It doesn’t feel like autumn really starts — not for film lovers and awards-season pundits, at least — until the Toronto International Film Festival kicks into gear. Sure, the is-it-Oscar-winning? drums have already started beating after the one-two punch of Venice and Telluride. Yet it’s this gathering of filmmakers, A-list stars, critics and those who still believe in the power of movies, up here in the Great White North, that tend to officially kick off campaigns or, in some cases, smother them in their cribs before they have even started. When the festival kicks off it’s 11-day run on September 8th, it will be the first or second stop for many folks on what may be a long, hard slog to that final red carpet in the spring. And for many of us who simply want to see great films without dudes in capes or more CGI than flesh and bone, it’s our first look at what people will be chattering about for most of the next few months.
If TIFF was nothing but an Oscar preamble, of course, it would simply be an industry shindig and little else. It’s also a great showcase for documentaries, foreign-language fare, offbeat midnight movies, experimental cinema, a few TV projects of interest (their “Primetime” sidebar programming has been solid the last few years) and a good deal of homegrown talent that get to play for an audience without borders. We’ve singled out 25 movies from this year’s Toronto fest lineup — from what’s arguably the definitive Tupac Shakur docuseries to the all-star Knives Out sequel, a highly personal family drama from Steven Spielberg to the long-awaited biopic of “Weird” Al Yankovic — that we can’t wait to check out.