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Top Twenty Must-See at Toronto

Big names, big stars, big premieres….what I’m looking forward seeing at TIFF!

Naomi Watts stars in “The Impossible” premiering at TIFF….

Having gone through the announced films with a fine tooth comb I have come up with a list of twenty must sees, the films that will have absolute priority over everything else for at TIFF. That is not to say I will not venture into other movies, I most certainly will, but for now, the twenty discussed within are the films I am making it my mission in life to see first. Understand that the schedules have not yet been made available to the press so there will undoubtedly be overlaps in the screenings, meaning getting a ticket from the TIFF folks or speaking with the film’s publicist to land a seat. They are always helpful to me, always have been, so no problems are foreseen. And of course there are the festivals pre-screenings, which are held ten days before the start of the festival allowing press to see films that are going to be an issue because of their schedule, or in the case of the TV critics, because they will be interviewing. I so do not miss those days, being on television, listening to the producers go to war for interviews, scrambling at the last minute because they have given to us, just a nightmare. There was a time when seeing forty to forty five films was not out of the question, but by the end of the festival my brain was mush and the stories began to run together. I learned to pace myself. Of course my accident in 2001 cut down on the number of films I can see from a sheer physical stand point. Thirty to thirty five is the goal, though twenty eight is where I usually end up. Consider as well, if I am interviewing I need to give up a film here and there, and I hate that. For me TIFF is all about the films…period. That said, if the chance arises to interview some of the major players, I will be there, as always. I have to admit I am getting excited about TIFF. As the days slip past and it comes time for my girls to go back to school, I realize the festival is upon me. Different this year, very different, is Sherri is not here to share it with me. She would bring the girls into the city for the weekend, and though we did not see much of one another, we made it a point to have dinner and coffee together, and I always woke her when I got in. I will miss that. Ariana will be with me that first weekend, swimming and hanging out at the pool, and that will be cool for her, as she loves hotel life. She has never been to a GALA so I will take her to see The Silver Lining Playbook this year, as she adores Jennifer Lawrence.

So for fun, to let you know what I am planning to see at TIFF here’s the top twenty.

1. THE MASTER…After all my bitching about the fact the film would indeed be part of TIFF, it has to be the number one choice. I am curious to see if Phoenix is as good as what I am hearing. Though I am hearing the narrative is tricky, I expect this to be a major Oscar contender. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is as good as anyone out there when he is in the zone, and I expect him to be there for this. Anytime he has worked for Anderson in the past, he has been brilliant.

2. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON…The casting of Bill Murray as FDR makes this worth seeing just to see the actors take on that great President. Interesting how Murray has become a formidable acting talent late in his career. I think this will be an Oscar contender, for at least Murray and Laura Linney. I believe however, it may be overshadowed by the other President movie this year, Lincoln.

3. CLOUD ATLAS…Admittedly the trailer hooked me, pulled me in with its scope and daring. I am a believer that we move from one life to the next; we have all been through this before and will do so again, so the film has a strong pull on me already. Tom Hanks has got to have more great performances in him, and I am sensing this could be one of them. Looks like one of those films that you will either love or hate, which will divide audiences and critics.

4. THE SESSIONS…Love John Hawkes, not so much Helen Hunt. The trailer is OK, Hawkes and Hunt earned great reviews out of Sundance and this one is being hyped as a player for Best Actor and Actress. Would love to see Hawkes land a Best Actor nod, and in fact, would like to see if Hunt is as good as many believe she is. She does not do it for me at all, never has. IF she pulls this off with Hawkes, I will be the first to admit it.

5. THE ICEMAN…This is one of the more obscure works coming into the festival, but I am nonetheless pumped for it. Michael Shannon plays lethal hitman, Richard Kuklinski who spent most of his life killing people, something his wife and children knew nothing about. This could be one of those little surprises that sneak in with little press, and leaves touted as one of the year’s best. Shannon intrigues in anything and could land in the race for Best Actor.

6. ARGO…I admire Ben Affleck as a director as much as I disliked his acting in the late nineties and early 2000’s, he was terrible. Yes he did some good work in a few films but for the most part he was terrible. Then he started directing and found his real talent, and he is a terrific filmmaker. Under his own direction he is also a very fine actor, as we saw in The Town (2010). Really anxious to see this one.

