The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has become the launching pad for the very best in international, Hollywood and Canadian cinema. We sent one of our film programmers to Canada to hunt for the finest upcoming films – with a cheeky bit of celebrity spotting on the side.
For those of us not lucky enough to be there, here are a few of our programmer’s highlights of the festival, along with some 2014 Oscar predictions.
‚Ä¢ Key themes and genres
One particular genre that stood out at this year’s festival was that of biographical films or bio-pics. Films that dramatised the lives of an actual person or group of people included Mr Turner, Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Mary Kom and Pawn Sacrifice.
‚Ä¢ The most hyped films
The Opening Night film The Judge was definitely the most highly anticipated flick in the lead up to the festival. Directed by David Dobkin, the film tells the story of a big city lawyer (Robert Downey, Jr.) who returns to his childhood home where his father (Robert Duvall) is suspected of murder. Although the film has its flaws, featuring several hopeless clichés and an accustomed family plotline, Downey Jr and Duvall’s compelling performances, make it an enjoyable watch.
Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game also had the festival abuzz, both on ground and in the Twittersphere, and was eventually voted the People’s Choice. This biopic drama centres on an English mathematician, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who helped crack the ‚ÄòEnigma’ code during World War II. Rumour has it Cumberbatch is already pressing his tux for a certain well known award ceremony in March next year.
‚Ä¢ Best performance
Jennifer Aniston takes the cake for her portrayal as a chronic pain sufferer in Daniel Barnz’s Cake. Pun intended. Although Aniston is typically associated with comedic roles, she truly shakes things up in this film by transforming into Claire Simmons – a grief stricken, middle aged drug addict. Her dramatic performance is raw, compelling and emotional.
‚Ä¢ Film you can’t stop talking about
The UK thriller Hyena took me completely by surprise. Writer-director Gerard Johnson’s feature is best described as a mix of Bad Lieutenant and Drive – a highly stylised study of a corrupt cop trying to do a good thing but screwing it up along the way. Bloody, gory and exciting viewing.
‚Ä¢ Celebrity spotting
SPOTTED: Steve Carrell eating a hotdog on the side of the road. No pictures but trust me – he was there! Other sightings included Robert Downey Jr, Channing Tatum, Jon Stewart, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jennifer Anniston, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Kristen Stewart – just to name a few.
‚Ä¢ Oscar predictions post TIFF
Richard Linklater’s ground-breaking drama Boyhood has made huge waves in the film industry this year, making it a very strong contender for Best Picture. From the programme at this year’s TIFF, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game and James Marsh’s bioipic about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, are also both in the race.
Steve Carrel’s chilling performance as a schizophrenic millionaire in Foxcatcher might just earn him his first Oscar. Benedict Cumerback is also another solid contender for the award, blowing audiences away with his remarkable portrayal of a socially inept genius in The Imitation Game.
We’d put money on Reese Witherspoon taking out the Best Actress Oscar for her career-defining role as a struggling heroin addict in Jean-Maarc Vallee’s drama, Wild.