jojo rabbit trailer

The lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival feels like a smorgasbord of cinematic treats that promise an exciting fall movie season indeed. From well-regarded entries at other festivals to premieres of new work, there’s a lot we’re looking forward to. That said, there are more than 300 movies on the schedule this year, and nobody has that much stamina. With that in mind, we’ve created a few categories to highlight some of this year’s most exciting titles. Here’s what we’re looking forward to seeing in Toronto this week and beyond.

Dolemite Is My Name Trailer

Most promising biopic

This year’s festival boasts several biopics with intriguing talent in front of and behind the camera. Judy stars Rene Zellweger in a possible comeback role as Judy Garland in the last year of her life. Dolemite is my Name gives us Eddie Murphy as 70s comedian Rudy Ray Moore, directed by Hustle and Flow’s Craig Brewer. Radioactive, from graphic novelist-turned-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, The Voices), tells the story of Marie Curie. Finally, writer and director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) directs Harriet. The biopic of Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) is Lemmons’ first feature film in six years.

Our pick: Dolemite is My Name. There are interesting options here (Lemmons making a long-overdue Tubman biopic being one of them), but it’s thrilling to see Eddie Murphy lighting up the screen again, and he’s got a wealth of talent (Tituss Burgess, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes, to name just a few) backing him up.

the laundromat trailer

Most promising movie based on a true story

Scott Z. Burns’ The Report, about the discovery of the CIA’s post-911 torture tactics, got good notices out of Sundance. Burns also produced and wrote Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, a similarly-themed story about the Panama Papers leak. James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari covers the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which pitted a pair of engineers (Matt Damon and Christian Bale) against Italian auto titan Ferrari. Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts looks like a real-life steampunk adventure with its true tale of hot air balloon pilots and early meteorology.

Our pick: The Laundromat sounds like vintage Soderbergh, combining the wide-ranging cast and real-world implications of Traffic with the satirical sensibilities of The Informant! It’s also got a hell of a cast. Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright and Gary Oldman, working alongside one of contemporary cinema’s most consistently interesting directors? Sold.

Most exciting breakout director

Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds made a moderate splash in 2017. His follow-up, Bad Education, features a much bigger, flashier ensemble. Similarly, Synchronic is the fourth feature from indie horror directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Spring, The Endless), and features a bigger budget and a big-name cast. The mid century sci-fi adventure The Vast of Night was a favorite at Fantasia earlier this year, and good buzz at TIFF could mean first-time director Andrew Patterson is headed for big things. Minhal Baig’s Hala, a success at Sundance, looks like the kind of unique, personal story that made Lulu Wang’s The Farewell such a hit this summer, and stars up-and-comer Geraldine Viswanathan.

Our picks: Andrew Patterson and Minhal Baig. Released footage for The Vast of Night looks and sounds incredible. Its Amblin-inspired aesthetic and Welcome to Night Vale-style subject matter would be a perfect mainstream catapult for any filmmaker. Baig is also coming off a good Sundance run, and Hala has already been acquired by Apple for their streaming service, which suggests she’s someone to watch.

The Goldfinch trailer

Most exciting breakout actor

A number of emerging performers feature in this year’s festival selections. Stranger Things season three favorite Maya Hawke appears in the drama Human Capital. Booksmart’s Beanie Feldstein finally gets the spotlight all to herself in the coming-of-age tale How to Build a Girl. Bad Education features the talents of three promising upstarts: Alex Wolff, Geraldine Viswanathan and Rafael Casal. Dunkirk standout Aneurin Barnard shows up in three TIFF selections: The Personal History of David Copperfield, The Goldfinch and Radioactive.

Our picks: Viswanathan and Casal. Between Bad Education and Hala, plus her selection by the festival as a TIFF ‘19 Rising Star, it looks like Toronto will be Viswanathan’s coming out party. It’ll also be exciting to see more from Casal, who made a great impression in last year’s Blindspotting as Daveed Diggs’ mouthy best friend, Miles.

