TIFF 2013: MovieManMenzel’s Top 20 Picks for the 38th Annual Toronto Film Festival

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No matter whether or not you attend film festivals regularly or are a complete newbie to the festival scene, one thing for certain; picking which film to see is always a challenge. With over 300 films to choose from at the Toronto Film Festival this year, picking the right movies to check out seems almost impossible.

Now, there are many who go to festivals simply to attend the big premieres where all the celebrities’ flock, while others simply go to see films that they know or are uncertain that they will ever make it to their local cinema.  Honestly, having so many choses is really the greatest thing about festivals because there is so much variety to choose from that even if you can’t see something you wanted to you have plenty of other options as backups.

To be perfectly honest, I highly recommend seeing a wide-variety of films. Yes, it is a ton of fun to see and attend the huge celebrity premieres, but usually it’s the smaller indie or foreign films that will really knock your socks off. When you are about to attend Tiff or any other film festival, you should really sit down and read the plot descriptions of a lot of the films showing and go from that rather than just looking for the big name star that is attached to the project.

Also, you might be surprised that at many of the more popular festivals there are a lot of smaller unknown films that have some really noteworthy actors or actresses attached to them. Now, with all that being said, below you will find a combination of both big premieres and smaller indie gems that I feel will be worth checking out at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

Big Premieres:

12 Years A Slave: Director Steve McQueen may not be a household name to everyone, but those of us who deem themselves as film fanatics are very well versed in his controversial filmography especially after the success of Shame back in 2011. There is no hiding that his fans are highly anticipating 12 Years a Slave, which has its premiere screening on Friday, September 6, 2013 at the Roy Thomson Theater at 6:00pm

August: Osage County: This film is the big screen adaptation of the popular stage play and stars some of the best actresses in the business including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.  I can safely say without much hesitation that August: Osage County will be generating a lot of pre-Award season buzz after its premiere at the Roy Thomson Hall on Monday, September 9, 2013 at 6:30pm.

Dallas Buyers Club: I will admit that a few years ago, you would never hear me recommend anyone to see a Matthew McConaughey film, but after seeing him in things like Bernie and Mud, I have to admit he has become an actor to keep your eye on.  The Dallas Buyers Club is probably of the most talked about films at Tiff this year because of the story but also due to the fact that McConaughey went all Christian Bale and lost a crazy amount of weight to look and feel as if he was actually suffering from HIV. This is another film that I feel will get some early award season buzz going after people how McConaughey transformed himself to play the part. The film holds its premiere on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at the Princess of Wales Theatre at 10pm.

Gravity: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are two names that always sell tickets to almost everyone, but when you add director Alfonso Cuaron into the mix and you have an indie film lover’s wet dream.  This science fiction film will probably not go over well with the mainstream audience due to how Cuaron focuses more on characters and plot rather than special effects and explosions, but the early buzz from its premiere at the Venice festival has me pumped to see it. The film has its big premiere at the Princess of Wales Theater on Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 6:30pm.

The Fifth Estate: While I don’t think the Fifth Estate will be the most talked about big star stunned premiere at Tiff this year, I do think this political thriller will be a must see. The Bill Condon-directed feature is sure to have amazing performances all around, especially with a cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl. The movie is based on true events (what movie isn’t nowadays?) and has a really interesting story to tell. Unlike the other big premieres at the festival, The Fifth Estate has two big premiere screenings: one of Thursday, September 5, 2013 at the Visa Screening Room also known as the Elgin Theatre at 6:30pm and at 8pm at the Roy Thomson Hall on the same name.

Kill Your Darlings: This film, which I saw at Sundance back in January, truly blew me away. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe and Dean DeHaan as the two leads and the film is a truly a remarkable tale. Kill Your Darlings not only features a really powerful story along with a memorable ending but really stellar performances by everyone involved. If you haven’t seen this film and can get into the premiere screening at the Roy Thomson Hall on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 6:30pm, I highly recommend you check it out.

Labor Day: It didn’t matter to me who was starring in this film, it only mattered that Jason Reitman was directing, but with Kate Winslet as the lead, consider me sold! Reitman has become one of my favorite directors and he is someone who truly knows how to direct his actors and tell a great story. Several of his previous films including Thank You For Smoking, Up in the Air and Juno were films that I put on my best of the year list so I am only hoping that Labor Day does not disappear those of us who are big fans.  Labor Day’s big premiere is being held at the Ryerson Theater on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:00pm

You Are Here: This film surprisingly hasn’t really generated much buzz especially with big name stars like Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Jenna Fischer, and Amy Poehler attached. It’s plot, which is centered around two friends going on a road trip after learning they have inherited a large sum of money, sounds generic but I am looking to see how this cast works interacts with one another. The film has its premiere at 3pm on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at the Ryerson Theatre.

