Of the Toronto Film Festival Galas and Special Presentations announced today, between 25 and 28 are worth a tumble. Okay, make it 20. How many of the 20 will turn out to be way-up-there exceptional? Less than ten, if that. Probably less than five. More films will be announced, of course, but let’s be honest and admit that right now the TIFF slate feels a bit weak.
I woke up this morning to an abbreviated Variety headline on my iPhone. It read “Toronto Film Festival Opens with Denzel Washington’s…” before the jump. My first thought, “Holy moley, Toronto is going to debut Fences?…that’s very exciting!” Then I realized Variety‘s Denzel possessive was incorrect. TIFF’s opening night attraction will be Antoine Fuqua‘s The Magnificent Seven (Columbia, 9.23), which for Denzel is nothing but a straight mercenary paycheck gig + a chance to go up against Yul Brynner and Toshiro Mifune. Fuqua is a genre wallower, a shoveller, a primitive.
Even though Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival has been given a TIFF gala berth, it’s listed as a Canadian premiere so the Telluride debut I mentioned last weekend still holds.
Toronto Gala Head-Turners: Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon (you know Berg — Patriot’s Day may turn out be one-note, rah-rah patriotic crap, but right now it reps his best potential shot at non-escapist, popcorn-transcending respectability); Garth Davis‘s Lion (Dev Patel uses Google Earth to find his parents after 20-year separation); Paul Dugdale‘s The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! — A Trip Across Latin America, Oliver Stone‘s Snowden (no Telluride), Jeff Nichols‘ Loving (as an opportunity to re-appraise Ruth Negga‘s performance). Ama Asante‘s A United Kingdom (2nd interracial marriage drama following Loving) (6)
Toronto Gala Maybes: Rob Reiner‘s LBJ (please, please don’t fuck this one up); Jonathan Demme‘s JT + The Tennessee Kids, Lone Scherfig‘s Their Finest, Jim Sheridan‘s The Secret Scripture, Juan Antonio Bayona‘s A Monster Calls (subtlety factor is out the window in the trailers); Mira Nair‘s Queen of Katwe. (6)
Toronto “Special Presentation” Standouts: Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey, Ewan McGregor‘s American Pastoral, Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation (no gala for the currently most favored “get your black on” Best Picture contender?), Ben Younger‘s Bleed For This, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Commune, Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle (Cannes), Damian Chazelle‘s La-La Land, Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea (likely Telluride, power punch), Pablo Larrain‘s Neruda (Cannes, locked Telluride), Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals (Venice), Baltasar Kormákur‘s The Oath, Eleanor Coppola‘s Paris Can Wait (might be trouble), Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson (Cannes), Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman (Cannes), Werner Herzog‘s Salt and Fire, Garth Jenning‘s Sing (animated musical comedy). (16)
Closing Night: Kelly Fremon‘s The Edge of Seventeen, produced by James L. Brooks. (1)