TIFF 2012 – Top 10 Most Anticipated Films (Dustin SanVido)

In five days the city of Toronto will once again play host to the 2012 iteration of the Toronto International Film Festival, and it looks like I will be dropped into the mix of what looks like the most stacked group of films in the festival’s history, at least on paper. There are great looking movies in every programme as always, from the expected star power of the Galas and Special Presentations to the Vanguard and Masters Programmes, this year seems like the most complete variety of films to date.  In particular, the Midnight Madness programme is easily the most mainstream and thus accessible list I have seen as a returning viewer of seven prior festivals.

At the time of this post, I am currently scheduled to view 20 films over the ten days, and I anticipate securing more tickets as the 6th draws closer. Since I’m a huge fan of top ten lists of everything, from sports to vegetables (zucchini can suck it!) and of course movies, I have created a list of my personal top ten most anticipated films of the festival. I was on the fence whether or not to include films I’m not able to see at this point, and as such I will stick to just the movies I can see.

And as our favorite clown prince of crime would say, “Here…We…Go”:

(It is worth noting I have gone against the grain of my own sensibilities and avoided all trailers and potential spoilers pertaining to the films contained in this list)

10.  The Iceman

The story of Richard “the iceman” Kuklinsky is one that I have been aware of since High school. I remember learning of his notoriety through a fellow student and after researching the man and viewing a number of documentaries and taped interviews, I was fascinated with the charm and apparent normalcy of this psychopathic killing machine. To go any further into his story would certainly spoil what the film may offer, but within a few moments of listening to this man speak it is easy to see how a reputed hitman for the mob could switch a button in his mind and carry on a seemingly normal life as a loving and caring family man. One of my favorite actors, Michael Shannon, plays the titular figure and I am excited to see how close the film stays to the facts, which I always felt could be a very cinematic story.

9.  John Dies at the End

This film is the wild card of my slate this year. I have yet to see the director’s previous films which made him a name in the horror genre: Phantasm and The Beastmaster, but was absolutely delighted with his last feature, the Bruce Campbell starrer Bubba Ho-Tep. His wry mix of humour, horror and suspense was a complete surprise to me, even though I’ve come to expect this exact sort of thing from anything featuring Campbell. Little is known to me about this film aside from the fact it features ancient evil, multiple dimensions, two slacker buddies, and of course, Clancy Brown. Being compared by Colin Geddes, the programmer of Midnight Madness and Vanguard, to the earlier works of David Cronenberg and David Lynch has me childishly salivating already.

8.  The Silver Linings Playbook

When mainstream audiences think of David O. Russell, they most certainly associate the polarizing director with his last feature, the Academy Award winning The Fighter, and certainly to a more focused extent, the harrowing and well deserved award-winning performance by Christian Bale as the title character’s estranged brother/trainer. While this is mostly the case, I like to think of David O. Russell as the man who is well known in Hollywood as the most difficult director to work with in the business. Worse than Fincher. Period. Thanks to the wonderful innovation of the internet, one can Youtube Russell’s name, and be treated to the emotional breakdown of Lily Tomlin while on-set of I (Heart) Huckabees, complete with a common screaming tantrum by Mr. Russell, all the while Dustin Hoffman sits in the middle wearing the most awkward face you’ve ever seen. And let’s not forget the infamous story of getting into a fist fight and ultimately receiving an ass-whooping from one George Clooney while on the set of Three Kings. While spreading  tales of Hollywood folklore, I’m failing to mention how much I enjoy his work and how much I’m looking forward to his latest, this story focusing on a recently released psychiatric patient (Bradley Cooper) trying to put his life back together while dealing with his football-obsessed father (Robert De Niro) and an oddly motivated neighbor (Jennifer Lawerence).

7.  Passion

The pre-adolescent man-child in me insists all one needs to know about Passion is it’s an erotic thriller starring two attractive (see HOT) women from the guy who made such fare as Body Heat and Scarface. I promise you, further elaboration of that last sentence is enough to interest the most pessimistic of viewers. Passion is a remake Crime D’amour, a French film seen as a recent selection of TIFF in 2010. 2012’s Passion is directed by Brian De Palma, a master filmmaker in his own right who has worked in Hollywood for over 40 years, and stars Rachel McAdams and Noomie Rapace as a power hungry career woman and her naive assistant, respectively. What unfolds is a sexually charged story of revenge set in the corporate world of advertising, and has quietly become one of the more anticipated films this year amongst fans and critics alike.

