Toronto 2014 preview

ScreenerBlog

The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today, the first of 10 days dedicated to film screenings, filmmaker interviews, film screenings, parties, and several or several dozen more film screenings. Given the caliber of talent the festival attracts, a future Best Picture winner could very well number among its offerings (or so the punditry insists). Its numerous offerings, we should add: There are 285 films screening at this year’s event. Even if you’re not attending, that’s still a daunting amount of coverage to track online. What should you look out for? Which films are you most eager to see reviewed?

To help make TIFF Web stalking a bit easier, we’ve broken down this year’s buzziest films into several manageable and easy-to-remember categories. See below for your group of choice, and be sure to check back next week for our own FJI festival coverage!

(All summaries courtesy of IMDB.)

Oscar bait:
Clouds of Sils Maria
Potential Category: Best Actress, Juliette Binoche

At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. But back then she played the role of Sigrid, an alluring young girl who disarms and eventually drives her boss Helena to suicide. Now she is being asked to step into the other role, that of the older Helena. She departs with her assistant to rehearse in Sils Maria; a remote region of the Alps. A young Hollywood starlet with a penchant for scandal is to take on the role of Sigrid, and Maria finds herself on the other side of the mirror, face to face with an ambiguously charming woman who is, in essence, an unsettling reflection of herself.

The Imitation Game
Potential Category: Best Picture

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Theory of Everything
Potential Category: Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne

A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.

Foxcatcher
Potential Category: Best Supporting Actor, Steve Carrell

Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont and brother Dave Schultz would lead to unlikely circumstances.

Maps to the Stars
Potential Category: Best Actress, Julianne Moore

The Weiss family is the archetypical Hollywood dynasty: father Stafford is an analyst and coach, who has made a fortune with his self-help manuals; mother Cristina mostly looks after the career of their son Benjie, 13, a child star. One of Stafford's clients, Havana, is an actress who dreams of shooting a remake of the movie that made her mother, Clarice, a star in the 60s. Clarice is dead now and visions of her come to haunt Havana at night... Adding to the toxic mix, Benjie has just come off a rehab program he joined when he was 9 and his sister, Agatha, has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania and befriended a limo driver Jerome who is also an aspiring actor.  

Star vehicles:
The Humbling
Star: Al Pacino

A story set on a farm in upstate New York and centered on the sexual (and otherwise) relationship between an aged, suicidal actor and a younger woman.

St. Vincent
Star: Bill Murray

A young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran who lives next door.    

Men, Women and Children
Star: Entire cast (Emma Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, Ansel Elgort…)

Men, Women and Children follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose - some tragic, some hopeful - as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.

Miss Julie
Star: Jessica Chastain

Over the course of a midsummer night in Fermanagh in 1890, an unsettled daughter of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy encourages her father's valet to seduce her. 

Cake
Star: Jennifer Aniston

The acerbic, hilarious Claire Simmons becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group. As she uncovers the details of Nina's suicide and develops a poignant relationship with Nina's husband, she also grapples with her own, very raw personal tragedy.

Pasolini
Star: Willem Dafoe

A look at the final days of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and the confusion surrounding his death in 1975.

Wild
Star: Reese Witherspoon

A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.

The Cobbler
Star: Adam Sandler

Max Simkin repairs shoes in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Sometimes walking in another man's shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are.  

Notable directors:
Mr. Turner
Director: Mike Leigh

Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. 

Rosewater
Director: Jon Stewart

A journalist is detained in Iran for more than 100 days and brutally interrogated in prison.

 Before We Go
Director: Chris Evans

A woman misses the 1:30 train from New York to Boston snd a street musician spends the night trying to help her make it back home before her husband does. Throughout the night they learn a lot about one another and eventually find a romance.

A Little Chaos
Director: Alan Rickman

Madame Sabine De Barra is an unlikely candidate for the landscape architect of the still-to-be-completed palace of Versailles. She has little time for the classical ordered designs of the man who hires her; the famous architect Le Notre. However, as she works on her creation, she finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Le Notre and forced to negotiate the perilous rivalries and intricate etiquette of the court of King Louis XIV. But Sabine is made of strong stuff; her honesty and compassionate nature help to overcome both the challenges of her newfound popularity, and an unspeakable tragedy from her past, to win the favor of the Sun King and the heart of Le Notre. 

Goodbye to Language 3D
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

The idea is simple: A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them. The other is in one, the one is in the other and they are three. The former husband shatters everything. A second film begins: the same as the first, and yet not. From the human race we pass to metaphor. This ends in barking and a baby's cries. In the meantime, we will have seen people talking of the demise of the dollar, of truth in mathematics and of the death of a robin.

Foreign:
Winter Sleep
Country: Turkey

Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities... 

Force Majeure
Country: Sweden

A Swedish family travels to the French Alps to enjoy a few days of skiing. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during a lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With diners fleeing in all directions, mother Ebba calls for her husband Tomas as she tries to protect their children. Tomas, meanwhile, is running for his life... The anticipated disaster failed to occur, and yet the family's world has been shaken to its core, a question mark hanging over their father in particular. Tomas and Ebba's marriage now hangs in the balance as Tomas struggles desperately to reclaim his role as family patriarch.

1001 Grams
Country: Norway

When Norwegian scientist Marie attends a seminar in Paris on the actual weight of a kilo, it is her own measurement of disappointment, grief and, not least, love, that ends up on the scale.

Mommy
Country: Canada

A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.

Two Days, One Night
Country: Belgium

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

Wild Tales
Country: Argentina

A story about love deception, the return of the past, a tragedy, or even the violence contained in an everyday detail, appear themselves to push them towards the abyss, into the undeniable pleasure of losing control.

Animated:
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

An old man makes a living by selling bamboo. One day, he finds a princess in a bamboo. The princess is only the size of a finger. Her name is Kaguya. When Kaguya grows up, 5 men from prestigious families propose to her. Kaguya asks the men to find memorable marriage gifts for her, but the 5 men are unable to find what Kaguya wants. Then, the Emperor of Japan proposes to her.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

Inspired by the classic book by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet is an animated feature film, with "chapters" from animation directors from around the world. 

Other notables:
Bang Bang Baby

The Look of Silence