TIFF 2016: The 20 Most Anticipated Movies
The Most Anticipated TIFF Movies
It's only just after Labor Day but awards season is already in full swing, and will hit overdrive this week with the start of the Toronto International Film Festival. The unofficial start of Oscar season, TIFF has been home to a surfeit of best picture winners in the last decade, and with a lineup featuring some of this year's top early contenders (including La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester By the Sea), history could repeat itself again. Ahead, what to know about the TIFF films everyone will be talking about.
The Magnificent Seven (Sept. 23)
What to know: A remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai (which was already remade into the famed 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven), this new Magnificent Seven stars Denzel Washington as a bounty hunter who recruits a cast of ne'er-do-wells to save a mining town from an evil oppressor (Peter Sarsgaard, in full mustache-twirl mode). The film, which also stars Chris Pratt as a hot-headed card shark and gunslinger, is Washington's third with director Antoine Fuqua, and acts as a reunion between Washington and his Training Day costar Ethan Hawke.
Edge of Seventeen (Nov. 18)
What to know: Kelly Fremon Craig makes her directorial debut with this fresh coming-of-age dramedy starring Hailee Steinfeld as an awkward teenager whose life comes unraveled when her one true friend starts dating her seemingly perfect older brother. Woody Harrelson plays her teacher/confidante while Kyra Sedgwick takes on the role of her high-strung, fragile mother. Craig is the prodigy of veteran auteur James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets) and he’s mentoring her as he’s mentored other unique voices at the start of their career (Cameron Crowe on Say Anything, Wes Anderson on Bottle Rocket). The film nabbed the closing night slot at this year’s TIFF.
Snowden (Sept. 16)
What to know: Oliver Stone is back with some perfect Oliver Stone material: Edward Snowden. The film first debuted at this year’s Comic-Con, complete with an Edward Snowden interview via Skype. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden, mimicking the distinct voice of this CIA intelligent officer-turned-discloser of vital U.S. information. While the controversial figure is still unable to leave Russia, he is an advocate for the movie, which does a lot to dispel the myths about him and add a tremendous amount of backstory to his character.
Queen of Katwe (Sept. 23)
What to know: Queen of Katwe puts Lupita Nyong'o center stage for the first time since her Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave. The actress, who followed up the Steve McQueen drama with motion capture roles in Star Wars and The Jungle Book, plays the mother of an Ugandan chess prodigy in the Mira Nair film. Selma actor David Oyelowo costars as the young girl's coach.
The Birth of a Nation (Oct. 7)
What to know: Once considered an Oscar frontrunner following its splashy premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, The Birth of a Nation is now an awards season question mark after director and star Nate Parker's 1999 rape trial resurfaced this summer. Parker was acquitted of the charges (his Birth of a Nation co-writer Jean Celestin, who went to school with Parker, was convicted of sexual assault, but the charge was overturned), and maintains his innocence.
American Honey (Sept. 30)
What to know: Yes, the movie is close to three hours long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. It’s British filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s (Fish Tank) first American movie and she took to the heartland like Cheetos and soda. Her road trip film centers on teenager Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane in a break out performance, and her impulsive decision to ditch her dead-end life for a group of traveling misfits selling magazines across the midwest. (Surprising, Arnold's premise is based on fact.) Riley Keough’s domineering Krystal leads the band of outcasts while Shia LaBeouf plays her shifty right-hand man with ridiculous authenticity.
La La Land (Dec. 2)
What to know: One of the fall's most anticipated releases, La La Land is director Damien Chazelle's follow-up to the Oscar-winning Whiplash. The musical drama would be atop many must-see lists just for that fact, but then there's also this: La La Land reunites Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for a third time, following Crazy Stupid Love. and Gangster Squad. If nothing else, expect enough GIFs to last well into awards season.
Loving (Nov. 4)
What to know: Directed by Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special), Loving tells the true-life story of Mildred and Richard Loving (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton), an interracial couple arrested in 1958 for their relationship. The drama debuted at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and already stands as one of the year's early awards season frontrunners.
