Most buzzed about TIFF films 0
Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from Argo. (Handout)
At 37, the Toronto International Film Festival is in the prime of life.
There are extraordinary riches awaiting any patron willing to take risks. But negotiating the film fest is still a wild gamble -- like playing blackjack -- that depends on your tastes, your time and available tickets.
There are 289 feature-length films and 82 shorts to choose from. I have seen only a small fraction at this point, mostly at the Cannes Film Festival in May. With other films, there is a buzz building. Some titles are just intriguing, because of the pedigree of the filmmakers and/or the complexity of the subject matter. So here is my very personal and idiosyncratic list of 21 films I am excited about at TIFF 2012. The list literally goes from A to Z:
German-born, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke is an exacting craftsman. While most of his films are intellectual exercises lacking passion, this one -- set in a rambling old apartment in Paris -- is emotionally intense. Haneke intimately examines the lives of an elderly couple facing the abyss. This masterpiece won the Palme d'Or as best film at Cannes.
American movie star Ben Affleck exercises his directorial muscle once more after excellent work on Gone Baby Gone and The Town. This time, he directs and stars in a dramatized account of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, one of Canada's finest moments in the annals of international espionage.
Eager young Canadian filmmakers often test boundaries -- which is what Nova Scotia's Jason Buxton does in this drama about a teenager who utters an on-line threat and ignites community panic about a possible Columbine incident.
The French novel is 330 years old but Choderlos de Laclos' approach to romantic entanglements is still fresh. Now we get the Chinese version (and the fifth film adaptation). This one stars gorgeous Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi.
DIAL M FOR MURDER
Alfred Hitchcock's taut 1954 thriller has been restored again. For the second time, TIFF screens it in the original 3D format, but today's digital technology should make the experience even better.
FAR OUT ISN'T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOM UNGERER STORY
Subversive artist Tom Ungerer is reason enough to be interested in this doc. But my pal Jeff Dowd (inspiration for The Dude in The Big Lebowski) says this is "a wonderful film." Nuff said.
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg is back on the top of his game with an engrossing film starring Mads Mikkelsen. He plays a man wrongly accused of child abuse, with devastating results in his village.
Quebec's impossibly talented Xavier Dolan, still only 23, presents his third feature. Dolan dares to be different with a love story involving a transgendered protagonist.
I felt giddy watching excerpts from Quebec filmmaker Manon Briand's nifty-looking drama. Now I need the whole experience. It's the story of a coat-check girl, a romance and criminal machinations.
P.T. Anderson has made just two films in 10 years. There Will be Blood was a startling revelation five years ago. Now insiders are speculating on Oscar possibilities for this post-WWII saga. At least metaphorically, it may deal with the founding of the Church of Scientology.
Shooting in secret in Sri Lanka to avoid protests by extremists, Canada's Deepa Mehta has finally brought Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel to the screen. Rushdie himself pared down his novel's 600-plus pages into a workable script.
THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY
Eccentric genius Slavoj Zizek reunites with filmmaker Sophie Fiennes, who insinuates him back into the world of cinema, this time giving film clips a philosophical spin.
While it looks trashy, with Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and friends as bikini-clad petty criminals, the movie grabs your attention through its creator. Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy) is an American provocateur.
TO THE WONDER
Legendary director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) continues his current hectic filmmaking pace. Yet each new film remains slow and melancholic. This time it's a love story involving Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams.
Costa-Gavras' Z, the story of the Algerian War of Independence, is one the greatest political thrillers ever made. Now we see behind the conflict with Said Ould-Khelifa's meticulously researched story of Ahmed Zabana, a militant whom the French guillotined in 1956, galvanizing the resistance movement.
The plot points for this unlikely international collaboration are dizzying. But Susan Sarandon, who has a small support role, says that this movie has enormous promise, based on her brief glimpses at the work of German Tom Tykwer (Run Lola run) and American siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix).
London-born Irish playwright Martin McDonagh is a bloody genius. His last feature film, In Bruges, is a criminal masterpiece. So I expect nothing less from this crazy new opus, with Colin Farrell back and a great support cast that includes Christoper Walken and Sam Rockwell (below right with Farrell).
RUST AND BONE
Achingly beautiful, uncompromising, fascinating -- Jacques Audiard's French film about the relationship between two unlikely lovers catches you off-guard. Plus it has Canadian roots. Audiard was inspired by Ontario author Craig Davidson's short story. Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (pictured above) are Oscar-calibre.
I love crazy animation and this one looks enormously entertaining. I would also love to love an Adam Sandler flick for a change (given how bad his live-action movies are lately). Sandler voices Dracula.
After working with her on another film, Donald Sutherland extolled the virtues of Keira Knightley's talent, telling me he thought her transformational powers are exceptional. She does it again, heading towards an Oscar nom, in Joe Wright's remake of the Tolstoy story.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
Bill Murray (above) is being touted as an Oscar contender for his performance as FDR in a drama about what happened, especially on a personal level, when Britain's King George VI visited the U.S. with the Queen Mother in 1939.