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Toronto International Film Festival Preview: ‘St. Vincent,’ ‘Foxcatcher,’ ‘Rosewater,’ and More (PHOTOS)

From the Robert Downey Jr.-starrer The Judge to Oscar bait biopics of criminal John du Pont (Foxcatcher) and code breaker Alan Turing (The Imitation Game).

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Atsushi Nishijima/Weinstein Company

Toronto International Film Festival Preview: ‘St. Vincent,’ ‘Foxcatcher,’ ‘Rosewater,’ and More

The Toronto International Film Festival, which began in 1976, is one of the biggest and most influential film fests in the world, attracting some 400,000 attendees and debuting hundreds of awards hopefuls. It is, perhaps, second to none when it comes to generating Oscar buzz for award bait titles, giving films that initial gust of wind to carry them through to February. Films ranging from American Beauty to Slumdog Millionaire to The King’s Speech have all premiered at TIFF, and last year’s edition included screenings of eventual Oscar winners 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, and more. This year’s lineup, meanwhile, shouldn’t disappoint. From Moneyball filmmaker Bennett Miller’s twisted take on the American dream, Foxcatcher, to Robert Downey Jr.’s juiciest role in years in The Judge, here are the most anticipated films unspooling at TIFF.

THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Carlos) is one of the most exciting filmmaking voices in France, and centers on Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche)—an actress whose massive star is fading. When an talented ingénue (Chloe Grace Moretz) is cast in a remake featuring the role that made her famous, Enders suffers a mental breakdown, packs her things and, along with her trusty assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), decamps to the secluded Swiss town of Sils Maria to escape the specter of Hollywood. The film’s performances, particularly Stewart’s, earned raves out of Cannes.

TIFF

COMING HOME

Not to be confused with the 1978 Oscar winner starring Jon Voight and Jane Fonda, the latest film epic from acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Hero) tells the tale of Lu Yangshi (Chen Daoming), a professor who’s imprisoned during China’s Cultural Revolution after he’s fingered by his daughter, an aspiring ballerina gunning for the lead role. When he’s released years later, his wife (Gong Li) doesn’t remember him, so he’s forced to pose as strangers to be close to her. The film is already a hit in its native China, where it’s grossed the equivalent of $46 million.

TIFF

DO I SOUND GAY?

This Kickstarter-funded documentary chronicles the personal journey of journalist/director David Thorpe who, after suffering a bad breakup with a boyfriend, embarks on a mission to confront his fear of “sounding gay.” The documentary traces the cultural history of “sounding gay,” from cartoon characters to movies, and features the witty perspectives of Margaret Cho, George Takei, Dan Savage, Tim Gunn, and Dave Sedaris, among others. 

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THE DROP

This gritty urban drama, directed by Michael R. Roskam, marks the final appearance in a feature film by James Gandolfini, who passed away back in June 2013. Written by novelist Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), the movie stars Tom Hardy as Bob Saginowski, a bar owner in New York City who finds himself embroiled in a botched robbery—forcing his neighborhood “friends” and family members to make amends with their respective pasts. In addition to Hardy and Gandolfini, the film stars Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, and James Frecheville.

EDEN

The latest from acclaimed French auteur Mia Hansen-Love (Goodbye First Love) traces the rise of electronic music in Chicago, Paris, and New York in the 1990s through the eyes of Paul (Felix de Givry), a Parisian spinner who’s drawn to Chicago house music, and forms a DJ duo called Cheers—his pals, meanwhile, form another EDM duo, Daft Punk. They all drop out of school to pursue their musical dreams, forming a tight-knit knob-twirling community filled with sex, drugs, and dancing galore. Hansen-Love’s film also stars Greta Gerwig as a free-spirited American woman who Paul falls for in Paris.

THE EQUALIZER

The last time filmmaker Antoine Fuqua and star Denzel Washington hooked up, for 2001’s crime saga Training Day, Washington took home the Academy Award for Best Actor. They’ve reunited for The Equalizer. Based on the ’80s TV series of the same name, the action/thriller stars Washington as Robert McCall, an ex-special ops soldier who’s left his killing days behind him. When a girl he befriends, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, is almost killed by Russian gangsters, McCall is pulled back into action, making it his duty to bring every last one of the bastards to justice. If you liked Man on Fire, well, this seems like just the movie for you.

THE FACE OF AN ANGEL

Based on the novel Angel Face by Daily Beast writer Barbie Latza Nadeau and directed by filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, this thriller dramatizes the Amanda Knox murder case, and features Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Bruhl as a journalist and documentary filmmaker, respectively, chasing the case. It also boasts supermodel Cara Delevingne in her first major role in a feature film.   

Scott Garfield/TIFF

FOXCATCHER

This film—you’ve maybe heard it here first—will spell Oscar for Steve Carell. Directed by biopic specialist Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), this gripping drama tells the tale of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who’s sponsored by John du Pont (Steve Carell), a schizophrenic heir to the du Pont fortune. Du Pont’s thirst for competition eventually drives him to murder. The awards bait film is based on a true story, and also stars Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, and Anthony Michael Hall. You will be hearing a lot about this film, a deconstruction of the American dream, come Oscar season.

Jack English

THE IMITATION GAME

Benedict Cumberbatch just took home his first Emmy Award for the miniseries Sherlock—will Oscar follow? This biopic, distributed by awards Svengali Harvey Weinstein, tells the real-life story of Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), from his early years as an outcast teen to his work as a key code-breaker for Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School, which broke the Nazi’s code during World War II, to his conviction for “gross indecency” due to being gay. The film also stars Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance.

