As usual, there are few surprises in the newly unveiled lineup for September’s Toronto Film Festival — which is largely because, as usual, the lineup consists of pretty much everything.
We know by now to expect a cherry-picked selection of proven successes from previous festivals, including Cannes (“The Artist,” “Drive,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Melancholia”), Sundance (“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Tyrannosaur,” “Take Shelter”) and Berlin (“Coriolanus”). Equally, and of more interest to festival veterans, there’s the usual generous handful of prestige US premieres, many of them with an eye on awards season — including Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball,” Rodrigo Garcia’s Glenn Close vehicle “Albert Nobbs” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt.”
Meanwhile, the Toronto lineup also offers some pointers as to what we can (and can’t) expect to see at Venice only days before. It was already in ink that George Clooney’s Lido curtain-raiser “The Ides of March” would play both fests; now, thanks to the TIFF classifying them as “North American” rather than “World” premieres, we can confirm (albeit to no raised eyebrows) that David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe,” Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse” and Madonna’s “W.E.” will also do the double.
Less expected is that Terence Davies’ first narrative film in a decade, “The Deep Blue Sea” — a Terrence Rattigan adaptation with a plum role for Rachel Weisz that most festival-watchers had pegged for a Venice debut — will instead be unveiled in the Canadian chill. (Guess that solves the problem of a potentially awkward situation for Venice jury president Darren Aronofsky.) It’s not Weisz’s only film getting a Toronto premiere: also appearing is Fernando Meirelles’ “360,” a modern-day “La Ronde” riff in which she stars opposite Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins. (Between these two and last year’s soon-to-open Toronto title “The Whistleblower,” this has the potential to be a very big year for Weisz indeed.)
Other big-name prospects that Toronto attendees will get dibs on include Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz” (with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen), Jonathan Levine’s “50/50,” Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic (!) “The Lady,” Cameron Crowe’s rock doc “Pearl Jam Twenty” and, of most interest to me personally, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Kristin Scott Thomas-Ethan Hawke starrer “Woman in the Fifth” — the British-Polish director’s first film since 2004’s “My Summer of Love.” And so on and so forth — check out the current lineup, which will no doubt grow in the coming weeks, here.
Already, meanwhile, the speculation can start over what film will take the festival’s lone major prize, the Audience Award — an honor that may carry less prestige and glamor that certain European festival trophies, but has proven a major awards-season bellwether in recent years. “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Precious” and “The King’s Speech” all did very nicely for themselves after taking the award; this year, my gut tells me to place an early bet on The Weinstein Company’s “The Artist” riding it all the way to a stack of Oscar nods.
We may still be enjoying the summer up here, but with Venice a little over a month away (and set to reveal its own official lineup on Thursday), the season already looms large.
[Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures]