Must-see screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival that could hit local theaters soon
Lights, camera, action TIFF!
This is my 30th year attending the Toronto International Film Festival, which started back in 1976 as the Festival of Festivals, showcasing the best in cinema from around the world. My first experience at TIFF (the universally used acronym for the Toronto Fest) was back in 1982, and I still vividly remember seeing powerful, late-career films that year by the legendary directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder (“Veronika Voss”) and Michelangelo Antonioni (“Identification of a Woman”). After trying the New York Film Festival in ’83 and ’84, I happily returned to Toronto in 1985 and haven’t missed a year since.
Here are a few of the must-see screenings I’ll be planning on seeing at this year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival:
- Only Lovers Left Alive: A romantic vampire film is not exactly something you would expect from art-house helmer Jim Jarmusch (“Stranger Than Paradise,” “Down By Law,” “Broken Flowers”), but this one garnered superb reviews when shown earlier this year at the Cannes Festival. Co-starring Tilda Swinton and partially shot in Detroit, I can’t wait to see how Jarmusch works within the vampire genre.
- Blue Is the Warmest Color: Winner of the 2013 Palme d’Or, the top honor at Cannes, this three-hour opus gained instant notoriety for its graphic sex scenes. But Tunisian director Abdellatif Keniche has also gotten good notices for his dynamic, unconventional portrayal of first love, with stunning performances by Lèa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
- Parkland: Being a high-profile Gala screening, this one will surely arrive in Ann Arbor soon, but I can’t resist seeing the incomparable actor Paul Giamatti in just about anything - and as soon as possible. Also starring Marcia Gay Harden and Zac Efron, director Peter Landesman’s latest details the events surrounding that fateful day in November of 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Parkland Memorial Hospital’s staff attended to both JFK and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Giamatti portrays Abraham Zapruder, who inadvertently filmed the President’s death.
- Enough Said: Co-starring James Gandolfini in his final screen appearance, this indie dramedy features the late “Sopranos” star cast against type as a kind, mild mannered man who falls in love with a massage therapist (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The hitch is that one of Dreyfus’ clients is Gandolfini’s bitter ex-wife. Hard to go wrong with such a top-shelf cast and accomplished director Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing,” “Friends with Money”).
- Dallas Buyers Club: Based on a true story and set during the early days of the AIDS crisis, Matthew McConaughey stars as Texan Ron Woodruff, a hard-living heterosexual man whose HIV-positive diagnosis compels him to seek out unconventional medical treatments. An unexpected friendship develops between Woodruff and drag queen Rayon (Jared Leto), as the two decide to sell alternative, experimental remedies to desperate HIV and AIDS patients who can’t wait for help from the medical establishment. Director Jean-Marc VallÃ©e (“C.R.A.Z.Y.,” “Café de Flore”) is not one to shy away from difficult subject matter, and McConaughey is said to be brilliant in his depiction of an accidental activist.
- Finding Vivian Maier: The film’s fascinating but esoteric subject matter will make any local screening highly unlikely, and that’s why the directorial debut of John Maloof and Charlie Siskel is on my must-see list. Maier was a prolific street photographer (over 100,000 negatives) who worked in obscurity until just before her death in 2009, when Maloof bought a bunch of her mysterious images and became consumed by what he unearthed.
- Labor Day: Director Jason Reitman has a special relationship with Toronto audiences, starting back in 2005 when he unveiled his debut feature “Thank You For Smoking” at TIFF and received raves across the board. After that came the equally acclaimed “Juno” and “Up in the Air,” then the so-so “Young Adult.”
Hopefully Reitman will bounce back with “Labor Day,” based on Joyce Maynard’s novel about a young teenager (Gattlin Griffith) and his divorced mom (Kate Winslet) whose lives are forever changed by their encounter with a convicted murderer and prison escapee named Frank (Josh Brolin).
Also in the mix will be “Mad Men” creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner’s feature film debut “You Are Here;” The Concert for Hurricane Sandy Relief documentary “12.12.12.,” with Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the Who; “August: Osage County,” with an astounding cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and Sam Shepard; and “Attila Marcel,” the first live-action film from the acclaimed animation director Sylvain Chomet (“The Triplets of Belleville,” “The Illusionist”).
Tickets are still available to many offerings at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Go to www.tiff.net for all your cinematic needs.
Martin Bandyke is the 6-10am morning drive host at ann arbor’s 107one, WQKL-FM. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.martinbandyke.com.