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Toronto Film Festival 2017: 30 Movies We Can’t Wait to See

From Oscar potentials to Lady Gaga and Grace Jones docs and a secret Louis C.K. movie, our must-see picks for the fest

Toronto Film Festival 2017: 30 Movies We Can't Wait to See

The 30 movies we can't wait to see at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival – from Oscar-bound dramas to a Lady Gaga doc (and a secret Louis CK comedy).

TIFF (3)

Even if the Toronto International Film Festival was simply the unofficial beginning of the prestige-movie–dropping, Oscar-obsessing, A-listing awards season – the tail end of a three-fest starting gate along with Venice and Telluride – it would still be considered an autumn hot spot for movie lovers. Where else can you catch so many potential “and the winner is …” nominees, the films that everybody will be debating and discussing (or dismissing from the Oscars conversation), in one fell swoop? 

Still, the fest, which kicks off on September 7th and runs through the 18th, is apt to remind folks, it isn’t just a platform or pit-stop on the way to the Kodak Theatre’s podium. It’s also got something for genre-movie freaks, disciples of documentaries and those who want off-the-beaten-path viewing. You can catch up on Cannes favorites and other foreign-film delights. A TV sidebar, you say? Yup, it has one of those too.

Is it a lot, or even occasionally, way too much? Of course. But the ability to sample so much different moviegoing in one place – to survey the state of the art form, as much as one can these days – is why so many of us keep tracking up to the Canadian city year after year. And after poring through the 42nd edition’s lineup, we’ve singled out 30 movies we’re dying to check out (and a few gems we can’t recommend enough). Best Picture wannabes and biopics, docs on Obama and Lady Gaga, experimental riffs on Seventies exploitation movies and Fifties noirs, old-school Westerns, new-school digital filmmaking tricks and a secret Louis CK movie in black and white – here’s what we’re excited to see at TIFF 2017. Go north, young men and women.

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘Professor Marston & the Wonder Women’

You’ve seen Gal Gadot’s Amazonian superhero fight bad guys and deflect bullets – now find out where the legendary Wonder Woman came from. One of two projects set to examine the intriguing love-triangle origin story behind the comic book character’s creation, Angela Robinson’s drama follows 1920s university professor William Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) as the couple’s interest in comely college co-ed Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) becomes more than academic. Soon, polyamory, role-playing and a healthy amount of kink inspires the teacher to start penning stories about a strong woman – one with a lasso of truth, and invisible plane and a penchant for getting tied up.

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘The Rider’

A surprise hit out of Cannes, Chloé Zhao’s look at a rodeo-circuit regular picking up the pieces of his life after a head injury doubles as the coronation of a major filmmaking talent. Featuring real-life former competitive rider Brady Jandreau (in what’s supposedly a loose riff on his own story), the movie follows the modern-day cowboy as his career is cut short, his purpose for life is questioned and his bond with horses keeps him from going off the deep end. It’s a take on Western iconography via an intimate character study, and could very well be the left-field antidote to this year’s awards-season bloat.

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘The Shape of Water’

When you’re a janitor at a U.S. government laboratory in the early 1960s, there’s a good chance you may stumble across a few super-top-secret projects – like, say, plans for how to defeat the Commies, or maybe a fish-man (!) who the Feds want to use as a weapon. Sally Hawkins is the custodian determined to find out more about this mysterious creature; Doug Jones is the amphibian humanoid in question; Michael Shannon is the gung-ho agent who may have it out for the “monster.” A new Guillermo del Toro movie is always a big deal, and this sounds like the perfect vehicle designed to hit his horror-with-heart-and-lots-of-baroque-goopiness sweet spot. 

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘The Square’

Ah yes, the modern art world – so ripe for being ribbed! The latest from Swedish director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) observes a museum curator (Claes Bang) getting pickpocketed and having his phone swiped in an elaborate scam; his quest to retrieve his stuff and maybe get a little revenge ends up leading to a downward spiral of sorts. Meanwhile, Östlund proceeds to aim both barrels at the high-art culture that turns postmodern chin-strokers into celebrities and parallel mounds of dirts into a “masterpiece.” Elisabeth Moss and The Wire‘s Dominic West show up as a journalist and an earthwork sculptor, respectively; an extended set piece involving a performance artist pretending to be an ape at a fundraiser will have you both cracking up and chewing your fingernails down to the quick.

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘Suburbicon’

George Clooney has long history with the Coen brothers – and given that the siblings co-wrote this script and it’s stocked with past collaborators, this Clooney-directed noirish romp looks more than a little Coencentric. A henpecked everyschlub (Matt Damon) wants to knock off his wife so he can hook up with his sister-in-law (both played by Julianne Moore). Everything goes according to plan, until an insurance agent (Oscar Isaac) starts snooping around. Some old-fashioned murder, masculine temper tantrums and criminal being caught up in their own lies and deceit? Yes, please.

40 Movies TIFF 2017

TIFF

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

A mother (Frances McDormand) is fed up with the lack of progress on the investigation of her daughter’s murder. So she does what any indignant, righteous matriarch would do: She posts three large billboards – we’ll let you determine the exact location, although y’know, see title – that accuse local law-enforcement of sleeping on the job. The police chief (Woody Harrelson) is naturally peeved, and soon, a bad situation gets worse. A lot worse. Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) has a way of making obscene insults sing and coaxing great left-field performances out of actors. The idea of him paired with the take-no-shit Oscar-winning McDormand is enough to make your head spin.

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