Warner Bros. Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures

THE JUDGE

Will this be Robert Downey Jr.’s Oscar moment? Too soon to say, but David Dobkin’s comedy-drama The Judge seems like the juiciest role for Downey since Tropic Thunder. He stars as Hank Palmer, an ace litigator who ventures from the big city to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana, for his mother’s funeral. Things take a sharp turn when his estranged father (and town judge), Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), is accused of murder. Hank is placed in the awkward position of having to defend his father, which leads to much proverbial head-butting—and scenery-chewing—between the two Roberts.

Paramount Pictures

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman’s (Juno) follow-up to the disappointing melodrama Labor Day sees him tackle our technology obsession and the way its impacted modern-day communication and relationships by focusing on a group of interconnected tales, including a parent who’s trying to have an affair to teen flirtation. The ensemble dramedy, which will make its premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, stars Adam Sandler (in a rare dramatic turn), Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Norris, Ansel Elgort, and Judy Greer.

TIFF

MR. TURNER

When this biopic of British artist J.M.W. Turner premiered at Cannes, critics called it filmmaker Mike Leigh’s masterpiece (which is high praise, for those who’ve seen Naked). The eccentric, prostitute-loving artist is played by longtime Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall, who took home the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance.

NIGHTCRAWLER

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, this noirish—and nightmarish—thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, an eager man who finds himself lost in the world of freelance crime journalism in downtown Los Angeles. There, he becomes mixed up in the world of “nightcrawling”—where each fire, robbery, or homicide can equal his next paycheck. Soon, however, Bloom finds himself in way over his head. The mysterious film also stars Gilroy’s wife, Rene Russo, as well as Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed, and will make its premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

PRIDE

On paper, filmmaker Matthew Warchus’ comedy/historical drama seems like a bit of a snooze, but the film has received lots of positive press in pre-festival screenings, and has generated a bit of awards buzz. The film tells the unique, real-life story of a group of UK gay and lesbian activists who—oddly enough—joined forces with a group of burly, macho, quasi-homophobic miners during the strike of the UK’s National Union of Mineworkers back in 1984. Pride features an excellent UK cast, including Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, and others.

ROSEWATER

Remember that months-long hiatus Jon Stewart took from hosting The Daily Show where he was replaced by John Oliver? Well, Stewart was busy shooting his feature directorial debut, a drama based on the memoir Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari, which told the story of Bahari’s five-month imprisonment by Iranian authorities following an interview he did on The Daily Show back in 2009—footage which was used as evidence to “prove” he was in contact with an American spy. The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Bahari, a journalist who’s tortured over the course of 118 days in an Iranian prison.

Atsushi Nishijima/Weinstein Company

ST. VINCENT

Not to be confused with the awesome singer of the same name, this highly anticipated dramedy from filmmaker Theodore Melfi stars the one and only Bill Murray as St. Vincent, a drunken, curmudgeonly war veteran. One day, the misanthrope is tasked with watching over his neighbor’s 12-year-old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), and the two embark on a series of misadventures that include gambling binges, strip clubs, and more. The film also stars Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, and Terrence Howard.

Liam Daniel/Universal Pictures

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Directed by James Marsh, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind the riveting documentary Man on Wire, this biopic is loosely adapted from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, and tells the real-life tale of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), who falls in love with a fetching art student by the name of Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) while the two are studying at Cambridge University in the 1960s. The film also stars Charlie Cox (your future Daredevil via Netflix), Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, and David Thewlis.

Warner Bros. Pictures

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper (who also penned the screenplay), this ensemble dramedy is directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night), and centers on the dysfunctional Altman family, played by Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, and Jason Bateman. The gang is compelled to reunite at their childhood home in the ‘burbs for a week of sitting Shiva after their father passes away which, of course, forces the clashing personalities to confront their lingering resentments head-on. The film also stars Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, and Timothy Olyphant.

Mark Fellman/TIFF

TUSK

Written and directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks), this horror/comedy is the first flick in a planned “True North Trilogy,” and tells the bizarre tale of Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), a podcaster who is abducted in the backwoods of Manitoba by Howard Howe (Michael Parks)—a demented seaman who wishes to transform him into… a walrus. Bryton’s pal, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), his girlfriend, Allison (Genesis Rodriguez), and an ex-cop-turned-private eye, Guy LaPointe (played by Johnny Depp—really), are all searching for the missing podcaster and hope to find him before it’s too late.

Jon Pack

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the Wes Anderson mentee responsible for critical hits The Squid and the Whale and last year’s Frances Ha, this New York City-set comedy-drama centers on an uptight documentary filmmaker (Ben Stiller) and his wife (Naomi Watts), who learn to enjoy life more after running into a passionate younger couple, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. The film also stars Charles Grodin, Brady Corbet, and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz.

WILD

Will this spell Oscar No. 2 for Reese Witherspoon? After all, the last film from director Jean-Marc Vallee, Dallas Buyers Club, spelled Oscar for its stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. And here, based on the memoir of the same name and adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, Wild stars Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed—a self-destructive heroin user who, following a divorce and the death of her mother, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo in order to gain some inner peace. The film also stars Laura Dern as Witherspoon’s mother, Michiel Huisman as a hunky suitor, and Gaby Hoffman.