6.  Dredd 3D

Guns. Slow motion exploding heads. Post apocalyptic metroplolis. 3D. A faithful adaptation of the titular Judge, complete with non-removal of helmet. Hugely positive word-of-mouth from the screening at San Diego Comic Con. Did I mention exploding heads? Done.

5.  The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest directors living today and his mark has already been left on Hollywood for generations to come in just five films. His in-your-face, cerebral and highly cinematic style has created a voice all his own, and his films are respectfully works of cinematic art of the absolute highest form. His latest work promises to be much more than a meditation on a controversial religion. My guess is the secrets to his latest film may be in the title itself, which may refer to a more primal subject matter than religion. A stellar cast is provided, as is the case of all of his work, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Joaquin Pheonix, the latter providing a performance (according to early rumour) that is an early frontrunner for this year’s Academy Awards.

4.  Argo

In just three films, Ben Affleck has unequivocally proven to his Hollywood peers and the rest of the cinema-going populace that his true talent lies behind the camera. He is a master filmmaker by my standards (I will defend this with reckless abandon), and it is quite clear he was paying close attention to the machinations and techniques of the vast array of directors he worked with as a performer. Thank goodness he never quite reached bona-fide A-list status as an actor, save for Ms. Lopez’s flavour of that year, or we may not have been given such a graceful and sure-handed filmmaker who’s already found a signature voice and style all his own. He will hopefully continue his streak of great films with Argo, an unbelievably true life story of a CIA “Extractor”(Affleck) who devises a plan to rescue a group of American Embassy staff hiding inside the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, Iran circa 1979. His plan involves sneaking out the Embassy workers by posing as a Canadian film crew in production of a fake science-fiction film. This film should be considered a legitimate contender for the Blackberry “People’s Choice Award”.

3.  Seven Psychopaths

There once was a time when a completely unknown actor from Ireland burst onto the scene with a tour-de-force performance in Joel (batsuit nipples) Schumacher’s Tigerland (2000), starring as a rebellious Army recruit being put through the rigors of training before being shipped off to the Vietnam war. His performance in that film is still hailed as his greatest accomplishment in an otherwise diverse but ultimately inconsistent career thus far. It is also widely perceived that his performance in Martin Mcdonehughe’s first film In Bruges is his best work since by a wide margin. His earnest portrayal of a traumatized hitman taking a vacation in the titular city with his working partner (Brenden Gleeson) was a career revival of sorts for Mr. Farrell and his latest film reunites him with that same director for what I hope is a another strong turn in black comedy. Seven Psychopaths features such a strong supporting cast (Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrellson) that this may be my favorite film of the festival when it’s all said and done.

2.  Cloud Atlas

It’s been four years since the Wachowski siblings gave us the under-appreciated Speed Racer, a film I personally love to pop in the blu-ray player for repeat viewings, and this recent collaboration with Tom Twykver (Run Lola Run) sounds like it could be something great or a complete mess. The fact that it was quietly put into production by Warner Bros. and only recently having revealed the first footage online via a 5 minute sizzle reel leaves one to speculate on what could be. The word of mouth online suggests that the studio was quite enamored by the screening they were shown, so much that they may pursue the aforementioned siblings to direct the recently fast-tracked DC comics superhero team up Justice League.  The story involves a group of characters who are connected over the span of time itself in an adaptation that was long deemed “un-filmable” by the literary and filmmaking community. To say anymore is to possibly spoil the riches or junk that lies within the cinema doors in a handful of days and I am very excited to discover it for myself.

1.  Looper

Is it any surprise that this film finds itself perched at the top of my list. I refuse to go into any plot details concerning the third feature from Rian Johnson, the director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, and will only say that as a huge fan of his prior work and the work of his leads (most), Looper is a film that has been on my radar since it was conceived some time ago. I respect the fact that Johnson has brought on the director of the cult favorite Primer to work as a consultant on the time- travelling aspects of the story and from what I’ve heard from trusted sources, this is not a film to be missed. And have you seen the practical make-up of a certain actor to better resemble his future self? This is my most anticipated film of the fall, period.

And there you have it, my most anticipated films of the festival. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on everything with you in the coming weeks.

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