TIFF 2014 preview: Godard, Cronenberg, and a very creepy Jake Gyllenhaal highlight the fest



A still from "Maps to the Stars"

 

The Toronto International Film Festival is less than a month away, and a look at the lineup (so far, anyway) brings forth lots of questions. These are questions not about what’s playing, but what’s missing.

 

Where is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and David Fincher’s Gone Girl? October’s New York Film Festival. How about Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman? August’s Venice Film Festival. Happily, a few high-caliber Cannes 2014 hits, including the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night and Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria, were late additions to the TIFF lineup.

 

As the addition of the latter two films indicates, knee-jerk responses following the initial announcement of films often look silly in retrospect. After all, I wrote the following one year ago:

“Missing in action (so far): There is still lots of time for more announcements … But some I’m still hoping to see added are Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (it is playing Venice), and Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man. Also missing, so far, are three of the best-reviewed films at Cannes: the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Robert Redford in All Is Lost, and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.”

 

None of those films were added. In fact, two of them — Zero and Wanted — were not released in 2013 at all. Meanwhile, Oldboy was a critical and commercial disaster, and while Llewyn Davis, All Is Lost, and Nebraska found favor with critics (and me), this trio did not have the impact of a film that did play TIFF, and won the Oscar for Best Picture: Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

 

So no need to fret. And part of the fun this year will be seeing which films come out of nowhere to capture audience and critical buzz. Here are the 10 films I’m most excited to see:

 

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy: I’m a bit late to the Dolan party, having just watched I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, and Laurence Anyways. I am still kicking myself over missing the still-unreleased Tom at the Farm at TIFF 2013; I don’t plan on missing his recent Cannes Film Festival smash.

 

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler: Last year, Jake Gyllenhaal brought two very different, very strong films to TIFF: Prisoners and Enemy. This year, he stars in Nightcrawler, and from the looks of it, this is his creepiest, most unhinged role to date.

 

Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher: Wildly acclaimed at Cannes, this Steve Carell-Channing Tatum starrer has been at the center of Oscar chatter for months.

 

David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars: One of my favorite TIFF memories was attending the first Toronto critics’ screening of Cronenberg’s underrated A Dangerous Method. Maps, the Canadian master’s latest film, looks like his most gloriously wild in some time. While the early raves focus on Julianne Moore’s performance, I’m most excited to see Mia Wasikowska’s role in this Hollywood-skewering satire.

 

David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn: Green rebounded from some dodgy years (The Sitter?) with Prince Avalanche and last year’s TIFF entry Joe. Al Pacino stars in Manglehorn, and Green plus Pacino is certainly intriguing.

 

Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children: I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I liked Reitman’s Labor Day at TIFF 2013 — at least, at first. The more I pondered it in the months that followed, the more preposterous it seemed. His films often tend to grow weaker upon reflection (Juno, Up in the Air). I know little about his new film, except the cast, which includes Jennifer Garner and Adam Sandler (!). This time, Reitman has something to prove.

 

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner: A Best Actor nomination for Timothy Spall seems all but assured following Turner’s reviews in Cannes. Leigh rarely lets us down, and painter J. M. W. Turner seems an ideal subject.

 

Jon Stewart’s Rosewater: Can the host of The Daily Show find himself in the Oscar race. The plot of his directorial debut starring No’s Gael Garcia Bernal certainly sounds award-worthy: it’s the true story of an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was imprisoned for five months by the Iranian government.

 

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young: Baumbach’s last film, the TIFF premiere Frances Ha, was utterly enchanting. This time, he brings his Greenberg star Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, and Frances’s Adam Driver. That might be his finest cast to date.

 

Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D: Is Goodbye Godard’s late-late period masterpiece? And is it really his goodbye? The answer to the former is probably, the answer to the latter is probably not. Either way, this earned the director some of his strongest reviews in decades at Cannes.

 

As for the rest, there is Cumberbatch-y Oscar bait (The Imitation Game), some WTFs (the Amanda Knox drama The Face of an Angel, Kevin Smith’s man-turned-into-a-walrus horror romp Tusk), and, of course, Francois Ozon (The New Girlfriend).

 

I’ll be there to see as much as I can from Friday, September 5 through Sunday, September 7. You can follow my updates at Twitter.com/FilmSwoon, and look  for my post-TIFF recap in the November issue of Buffalo Spree.

 

For more on the festival, visit tiff.net.

 

 

 

Christopher Schobert writes about film for Buffalo Spree, the Buffalo News, Indiewire’s The Playlist, The Film Stage, and FilmSwoon.com.

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