With the beginning of the Toronto Film Festival, critics are getting a look at the movies that may be winning Oscars next year.
This year’s Toronto Film Festival includes screenings of high-profile films starring actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Damon, Rachel McAdams, Johnny Depp, Julianne Moore, and Eddie Redmayne. The festival officially opened on Sept. 10.
The movie “Demolition,” which stars Gyllenhaal as an investment banker whose wife has recently died in a car crash, is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who was behind the recent Oscar contenders “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild” (“Dallas” earned actors Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor statuettes, respectively, while “Wild” earned actress Reese Witherspoon an Oscar nomination for Best Actress). The film recently screened in Toronto.
Critics found fault with the plot of the movie but praised the work of both Gyllenhaal and Vallée, with one writing that Gyllenhaal’s work is “his best performance since ‘Brokeback Mountain’.. [Gyllenhaal and Vallée’s] unexpected creative choices across the line salvage a sledgehammer-obvious screenplay” and another writing, “As farfetched as [the plot] sounds, Gyllenhaal makes it all feel compellingly real.”
Another film that has already got reviewers talking is Michael Moore’s newest film, “Where To Invade Next.” Moore has not directed a feature film since his 2009 movie “Capitalism: A Love Story” and reviewers called his new movie “Invade,” which has Moore travel to Europe and look at positive aspects of life in various countries, “funny… engaging” and “equally affecting and annoying in its simplicity… it does make America look cartoonishly bad in comparison.”
Other high-profile films are still to come. Some that have industry watchers’ interest piqued are the film “The Danish Girl,” which stars last year’s Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as one of the first people to go through gender reassignment surgery; director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the bestselling novel “The Martian”; “Freeheld,” which stars last year’s Best Actress winner Julianne Moore as a woman who encounters trouble leaving her pension benefits to her domestic partner; “Beasts of No Nation,” which stars Idris Elba as an African warlord, is directed by Cary Fukunaga of “True Detective,” and is released by Netflix; “Black Mass,” which stars Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger; “Spotlight,” a movie about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations by the Boston Globe into charges of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston dating back to the 1960s; and “Stonewall,” which is directed by Roland Emmerich and is about the 1960s riots of the same name.
Festivalgoers got to know better such Oscar-winning films as “12 Years a Slave” and “The King’s Speech” at the Toronto Film Festival, and the event is the first chance many critics have to see movies that are getting Oscar buzz. The festival was established in 1976 and always drew interest, with the early movie “In Praise of Older Women,” which debuted in 1978, especially making headlines. But in recent decades, eventual Oscar Best Picture winners like 1999’s “American Beauty” and 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire” received a big dose of publicity from the festival, helping them receive the big prize. One critic wrote, “If Toronto audiences did not lionize [‘Slumdog], and vote it to an audience award, it would never have been released in theatres and it would never have gone on to win a slew of Oscars.”
The festival will end on Sept. 20.
[Editor's note: This reporter's father was employed by the Boston Globe at the time the Catholic Church abuse stories were published.]