On Thursday, the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival kicks off its 10-day run offering an intriguing roster of quirky indies, pedigreed movies from a who’s who of world-class international filmmakers and no shortage of unabashed Hollywood Oscar bait.
As industry thinking goes, the Cannes Film Festival corners the market on glitz with yacht-side deals and topless models. The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, is a feeding frenzy of independent movie acquisitions in shaggy ski chalets. And the Telluride Film Festival, which took place in that Colorado former mining town earlier this month, offers a tightly curated lineup of serious films.
Toronto, meanwhile, enjoys props for its more populist approach—Ben Affleck’s The Town premiered there, after all—and functions as both a launching pad for awards contenders (such as best picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, which first picked up critical acclaim at the fest) as well as a hot market for indie pick-ups.
Writer-director Jonathan Levine sold his independently produced debut feature, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, at Toronto in 2006 and returns to the fest this year with his dramedy, 50/50, starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “Toronto has a reputation for showcasing things of a certain quality, movies that have high aspirations,” Levine said. “And that’s perfect for our movie, which is trying to be both comedic and dramatic—that has roots in both the indie and mainstream worlds. It’s the perfect launching place for us. Toronto really gives you a boost.”
Brad Pitt’s star turn in Moneyball, the George Clooney-directed political thriller The Ides of March, Nick Broomfield’s warts-and-all hockey mom-umentary Sarah Palin: You Betcha!, and the Glenn Close cross-dressing period drama Albert Nobbs have all been on Hollywood watchers’ radar for months and are sure to gain buzz debuting in Toronto.
Without further ado, a rundown of the most eagerly anticipated films at the festival this year: