The line-up at this year's Toronto Film Festival has a much different feel than year's past and coming up with a list of most anticipated films isn't nearly as easy as previous years. Not because there's any lack of possible greatness, but in fact perhaps because the possibility is even greater, though in corners we may not expect.
This year's fest is without what I would call a "big" film. David Dobkin's The Judge is opening the festival but at 141 minutes and with a trailer that does very little to convince me of its quality I have a hard time expecting much from it. Reese Witherspoon's Wild from director Jean-Marc Vallee is certainly one I will be seeing, but the anticipation level isn't entirely there and the somewhat muted Telluride response of respect with caveats has lessened my anticipation ever so slightly, the same could be said for Jon Stewart's Rosewater, another film I'll almost certainly see, but wouldn't be upset if I missed it because it already has a set release date.
I would also love to say I'm anticipating Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo's Revenge of the Green Dragons, but it's screening at the only time my schedule will allow for me to see Nightcrawler... At least, based on what I'm looking at now, though I've been working this schedule and emailing publicists left and right to make everything fit... it hasn't been easy.
After that take into account I'll have already seen six films playing the festival by the time I arrive, putting me six reviews ahead and helping me open this schedule up a bit. Those films include Whiplash, Wild Tales, The Guest and Leviathan with two more to be seen today and tomorrow, before I leave Wednesday morning. This is the first time I've been lucky enough to see that many before the fest and good thing too as I wouldn't have been able to see a couple of them otherwise.
That said, below are the ten I'm most anticipating right now, but depending on scheduling it might be tough for me to even see a few of them, but I'll explain that alongside each... Let's have a look.
The Face of an Angel
DIR. Michael Winterbottom
Starring Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Brühl, this film from Michael Winterbottom tells a fictionalized version of the Amanda Knox murder case. Names have been changed and Winterbottom is approaching the story to center on a filmmaker (Bruhl) who wants to make a movie based on a book about the murder. Through a series of interviews it sounds as if this will most likely open the story up to a series of suspects as well as shed light on what it means to be a filmmaker purporting to tell a "true" story.
Of course, the first screening of this film conflicts with the screening of my next most anticipated film...
DIR. Thomas McCarthy
One of two dramas starring Adam Sandler (the other being Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, which I will definitely see), but certainly the one I am anticipating more than the other as co-writer and director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) has proven on more than one occasion to be an impressive dramatic storyteller.
The Cobbler centers on a lonely NYC shoe repairman (Sandler) who discovers a magical heirloom that allows him to "walk in another man's shoes". Granted, the premise sounds a little kitschy, but McCarthy's work has often walked that fine line, but he tends to always find a way to dial it back just far enough before it becomes steeped in sentimentality. Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and Ellen Barkin co-star.
DIR. Yann Demange
Of all the films on my schedule and most anticipated list Yann Demange's Berlin Film Festival standout '71 may be the one I end up missing due to scheduling conflicts, but that won't stop me from wanting to see it. Starring Jack O'Connell (Starred Up, Unbroken), the film takes place over the course of a single night in the life of a young British soldier (O'Connell), following his plight as he's accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape. Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer and Sean Harris co-star.
The Imitation Game
DIR. Morten Tyldum
As much as films such as Rosewater and Wild may have slightly decreased in anticipation following the early reviews, Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game has done the exact opposite. Early reviews have ranged from positive to ecstatic, giving this one the chance of being one of the big breakouts out of Toronto. The Telluride crowd may have been on the ground floor, but it's Toronto where the true buzz really begins.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as brilliant Cambridge mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the Enigma code-breaking operation during World War II and was later persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality. Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Alan Leech co-star.
DIR. Ed Zwick
It's hard to tell what to expect from Ed Zwick's Pawn Sacrifice as there has been nothing revealed about the film until its festival announcement and the first screening of the film is an "invite only" situation and the PR reps seem to only be accepting names at the moment and waiting to let everyone know if they'll be accepted. The film is without a distributor so far and perhaps it's merely because David Fincher was at one point attached as director that my interest is piqued more than usual. Either way, I hope to see it as this will be the film's world premiere.
The docudrama tells the story of American chess phenomenon Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) as he squares off against his Russian rival Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in the 1972 "Match of the Century" in Reykjavik.