Friday, July 29, 2016

Toronto International Film Festival reveals stellar initial lineup for 2016

Believe it or not, summer movie season is almost done. Next week, Warner Bros.' Suicide Squad will be the last big blockbuster of the summer before the studios prepare for awards season. And with the fall season about to begin, we all know what that means- the big fall festivals are releasing their lineups. The Venice Film Festival debuted their slate of films yesterday, and it's an impressive lineup for sure. Films like Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, Pablo Larrain's Jackie, Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time, Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans, and of course, Damien Chazelle's festival opener La La Land. Venice will command the attention of Hollywood towards the end of August, but as Labor Day weekend fast approaches, all eyes will shift to Telluride, Colorado. The Telluride Film Festival won't release their lineup until mere days before the fest, but thanks to clues spread throughout various sites, we already have an idea of what might be headed up to the smaller, more intimate festival. But once Telluride wraps up its weekend, everybody in the film world will turn to the biggest of them all- the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The prestigious festival has become known as the official start of the Oscar season, and although Telluride has been competing for attention over the last few years, Toronto is still a major hotspot for Oscar winners. I've been following TIFF since I first got into writing about film, but this year, I'll be looking at the festival in a slightly different light. This year, one of my movie dreams is coming true- I'll be heading up to Toronto for the festival. I'm so excited to get this chance, and it should be a ton of fun. So as the TIFF programmers announced the initial lineup on Tuesday, I held my breath, hoping for some of my most anticipated films to show up at the festival. And I was not disappointed. Here is the list of Special Presentations and Gala Presentations for the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.


-The Age of Shadows, dir. Kim Jee Woon
-All I See is You, dir. Marc Forster
-American Honey, dir. Andrea Arnold
-American Pastoral, dir. Ewan McGregor
-Asura: The City of Madness, dir. Kim Sung-Soo
-Barakah Meets Barakah, dir. Mahmoud Sabbagh
-Barry, dir. Vikram Gandhi
-The Birth of a Nation, dir. Nate Parker
-Birth of the Dragon, dir. George Nolfi
-Bleed for This, dir. Ben Younger
-Blue Jay, dir. Alex Lehmann
-Brimstone, dir. Martin Koolhoven
-BrOTHERHOOD, dir. Noel Clarke
-Carrie Pilby, dir. Susan Johnson
-Catfight, dir. Onur Tukel
-City of Tiny Lights, dir. Pete Travis
-The Commune, dir. Thomas Vinterberg
-Daguerrotype, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
-A Death in the Gunj, dir. Konkong Sensharma
-Denial, dir. Mick Jackson
-Elle, dir. Paul Verhoeven
-Foreign Body, dir. Raja Amadi
-Frantz, dir. Francois Ozon
-The Handmaiden, dir. Park Chan-Wook
-Harmonium, dir. Koji Fukada
-I Am Not Madame Bovary, dir. Feng Xiagang
-The Journey, dir. Nick Hamm
-King of the Dancehall, dir. Nick Cannon
-La La Land, dir. Damien Chazelle
-The Limehouse Golem, dir. Juan Carlos Medina
-Manchester By The Sea, dir. Kenneth Lonergan
-Mascots, dir. Christopher Guest
-Maudie, dir. Aisling Walsh
-Neruda, dir. Pablo Larrain
-Nocturnal Animals, dir. Tom Ford
-The Oath, dir. Baltasar Kormakur
-Orphan, dir. Arnaud Des Pallieres
-Paris Can Wait, dir. Eleanor Coppola
-Paterson, dir. Jim Jarmusch
-The Salesman, dir. Asghar Farhadi
-Salt and Fire, dir. Werner Herzog
-Sing, dir. Garth Jennings
-Strange Weather, dir. Katherine Dieckmann
-Souvenir, dir. Bavo Defurne
-Things to Come, dir. Mia Hansen-Love
-Toni Erdmann, dir. Maren Ade
-Trespass Against Us, dir. Adam Smith
-Una, dir. Benedict Andrews
-Unless, dir. Alan Gilsenan
-The Wasted Times, dir. Cheng Er


