It’s pouring rain on an unseasonably chilly Saturday night in Toronto. All your instincts scream to duck into the nearest Tim Hortons and eat donuts until the weather subsides. Instead you apologize to your hair and stand in a snaking line on a bustling street along with hundreds of other soggy ticket holders. Willingly. Semi-happily. After all, you know that 20 or so minutes of discomfort and annoyance will soon lead to something fantastic inside that theater. And if you’re lucky, maybe even something golden.
That’s the magic of the Toronto International Film Festival, which annually delivers a Noah’s Ark-load of award-caliber movies and performances. (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, Whiplash, Wild, and Still Alice all played here in 2014). This was the 40th anniversary of the festival, and once again it fulfilled all its promises. Here’s a sampling of the standouts. Start sizing up your Oscar pool now — just don’t forget the umbrella.
After decorated New Jersey police detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, she requests that her domestic partner, Stacie (Ellen Page), reap her pension. But this is 2005, so the answer from the local board is a hard no. The couple’s groundbreaking battle for equality rivets, while their genuine displays of affection under duress tugs hard at the heart. (In theaters Oct. 2)
Don’t be put off by the bleak premise. Based on the best seller, the powerful drama focuses on a kidnapped woman (Brie Larson, Trainwreck) trying to keep her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) safe and emotionally sound while living in captivity in a locked shed. Again, don’t be put off the bleak premise. Their unforgettable saga inspires and, ultimately, uplifts the soul. Swear. (In theaters Oct. 16)
Our Brand Is Crisis
George Clooney was original slated to play a political consultant hired to run a presidential campaign for an unlikable candidate in Bolivia in 2002. Sandra Bullock took it over and turns in a ferocious performance. (Clooney remains a co-producer). Her moxie keeps this uneven film afloat. She also has a blast on board a familiar mode of transportation. Hmm. . . (In theaters Oct. 30)
It took a handful of dogged journalists at The Boston Globe to expose the rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Their work is chronicled in a hyper-intelligent procedural that has all the pacing and suspense of a crackling thriller. (And the ace ensemble includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, and Rachel McAdams). It’s a Best Picture nomination shoo-in. (In theaters Nov. 6)
Miss You Already
Put aside that worn-out Beaches DVD, friends — this shamelessly sappy weepfest is the fresh wind beneath your wings. Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Milly (Toni Collette) are lifelong party girls and besties who have always been there for each other. Their bond strengthens big time after Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer. Though not a Great Film by any means, it expertly captures the importance of female friendship. And the importance of Christian Louboutins. (In theaters Nov. 6)
The Danish Girl
Hope you liked seeing Eddie Redmayne work the Oscar circuit this year. The reigning Best Actor is a wonder playing tortured painter Einar Wegener — who, in 1930, became the first man to undergo a sex change operation. (It Girl of 2015 Alicia Vikander is his supportive, if confounded, wife). The artful and poignant period drama couldn’t be timelier. (In theaters Nov. 27)
The title is weird. The movie is weirder. But it’s also a brilliant sublimely funny work of art from writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Rendered in total stop-motion animation, this is the story of a motivational speaker (voiced by David Thewlis) who finds love one night in a Cincinnati hotel. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience on many levels. (In theaters Dec. 30 in NYC and L.A.; nationwide in early 2016)
Jake Gyllenhaal’s versatility of late has been downright remarkable. This time he’s a hotshot investment banker who, after, the sudden death of his wife, takes his anger and sadness to disconcerting extremes. (See: The title of this movie). With the electrifying star behind the wheel, the film careens in jagged and unpredictable directions. (In theaters in spring 2016)
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