Next week is the Toronto International Film Festival. With it comes the unofficial kickoff of the fall movie season, and the start – and sometimes epic failure – of Hollywood awards campaigns. With over 300 films on offer, TIFF’s lineup this year spans far and wide. Some of these movies vanish into obscurity (remember Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store? Me neither). Others become lauded classics.

Whether you’re attending the fest or keeping track of things from afar, here are the movies that should be on your radar.

first man trailer

Potential Awards Contenders

A few sub-themes are starting to emerge among the festival’s big-ticket selections that speak to current cultural issues. For some of these films, that could translate into major awards pushes. Two films, Beautiful Boy and Ben is Back, tackle addiction. Ben is Back specifically deals with opiods. Barry Jenkins’ much-anticipated follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, is one of several films at the festival discussing the black experience in America. Two others, The Hate U Give, based on an acclaimed YA novel, and Monsters and Men discuss police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased covers gay conversion therapy, the second film this year to do so.

Speaking of Boy Erased, this fall looks like it’ll be a busy one for its star, Lucas Hedges. Hedges, Oscar-nominated for his work in Manchester by the Sea, is in three films at the festival, also starring in Ben is Back (written and directed by his father, Peter Hedges) and Jonah Hill’s coming-of-age film Mid90s. Nicole Kidman, who also appears in Boy Erased in what looks like an awards-friendly performance, also stars in the Karyn Kusama film Destroyer, which is already getting attention ahead of its festival premiere for Kidman’s utterly transformed appearance.

Among the other buzzworthy heavy-hitters are Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man and Bradley Cooper’s update of A Star is Born starring Lady Gaga. Last, but far from least, there’s Steve McQueen’s highly-anticipated Widows, about a team of women who turn to robbery after their husbands are killed in a heist. The film boasts a script co-written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and a powerhouse female-driven cast including Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki.

Vox Lux Trailer

Indies on the Verge

Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer is one of several films at TIFF that could be poised for a major breakout. Kusama staged a successful comeback in 2015 after years of near silence with the slow-burn thriller The Invitation. Destroyer, in which Kidman plays a cop facing lingering trauma from an undercover operation, features a script by The Invitation’s Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, suggesting we could be in for a similarly compelling ride.

Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux, a late addition to the schedule, also looks intriguing, with Natalie Portman playing a troubled pop star dealing with personal demons. Corbet’s first film, the ominous, ambitious The Childhood of Leader, proved he was an artist to watch, and it’ll be interesting to see how his second film builds on that promise.

Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy is worth noting both for its bizarre real-life subject matter and top-shelf cast. Laura Dern plays writer Laura Albert, who wrote the 2001 novel The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things under the created identity of JT LeRoy, a teenage West Virginia boy working as a truck stop sex worker. Kristen Stewart is Savannah, Albert’s sister-in-law, who played the role of JT LeRoy in public, wearing a wig and sunglasses and using a fake voice. The story of Albert’s literary hoax is fascinating, and the documentary account of it, Author: The JT LeRoy Story is bonkers. This new, dramatized version ought to be a wild ride.

Outlaw King TIFF

Netflix’s Big Gambits

Another interesting aspect of this year’s programming is the presence of several big-budget and big-talent pictures being released by Netflix. The highest-profile of these is David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King, which sees the director teaming up with his Hell or High Water star Chris Pine to tell the story of legendary Scottish monarch Robert the Bruce. Expect a Braveheart-style mix of epic storytelling and gritty realism.

In addition to Outlaw King, Netflix has acquired a number of films from respected filmmakers that will play in Toronto. This includes Jeremy Saulnier’s Alaska-set thriller Hold the Dark, Nicole Holofcener’s domestic drama The Land of Steady Habits, Paul Greengrass’ film about the 2011 terror attacks in Norway 22 July, and Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical Roma. It’s an impressive lineup, and the quality – plus Netflix’s recent original film successes – suggest this promising crop might fare better than the platform’s former, often-buried releases.

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