The Toronto International Film Festival is an annual tradition for Team CinemaBlend, for various reasons. The programming, from top to bottom, is unrivaled. And being in TIFF for 10 days allows us to get an enormous leg up on the Oscar race, to which we pay very close attention from now until the end of the year. There are far too many incredible films playing in the numerous sub-sections of Toronto's massive slate. So I'm taking a laser focus to their calendar and pulling out the 11 films that I believe will emerge from TIFF with that valuable -- and ever elusive -- Oscar buzz.
Which of these movies are you most excited about seeing?
La La Land
Based on the talent he showed with the searing and terrifying Whiplash, we'd stand in line for days to see anything that director Damien Chazelle delivered. But when you tell us that it's a musical starring classic talents (and silver screen beauties) Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and we are over the moon with anticipation. The duo play struggling artists trying to make it in Los Angeles, and the reviews forLa La Land out of Venice and Telluride over the Labor Day weekend were pure bliss. This one's a guaranteed hit, and now we're waiting to gauge its Oscar chances. Could this be the new The Artist... a sure-fire Best Picture winner?
Denis Villeneuve makes intelligent and challenging feature films that often leave you contemplating the message long after you have left the theater -- from Prisoners and Sicario to Enemy, with Jake Gyllenhaal. His latest, Arrival, is his first foray into science-fiction, and of course, it will be out of the ordinary, with Amy Adams playing an expert linguist who is recruited by the government to communicate with aliens when the extraterrestrials make first contact. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker co-star.
Falling in love is hard enough. Trying to foster a loving relationship when you are an interracial couple in 1958 proves to be impossible for Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in Jeff Nichols' heartbreaking Cannes Film Festival hit. Nichols has a fantastic body of work that includes Mud, Take Shelter and the recent Midnight Special. But in France, where Loving made its debut, critics fell head over heels for both Edgerton and Negga, putting both of their performances in the challenging romance on the radars of awards trackers. It opens everywhere in November, and we're eager to get an early look at what looks to be a tender and tough drama.
Manchester By The Sea
Another film that comes to Toronto with some powerful pre-fest buzz, Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea stars Casey Affleck as a Massachusetts native who must return home to the town he left behind years ago after his brother (Kyle Chandler) passes away. In the process, Affleck's character becomes the ward to his nephew, who he barely knows -- and doesn't' really want to raise. Affleck's turn is generating monster praise, though he acts alongside fellow masters Chandler and Michelle Williams. This one is a must see.
A Monster Calls
Much like Damien Chazelle (mentioned earlier on this list), J.A. Bayona has become a filmmaker you simply do NOT miss at the multiplex. His tsunami drama The Impossible was the perfect balance of eye-popping visual effects -- I still have no clue how he staged that tidal tragedy -- and gut-wrenching family emotions. And in A Monster Calls, he's tackling terminal illness, as a young boy calls on a mystical creature to help him cope with him mom's sickness. From what we are hearing, you better have tissues ready for Monster. And with Bayona moving on to the Jurassic World series, we can't wait to see how his effects work has evolved.
We are cheating a little bit here, because we were lucky enough to catch a very early screening of Oliver Stone's Snowden at San Diego Comic-Con... a screening that included a special Q-and-A session with Snowden, himself, beamed in from Russia! Now the politically charged biopic is trying its luck on the film festival circuit, where it could generate support for Joseph Gordon Levitt's portrayal of the NSA whistleblower. Stone takes a different approach to Edward Snowden than the recent, laser-focused documentary. Snowden spends more time developing the coder's personal life, with contributions from the lovely Shailene Woodley. Will that be enough to win over audiences, and Oscar voters?
The Birth of a Nation
Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation arrives in Toronto with a luggage rack full of baggage. Having impressed critics in Sundance, the writer/director/star found himself confronting skeletons from his personal closet pertaining to a rape charge (of which he was exonerated). Toronto will be the first test of the public's opinion of Parker and his film following the recently-surfaced criminal investigation. Though he was found innocent, the incident could cast a long shadow over the film, making it difficult -- and uncomfortable -- to discuss the movie in the frivolous forum of an awards race.
Finally, we are putting Andrea Arnold's Cannes sensation American Honey on your radar, because of the raves we heard out of that festival earlier this year. The plot sounds simple enough, with Sasha Lane playing a wayward teenage girl who gets caught up in a whirlwind affair with a traveling salesman (Shia LaBeouf). But Arnold's movie reportedly captures the complication of American youth in 2016, and film -- being such a time capsule of each generation -- has the ability to comment on the Now for audiences of all ages. We're anxious to see what emotions American Honey stirs up inside of us.
Also of note, on our radar at TIFF 16:
Bleed For This
The Magnificent Seven
Queen of Katwe