In a press release emailed out on July 22, the Toronto Film Festival made its first announcement of the movies that'll star on the big screen this upcoming fall. Now in its 39th year, which takes place from September 4-14, TIFF has established itself as a big name player on the world stage, but also as a film festival friendly to the average moviegoer. While festivals like Cannes and Sundance have reputations for being made for insiders and long-lined crowds, respectively, TIFF has largely managed to avoid that and let regular people get a sneak peek at the movies that'll both contend for Oscars and become cult favourites.
This year promises to much of the same, with the first 59 films announced. The press release uncovered the first batch of galas and special presentations — or, better known as the movies that are Really Big Deals — with some of Hollywood's biggest names on board. Reese Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for her 2006 portrayal as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line", is back with two movies this year, "Wild" (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée) and "The Good Lie" (dir. Philippe Falardeau). Other notable entrants include Jennifer Aniston ("Cake", dir. Daniel Barnz), Kevin Costner ("Black and White", dir. Mike Binder), Tina Fey ("This is Where I Leave You", dir. Shawn Levy), Denzel Washington ("The Equalizer", dir. Antoine Fuqua), and Jake Gyllenhaal ("Nightcrawler", dir. Dan Gilroy), among many others.
In a somewhat new move, probably to offset the spotlight-stealing nature of Telluride, the first four days of the festival will be devoted to solely North American or world premieres, which gives film studios a tough decision. Do they release their films at Telluride, which opens before TIFF but overlaps it? Or do they hold off for the bigger star that is TIFF, and take the chance their movies will draw larger audiences — and inch them closer to glory during awards season? Although it's early, it looks like the nod has definitely been given to TIFF, which has more than proven itself at providing as close to a guarantee for an big award as could ever be. And with it being the last festival of the calendar year, it's the epitome of "last said, first remembered."
One of the other announcements made by TIFF is their choice in the closing film. This year, the honour belongs to Alan Rickman's "A Little Chaos", which stars Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci. It's a historical drama that involves Louis XIV at the Palace of Versailles, which means — given its cast and its placement — putting money on it doing well would be a pretty safe bet. Last year, it was the Elmore Leonard novel-based "Life of Crime"; the year before, "Song for Marion", which starred Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp; in 2011, "Page Eight" with Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Judy Davis; and the preceding it in 2010, "Last Night", with Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, and Eva Mendes.
The next TIFF announcement to flesh out the rest of the festival is due on August 6, so check back to find out how the rest of the festival will take shape.