TIFF 2016: The Return

Yesterday the Toronto International Film Festival announced the first slate of films that will screen during the festival, from September 8-18. This is only the first wave of titles, and TIFF 2016 is already a doozy. I don’t even know where to begin sorting out the schedule. I guess with the opening night film which is The Magnificent Seven remake starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. Since it’s the opening film, it’ll get a big splashy premiere which means Washington and Pratt will be on hand to promote the film. For some reason I thought this movie came out next month—it seems like a summer movie—but instead The Magnificent Seven will be the official kick-off of Oscar season, which is interesting as it isn’t a contender.

The closing night film is Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen, which I hope screens while I’m in town during the first week of the festival. Like last year, I’ll be binging on movies and writing as many reviews as possible in one week—I hope I don’t lose my phone at the airport this time—and this is one I really hope I can see. It’s not just Lainey—the trailer totally won me over, too.

There are a TON of Oscar hopefuls at TIFF this year, and while the festival circuit will undoubtedly weed out the weak links, there are some movies that come in with the kind of pedigrees you have to take seriously, such as Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, the sci-fi alien movie that stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. (I wonder if they got paid the same on this movie?)

September is tough on the festival circuit because TIFF, Telluride, and Venice all occur in the same month, and distributors and fest organizers have a delicate dance working out what premieres where. On the festival side, they want exclusive premieres, but distributors want the most notice/biggest award bump. You can tell how things get prioritized by the type of premiere a film is having. Arrival, for instance, is marked as a “Canadian” premiere, which means it will have its world premiere in Venice, then its North American premiere in Telluride, then screen at TIFF. That’s maximum fest exposure, so somebody thinks Arrival could be a real contender.

Speaking of, Harvey Weinstein is already talking up Lion, which stars Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. He gave it a prime Thanksgiving release date, and thinks it could be nominated for “eight or nine” Oscars. That sounds like a dare. Another heavy hitter is Manchester by the Sea, which could be Casey Affleck’s ticket to his first leading actor Oscar nomination. Can’t wait to see Casey work his game at TIFF. Will anyone have time for that sh*t when Nate Parker is just around the corner?

Some films look great, like Damian Chazelle’s La La Land, and others look okay, like Oliver Stone’s Snowden, and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, American Pastoral—  to be fair, early accounts say it’s VERY good—but how do those movies stack up in a year that’s going to be dominated by the Academy trying to course-correct from #OscarSoWhite? And then there’s stuff like Mark Wahlberg’s latest hero fantasy, Deepwater Horizon, which doesn’t even look good at all. At least Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ewan McGregor are true entertainers who ought to make their TIFF press fun. But I can’t imagine sitting through anything Marky Mark is doing if you could be literally anywhere else at TIFF.

You can see the reverberation of #OscarSoWhite in the number of films about women and people of color screening at TIFF. Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation will be a HUGE magnet for attention, but Lupita Nyong’o will also be on hand, along with director Mira Nair, to support Queen of Katwe, and David Oyelowo stars in Amma Asante’s new film, A United Kingdom. That could very well be three of the ten lead actor nominees in 2017 right there. And I don’t know about her Oscar odds (she said, sarcastically), but Blake Lively will bring her travelling fashion show to support All I See Is You. That movie is about a blind woman regaining her sight and I choose to believe it’s a sequel to the Val Kilmer movie At First Sight.

This is just barely scratching the surface of TIFF 2016, and they still have more movies to announce. But this slate makes two things clear: 1) Oscar season 2017 is going to be VERY competitive, and 2) TIFF will be packed to the gills with major celebrities. It’s like every film has at least one major name attached. There will be Fashion! And Stars! And more movies than any one person could see, but I will try very hard to see them all anyway! Are you ready for award season? It’s almost here.


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