David Copperfield movie

Most impressive ensemble

Another big theme this fall: stacked casts. The Report and The Laundromat both feature a murderer’s row of talent. John Crowley’s awards-friendly The Goldfinch has a practically Dickensian rogue’s gallery of characters and great actors playing them. It’s only outdone by an actual Dickens adaptation, The Personal History of David Copperfield, brought to us by satire master Armando Iannucci. Finally, Rian Johnson’s muder mystery Knives Out puts in juicy-looking turns from Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and America’s ass himself, Chris Evans.   

Our pick: The Personal History of David Copperfield features Dev Patel as David, alongside other actors of color including Benedict Wong and Rosalind Eleazar. The diverse, massive ensemble also includes Iannucci’s In the Loop vulgarian maestro, Peter Capaldi, playing against type as the optimistic Mr. Micawber. All this, plus Iannucci’s self-professed status as a Dickens superfan, makes his Copperfield adaptation worth getting excited for. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Trailer

Movie most likely to make us cry

The tearjerker category includes the Mister Rogers movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in which Tom Hanks promises to conjure tears just by saying the words “Hello, Neighbor.” There’s also Just Mercy, Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s memoir about fighting against wrongful incarceration. Ken Loach’s latest, Sorry We Missed You, depicts a working-class family struggling with debt. Finally, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story looks like a realistic, loving portrayal of a union on the rocks.  

Our Pick: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s impossible to witness Fred Rogers’ astounding kindness without being moved. That this movie is based on a real friendship between Rogers and writer Tom Junod makes it all the more touching. Hopefully, director Marielle Heller brings the same patient, empathetic approach that worked so well with last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. We’ll probably be in tears by the opening credits.  

making of joker

Most promising New York (or New York-inspired) Movie

Several movies at TIFF present specific takes on the Big Apple, both in its actual form and in fictional cities inspired by it. Todd Phillips’ Joker takes place in a Gotham based on 80s New York. The footage we’ve seen so far certainly captures that seedy atmosphere. Josh and Benny Safdie have made a career out of depicting New York seediness, a career which now includes their new film, Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler as a shady jeweller. Edward Norton’s Jonathan Lethem adaptation Motherless Brooklyn is a New York crime drama set in the 50s. The Goldfinch’s heart also lies in the museums, antique stores and penthouses of New York.  

Our Pick: Uncut Gems. An Abel Ferrara-like gritty drama is the perfect thing to tide eager Safdie fans over until the brothers finally do their 48 Hours remake, which was announced last December. Sandler’s proven he can put in impressive dramatic performances when he lets himself do so, and “sleazy New York jeweller” seems like a perfect fit for him. 

Jojo Rabbit Comedy

Most exciting movie by a cult favorite director

This category contains an embarrassment of riches. Taika Waititi and Rian Johnson each have anticipated follow-ups (Jojo Rabbit and Knives Out, respectively) to their entries in major movie franchises. Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space is director Richard Stanley’s first feature-length narrative since he was booted from The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1996. Rubbers Quentin Dupieux is back with Deerskin, in which Jean Dujardin really loves his leather jacket. Astronaut drama Lucy in the Sky represents director Noah Hawley’s big jump from idiosyncratic TV (Fargo, Legion) to idiosyncratic movies. Trey Edward Shults’ Waves also sounds promising. New work from the Krisha and It Comes at Night director is exciting, but just as intriguing is that no two descriptions of it read quite the same. Is it a musical? A family drama? A young adult romance? Early writeups make it sound like anything is possible.

Our pick: It’s hard to choose, but Jojo Rabbit is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Those who have been following the movie’s production know that the comedy about a little boy whose imaginary best friend is Adolf Hitler–played by Waititi–know we should be in for something really special. Expect the weirdness and underlying heart of Waititi’s original works like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy, but with added urgency and edge.

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