The organizers of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival have released the full list of films they're planning to screen during the Sept. 5 - 15 fete. It's a decidedly more down to earth list of titles than appeared at Cannes in May but may boast even more Oscar contenders: films like August: Osage County, The Fifth Estate, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and one very special new film from Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises. Here are five takeaways we had from this year's TIFF lineup, and below that, you'll find a list of select titles from the lineup for which we're especially excited.
1. Character is King — Deeply felt character studies dominate the lineup this year rather than movies driven more by visual flash. Some are more or less traditional biopics like Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. Ron Howard's Rush emphasizes the clash of personalities between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) as much as it does the races. And Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, perhaps the biggest visual spectacle on the TIFF lineup, is notable for being a portrait of a female astronaut (Bullock) and her struggle to survive after an accident while also dealing with her lingering emotional distress following the death of her daughter. Toronto this year is truly an actor's market. Even more so because...
2. A Bunch of Actors Are Trying Their Hand at Directing — Jason Bateman is making his feature-film directing debut with the spelling bee revenge comedy Bad Words, while James Franco is following up his (pretty much unwatched) Hart Crane and Sal Mineo biopics with his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God. And of course Joseph Gordon-Levitt will unspool his directorial debut, Don Jon, which is also the first time we've seen him with a gelled-up pompadour.
3. Cory Monteith Is Well Represented – The late Glee star has not one but two films at TIFF, Gia Milani's All the Wrong Reasons and Josh C. Waller's McCanick, both of which will make their world premiere at the fest.
4. This is the Place for Smaller, More Personal Films — While Cannes can still celebrate movies that might not otherwise find an audience (like Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color, also at TIFF), Toronto goes all-in for small films. Just this past May Cannes got showy movies from big, flashy directors like Roman Polanski, the Coen Brothers, Baz Luhrmann, Nicolas Winding Refn, Stephen Soderbergh, and Takashi Miike. But this year Toronto will draw Steve McQueen, Kelly Reichardt, Stephen Frears, Jason Reitman, and Alex Gibney, often the makers of quieter, more introspective films — films that may not even have found a distributor yet. That's ultimately why...
5. Toronto Is More Important Than Cannes — Actor and Lars von Trier repertory member Jean-Marc Barr once told me, "Cannes is now like the G8 summit." It's pretty corporate and not as essential these days for films really looking for a distributor. Looked at another way, Palme d'Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color still doesn't have a North American distributor. However, Toronto is the perfect laboratory for testing out films with a North American audience — if Franco's Child of God doesn't get a distributor after TIFF, it might not get one at all. You can also see Toronto as the first stop on the Oscar circuit. If there's a groundswell of support for Sandra Bullock for Best Actress consideration for Gravity, it'll be because buzz was first generated among potential Oscar voters at Toronto, not Cannes.
Here are some of the most notable films appearing TIFF 2013. What are you looking forward to?
The Fifth Estate Bill Condon, USA (World Premiere) OPENING NIGHT
Life of Crime Daniel Schecter, USA (World Premiere) CLOSING NIGHT
August: Osage County John Wells, USA (World Premiere)
Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom Peter Chadwick (World Premiere)
Rush Ron Howard, United Kingdom/Germany (International Premiere)
All the Wrong Reasons Gia Milani, Canada (World Premiere)
The Armstrong Lie Alex Gibney, USA (North American Premiere)
Bad Words Jason Bateman, USA (World Premiere)
Blue Is The Warmest Color Abdellatif Kechiche, France (North American Premiere)
Child of God James Franco, USA (North American Premiere)
Dallas Buyers Club Jean-Marc Vallée, USA (World Premiere)
Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, USA (Canadian Premiere)
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón, USA/United Kingdom (North American Premiere)
Labor Day Jason Reitman, USA (World Premiere)
McCanick Josh C. Waller, USA (World Premiere)
Night Moves Kelly Reichardt, USA (North American Premiere)
Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch, USA (North American Premiere)
Philomena Stephen Frears, United Kingdom (North American Premiere)
12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen, USA (World Premiere)
The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) Hayao Miyazaki, Japan (North American Premiere)
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Gentlemen, set your Tivos, James Franco is returning to General Hospital. The perpetually busy actor is reprising his role as "Franco", a psychotic performance artist who also kidnaps babies, judging by what I can find on Youtube. The Oscar-nominated actor is committing to a "longterm" story arc, but presumably not longterm enough to impact Franco's other, slightly less weird jobs, such as directing an upcoming Sal Mineo biopic, costarring in The Sweet Bird of Youth on Broadway with Nicole Kidman, and getting a PhD at Yale.
Franco (the character, not the actor) was killed during his last appearance on the soap, a fact that should serve as little obstacle for the General Hospital writers. According to TV guide, the character is being brought back in time for the wedding of Jason Morgan, the hit-man on whom the fictional Franco has a stalkerish obsession. (Can someone more familiar with the world of GH tell me why a hitman and a performance artists are main characters on a show about a hospital? It is about a hospital, isn't it? Is the name a metaphor for something?)
To add to the strange recursion of Franco's General Hospital role, Franco told the Wall Street Journal that he considered his appearances on the soap to be "performance art." "My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate." Franco said. "Whether they did was out of my hands."
If you want to get a look at Franco's performance art/hammy acting yourself, the actor will be returning to General Hospital September 20. In the mean time, you can watch some delightfully odd clips of his appearance on Youtube, or embedded below. I'm not sure what the drag queen singer is about.
The 127 Hours star, who will co-host the Oscars in February (11), was desperate to turn Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian into a movie - but Scott Rudin, the producer behind the project, was unsure about hiring the actor as his director.
So Franco turned to his pals and family and asked them to star in a test sequence he financed - in the hope it would prove he had what it took to become a filmmaker.
The movie star tells EW.com, "I called him (Rudin) up and said, 'I’m planning on doing this. You don’t have to give me any money, I can finance this shoot. Would you just wait? Don’t do anything with it until I show this to you.’ And I showed it to him and he loved it."
As a result, Franco got the job - and now his career as a director is on track; he is in talks to take charge of a new biopic of movie icon Sal Mineo and he has begun discussions with writer William Faulkner’s estate executors and is working on convincing them to grant him permission to turn the classic As I Lay Dying, about a family's attempt to honour a loved one's wishes to be buried in a specific town, into a movie.
The actor has already lined up financial backing for the project, should he win over Faulkner's estate - Fox Searchlight executives have signed on to develop the work, which Franco hopes to start production on in early 2012.
Franco, who played James Dean in a 2001 TV film, has optioned the movie rights to Sal Mineo: The Biography, and is eyeing a big-screen version of the book.
It will tell the story of Mineo, who shot to fame starring opposite Dean in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause and enjoyed several acclaimed roles but was stabbed to death by a pizza delivery man in 1976 at the age of 37.
Franco will write and direct the movie but is not planning to take an onscreen role, according to the Hollywood Reporter.