s buzzy Nordic noir, a well-heeled family’s ski trip turns very dark when an avalanche interrupts their vacation.Less a disaster movie than a psychological thriller, it’s already been selected by Sweden to represent the country in the best foreign film Oscar race.
Steve Carell is all-but-unrecognizable as a wealthy, disturbed sports enthusiast John du Pont in this creepy true-crime drama from Moneyball's Bennett Miller about what happened when du Pont got involved with a young wrestler and his brother (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo).
The Imitation Game
He’s already played Julian Assange and Stephen Hawking, but that didn’t stop Benedict Cumberbatch from tackling another iconic real-life figure in this period drama about the brilliant mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing. Winston Churchill himself credited Turing for making the single biggest contribution to the Allied effort against the Nazis during World War II, but that didn’t stop the British government from later persecuting him for being gay.
A dysfunctional family drama with a legal angle follows the return of a prodigal son, acerbic metropolitan lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) to his Indiana hometown. Once there, he must defend his estranged father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), who stands accused of murder.
Maps to the Stars
Director David Cronenberg returns for a curdled look at the Hollywood machine. Julianne Moore won best actress at Cannes playing a desperate diva rapidly approaching her sell-by date, while Robert Pattinson cruises Los Angeles as a driver on the fringes of the action.
Timothy Spall plays the master landscape painter J. M. W. Turner in this clear-eyed biopic from festival favorite Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Topsy-Turvy). Spall’s performance is already getting awards buzz — he won best actor at Cannes — and Dick Pope’s cinematography, taking its cues from Turner’s light-filled canvasses, is transcendent.
Photo credits: Echo Films, Shoval Film Production