For better or worse, 2017 has come and gone without another top-flight film festival hitting Toronto. While the prestigious trip north may not be the jam-packed bonanza it once was, it’s still full of sprawling debuts, long-awaited festival bows and second-screen possibilities.
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At its heart, Toronto this year runs the festival of awards season. From 10 September until 30 September, the Film Festival will screen over 2,000 movies from 90 countries. From the highest profile entries (Marvel’s Black Panther or Damien Chazelle’s First Man) to the most obscure (an Indonesian vampire film with screaming autotuned songs and characters talking in Welsh (and English and French) accents, an Indonesian cop thriller, and Japanese horror/fantasy action films by Miyazaki collaborator Junichi Mukai and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee).
Oscar buzz meanwhile is as thick as ever in Toronto, as films from actors like Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) look to lock up a best picture nomination on the back of awards season heat.
But perhaps the best thing about the festival this year – aside from when it arrives in the US later this month – is the groundswell of energy in the queer canon. With films like Widows, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Under the Shadow, A Fantastic Woman, and Susanne Bier’s The Night Manager among this year’s offerings, mainstream film-makers are putting more skin in the LGBTQ-themed film-making game than ever before.
As for the big guns, we’ll be seeing more than we’ve been accustomed to for some time. In addition to Black Panther, Ridley Scott’s full-frontal 2018 transplant All the Money in the World has world premiered in Toronto. On the horror side, Halloween is finally getting the serious release that much of the audience predicted. The Simon Pegg sci-fi sequel Welcome to Marwen is also making its debut this year, alongside the ongoing sci-fi series Good Omens, as well as Richard Curtis and Emma Thompson comedy About Time.
Another sci-fi adventure: Andy Serkis and Charlie Kaufman’s long-gestating debut How to Talk to Girls at Parties finally shoots this week. And Eric Heisserer’s adaptation of Annihilation, a sci-fi horror that’s nowhere near genre but isn’t half bad, makes its Canadian debut as well.
There’s also a bone-chilling new horror – Road to Mandalay – starring Elijah Wood that’s making its Canadian premiere. Other notable debuts include Errol Morris’s after-school special new exploration of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon (American Dharma) and Jordan Peele’s thriller Us, which hits a few Canadian theatres on 6 September before widespread distribution.
The glitziest main-event may be Steven Spielberg’s headliner Ready Player One, the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s bestselling 2015 book about an immersive universe of role-playing games in the year 2045. While the filmmaker hasn’t revealed too much about the film, the film industry has been putting an enormous marketing push behind the film, hoping to lure Spielberg fans to cinemas alongside adrenaline junkies and game junkies.
Oscar frontrunner: Roma directed by Alfonso Cuarón, about his childhood in Mexico City, will be getting a north American wide release on 18 October. Photograph: AP
It will have quite the cast working alongside him, with new English-language-movies from Tilda Swinton, John Williams, Laura Dern, Emily Blunt, and Riz Ahmed (Knight of Cups). Chances are good that audiences are going to see this one. It will be released in the middle of the awards cycle, ahead of key guild shows and awards-season guild voting, in what should be some of the most talked-about movies at the A-list film festival.