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Over the course of its 44-year run, the Toronto International Film Festival has proved itself to be a barometer for awards season success. An impressive 25 TIFF People’s Choice Award winners have gone on to win or be nominated for Oscars the following year — which is why film fans keep a close eye on what does well at the Festival each fall.
This year’s Canadian celebration of cinema begins September 5th, but before the first movie has even screened, the buzz about what’s going to be a big deal is already circulating. Here are the titles to look out for at TIFF — and at the awards shows this winter.
By now, you’d have to be living off the grid to not have heard about Hangover director Todd Phillips new take on the Joker origin story. With heavyweight actor Joaquin Phoenix in the lead, this one is bound to be on the shortlist for awards season recognition — which is very cool considering that Heath Ledger won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn as the character back in 2009.
The Academy has previously shown some love for Natalie Portman (and for her 2010 TIFF debut in Black Swan no less). Could this be yet another opportunity? In Lucy in the Sky (a Reese Witherspoon production) Portman’s character struggles with a return to her life on Earth after travelling beyond its borders. Jon Hamm and Zazie Beetz also star in this one.
Taika Waititi is long overdue for some serious Academy attention. The writer/director is the genius behind TIFF 2014 selection, What We Do In The Shadows and a handful of episodes of Flight of the Conchords. Oh yeah — he also directed Thor: Ragnarok. His latest, a WWII satire, stars Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, and the director himself… as Adolf Hitler. Intrigued much?
The hilarious Death of Stalin played the Festival back in 2017 and ended up snagging a pair of BAFTA nominations (you know, the Oscars for British people). This year, its director Armando Ianucci is back with a take (but more likely a twist) on a Dickens classic. The film has a cast that can’t be beat, including Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw. Doctor Who and Game of Thrones fans, get in line now.
Awards show voters can’t resist a biopic but this one features one of America’s best-loved actors playing one of the world’s best-loved children’s show hosts. Tom Hanks + Mr. Rogers is perhaps the most powerful Oscars elixir ever concocted. And the industry will get its first dose at TIFF 2019.
The Cannes Film Festival has seen fit to award Antonio Banderas its Best Actor award for his role in director Pedro Almodovar’s latest drama, Pain and Glory. The film focuses on the oft-mocked midlife existential crisis of the successful male — and it’s up to Banderas to make us sympathize with his character. We love (watching someone else take on) a monumental challenge.
You know her — and you loved her at first sight. Ladybird and Booksmart actor Beanie Feldstein is set to play Monica Lewinski in American Crime Story’s upcoming season. But before that, her latest film will make a stop in Toronto. How to Build a Girl is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by journalist Caitlyn Moran and set in the best time period ever: the ‘90s, obviously. Feldstein’s co-stars include Alfie Allen and Emma Thompson.