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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

What We Learned Today from the TIFF Announcement

After two years of working under the restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is back in full force, as they announced today their full slate of Galas and Special Presentations. Previously announced titles such as The Fabelmans, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Woman King, and My Policeman have now been joined by dozens of other works by both revered masters and newcomers.

Here’s a breakdown of all the things we learned today:

A Hint at the Telluride Premieres

Just as it happens every time TIFF makes their big announcement, they strongly signal which films will make a stop at the Telluride Film Festival. Based on the premiere statuses of several films in today’s announcement, whether it be a World, Canadian, International, or North American, we can compile a pretty robust prediction list (of only confirmed titles) for the Telluride selection:

Going to Venice first, and then to Telluride: Bardo, Bones & All, TAR

Going to Telluride first, and then to TIFF: Empire of Light, The Wonder, Women Talking

Going from Cannes to Telluride first, and then to TIFF: Broker, Holy Spider, One Fine Morning

Cannes Films Go on Tour

Every year the top 5-6 from the Cannes Film Festival go on their annual fall festival tour, usually playing any combination of TIFF, Telluride, and the New York Film Festival. In recent years, Cannes selections such as Parasite, A Hidden Life, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The French Dispatch, A Hero, and Drive My Car made the rounds in order to drum up support to fuel their Oscar chances.

This year’s batch of travelers appears to be led by Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner, Triangle of Sadness, which will be looking to get an equally great reception from the Canadian audience. Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, along with Broker and Holy Spider represents the other official competition titles. And then The Hunt, Corsage, and One Fine Morning will be coming from the other Cannes sidebars.

One could guess that the other Cannes films with less buzz (but still with great reviews) like Leila’s Brothers and Stars at Noon could be announced at a later date.

Two puzzling omissions from today’s announcement were two A24 films in Lukas Dhont’s Close, which tied for the second place Grand Prize, and Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, which received some of the highest acclaim of any film to play at Cannes.

A Few More Puzzling Omissions

Of course, at this time last year, TIFF had not announced titles such as Dune, The Power of the Dog, Spencer, Memoria, A Hero, Titane, and The Humans, all of which would be announced at a later date and play at the festival. So there is still potential for the festival to announce other titles for this year’s lineup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t bring up some of the big omissions at this time.

First off, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Bardo is nowhere to be found at the moment. The film is reported to be Netflix’s highest awards prospect, so it would seem logical for them to take it to every stop they could. The same can be said about Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, which will open this year’s Venice International Film Festival. One would think Netflix would treat Baumbach’s newest film similar to Marriage Story, where they begin with Venice and then proceeded to make all the other stops.

Piggybacking off those two films are a bunch of other predicted Venice imports that haven’t shown up yet, such as Bones & All, Don’t Worry Darling, and TAR. Considering that Florence Pugh and Harry Styles will already be in attendance at TIFF with The Wonder and My Policeman, respectively, it's quite strange to see Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling left out.

The Return of Previous Festival Winners

The People’s Choice Award at TIFF has always been a coveted prize for any film looking to be a top Oscar contender. In fact, you’d have to go back to 2011’s Where Do We Go Now to find a People’s Choice Award winner that was not nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. Recent winners at TIFF include La La Land, The Imitation Game, Room, Jojo Rabbit, Nomadland, and Belfast.

A few recipients of this award will be returning this year, such as Green Book writer/director Peter Farrelly with The Greatest Beer Run Ever, starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, and Bill Murray. Apple TV+ will be handling the distribution, so a big splashy premiere at TIFF will be in order to get the Oscar train chugging.

The same can be said for Searchlight Pictures, which will bring back two previous winners in Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Mendes’s Empire of Light will star Olivia Colman and Colin Firth, while McDonagh will be reteaming with his In Bruges leads of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

And Stephen Frears will be returning with The Lost King after he finished runner-up in 2013 for Philomena. His newest film stars Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan as a pair of historians searching for the hidden remains of King Richard III.

"Smaller" Films That Still Deserve Attention

While the bigger titles such as The Fabelmans and The Greatest Beer Run Ever will be consuming most of the attention at the festival, there are still over a dozen “lesser” titles that should have eyes towards them. They may not all be prime awards contenders, but do have interesting names attached to them, both in front and behind the camera.

Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke star as half-brothers reuniting at their father’s funeral in Rodrigo García’s Raymond & Ray. Another film set at a funeral are Paul Weitz’s Moving On, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Malcolm McDowell.

Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur has a “cross-cultural romantic comedy” in What’s Love Got to Do with It?, which stars Lily James, Shazad Latif, and Emma Thomspon. Another British-centric movie will be Richard Eyre’s Allelujah, in which he reunites with Judi Dench after directing her in two previous Oscar-nominated roles in Iris and Notes on a Scandal.

Although their bigger titles in Bardo and White Noise will be premieres at Venice, Netflix is still bringing a nice package to TIFF with Edward Berger’s remake of All Quiet on the Western Front, Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain in The Good Nurse, and Henry Selick’s newest animated work, Wendell and Wild.

And after over a year in limbo, Apple TV+ will be premiering Causeway, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as a US soldier who suffers a traumatic brain injury while fighting in Afghanistan and struggles to adjust to life back home.

The Rest of the Awards Players

There are still a few big Oscar contenders that have yet to make any sort of festival announcement. Of course, there are always a handful of big players that don’t enter the fall festival shuffle. Some of the films that seem to be taking that path are Babylon, Amsterdam, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Killer, and Killers of the Flower Moon (which is still unknown to be releasing this year). With AFI Fest and the New York Film Festival still waiting to make their announcement, some of these titles could end up premiering there. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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