In announcing the first wave of its 2017 slate today, the Toronto International Film Festival not only is telling a lot about its own fest this year but also basically confirming several titles that will premiere in Venice, which announces its full slate Thursday, and Telluride, which tries to keep their selections secret until just before opening on September 1.
In terms of the nascent Oscar race, this morning’s announcement further narrows the field, with solid awards hopefuls getting world premieres in Canada including, just as we spitballed yesterday, the Weinstein Company’s The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse; Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield as polio victim Robin Cavendish, and Claire Foy; The Mountain Between Us, starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba as plane-crash survivors; Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the story of Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman;.
Perhaps a sleeper entry into the race considering the current Wonder Woman craze: Annapurna’s October 27 release Professor Marston & The Wonder Women; it comes from director Angela Robinson stars Luke Evans as the creator of the Wonder Woman comic book character and his relationship with his wife and mistress. I hear it’s great and that Annapurna is very high on it. There’s also The Orchard’s Kings said to have fine performances from Halle Berry and Daniel Craig playing first in Toronto this season. Also as predicted yesterday, Weinstein has another world premiere at TIFF: Untouchable (though labeled still untitled in the press release), Neil Burger’s English-language remake of the 2011 French smash The Intouchables with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. But that is an expected spring 2018 offering, not for this awards season.
Some of TIFF’s other promising world premieres are going in without U.S. distribution at the moment but could still turn up in the 2017 race, such as I, Tonya with Margot Robbie ripe for Best Actress talk as disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding.
Of course TIFF will be sporting numerous other contenders that will be showing up first in Venice and Telluride. We can tell this simply by the way TIFF labels its slate as either world premiere, North American premiere (first seen in either Venice, Berlin or Cannes), Canadian premiere (first seen anywhere but Canada) or international premiere (meaning no Venice, Berlin or Cannes debut but first seen in either Sundance or Telluride). Using this road map as tea leaves, TIFF pretty much has confirmed Venice debuts for Darkest Hour, with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill; Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, another potential Oscar-season possibility with way-overdue Annette Bening as fading screen star Gloria Grahame; and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. All three would appear to be heading directly from Venice to Telluride before hitting Toronto, along with previously announced Venice opening-nighter, Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, which will also be at all three components of this Fall Festival Trifecta.
Additional Oscar bait-y films announced for TIFF that look certain to play first in Venice first include Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence; Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson; George Clooney’s Suburbicon; and Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul, starring Judi Dench.
For Telluride, based on this initial TIFF release, you can bet on the expected world premieres of Battle of the Sexes, with Steve Carell and Emma Stone; Scott Cooper’s Hostiles (perhaps with a Christian Bale tribute?); and Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird, in addition to other titles we previously speculated going to Telluride such as Sebastian Lelio’s transgender drama A Fantastic Woman ,which is hoping to make Oscar history with a nomination for its trans star Daniela Vega; Todd Haynes’ Cannes competitor Wonderstruck; and the animated Van Gogh film Loving Vincent (the latter two not included on TIFF’s initial lineup, which represents only about a quarter of TIFF’s eventual full slate to continue being announced in the coming weeks).
Also of note: It appears that, unlike the Cannes controversy its inclusion ignited in May, Netflix is welcome at all the fall festivals. Mudbound, the streaming service’s Sundance pickup and awards hopeful from Dee Rees, is heading to TIFF, as is Angelina Jolie’s drama First They Killed My Father, which had its world premiere several months ago in Cambodia, where it was filmed. That film, by the way, is listed as a Canadian premiere, which means it likely will turn up first in Telluride (could a Jolie tribute also be in order there?). Of course, Venice has already announced the Jane Fonda-Robert Redford Our Souls at Night, another Netflix product.
Whether inclusion in these prestigious fall festivals helps ease Oscar voter prejudice against Netflix movies (other than docus) is an open question, but it certainly can’t hurt the streamer’s efforts to crack the Oscar race in a much bigger way than before. I was a little surprised not to see Netflix’s acclaimed Cannes competition entry The Meyerowitz Stories from Noah Baumbach not make today’s announcement for TIFF, but perhaps that one makes more sense for the New York Film Festival, where it would seem a certainty.
Today’s announcement, and all it means for all the other fests, is a promising start to the six-month-long awards season that gets underway officially at the end of August. But in some ways, with such movies as Dunkirk, Get Out, Detroit, Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, Logan and other likely, once considered unlikely contenders, it is already well in progress.