As a movie obsessive, I'm pretty heartbroken to not be at the Toronto Film Festival this year, especially since the lineup just may be the most impressive I've ever seen. With 366 movies on the schedule (including feature-length and shorts), I wouldn't be surprised if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by your choices. To help you out, here are the six that I've been dying to see ever since I first learned of their inception. Plus, there's a good chance we'll be seeing these touted as Oscar contenders the moment they're screened.
If you're not in Toronto right now, not to worry because unlike other film fests — I'm looking at you Sundance — TIFF tends to screen movies that already have upcoming wide release dates, so we won't have to wait two years to see something.
Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
12 Years a Slave
Release Date: October 17
It's no secret that I have been dying to see 12 Years a Slave ever since director Steve McQueen (known for Hunger and Shame, both starring Michael Fassbender) announced it in 2011, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. By the time the rest of the cast was lined up (including Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and Paul Dano — no big deal) I was beside myself with excitement. The historical drama is based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery. Separated from his family, he worked on plantations in Louisiana for 12 years before he was finally released.
If the standing ovation at TIFF is anything to go by, with critics applauding the film's acting, direction, screenplay, production and score, this just may be the best movie you'll see in years. Though the film has award season buzz surrounding it, try to check the movie out before reading any in-depth reviews. If you don't want to listen to me, listen to Ejiofor, who has said he'd prefer people seeing it without the hype so they can reflect on it in their own way. If the rumors are true though, the Oscar race for Best Actor ended with his performance. Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Release Date: October 4
I've had a soft spot for Alfonso Cuarón ever since I first saw A Little Princess in 1995 (that's right, I'm taking it way back). The talented Mexico City-born director continued on to make Great Expectations, Y Tu Mamá También, and Children of Men — he even directed one of the Harry Potter flicks. His most recent film Gravity (which he co-wrote, co-produced and co-edited) is only 91 minutes long and is about two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) stranded in space after their shuttle is mostly destroyed by satellite debris. The movie has been surrounded by hype for months now, with early reports on the filming style (with super long takes) and the silent reflection of space (for instance, you may hear explosions in the trailer but they are silent in the actual film). James Cameron even told Variety, "I think it's the best space photography ever done, I think it's the best space film ever done, and it's the movie I've been hungry to see for an awful long time." Photo Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures
The Fifth Estate
Release Date: October 18
Directed by Bill Condon (let's forget about Twilight, shall we?), The Fifth Estate is a dramatic thriller based in-part on Daniel Domscheit-Berg's book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World's Most Dangerous Website. The film follows WikiLeaks editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange and its former spokesperson Domscheit-Berg, as they struggle to expose deceptions and corruptions amongst the most powerful names involved with the Internet upstart. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl — as well as the future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi — this is the film of the 21st century.
Cumberbatch also stars in a third TIFF film, August: Osage County. Photo Courtesy of Film 4
Under the Skin
Release Date: August 29
Possibly the strangest flick playing this year, Under the Skin is director Jonathan Glazer's (Sexy Beast and Birth) attempt to out-Kubrick all other contemporary filmmakers. Adapted from Michel Faber's novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of a sexy alien (Scarlett Johansson) who was sent to Earth to snatch up hitchhikers in Scotland. Responses have been positive, with many impressed with Glazer's pacing and the flick's inevitable future as a cult classic. Photo Courtesy of Exclusive Media
Can a Song Save Your Life?
Release Date: September/TBA
All I need to know about this musical drama is that it's written and directed by John Carney, the genius behind Once. As the former bassist of The Frames (the singer of which, Glen Hansard, starred in Once), Carney stretches his filmmaking even further with this high-profile flick. The movie is about aspiring singer Gretta (Keira Knightley) as she deals with the end of her long-term relationship with a celebrity (Adam Levine). Finding help — and love — in the form of a record producer (Mark Ruffalo) and a hip-hop star (Cee Lo Green), Gretta embarks on a journey to make herself into a successful performer.
Music fans will clamor for this considering Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois (of the New Radicals), famed songwriter Rick Nowels, Carney himself, and Glen Hansard all contributed new musical material for the movie. Will Carney be able to recapture the magic he wove into the Irish indie Once or will having a reasonable budget and filming permits this time derail the whole thing? Photo Courtesy of Focus Features
Dallas Buyers Club
Release Date: November 1
Remember the days when we used to mock people for being a fan of Matthew McConaughey? That couldn't have just been me. The guy didn't have a very good track record prior to The Lincoln Lawyer, but ever since he's been rapidly proving himself as a formidable actor and I've had to eat my rash judgments. In Dallas Buyers Club he plays a man with HIV struggling to find medical treatment, eventually smuggling alternative medicine for the masses with a transgender woman (played by Jared Leto). McConaughey dropped 38 pounds for the role (Leto also lost 30) — which is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof — and we all know how much critics love it when performers drop weight for a part (how's that Oscar doing, Anne Hathaway?).