Yes, film fans, the Toronto International Film Festival begins today, kicking off an eleven-day all-you-can-eat buffet of prestige pictures, foreign films, genre sleepers, high-profile documentaries, and more, Jesus, so much more, they just show so many movies, good God. TIFF performs several functions for the film industry, press, and audience: splashily pushing the fall’s big awards hopefuls (though you won’t hear about that here), scoping out buyers for independent productions, and laying out movies we’ll hear about for the next year (or more). Our daily coverage begins Monday; in the meantime, here is a bit of what we’re looking forward to.
I Love You Daddy
Louis C.K. just loves to make secret stuff. Back in 2011, he did a surprise release, on his website, of his Live at the Beacon Theater special; last year, he used the same method to drop the pilot episode of his sit-tragic-comedy, Horace and Pete, which no one even knew about until it appeared there. And now he’s using TIFF to debut this feature film, which he shot in secret over the summer, on black-and-white 35mm film, with a cast that includes Louie himself, Chloe Grace Moretz (as his daughter), John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Helen Hunt, and Pamela Aldon. His previous feature film was 2001’s Pootie Tang, a critical and financial failure that nonetheless has a devoted cult audience (and plenty of stories about destruction via studio interference); his only other feature is the 1998 indie Tomorrow Night, which played Sundance and disappeared for a decade and a half, until it appeared on his website in 2014. So the medium of film hasn’t been quite as compatible to his sensibility as television, but hey, maybe this one’ll turn that around.
Yes, I know, the name Aaron Sorkin doesn’t exactly inspire the flutters and enthusiasm it did, a decade or so ago. But just a reminder: he’s sort of the reverse Louis C.K., in that people mostly turned on him on account of Studio 60 and (especially) The Newsroom, but his screenplays for The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs were top-shelf (and, in the case of Network, Oscar-winning) stuff. He makes his directorial debut with this based-on-a-true-story account of the world’s most exclusive poker game – and the woman who ran it, played by Jessica Chastain. Idris Elba co-stars, making this officially the most attractive movie at TIFF.
The Death of Stalin
Between The Thick of It and Veep, Armondo Ianucci made In the Loop, one of the sharpest and most savage political satires of all time. After departing Veep, he went back to movie-making, co-writing and directing this period comedy based on Fabien Nury’s graphic novel (and, y’know, history). The trailer is a scream and the cast is to die for: Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Toby Kebbell, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Andrea Riseborough, and the ubiquitous comedy stylings of Mr. Jeffrey Tambor.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to Brie Larson’s career shouldn’t be surprised that she’s slipped into the director’s chair – she’s been directing short films since 2013 (when her Weighting debuted at SXSW), and in our interview with her that year, she talked at length about her far-from-casual cinephilia. So her love for the Criterion Collection will offset the slight fear that the logline for her feature debut – it’s “about a dreamer reluctant to abandon her childish wonder who is offered the most magical gift she can imagine” – sounds impossibly twee. Remember Ebert’s Law: it’s not what a movie’s about, but how it’s about it.
Lynn Shelton has been one of Flavorwire’s low-key favorite filmmakers, thanks to insightful and often uproarious comedy/dramas like Your Sister’s Sister, Touchy Feely, and Laggies . It’s been three long years since her last feature (though she’s directed plenty of very good TV in the interim), but this one looks like it was worth the wait; it boasts an always-welcome starring turn for the great Edie Falco, alongside Jay Duplass (who co-writes with Shelton), Laggies’ excellent Kaitlyn Dever, and Ben Schwartz.
We’re still recovering from the cancellation of his peerless HBO series Enlightened, but Mike White has kept himself busy this year, writing last summer’s Beatriz at Dinner for longtime collaborator Miguel Arteta and both writing and directing this fall feature (his second, after 2007’s Year of the Dog) for Amazon Studios. (He also has a screenplay credit on The Emoji Movie, but there’s no need to get ugly here.) Ben Stiller, apparently working the middle-aged ennui vibe he’s done so well for Noah Baumbach recently, stars as a father taking his son on a college tour; Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Jemaine Clement co-star.
Downsizing / Suburbicon
Who’s up for a Matt Damon double feature? (That’d be me, that’s my hand going up.) In Downsizing, Damon teams up with director Alexander Payne for a sci-fi/social satire mash-up about the advantages of self-shrinking; Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, Christoph Waltz, and Jason Sudeikis co-star; notices out of Telluride last weekend were mixed, but who cares, half these people didn’t realize Nebraska was a masterpiece.
It’s his first time working with Payne, but Suburbicon is Damon’s sixth film alongside George Clooney (seventh, if you count the cameo in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) – though here, for the first time, Clooney directs without acting. He also co-wrote the script, with his regular collaborator Grant Heslov and the Coen Brothers, and pulled in Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac for support.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There are two types of moviegoers in this world: those who know the truth about In Bruges (namely, that it’s one of the great crime pictures of our time) and those who don’t. The former are practically salivating for the latest from writer/director Martin McDonagh, who reteams with Sam Rockwell (star of his less-acclaimed-but-also-very-good Bruges follow-up Seven Psychopaths) and another enviable cast, including Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Abby Cornish, John Hawkes, and (oh yes, oh hell yes) Frances McDormand.
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro directs and co-writes. Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg co-star. Doug Jones plays a fish-man. Look, I’m not sure what else you need me to sell you here.
Our daily TIFF diaries begin Monday, September 11th. Check out the festival’s full schedule here.