The Toronto International Film Festival announced the first round of films for the 2014 festival on Tuesday July 22nd, once again firing up the buzz and excitement across the city. Piers Handling, Director and CEO, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director were on hand at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to make the announcements.
This year, with TIFF’s new strict policy of only allowing World or North American Premieres for its high-profile opening weekend (and try and prevent the Telluride Film Festival from stealing their thunder, like it did last year with 12 Years a Slave), many were wondering how the film selections would play out. The festival is attempting to assert its prominence as an important event and launching pad for Oscar-bound films. When all was said and done after the press conference, we were left with a few surprises.
One of the new events happening this year is what you could call a TIFF Block Party during the festival’s opening weekend. The full details have yet to be announced but from Thursday September 4th to Sunday September 7th, expect King Street from University Avenue over to Peter Street to be closed to vehicle and TTC traffic. The area will be a pedestrian-friendly village consisting of a stage for live entertainment, food vendors, and red carpet premieres. More information about this will be coming later in the summer.
The most notably missing announcement was the naming of the Opening Night film. Typically this is announced during their kick-off press conference but not this time. During the media Q&A after the announcements, a member of the press asked about the omission. Cameron Bailey stated that they are still in negotiations, an announcement would be coming soon. However, many are still speculating that the film they were looking to have open the festival was scooped by Telluride, therefore making it ineligible to open the festival. It should be interesting to see how long they take to make the announcement and what film they ultimately choose.
However, they did annouce the Closing Night Film would be Alan Rickman’s return to Directing after nearly two-decades – A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet in a delightful period-peice. Rickman said this, of being selected “I have filmed in the city, visited often, and some of my closest friends live there. It will be like coming home.”
The festival also seemed to be dealt a bit of a blow this year when several of this Fall’s most promising Oscar hopefuls being named as possible TIFF debuts went to other festivals. David Fincher’s Gone Girl, based on the wildly popular book of the same name and Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film Inherent Vice were both named as World Premieres for the New York Film Festival, which is slated to run at the end of September making a TIFF screening out of the question. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as a washed up actor known for playing a superhero role trying to get his career back on track is slated to open the Venice Film Festival in late August and has been selected as the Closing Film for the New York Film Festival as well. A TIFF debut is still possible for this one. There is also talk that Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar could make an appearance on the festival circuit but as of yet, it has not turned up. Some are doubtful that the studio would debut it so early from it’s November theatrical release date, given how secretive they have been surrounding the plot of the film. I’m still secretly hoping TIFF nabs it. Perhaps this is the film they are waiting on for their Opening Night selection?
Of the films announced in this week’s press conference, several are already standouts as potential Oscar front runners. Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée is back again with his latest feature Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. This is based on the best-selling memoir written by Cheryl Strayed and her 1,100-mile journey hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail.
Reese Witherspoon will have a second film at the festival with The Good Lie. She plays a single woman who becomes the caregiver of a group of Sudanese refugees. Expect to see Witherspoon on the red carpet this Fall.
Another film coming to the festival with heavy buzz is the British biopic about Alan Turing called The Imitation Game, starring festival favourite Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing was instrumental in breaking the Enigma Code used by the Germans during World War II. His efforts significantly reduced the length of the war. After the war, his life took a tragic turn, as he was prosecuted by the British government for being gay. This one is sure to be talked about this Fall, with some even already speculating that it could win the coveted People’s Choice Award.
Other films announced include David Cronenberg’s latest Map To The Stars, for which Julianne Moore won the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival, Cake starring Jennifer Aniston as a woman who becomes fascinated with the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group and develops a relationship with the woman’s grieving husband that propels her life forward, and The Theory of Everything, a highly anticipated biopic film about the life of world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking starring Eddie Redmayne.
Also added to the line-up and worth noting are Jason Reitman’s latest Men, Women & Children starring Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, and Judy Greer, Still Alice starring Julianne Moore and based on the best-selling book of the same name, Foxcatcher, the latest from director Bennett Miller (director of Capote) starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in dramatic turns, Pawn Sacrifice, a biopic about chess master Bobby Fischer starring Tobey Maguire, and This Is Where I Leave You, and ensemble dark comedy based on the book of the same name and starring Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, and Rose Byrne.