Festival season is in full swing in the film world. Following on from a rousing selection of movies premiering in Venice and Telluride, it’s safe to say that the Oscar race has well and truly begun. Typically, this is the time of year when distributors will send their great awards hopes out into the world to be seen by critics and audiences for the first time. If the buzz is good enough then it can carry them all the way to the Academy Awards, but the history of festival season is also littered with Oscar buzz that fizzled out once people saw the finished product.
Related: Oscars 2019 Best Picture Predictions
The Toronto International Film Festival is not only one of the largest film festivals on the planet, it's one of the biggest events of the season that isn't exclusive to industry types and also welcomes members of the public. While the Cannes Film Festival remains the most historic and prestigious of its kind, it's Toronto - founded in 1976 0 where the widest array of the film industry comes together.
This year, Toronto will welcome a host of world premieres as well as North American premieres for much talked about favorites from both Cannes and Venice. This year, the awards stakes seem higher than ever, as the Oscar race is set to introduce a Best Popular Film category. While the kind of films expected to be nominated for such an award aren’t typical festival fare, there are some potential winners amid the indie titles and hidden gems. Aside from Venice, no other film festival in the world is as adept at securing Oscar buzz as Toronto. Last year alone, the festival saw the premieres for awards favorites like I, Tonya and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This year, many will be hoping to replicate that success.
The list of the most anticipated and important films screening at Toronto is as varied in its selections as the festival’s own programme. There are world premieres, films hot from Venice and Telluride, long-awaited dramas and hidden gems that may surprise. Of course, this post is also in no way a comprehensive summary of the festival, but it does bring together the films that will likely capture the most attention and illustrate the most intriguing aspects of the ever-evolving film industry.
- This Page: TIFF 2018 World Premieres: Widows, Halloween & More
- Page 2: Other Great Movies Playing TIFF 2018
Director Steve McQueen hasn’t released a film since his previous one, 12 Years a Slave, which won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2014. This means that anticipation for his latest project was extremely high, even before the concept was revealed. Based on a British mini-series from the 1980s written by crime author Lynda LaPlante, Widows follows four women whose husbands die while robbing a bank, forcing them to take over the job. That pitch is exciting enough before you even get to the cast: Oscar winners Viola Davis and Robert Duvall, Tony winner Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya fresh from Get Out, the ever popular Colin Farrell, and big screen favorites like Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, and André Holland. The screenplay is written by Gillian Flynn, best known as the international best-selling author of Gone Girl.
Widows is one of the major films making its international premiere at Toronto, meaning that we have absolutely no indication of how good it is. There hasn’t even been any leaks or test screening gossip to give us an idea of the film’s quality. Given the impressive cast and the level of expectations on McQueen’s shoulders following his Oscar success (he was only the third black director to receive a Best Director nomination and the film itself was the first Best Picture film directed by a black director), it’s not hard to see why the hype surrounding Widows is inescapable.
Watch: The Widows Trailer
The Hate U Give
Adaptations of young adult novels have taken a step away from paranormal and dystopian in favor of real-life issues. First, the massive success of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before proved there was still a hunger for great teen rom-coms, and now, audiences will get a chance to see one of the decade's most talked about and pertinent YA novels get the cinematic treatment. The Hate U Give, based on Angie Thomas’s wildly successful book, is the story of a young black teenage girl who witnesses the death of one of her best friends at the hands of a police shooting. Often glibly referred to as "The Black Lives Matter YA", the book is a tremendous read and urgent piece of storytelling that has proven highly popular with adolescents and adults alike. Producers made the smart move of getting a film into production quickly. Critics have been quick to write off YA adaptations of late, thanks to notable flops like The Darkest Minds, but The Hate U Give could be a much needed shot in the arm for the category.
John Carpenter's classic slasher film Halloween kickstarted a whole new era of horror film as well as an endless amount of sequels, remakes and rip-offs. Now, the franchise is going back to its roots and scrapping years of continuity, but it's all for a good cause. Directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBride (Vice Principals), this Halloween film will be a direct sequel to the 1978 original and will bring back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. To further strengthen its horror credentials, the new film will also be produced and distributed by Blumhouse Productions, who has become the de facto home for 21st-century horror thanks to hits like The Purge and Get Out. It only makes sense that a new generation of horror, at a time when the genre has never had greater critical or commercial capital, shall get its own Halloween film. The film will make its world premiere at Toronto as part of the festival's Midnight Madness section.
Claire Denis is an undisputed legend of cinema. Over the course of her 30-year career, the French director has stunned critics and audiences as well as redefine a new era of European cinema, thanks to films like Beau Travail and 35 Shots of Rum. Like fellow French director Jacques Audiard (whose newest film, The Sisters Brothers, also screens at Toronto), she is making her English language debut in 2018. High Life stars Robert Pattinson, who has carved out a fascinating post-Twilight niche as an indie auteur muse, and André Benjamin (A.K.A. André 3000 from Outkast) in a sci-fi drama about a group of criminals who are tricked into participating in an experimental space mission. This film will surely be a hot ticket for indie film lovers and fans of one of the industry’s greatest talents.
While Netflix has invested much in building up their increasingly impressive back-catalog of films, the streaming service still has a lot to prove, especially on the festival circuit. They were banned from competing for the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, sparking further discussions over non-theatrical releases and their legitimacy in awards season. That didn’t stop other festivals from taking the service’s most prestigious exclusive offerings. Venice screened the new film from the Coen Brothers, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, as well as Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and the long-awaited Orson Welles movie, The Other Side of the Wind. In Toronto, Netflix will have the honor of opening the festival with their upcoming historical drama, Outlaw King.
Scottish director David MacKenzie (Hell or High Water) returns to his native country with a retelling of the story of Robert the Bruce, while Chris Pine plays the lead role. With a rumored budget of around $105 million, the film signals another major move forward for Netflix as a studio in its blockbuster strategy. However, this is also a potential crowd-pleaser with real critical force behind it (Hell or High Water was a surprise Best Picture nominee). If Netflix manages to bridge that gap and win Toronto audiences over, it will be a major point in their corner in their battle for legitimacy in Hollywood.
Halloween won’t be the only horror revival making its international debut at Toronto. The Predator franchise hasn't left quite the cultural impression of the Alien series but it remains a beloved action sci-fi staple. Eight years on from the last film, the fourth installment is written and directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and features a strong cast, including Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Jacob Tremblay (Wonder). The film's release date was pushed back from February to September of this year, just in time for the Halloween season.