7. THE PAPERBOY…OK, I admit it, I am sucker for films about Southern trailer trash, the low life Tennessee Williams’ sort of characters that seem to populate this film. These sort of films drip with sexuality and the characters inhabiting the nastiest side of humanity. Kidman looks to be giving one of her more daring performances, and Cusack, the man can act, but needs a role that shows that, reminding us of what he is capable of. Lee Daniels knocked us out with Precious (2009), hope he can do it again.

8. RUST AND BONE…I love Marion Cotillard. Have loved her since her stunning showcase in La Vie En Rose (2007) which won her the Oscar for Best Actress. They say she could win another Oscar for her performance in this film as a woman who loses her legs below the knees. Hope she is that good, because when she is, she is astounding. Early reviews have stated she will be in the Oscar race.

9. ON THE ROAD…After so many directors pondered making this film, it fell to Walter Salles to finally bring it to the screen, and the reviews at Cannes were positive. It will arrive here amidst the controversy following Kristen Stewart, however unfair, and I am hoping the press realizes the festival is all about the films and not the crap that goes on in personal lives, which frankly are none of our business. The press conference should be a doozy because there are always those lunk heads that ask the dumbest questions, and count on Stewart being targeted…however unfair.

10. BAD 25…Spike Lee’s documentary about the impact, culturally and socially of Michael Jacksons’ Bad album will provide insight into one of the greatest talents in music history, yet a man who remains very much a mystery. I am fascinated with Jackson, with his enormous gifts and flaws, that a man so talented and wealthy could be possessed by such demons and obvious passive aggressive rage. And let’s face it; Spike makes a mean documentary when inspired.

11. ANNA KARENINA…The chance to see this classic novel brought to the screen with energy and fresh ideas from director Joe Wright is reason enough to get me interested. Keira Knightley is an excellent actress in the right role, and she is fearless in her work. Russia fascinates me with its rich history, architecture, and its people. This should be a major Oscar player.

12. GREAT EXPECTATIONS…Though I am not so sure we needed another adaptation of the classic Dickens work, I do admit to being intrigued by at the very least the casting within this picture. Helena Bonham Carter is always at her best in adaptations of great literature, and Ralph Fiennes can be an extraordinary actor. Both must be pleased to be done with the Harry Potter franchise and able to do films like this. When will someone do a remake of A Tale of Two Cities?

13. TO THE WONDER…Terence Malick, so that is the main interest. Though he frustrates me with his self indulgence, his work is consistently interesting, always bold, and visionary. Nothing more to say really.

14. JAYNE MANSFIELDS CAR…Billy Bob Thornton directs this quirky sounding little picture with the great Robert Duvall in a key role, which means I am first in line to see the thing when it screens.

15. PASSION…I love Brain De Palma and his work, well most of it. Blow Out (1981) remains the finest film of his career, with Casualties of War (1989) right behind it. He’s a regular here either as a director with a movie, or a fan, moving from movie to movie. More than once I have sat beside him and chatted about his work before the film began. He’s here with Passion, an inside look at the world of high fashion and the vicious women involved. Rachel McAdams, very busy here this year, is starring.

16. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP…Robert Redford underwhelmed me the last time he was here with The Conspirator (2009), but the man has made some good films, Quiz Show (1994) and A River Runs Through It (1992) among his finest. He won an Oscar for his directing debut, Ordinary People (1980). This time he is also in the movie, as a journalist forced into hiding when accusations force him to run. People might have forgotten that the man can also act.

17. THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK…The main reason for me to see this film is not Robert de Niro, who I no longer expect anything from, but rather Jennifer Lawrence who I believe is going to be a major actress for a long, long time and was smart enough to get herself involved in a franchise called The Hunger Games. I hope she rocks this movie, directed by the always interesting David O. Russell.

18. END OF WATCH…As an admirer of Michael Pena, his name attracts me right away, and in the right movie Jake Gyllenhaal can be at least, interesting, though he lacks the natural gifts of his sister Maggie.

19. EMPEROR…Like Robert Duvall, the name Tommy Lee Jones pulls me in constantly and the chance to see him as General Douglas McArthur in this odd little movie has me very interested. Lost star Matthew Fox moves into the big league as a man with a secret that the good general must know.

20. THE IMPOSSIBLE…Watching the footage of that devastating tsunami that slammed into the lives of the helpless was something I will never forget. With terrifying power, nature reminded us of just who was in charge of this fragile planet upon which we live as guests. Enter The Impossible, a film that explores what happened that fateful day, before, during and after. Naomi Watts stars.

What do you think?

72 points

Written by John H. Foote

Any film you haven't seen yet is a new release.

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