Small Indies with Big Names:

Bad Words: This film marks the directorial debut of actor Jason Bateman. Now, while Bateman has never wowed me with any of his roles outside of Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, I have always been a fan of him and his persona in films. I am very curious to see what Bateman can see when he has full control over a project and since he has pulled a Woody Allen and has written, directed, and starred in Bad Words I am interested to see the results about a film centered around a spelling bee. Bad Words premieres on Friday, September 6, 2013 at the Ryerson Theatre at 9:30pm.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her: Remember how I said earlier that you shouldn’t just look at a cast and decide to see a film at Tiff? Well this one is the exception to the rule. This film that features the acting talents of Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, and James McAvoy just to name a few. This is a two film series that tells the story of a relationship from two different perspectives. It premieres at 2pm on Monday, September 9, 2013 at the Elgin Theater.

The F Word: A love story featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Definitely a weird pairing and since the director of this film directed Fubar, I am sure this will be whacky and over the top silly. It might not be for everyone, but its definitely something that I doubt anyone has seen either been a part of before. The F Word premieres on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at the Ryerson Theatre at 9pm.

Fading Gigolo: Woody Allen as a pimp. Need I say more? I didn’t think so. The premiere screening will be held at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Saturday, September 7,2013 at 9:45pm.

Hateship Loveship: Kristen WiIg in a serious drama? Say-What? When I read the plot description, which is about suicide and looked at the cast, I said this film is either going to really boost my opinion of Wiig or its just going to confirm the fact that she should never have left SNL. Regardless of how it is, I think it’s worth seeing simply to see Wiig in a lead role that actually regards her to do more than act goofy. The film will be premiering at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 2:30pm

Palo Alto: A movie based on a book written by James Franco and the film is directed by yet another Coppola family member trying to make a name in the film world. The movie is rumored to contain very explicit material involving Emma Roberts and truly showcase her as an actress. I personally like Roberts and have been waiting to see her shine, maybe this will be her chance, maybe it won’t, but I am still curious enough to see it.  The premiere screening is set for Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9pm at the Scotiabank 4 Theater.

Truly Indie:

All the Wrong Reasons:  The main reason I was interested in seeing this is simply because it’s the final starring role for Cory Monteith from Glee, who just passed away in July. I am a big Gleek, even if the show doesn’t hold the same awesomeness that it once had, but in addition, I always found Monteith to be rather talented. Tiff is premiering both of Cory’s final films, the other being, McCanick, but All The Wrong Reasons looks much more promising than the other. It focuses on Montieth’s character as he manages a grocery store and deals with all the drama of his life in the process.

Antboy: The title and plot description didn’t sell me on this one, but after seeing the trailer I was pretty intrigued to see this little film about a little boy, who gets bitten by an ant and becomes, yep you guessed it, Antboy. The film looks like harmless fun and while I don’t think its going to be anything that will win any awards, its always nice to see something cute and harmless at a film festival since the vast majority of the films playing are usually heavy dramas.

Around the Block: Christina Ricci returns to the indie scene in this film where she tries to reach out to underprivileged youths. This movie can go either way, but considering how much I loved Short Term 12 earlier this year, this movie has a very similar feel to it so I am very interested in seeing it. Not to mention, it has Christina Ricci, who honestly has done some really solid work in terms of indie filmmaking even if most of it has gone unnoticed.

Blue is the Warmest Color: The film that took the Cannes film festival by storm is now making its way to Tiff. I basically have always been a fan of romantic films that are both foreign and deal with subject matter that makes the masses uncomfortable so hearing great word of mouth about this film from Cannes really sold this. Please be aware that this movie is about lesbians, it is almost 3 hours long, and it is also French. This will definitely not be a film for the inexperienced indie filmgoer.

Fat: The plot description on this one really sold me. I used to be really heavy and honestly I still love food even though I learned how to control myself from over indulging. The film itself is about food addition and really looks interested based on the trailer. Its about a guy, who really can’t give up his love for food and doesn’t find himself attracted to women who are heavy. This movie looks like it’s going to address a couple of areas on weight, but also prove to be a powerful story.  I am truly curious to see how this one pans out.

Young & Beautiful: French filmmaker François Ozon brings us another film about a young beautiful woman. I was introduced to Ozon when I saw Swimming Pool way back in 2003 and honestly really dug what Ozon did in terms of crafting an erotic and suspenseful film. Ozon has been at Tiff several times over the years and sadly his films aren’t noticed that widely here in the states or in Canada, but the Frenchies really do did Ozon. If you don’t mind films that are pretty sexually driven, but usually tell a good story, I would recommend checking out this one.

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