The Toronto International Film Festival is the biggest movie bash in North America
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is just around the corner. The annual celebration is a meeting point for movie lovers, film critics, actors, directors, writers, producers ... seemingly anyone and everyone involved in or crazy about cinema.
Running from Sept. 7-17, it takes place at seven different moviehouse locations around downtown Toronto, ranging from small auditoriums to grand old palaces, with the Scotiabank Theatre standing in as the festival’s epicenter. The lineup boasts hundreds of feature films — dramas, comedies, science-fiction thrillers, horror items, westerns, documentaries, many more genres — and short subjects, lots from Hollywood but most from all over the world.
My goal each year is twofold: See as many upcoming films as time allows, and score interviews with as many folks, from in front of and behind the camera, as possible. For those of you who might want to head north just for the enjoyment of it all, here’s some useful information.
A full list of titles (more may be added), with brief descriptions, is available at www.tiff.net/tiff/films.html.
Truth be told, TIFF is as far away from a bargain matinee as you can get. Tickets are not exactly inexpensive. They range in price, depending on categories (regular films, Gala presentations, Premium presentations) and time of day, from $18-$59. With the costlier ones, such as the Galas, you get more bang for your buck, because at most of those, the filmmakers and stars usually show up for an introduction and sometimes for a Q&A session afterward. Everything you need to know about tickets and ticket packages, including how to purchase them, can be found online at www.tiff.net, or by phone, toll free at 1-800-599-8433.
One of the coolest things about this festival is that there’s a chance that you can also have an encounter with some of those celebrities while standing in line for a film or at a restaurant. Yet even if you don’t get to hang with George Clooney or Jessica Chastain or Aaron Sorkin (they’re all scheduled to be there), it’s always fun to chat with fellow film fans in line with you. Note: If you want good seats, it’s best to be in line about an hour before a film is set to begin. The first one starts around 9 a.m. each day, and the last one starts at 11:59 p.m.
OK, with that business out of the way, here are the 15 films that are on my own priority list. They’re in alphabetical order.
“Battle of the Sexes” — Emma Stone and Steve Carrell star as tennis legends Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the story of their infamous 1973 match.
“Borg/McEnroe” — Yes, another tennis movie, this one with Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe and Sverrir Gudnason as Bjorn Borg and their rivalry at Wimbledon in 1980.
“Brad’s Status” — Traveling with his teenage son to look at colleges, Ben Stiller meets up with old friends who have turned out more successful than him. Written and directed by Mike White.
“Chappaquiddick” — Jason Clark plays Ted Kennedy, and Kate Mara plays Mary Jo Kopechne in a historical drama about the tragedy that went down on Martha’s Vineyard in 1969.
“Downsizing” — Occupational therapist Matt Damon goes through a procedure that shrinks him down to four inches tall, with hopes that he can his wife (Kristen Wiig) can save money and help save the planet. Directed by Alexander Payne.
“I, Tonya” — Margot Robbie plays Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, who became embroiled in a weird and nasty controversy with her main competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) in 1994.
“Manhunt” — The great Hong Kong director John Woo returns to his roots with a thriller about an innocent man who is framed for robbery and rape, then attempts to clear his name.
“Molly’s Game” — Writer Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) who ran a longtime underground poker game involving movie and sports stars as well as the Russian mob, which is why the FBI stepped in.
“mother!” — Darren Aronofsky’s newest thriller has Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a seemingly happy couple whose lives are turned upside down when a knock at their door brings them two strange visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer).
“Papillion” — In 1973, Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman tried to escape from the penal colony on Devil’s Island. In this remake, the roles are taken on by Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek.
“Professor Marston & the Wonder Women” — In a case of perfect timing, here’s the story of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), the psychologist who created “Wonder Woman” in 1941 and practiced his own “progressive” ideas about marriage.
“The Shape of Water” — In Guillermo del Toro’s newest fantasy, Sally Hawkins is a sheltered scientist who gets involved in a top-secret experiment with her lab partner (Octavia Spencer).
“Suburbicon” — The Coen brothers wrote it, and George Clooney directed it. It stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac, and it’s about a home invasion. It promises to be dark.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” — Dark, but with comic elements, this looks at a grieving woman (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was murdered, and later becomes fed up with the slow progress of the police in solving the crime. With Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, and Sam Rockwell.
“Three Christs” — Richard Gere is a doctor treating three mentally disturbed patients (Peter Dinklage, Bradley Whitford, Walter Goggins) who all believe they’re Jesus Christ.
Just in case there’s time, my wish list also includes two of TIFF’s Midnight Madness entries: “Bodied,” a satire about the “sport” of battle rapping, and “Mom and Dad,” with Nic Cage and Selma Blair, in which international mass hysteria causes parents to turn on their kids over a 24-hour period.
And there are two documentaries calling out to me: “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars” (the title says it all) and “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” (another one that really does say it all).
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.