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The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off Oscar season each year. Here are the movies and stars to keep an eye on during the annual event, which kicks off Sept. 7.
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The Children Act
In this adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2014 novel, directed by Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal), Emma Thompson portrays Fiona Maye, a High Court judge in the United Kingdom. She is tasked with deciding the fate of a gravely ill 17-year-old (Dunkirk's Fionn Whitehead) whose religious faith prevents him from accepting a lifesaving blood transfusion.
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The Leisure Seeker
Just try to imagine a better road-trip pairing than Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. The beloved veteran actors—who appeared as a married pair in 1990's Bethune: The Making of a Hero—play an elderly couple who take off in an RV named the Leisure Seeker (natch) and go looking for some golden-years adventures as they travel from Boston to Key West. (Spoiler: They find some.)
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Killing of a Sacred Deer
Nicole Kidman continues her stellar 2017 run, this time with the director of The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, and that 2015 film's star, Colin Farrell. In this biting psychological thriller, she plays the wife of a surgeon (Farrell) who's taken a teenage boy under his wing. Also keep an eye out for a breakthrough performance by Barry Keoghan, who played the doomed lad on the civilian boat in Dunkirk.
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The Mountain Between Us
Sure, it might sound sort of nice to get stranded somewhere with Idris Elba, but not like this: Elba and Kate Winslet are two strangers who must band together and try to survive the frozen wilderness thousands of feet above civilization after their small plane crashes into a snowcapped mountain. Hany Abu-Assad (Omar) directs.
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The inspiring story of reluctant hero Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, is brought to the big screen by director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express). Jake Gyllenhaal ably tackles both the emotional and physical challenges of the role — to say nothing of the local accent — with Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany offering support as Bauman's girlfriend.
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Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
This unusual 1970s-set love story between Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and her much younger boyfriend (Jamie Bell) is adapted from Peter Turner's memoir. Expect this one to enter the festival with plenty of awards chatter for both Bening and Bell, and to leave with deafening buzz.
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Ben Stiller finds himself in the throes of a midlife crisis in this bittersweet comedy from writer-director Mike White (the gone-too-soon Enlightened). Brad (Stiller) visits the city of his youth with his son and can't help but compare himself with his seemingly more successful friends — played by Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Jemaine Clement — and reassess his place in the world.
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Elle Fanning, 19, continues her ascension into Hollywood's upper echelon with this Romantic-with-a-capital-R tale of the love affair between Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), which led to her writing the classic, Frankenstein. Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, and Stephen Dillane costar, and Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour directs.
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Jessica Chastain, whose movies seem to arrive in bundles, toplines two titles this year: In Molly's Game, the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, she plays a world-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive poker game. And in Susanna White's Woman Walks Ahead, she stars as Catherine Weldon, who moved to Standing Rock Reservation to help Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull. What can't Chastain do?
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Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Consider him the man behind the woman: Wonder Woman, that is. Luke Evans digs deep playing 1940s psychologist William Moulton Marston — responsible for the creation of the feminist comic-book shero. The film explores the unconventional relationships between him, his wife (Rebecca Hall), and their mutual romantic partner (Bella Heathcoate).
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Move over, The Crown; there are some new Churchills to praise. Gary Oldman unsurprisingly disappears into the skin of the British prime minister in this film set during the turbulent period when Nazi Germany's war machine stood at Great Britain's doorstep. But also watch for the superb Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) to capture true British grit and grace, playing the woman who knew and loved Winston best: his wife, Clementine. Director Joe Wright (Atonement) certainly knows his way around 20th-century British period epics.
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Call Me By Your Name
Ever since Luca Guadagnino's (A Bigger Splash) gorgeous adaptation of André Aciman's coming-of-age novel premiered at the Sundance Film Festival eight months ago, critics have been waxing poetic about its charms. Expect most of the ink to go to Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar). The 21-year-old gives a career-making performance as a teenager who falls under the spell of the older, charismatic academic (Armie Hammer) staying at his family's Italian home.
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A Fantastic Woman
This drama from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) tells the story of a transgender woman left alone to navigate hostile family relations after her older boyfriend dies. The Spanish-language movie wowed at the Berlin Film Festival in February — and attention is swirling around actress Daniela Vega, whose shattering performance certainly lives up to the film's title.
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Idie darling Greta Gerwig has codirected with Joe Swanberg (Nights and Weekends) and collaborated on screenplays with Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha and Mistress America). Now she takes a solo spin (wonderfully, according to early chatter) behind the camera in this film starring Saoirse Ronan as a student who wants to shake her small town for New York City. Laurie Metcalf and Tracey Letts costar as Ronan's parents.
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The Shape of Water
This surreal fairy tale set during the 1960s Cold War features Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg (also generating awards hype for Call Me by Your Name). Plus: a top secret government experiment and a mysterious sea creature. If you consider it'll also have the searing visuals that Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) is famous for, it seems like one big Oscar-conversation "Duh."
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The Disaster Artist
Tommy Wiseau's 2003's The Room has been called "the Citizen Kane of bad movies." James Franco pulls double duty, directing the behind-the-scenes origin story and starring — alongside Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and Alison Brie — as Wiseau himself. The film debuted to a rapturous reception at South by Southwest in March. (Imagine if Franco and Wiseau win the prize Kane's Orson Welles did not.)
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This epic tale of two families in the shared farmland of the 1940s Mississippi Delta — starring Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Rob Morgan, and Mary J. Blige — was instantly snatched up for distribution after its premiere at this year's Sundance. Director Dee Rees (Pariah) has drawn praise for her sharp eye and steady hand.
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The Coen brothers originally wrote the screenplay for this crime comedy back in 1986. George Clooney has since revived it, refurbished the script with partner Grant Heslov, and cast Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, and Noah Jupe in this extraordinary tale of a '50s-era family who are victims of a home invasion.