- Published on Thursday, September 13 2012
- Written by Sarah Osman
The Toronto Film Festival, one of the most well-known film fests in the world, is going on yet again -- and there are some very promising-looking films emerging from it. Over 300 films are premiering during the festival, and here are my top ten picks for the most interesting ones to see:
Directed by Ben Affleck, Argo tells a true life story that seems as though it could only happen in the movies. Set during the militant storming of the U.S. embassy in 1979, Argo focuses on six Americans who manage to slip away, and the bold plan that a CIA “exfiltration” specialist comes up with to rescue them. The film boasts some truly powerful players; in addition to Affleck, who plays the specialist, Argo features John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and Kyle Chandler. Argo’s plot -- in which Affleck’s character, Mendez, attempts to smuggle the American escapees out of Iran as crew members for a fake science fiction film -- is truly bizarre, and even more bizarre when you consider the fact that this actually happened. Could Argo be a top Oscar contender? Quite possibly. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Cranston’s performance. When Cranston plays meth kingpin Walter White on “Breaking Bad”, you want to despise him; yet at the same time, you feel a strange sympathy for White, and it takes a truly gifted actor to make such a twisted character sympathetic. It will be interesting to see what Cranston brings to the table in Argo, where he portrays one of Mendez’s bosses in the CIA. (Argo opens in theaters October 12.)
The opening film of the festival garnered a ton of praise from critics, and for good reasons. Looper focuses on the idea that, in the future, time travel is illegal and only available on the black market. When the mafia needs to complete a hit, they will send the victim back in time to a “looper” -- in this case, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- to take care of it. But when Gordon-Levitt realizes that one of his hits is a future version of himself (Bruce Willis), he has no choice but to -- literally -- come to terms with himself. Directed by little known director Rian Johnson, who helmed the indie hit also starring Gordon-Levitt, Brick, Looper manages to not only ask thought provoking questions about heroism, but it also manages to give the concept of time travel a fresh new look. Personally, I’m intrigued to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt made up to look like a young Bruce Willis -- because that is one combination I never thought I would see in the future! (Looper opens in theaters September 28.)
3. Silver Linings Playbook
Based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper), who, after being released from a mental hospital, has literally lost everything. When he strikes up a friendship with a mysterious girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Pat is delighted to hear that Tiffany will help him reconnect with his wife -- but only if he agrees to help her out in return. The result is an unexpected and extremely intense bond. While Cooper is fantastic as Pat, it’s Lawrence who steals the show; her performance has already garnered Oscar buzz. And don’t rule out Robert De Niro’s chances of scoring an Oscar nod -- his turn as Cooper’s father yearning to get close to his son is truly incredible. The film was directed by David O. Russell, and will open in theaters on November 21.
4. Cloud Atlas
Critics have been extremely divided on the film adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed novel, Cloud Atlas. And while some absolutely loved it and others detested it, many seem to agree that the film is at the very least ambitious. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, Cloud Atlas has six different plotlines as it examines how the actions and consequences of one individual affects others. Directed by three different directors -- Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski -- the film sounds a bit like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. I have a feeling that if you are a fan of Malick’s, or films with overreaching plots (another example that comes to mind is Inception), there is a high chance that you will probably like Cloud Atlas. However, if you are not the biggest fan of Malick’s rather esoteric style, or simply films with a rather loose plot, you may not like Cloud Atlas. On the other hand, the film does apparently have Hugh Grant dressed up as cannibal, so that fact right there catches my interest. (Cloud Atlas opens in theaters October 26.)
5. Ginger & Rosa
Elle Fanning is truly the star of director Sally Potter’s tale of growing up amid family turmoil and the threat of a nuclear crisis in 1962. In the film, Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa are the best of friends -- they discuss religion, sex, politics, and dream of being more than their mothers' forced domesticity. But as time wears on, and as the Cold War and the Sexual Revolution cross paths, Ginger and Rosa’s friendship is truly tested. The film also stars Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Oliver Platt, Timothy Spall, and Annette Bening. The film is blunt, raw, and in your face -- as is Fanning’s performance. It’s truly remarkable to note that she was just 13 when Ginger & Rosa was being filmed.
6. The Gatekeepers
If you have ever wanted to see a startling expose of the Israeli intelligence agency, Shin Bet, then this is the movie for you. The Gatekeepers focuses on a handful of former Shin Bet heads who explain detailed secret operations, interrogation techniques, targeted assignations, and the association's successes and failures. The film is sure to garner a ton of controversy; I’m predicting that this may be the most controversial film of the entire festival. Despite the Shin Bet’s controversial acts, director Dror Moreh manages to humanize each one of them; every time they confess to a murder, there is a moment of regret and sorrow. (The Gatekeepers will open in theaters next year.)
7. Stories We Tell
By far the most unorthodox film of the festival, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell attempts to investigate her family’s history in her latest film/documentary. I admire Polley’s bravery to essentially unleash all of her and her family’s private business to the world, and to do so in a classy and thoughtful manner. The film, which primarily focuses on Polley’s parents, is reminiscent of her previous two films, both of which focus deeply on intimacy and intrigue. It will be interesting to see if Polley’s cross between documentary and autobiography takes off, and, if so, exactly how far this fusion genre can go.
8. Frances Ha
Directed by Noah Baumbach, the mind behind the brilliant-yet-underrated The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha focuses on a scrappy misfit heroine (Greta Gerwig) who attempts to make it in New York City. Also co-written by Gerwig (who also happens to be Baumbach’s real life girlfriend), the film is filled with cringe-worthy moments that will make you laugh out loud. The film reminds me a bit of Lena Dunham’s series, “Girls”, as you want to root for both leads yet slap both of them at the same time. Shot entirely in black and white, Frances Ha gives New York a nice nostalgic feel, and the soundtrack helps add to the film’s offbeat humor. (Frances Ha opens in limited theaters October 25.)
9. Thanks for Sharing
How many times has someone begun to tell you intimate details of their sex life, and you have been left cringing? If this has not happened to you, then Thanks for Sharing will be a bit of a new experience for you. Directed by Stuart Blumberg (one of the co-writers for The Kids are All Right), the film focuses on three different men coping with sex addiction. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, and P!nk (in a surprisingly believable turn as a sex addict), Thanks for Sharing tackles sex in a frank yet hilarious manner that, if you have had someone begin to share too much, you will truly appreciate.
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chobsky did a masterful job of adapting his own book into a screenplay. The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), who, after being instutionalized after the death of his best friend, begins to gain high school confidence when he meets two quirky outcasts, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). The film is truly a love letter to the early-'90s -- from references to Smiths songs to mix tapes, from flannels to pleated skirts, The Perks of Being a Wallflower does for the '90s what John Hughes did for the '80s. And while the film is a bit darker than a Hughes movie, its wit, focus on friendship, and coming of age story is as relatable as one of Hughes's classics (The Breakfast Club is the one that jumps out to me in particular). (The Perks of Being a Wallflower opens September 21 in theaters).
Which movie are YOU most looking forward to seeing?
- Sarah Osman, YH Staff