Our city is about to be transformed into a playground of arts and culture for the Toronto International Film Festival which gets underway later this week.
For 10 days audiences from across the globe will screen special presentations, docs, world premieres and Oscar-worthy content. Buzz has already stirred around Angelina Jolie’s adaption of Loung Ung’s memoir, Gary Oldman’s portrayal as the bold British PM Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour and the biopic look at Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley. There’s even a full-on rap battle set to take place.
Stars will be here, memories will be had and lots of films will be watched.
Here’s what’s on our radar this year.
Grace Jones is widely known for her risqué nature and androgynous style. The Jamaican-born model, singer and actress has no problem baring her breasts (she’s got a lifetime ban from Disney World because of it) on stage, and she’s been a key LGBTQ influencer since the ’70s. For a decade now Sophie Fiennes (known for her non-scripted appreciation of cultural figures like philosopher Slavoj Žižek), has filmed the icon, watching her relish in the tribal-caked makeup she’s donned for decades. This world premiere is touted to be anything but a mundane behind-the-scenes film, and having 10 years of footage with Jones as the the star, well, we’re certainly anticipating unexpected content to pop up.
If you’ve seen the terrible cult favourite flick The Room then you’re aware of Tommy Wiseau. If not, catch up quick. Franco transforms into the writer-director in The Disaster Artist, which is based on The Room actor Greg Sestero’s memoir by the same name. Franco told EW that he did “a lot of soul searching” during filming and found out that him and Wiseau are more similar than he would’ve thought. Franco is joined onscreen by a familiar posse including his brother Dave Franco and Seth Rogen. Sharon Stone and Ari Graynor also star. The film was scored by David Porter (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), so that’s another welcome addition to look forward to.
This German thriller will get its big premiere at TIFF before Netflix hosts it online and makes it the new Stranger Things. A child disappears and soon four families are bounded together in an attempt to find him, but in the meantime more mystery unravels about the very town they live in and the secrets it holds. While not much has been disclosed, we can assume there are going to be some twisted backstories and unsettling images so that’s always fun. Anyone else feeling a M. Night Shyamalan / Wayward Pines vibe after watching the trailer?
Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with Molly’s Game, which tells the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympian who ended up running high-stakes poker games for Hollywood a-listers and deep pocketed businessmen. Jessica Chastien stars as the clever Bloom, and the film follows her from the poker table to the courtroom with Idris Elba, Kevin Costner and Michael Cera along for the ride too.
Before he was part of Warhol’s collaborative circle, Jean-Michael Basquiat was a kid living on the streets selling sweatshirts and postcards full of his art. The self-taught artist is known for his graffiti work in the 1970’s under the moniker “SAMO” and for introducing Neo-Expressionist creations to the masses. Archival footage shows who Basquiat was before the fame bug bit and this doc helps share his early life, told through the accounts of friends and colleagues like filmmaker Jim Jarush and rapper Fab 5 Freddy.
Battle rap is getting its much-deserved spotlight this year and Toronto’s own rapper Alex Larson (a.k.a. Kid Twist) is its focus. Produced by Eminem and directed by Joseph Khan (Detention), Bodied brings viewers into this gritty underground world with the script penned by Larsen. The story centres around a graduate student who is enthralled with the battle rap scene and soon becomes more than a mere spec in it. To get the hype going, Kid Twist and Orlando’s Madness will reprise their 2009 showdown, squaring off in a live battle on Festival Street all in support of the film, which is a TIFF Midnight Madness opener this year.
The latest fantasy from the great Guillermo del Toro has already drawn Hellboy links, being that the lead creature looks a lot like Abe Sapien. Written and directed by del Torro, The Shape of Water is set during the Cold War where a secret government operation sees an unlikely bond formed between the tested subject and an internal employee, whom happens to be deaf. We see this fish man being poked and prodded while the worker becomes more and more attached, eventually unleashing it from captivity. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Del Toro has put his other big ticket film, Fantastic Voyage, on hold until after Oscar season giving The Shape of Water all the glory and potential of snagging an Oscar nom or three. The cast includes Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer Sally Hawkins and Abe Sapien Doug Jones.
Battle of the Sexes is one of two films focusing on tennis, ego and its contenders–the other being the tennis biopic, Borg/McEnroe, which kicks off the festival. Battle of the Sexes stars Steve Carrell and Emma Stone, and Stone may have a chance at another Oscar in this performance. The 1973 match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Carrell) is the premise.
You’ve seen his influence through the pages of Vogue and on America’s Next Top Model, and he’s a cornerstone figure in the fashion circuit, but who is André Leon Talley, really? Director Kate Novack attempts to figure it out, tracing back his southern roots, his relationship with his grandmother, Bennie Francis Davies, as well as how Diana Vreeland apparently helped launch his career. Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Manolo Blahnik and Marc Jacobs are among the names that appear in the film, providing a deeper look at one of fashion’s most recognizable critics.
Matt Damon has two buzzed about films to take note of this year with Suburbicon bringing us back to his Talented Mr. Ripley days in a way. The film, co-written by the Coen Brothers and directed by George Clooney, is set in the 1950’s in idyllic suburbia. Except suburbia has some issues. It may look like a comedy, but Clooney has been quick to denounce such a thing, telling EW that it’s a “…pretty angry and dark film…” and that it “wasn’t designed to be ha-ha funny.” Whatever its genre is, it looks good. Also, Julianne Moore is in it, so there’s that added enrichment.