The 2013 Toronto Film Festival gets underway in full force later tonight with the world premiere of DreamWorks’ awards hopeful The Fifth Estate from director Bill Condon. The fest will show off approximately 300 films by the time it wraps September 15 with the closing-night film, Life Of Crime. That movie, up for acquisition, stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins and has added heat since its selection as the closer. It represents the last movie in which the late author Elmore Leonard, an executive producer, was involved.
Among the true world premieres here — films that haven’t already been world premieres in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance or Telluride — the most anticipated outside of the acquisition titles are those mostly sight-unseen movies expected to become major players in the awards race. They include August: Osage Country, which will be unveiled at a starry gala Monday that will include Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts; Ron Howard’s terrific car racing drama Rush, launching Sunday; Dallas Buyers Club with a buzzed-about turn from Matthew McConaughey on Saturday night; Nicole Holofcener’s romantic comedy Enough Said starring Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus and repping one of the final films of James Gandolfini, on Saturday afternoon; Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, the story of the young Nelson Mandela with Idris Elba in the lead, early Saturday evening; and David Frankel’s One Chance, a crowd-pleaser about the Britain’s Got Talent winning opera singer Paul Potts that could be a big player in the Golden Globe Musical or Comedy race (see the trailer for that one here). One of its producers is Simon Cowell, and it screens Monday night. And although Spike Jonze’s December entry Her won’t be debuting until it closes the New York Film Festival on October 13, key press will be given a preview of clips along with a conversation with Jonze on Sunday afternoon as Warner Bros tries to put the Amy Adams-Joaquin Phoenix picture into the awards conversation coming out of Toronto.
As previously noted, several contenders that played Telluride, Venice or Cannes such as All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska are skipping Toronto altogether in favor of turning up next at NYFF later this month. By the way, Nebraska really popped at Telluride, a consensus favorite there doing even better than it did in Cannes competition. Director Alexander Payne told me he “tinkered” with the film for some time after its Cannes debut to get it to the place he wanted. Obviously he made the right choice. This one looks like it could be a major player at the Oscars — you can just feel it. “People just want a comedy right now, ” explained a modest Payne about the reception it received in the Rockies last week.
Toronto organizers shouldn’t be crying in their soup over pictures they didn’t get. This fest, once known as the Festival of Festivals, is already impossibly overcrowded. It’s like Cannes on steroids with way too much for any one person to see. You have to make Solomon-like choices if you want to cover Toronto in all its glory. I say thank god for Cannes and Telluride as it gives me a head start.
There seems to be a little reported dust-up between some of these fests. Apparently Venice is complaining that Telluride stole its thunder in debuting some Venice titles before they had a chance to play on the Lido. One of them, Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, about American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from an American director — was supposed to debut first in Italy. Gee, too bad a film mostly of interest to Americans played a couple of days earlier in America. Some of this territorial stuff between fests gets a little ridiculous at times. There is enough to go around, a piece of the pie for everyone.
Every journalist you run into is complaining about the sheer volume in Toronto. As always it is an impressive list that also includes Oscar contenders that premiered elsewhere (Telluride calls them sneaks or nothing at all) 12 Years A Slave, Prisoners, Labor Day, Kill Your Darlings, The Lunchbox, Parkland, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Don Jon, Gloria, Gravity, The Great Beauty, The Invisible Woman, Like Father Like Son, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Past and Philomena are just a sampling of movies with awards cred of various forms that appeared previous fests that will be looking to increase that buzz here in the next week and a half.
And if parties and dinners are your thing (who has time to eat anything but hot dogs when covering a film fest?) consider this: Sony Pictures Classics, IFC/Sundance Selects, Paramount, Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight and who knows what else all have dinners/parties at the exact same time on Saturday. The “gala” business of this massive festival is nearly 24/7 making it hard for any one movie to truly dominate. If a blows-away-the-competition contender does come out of Toronto it will be some achievement in a year that already looks impossibly full of Oscar possibilities.
Fasten your seatbelts, Canada is ready for its close-up this awards season.