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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sean Kelly

TIFF11: Thoughts on the First Batch

Once again it is time to get excited for the Toronto International Film Festival.  It is always my favourite time of the year and this year marks my ninth time attending the festival.

Today saw the announcement of the first batch of films, in either the Gala or Special Presentations programmes.  While some could have been easily predicted, others were quite surprising.

Here are some of the standouts that were announced (you can see the full list here).

50/50 - Jonathan Levine, USA (Special Presentations)
This is actually a film I correctly predicted would be selected for the film festival.   It has all the right ingredients: Well-known stars (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen), a dramedy plot (Levitt gets cancer), an up-an-coming indie director (Jonathan Levine, The Wackness), and a planned fall release date.  This will definitely be one I'd be interested in checking out.

Anonymous - Roland Emmerich, Germany (Special Presentations)
If there is one selection that I'm still trying to put my head around, it is this one.  To most people, Roland Emmerich is known as the master of disaster films and he is typically frowned upon by "serious" cinephiles.  However, he changes things up with his latest film, which is a period thriller about the supposed true author of Shakespeare's plays.  This is already one of my top picks for the festival.

A Dangerous Method - David Cronenberg, France/Ireland/United Kingdom/Germany/Canada (Gala Presentations)
Despite being scooped up as the opening film of the Venice Film Festival (which occurs just before TIFF), David Cronenberg's latest film should still end up being one of the biggest films of TIFF.  With this period drama about Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, you can definitely tell that Cronenberg has come a long way from the low-budget horror films he began with.  That said, I'm sure this film will still feature some of the themes from his earlier films.

The Descendants - Alexander Payne, USA (Special Presentations)
It's been a full seven years since Alexander Payne's last film Sideways and with George Clooney in the lead, this film should definitely be one of the highlights of the festival.

Drive - Nicolas Winding Refn, USA (Special Presentations)
I only first heard of this film in the last week or so, but it does seem like it will be an interesting film to see.

From the Sky Down - Davis Guggenheim, USA (Gala Presentations)
For the first time ever, the opening night Gala at TIFF will be a documentary - about none other than U2.  Definitely an interesting pick.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home - Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, USA (Special Presentations)
Most would know the Duplass brothers from their involvement in the mumblecore film movement and films, such as The Puffy Chair and Baghead.  Last year, they started to move more mainstream with Cyrus and that move continues with this film, starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms.  I will definitely try to check this one out.

Melancholia - Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany (Special Presentations)
This film made headlines at Cannes, but it was more about Lars von Trier's controversial comments at the press conference, which got him banned from the festival.  I'm glad that controversy didn't prevent the film from coming to TIFF, since it does look to be one of von Trier's more accessible films.

Moneyball - Bennett Miller, USA (Gala Presentations)
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in a baseball dramedy.  Interesting.

Pearl Jam Twenty - Cameron Crowe, USA (Special Presentations)
It's kind of funny that there are not one, but two, rock documentaries at the festival this year.  This one is directed by Cameron Crowe, who is definitely known for his love of music, and it would be interesting to check out.

Take This Waltz - Sarah Polley, Canada (Gala Presentations)
Sarah Polley comes to TIFF with her second directorial effort (following 2006's Away from Her), and with the likes of Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in the cast, it definitely seems to be a star-studded affair.

Twixt - Francis Ford Coppola, USA (Special Presentations)
In the most interest film he's made in years, Francis Ford Coppola comes to TIFF with a full-on horror film, inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  Sign me up!

W.E. - Madonna, UK (Gala Presentations)
A film directed by Madonna. Interesting.

Well, that's my rundown of the standout picks announced today for TIFF.  There are still plenty of films to be announced over the next month or so (I'm personally looking forward to the midnight madness line-up).  As such, you can definitely expect more of these rundowns in the very near future.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).