5 Notable Films from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
Since its inception in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) reputation for exhibiting Awards Season contenders has grown exponentially. It is one of the most prestigious festivals in the world, as well as one of the largest in North America. Held each year in early September, TIFF screens some of Hollywood’s most buzz worthy films. The 2015 festival, TIFF’s 40th anniversary, wrapped this past Sunday, September 20th. It is no quaint festival, with almost 400 films screened. For those of us who did not get the distinct pleasure of attending this year’s festival, and perhaps even for those who did (Because the odds of being able to see every film screened are slim to nil), I have compiled a short list of five notable titles from this year’s TIFF. These are just a few of the films from TIFF 2015 that not only look great, but could also prove worthy of distinction in the coming race to the Oscars.
As a fan of director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners and Enemy (No matter how strange and misunderstood the latter may be), I feel somewhat biased including Sicario on this list. But, having opened to mostly positive reviews from critics (a highly respectable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes), Sicario seems to stand on its own merit. The film is proving to be a vehicle propelling lead Emily Blunt into the Awards Season, with early speculation of a probable Best Lead Actress nod from the Academy. In Sicario, Blunt portrays an idealistic FBI agent sent to the frontline of the War on Drugs, the U.S. and Mexico border, where she leads a task force enlisted to find a wanted drug cartel. Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Victor Garber join Blunt in what Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers calls, “A gripping and tension-packed spin through America’s covert War on Drugs.” Sicario is now playing in select theaters.
Auteur director Ridley Scott returns to space with The Martian, this time erring on the side of hard science fiction rather than fantasy. Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead during an expedition to Mars, but miraculously survives and must stay alive on the desolate planet long enough for his team to mount a rescue mission. Based on the novel of the same name, authored by Andy Weir, The Martian boasts an all-star cast, led by Matt Damon who portrays the stranded astronaut. After its world premiere at TIFF, the film has enjoyed almost unanimously positive reviews thus far (97% on Rotten Tomatoes, though there is considerable opportunity for this to fluctuate before its domestic release). The Martian is one of the fall’s most hotly anticipated releases, as well as somewhat of a comeback for Scott, whose past several films have felt rather underwhelming (Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Counselor, and Prometheus come to mind). You can check out The Martian when it lands in theaters Friday, October 2nd, 2015.
Michael Caine seems a likely bet for a Best Actor nomination from the Academy for Youth, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and screened in TIFF’s Special Presentations section. Caine portrays a retired orchestra conductor vacationing in the Alps with his friend, a respected film director played by Harvey Keitel. Youth is being likened to the works of famed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, with its stunning cinematography and musings on life. Todd McCarthy, film critic for Hollywood Reporter, writes that, “Youth is a voluptuary’s feast, a full-body immersion in the sensory pleasures of cinema.” Youth will be released in the U.S. on Friday, December 4th, 2015.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is a story of a man’s quest for love with a dystopian twist. Colin Farrell plays David who is sent to “The Hotel” where he must find love within 45 days, lest he be turned into an animal and released into the wild. Talk about pressure. The Lobster’s premise sounds hilarious, but it looks to have struck a healthy balance between comedy and drama. Farrell’s performance seems to be a highlight of the film, harkening back to some of his best work (I’m an unapologetic fan of In Bruges). The oddity that is The Lobster has so far won over critics (It currently sits at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize. The Lobster will premiere in the U.S. at the New York Film Festival, but has yet to receive a theatrical release date stateside.
TIFF is not a competitive festival, and thus has no jury. It does however give out a highly coveted prize, the People’s Choice Award, which is voted on by TIFF attendees. Winners of the People’s Choice Award often go on to be major contenders during Awards Season. This year, the people voted, and TIFF honored Lenny Abrahamson’s Room with its main award. The film stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as a mother and son respectively, who escape captivity but struggle to adjust to a life of freedom. Joan Allen and William H. Macy also star, and the film’s performances are being hailed by critics and viewers alike. Be prepared to wipe away tears, as this is no light drama. You can experience The Room for yourself when it is released on October 16th, 2015, and expect recognition for Larson and Tremblay this winter.
Founded in 1998, the BlueCat Screenplay Competition seeks to develop and discover unknown screenwriters. For 2016 BlueCat Screenplay Competition submission information, click here.