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Is it that time of the year, already? Summer blockbusters continue to crowd the multiplexes, and it feels like we just crowned Birdman Best Picture a few hours ago. But with the summer season drawing to a close, it most certainly is time to gear up for another jog through the awards marathon, which always begins in earnest with the trio of fall film festivals held in Venice, Telluride and Toronto.
This year, north of our borders, Toronto will be celebrating its 40th anniversary, and has begun teasing those of us heading to the International Film Festival with a juicy slate of dramatic fare. The initial wave of Gala and Special Presentation titles hit the airwaves today, and we sifted through to find 10 can’t-miss movies that we know we will be reporting on. These are the movies that we believe will continue to make headlines through the lengthy awards season, the movies that you – as an avid patron of cinema – need to keep on your radar. I’m listing these alphabetically, but know that on a list of my 10 most anticipated movie playing Toronto this year, all ten of these are tied for No. 1.
The Danish GirlEddie Redmayne follows up his Oscar-winning turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything with another biopic of a fascinating subject. This time out, he plays Einar Wegener, the husband of Danish artist Gerda Wegener, who underwent a sex-change operation in the early 1920s after Gerda painted a series of portraits of Einar as a woman. Tom Hooper, an Academy favorite with Les Miserables and The King’s Speech to his credit, directs.
Release Date: November 27
DemolitionA bit of a surprise announcement, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition was chosen as the Opening Night film of this year’s Toronto fest. Why surprising? Because the film’s release date was bumped back to April 2016. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an investment banker unraveling at the seams following the death of his wife in a car accident. He connects with Karen (Naomi Watts), a customer service rep, and the two lean on each other as Gyllenhaal rebuilds his life. Valle directed Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, so whatever he does, we’re intrigued.
Release Date: April 8, 2016
FreeheldAn actor’s showcase, tackling a relevant and crucial subject. Peter Sollett’s Freeheld stars Julianne Moore as Laurel Hester, a police officer diagnosed with terminal cancer who has to wage a legal battle to secure pension benefits for her domestic partner, played by Ellen Page. The feature is based on a 2007 documentary short of the same name, which won the Oscar back in 2008. The leads look brilliant, and the supporting cast includes Steve Carell, Michael Shannon and Josh Charles.
Release Date: October 2
LegendWhat’s better than one Tom Hardy performance? Two Tom Hardy performances, of course. Legend casts the forceful screen presence as twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray, who unleashed a wave of terror on London during the 1950s and ‘60s. Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) will be behind the lens for this crime saga, and he’s bringing cinematographer Dick Pope and composer Carter Burwell along for the ride. But we mentioned twin Tom Hardys, right?
Release Date: September 11 (limited)
The MartianAdmittedly, Ridley Scott has been unpredictable lately. While a good number of us (myself included) found Prometheus to be an engaging exercise, The Counselor left me cold. However, Sir Ridley normally hammers home sci-fi, and everything we’ve heard about Andy Weir’s book The Martian has us salivating over the chance to see a rescue mission aimed at a stranded astronaut (Matt Damon). Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Donald Glover co-star.
Release Date: October 2
The ProgramBen Foster should have a bigger career. Perhaps The Program is the movie that puts him over the top. The underrated actor will play cyclist Lance Armstrong, who – at the top of his game – is investigated by suspicious journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) and eventually taken down for doping. In the steroid era, this should be the ripped-from-the-headlines biopic Hollywood has been waiting for, and the presence of the legendary Dustin Hoffman (with Stephen Frears behind the camera) makes The Program a must.
Release Date: TBD
SicarioA critical darling at the Cannes Film Festival, Sicario stars Emily Blunt as an FBI agent assigned to cross the border into Mexico – lawless country – to track a reputed drug kingpin. Only, when she lands in enemy territory, she realizes just how overmatched she and her team (Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro) really are. Sicario sounds great on paper, and the fact that it comes to us from Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve put the drug drama even higher on our need-to-see Toronto list.
Release Date: September 18
SpotlightWhich version of Tom McCarthy will we get with Spotlight? Prior to last year, I would have circled the latest from this gifted filmmaker and anticipated it with enthusiasm. McCarthy previously helmed The Station Agent, The Visitor and Win Win -- and all three made my Top 10 lists the years that they came out. Then McCarthy made The Cobbler with Adam Sandler, and everything that I thought I knew changed. Spotlight seems like a return to form, with an all-star ensemble (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams) playing Boston journalists investigating sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. But damn, The Cobbler. Still, keeping an open mind.
Release Date: November 6
TrumboI’ll see anything Bryan Cranston does. Anything. But Trumbo also sounds really interesting. The Breaking Bad star plays 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose career suffers when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. The studio tells us that Jay Roach’s movie "tells the story of his fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom." But we were hooked when they said "Cranston."
Release Date: November 6
YouthYouth piqued my interest with its trio of legendary actors. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play close friends reflecting on life and love. Really, what more do you need out of a two-hour experience. And yet, I’ve heard that Jane Fonda – in the very brief screen time she earns – does more than enough to ensure that her name will be in the Oscar race this season, and that’s definitely something to see.
Release Date: December 4