Moonlight (Oct. 21)
What to know: Told in three parts, Barry Jenkins' powerful Moonlight focuses on Chiron, a young boy coming to terms with his sexuality in 1980s Miami. Jenkins' direction is subtle and mannered, and the performances -- including strong supporting turns from Naomie Harris as Chiron's addicted mother and Mahershala Ali as the drug dealer who takes Chiron under his wing — are all top shelf. But it's the three actors playing Chiron across the film (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) who are standouts.
Arrival (Nov. 11)
What to know: French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has become a fixture at Toronto; his last three films, including 2015's Sicario, have screened at the prestigious film festival. This year, he brings Arrival up north, a science-fiction drama starring five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams as an expert linguist recruited by the military to communicate with a race of mysterious aliens who have landed on Earth with little warning.
Nocturnal Animals (Dec. 9)
What to know: Directed by iconic fashion designer Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is a double narrative focused on an art dealer (Amy Adams) who receives a mysterious manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the events in the manuscript itself — a road trip thriller that features a husband and wife (Gyllenhaal in a second role and Isla Fisher) trying to escape some nefarious men led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The film is Ford's first since A Single Man, the 2009 drama that starred Colin Firth.
Manchester by the Sea (Nov. 18)
What to know: After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, Kenneth Lonergan is bringing his beloved third film to Toronto with hopes of continuing the rapturous response he initially received back in January. Starring Casey Affleck as a man forced to return home after his brother dies to confront the personal tragedy of his past, Manchester elegantly weaves his main character’s tortured current state with the fragments of his past that brought him to this point. And Michelle Williams’ tragic portrayal of his ex-wife will have audiences chattering at Oscar time.
What to know: The second movie about a young Barack Obama to premiere in in the span of a month — following the theatrical release of the Obama first-date movie Southside with You — Barry takes a look back at Obama's college days at Columbia University. Newcomer Devon Terrell plays the future president, with The Witch breakout Anya Taylor-Joy costarring as the object of his affection.
Deepwater Horizon (Sept. 30)
What to know: The actor/director team from Lone Survivor, Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, reunite for a second time to tell the story of the tragic 2010 explosion of the offshore drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon. Wahlberg, who will also be part of a live Q&A at the festival, stars as Mike Williams, chief electronics technician on the rig, who, along with the top installation manager Jimmy Harell (played by Kurt Russell), works to save the 126 men on board while also battling the needs of the nefarious BP oil executives — the men who receive the majority of the blame for the night’s disaster that led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
American Pastoral (Oct. 21)
What to know: Ewan McGregor makes his feature directorial debut with this adaptation of the famed Philip Roth novel about political differences in postwar America. Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, and Uzo Aduba are among the film's costars alongside McGregor.
Bleed For This (Nov. 23)
What to know: Miles Teller gets in the ring as real-life boxer Vinny Pazienza, who survived a brutal car accident and struggled to make a comeback after breaking his neck. The film marks the return of director Ben Younger (Boiler Room), whose last feature film was 2005's Prime.
What to know: Cult filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo puts a spin on Godzilla movies with Colossal, which stars Anne Hathaway as a young woman who realizes she's connected to a giant monster wreaking havoc across the world.
What to know: Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy in a film from acclaimed director Pablo Larraín (No) that tells the story of the assassination of John F. Kennedy through the eyes of his wife.
A Monster Calls (Dec. 23)
What to know: Director Juan Antonio Bayona is best known for The Orphanage and 2012’s disaster movie The Impossible starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. This time around, he’s examining the horror of loss and grief with the spectacle A Monster Calls, a sci-fi film featuring a giant tree-like monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) that comes to life to guide a young boy through his mother’s (Felicity Jones) life-threatening illness. The film marks one of three for Oscar-nominated Jones this fall season, and a brilliant vehicle for Neeson’s singular Irish brogue.
Denial (Sept. 30)
What to know: Rachel Weisz stars as Deborah E. Lipstadt, a writer and historian who fights a legal battle to prove the Holocaust actually happened when faced with a libel lawsuit from Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) directs.