10 under-the-radar TIFF18 entries (for BuffaloSpree.com)

Julianne Moore in GLORIA BELL
STILL COURTESY OF TIFF

Check out my latest TIFF18 entry for BuffaloSpree.com.

The lineup for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, running from September 6 to 16, is nearly complete. That means the full schedule will be announced in a matter of days (August 21), the opening night selection is official (David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine), and the Twitter buzz is deafening.

There are some clear biggies — I covered many of these a few weeks ago — and a few frown-inducing omissions. (Where are you, SuspiriaThe Favourite, and Mary, Queen of Scots?) But there is so much to be excited about in the #TIFF18 roster. Here are ten under-the-radar films to consider seeing at TIFF18, or to make note of for future viewing.

In Fabric: Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy was one of the strangest, most mesmerizing films at the 2014 festival. His latest feature, a horror-drama making its world premiere at TIFF18, “follows the surge of misfortunes afflicting customers who come into contact with a bewitched dress at an eerie department store.” Yes, I’m in.

Gloria Bell: English-language remakes of acclaimed foreign films are hit or miss. Here’s hoping that A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio’s remake of his 2013 international hit, Gloria, falls in the hit column. Oscar winner Julianne Moore plays a middle-aged divorcee looking for love.

Hold the Dark: If you’ve seen Blue Ruin or Green Room, you know Jeremy Saulnier is adept at creating intense viewing experiences. His latest, a thriller about a missing child in Alaska, stars Alexander Skarsgård, Riley Keough, and Jeffrey Wright.

Mid90s: Jonah Hill, director? Indeed. For his directorial debut, the Superbad and Moneyball star tells the story of teenager and his skateboarder friends. The cast includes Manchester by the Sea and Lady Bird standout Lucas Hedges.

Teen Spirit: Actor Max Minghella (The Social Network, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) follows in the footsteps of his late-father as he moves behind the camera for a TIFF world premiere. Elle Fanning plays a teenager dreaming of pop stardom.

The Image Book: Jean-Luc Godard is back, with a film TIFF describes as a “provocative collage film essay.” The New Wave icon’s last two features, 2010’s Film Socialisme and 2014’s Goodbye to Language, were astonishingly ambitious — and, of course, very difficult.

Ray & Liz: Critics at the Locarno Film Festival raved about thus U.K. entry from photographer Richard Billingham. This autobiographical feature is noteworthy for being shot on 16mm.

Destroyer: Can film starring Nicole Kidman really count as “under-the-radar”? In the case of Destroyer, perhaps it can. Little is known about this Platform program selection from Karyn Kusama (director of the slow-burn horror film The Invitation). Kidman plays an LAPD detective taking on a new case.

Her Smell: Certainly the, um, most memorably-titled entry in this year’s festival, Alex Ross Perry’s drama about a self-destructive musician stars Mad Men and Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss. It’s making its world premiere in Toronto as part of the Platform program.

Sunset: Director László Nemes follows up the Oscar-winning Son of Saul — a standout from TIFF15 — with the story of a woman’s quest to discover her past.

TIFF18’s first batch (from BuffaloSpree.com)

Beautiful Boy; courtesy of TIFF

We are now less than one month away from the start of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. My coverage began with a pre-opening announcements post at BuffaloSpree.com, and here is a follow-up. More to come!

In about six weeks, film fans, movie stars, filmmakers, industry types, and critics (like myself) will head to Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival. The hype for this, the forty-third festival, began on Tuesday as TIFF (September 6 to 16) announced its first forty-seven films.

Here are some initial thoughts on this first round of galas and special presentations.

Check out those world premieres: Part of what makes fall film festival announcements so fun is deciphering what entries will play elsewhere. A Canadian premiere, for example, means a stop in Telluride before Toronto. (Examples: Damien Chazelle’s First Man, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.) That’s par for the course, as is a premiere in Venice. But TIFF18 has some very strong world premieres: Steve McQueen’s Widows, Timothée Chalamet-starrer Beautiful Boy, and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, to name a few.

Missing in action: It was a surprise to see two Venice biggies, Suspiria and The Favourite, not on the list. Both could still be added later, of course. (Suspiria would be a killer Midnight Madness selection.) Also missing is Mary Queen of Scots, with Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, which seems tailor-made for Toronto; Ronan and Robbie were standouts last year with Lady Bird and I, Tonya.

Returning heavyweights: Some TIFF favorites from past years are back – the aforementioned McQueen, Jenkins, and Cuarón, and also Olivier Assayas (Non-Fiction), Mia Hansen-Løve (Maya), Jacques Audiard (The Sisters Brothers), Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), and Asghar Farhadi (Everybody Knows).

High-profile women behind the camera: Thirteen of the announced films are directed by women. At the top of the list has to be High Life, the highly anticipated new film from Claire Denis. Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche star in the Beau Travail director’s sci-fi drama.

My predictions were … pretty good, actually: The piece I wrote on Monday for BuffaloSpree.com mentioned ten possible selections. Of those ten, eight were part of Tuesday’s announcements. Unfortunately, the two that were not listed are major-leaguers: The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots.

There is, of course, lots more to come. The next few weeks will see the announcement of the Canadian lineup (fingers crossed for Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan), the Masters program, Midnight Madness, Platform, and more. After all,  in 2017 the festival included more than 250 features.

TIFF18 is looking fantastic, but let’s hope for some comedy in the next announcements, as this is a rather somber bunch …