-Arrival, dir. Denis Villeneuve
-Deepwater Horizon, dir. Peter Berg
-The Edge of Seventeen, dir. Kelly Fremon Craig (Closing Night Film)
-The Headhunter's Calling, dir. Mark Williams
-The Journey is the Destination, dir. Bronwen Hughes
-JT + The Tennessee Kids, dir. Jonathan Demme
-LBJ, dir. Rob Reiner
-Lion, dir. Garth Davis
-Loving, dir. Jeff Nichols
-The Magnificent Seven, dir. Antonie Fuqua (Opening Night Film)
-A Monster Calls, dir. J.A. Bayona
-Planeterium, dir. Rebecca Zlotowski
-Queen of Katwe, dir. Mira Nair
-The Rolling Stones Ole Ole Ole!: A Trip Across Latin America, dir. Paul Dugdale
-The Secret Scripture, dir. Jim Sheridan
-Snowden, dir. Oliver Stone
-Their Finest, dir. Lone Scherfig
-A United Kingdom, dir. Amma Asante

I'm only going to be in Toronto for four days at the most, and judging by this utterly stunning initial slate, I'm going to have some incredibly tough decisions to make. From top to bottom, this list is spectacular. And believe it or not, there's more on the way. The Midnight Madness lineup is still a few weeks away, a couple of the Venice titles seem to indicate a possible Toronto premiere, and even Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant is still in the discussion. But even if the films revealed on Tuesday were the only ones that were going to play at TIFF, I'd be perfectly content with that. There's just so much good stuff.

Let's start with the buzzy titles from other festivals. Sundance kicked off 2016 in style, and we'll be seeing Manchester by the Sea and The Birth of a Nation at TIFF, two movies that immediately generated Oscar buzz. Cannes alum are sprinkled throughout the lineup as well, with films like Loving, The Handmaiden, Toni Erdmann, Paterson, Elle, and American Honey making the trip to Toronto. I've been waiting to see many of these films since the first raves came in, and I'm excited to get the chance at TIFF.

In addition to those aforementioned critical darlings, Toronto will be the home of some big-ticket premieres for highly touted Oscar favorites. Of course, La La Land is one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I'm so happy that it's in the lineup. On top of that, I was really excited by the additions of Bleed for This and Nocturnal Animals, two films that will likely premiere at other fests, but still get a big play at TIFF. Denis Villeneuve's Arrival was pretty much a sure thing all along, but it's another film I can't wait for. Ewan McGregor's American Pastoral is a film with a lot of potential, A Monster Calls looks absolutely wonderful, the buzz on Lion is growing by the day, and I feel like I've been waiting for Oliver Stone's Snowden for years now.

However, the roster wasn't complete without a few blockbusters, and for their opening night selection, TIFF is bringing the firepower with Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven. Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon also has serious commercial and critical potential, so good buzz at TIFF could be hugely beneficial for the disaster pic. And finally, I was kinda surprised to see Garth Jennings' Sing in the lineup. It looks really cute, but I never expected a TIFF debut.

Beyond even the titles with instant name recognition, there are so many movies that just sound incredibly fascinating. Amma Asante's A United Kingdom has a great duo at the center, and it'll be interesting to see how it stacks up to Jeff Nichols' highly praised Loving. Una and Their Finest feature exceptional casts, and both have an engaging hook that could produce great results. City of Tiny Lights has the ever-consistent Riz Ahmed as its star, and I love the concept of a neon-soaked London crime drama. And I'll be shocked if Adam Smith's Trespass Against Us doesn't end up being a terrific film.

All in all, I can't wait to dig into this lineup. TIFF has put together something special this year, and after a somewhat disappointing blockbuster season, I'm ready for another fun awards season.

Image Credit: TIFF

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