It’s the most wonderful movie-going time of the year

Nebraska poster

Seriously. It is. Check out what is opening in Buffalo in the next few weeks:

December 18:

  • American Hustle — A biggie. Will David O. Russell follow Silver Linings Playback with another success? Early buzz is mixed, but this mix of Scorsese, comb-overs, and 70s chic looks fantastic.
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues — It’s got a lot to live up to, but I expect Will Ferrell will bring in some major business. This is sure to make more of a commercial dent than the original, which turned into a favorite over time.

December 20:

  • Saving Mr. Banks — Hanks as Walt Disney? People will likely love it, but I can’t seem to muster up much enthusiasm.
  • Nebraska — Likewise, I find myself less excited than I was for Alexander Payne’s last film, The Descendants. But the poster is brilliant, and so is Bruce Dern, supposedly.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (unconfirmed) — The Coens’ long-awaited new film is set to go wide on the 20th … But I am waiting for an official announcement of Buffalo dates. It feels like that first trailer was two years ago, doesn’t it?

December 25:

  • The Wolf of Wall Street — I. Can’t Wait.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — Ben Stiller’s film looks dangerously Gump-y, but seems a bold,, ambitious gambit.
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — This biopic obviously takes on new poignancy following the death of its subject. I saw the first hour at TIFF (before a technical malfunction canceled the screening), and must say, I was impressed with Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, but not the film.
  • 47 Ronin — Sorry, Keanu … I think we have a bomb.

Lots more is coming, including Lone Survivor, Spike Jonze’s Her, August: Osage County, and many others. This is shaping up to be a thrilling month-plus of cinema.

Missing in Action at TIFF 2013 (So Far)

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The Toronto International Film Festival has jusssst about finished announcing its 2013 crop, and there are some killer selections. Some are playing other festivals first (including Alfonso Cuaron’s long-awaited “Gravity”), some already did (“The Past,” “Blue is the Warmest Colour”), but a number of the selections are making their international debut, including Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”

Still, each year there are movies that were rumored to play TIFF, and never do. Here are a few that I’m still hoping make the cut.

“The Immigrant”: James Gray’s film stars Marion Cottilard, the actress I consider to be my favorite, as well as Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. I was a huge fan of Gray’s last film, the Phoenix-starring “Two Lovers,” and while “The Immigrant” drew a mixed response from Cannes, its story of new arrivals to America in the 1920s could not intrigue me more.

“Inside Llewyn Davis”: This is a biggie. The Coen Bros.’ folk-music odyssey also played Cannes, where it earned typically ecstatic reviews. It does not open until December, and that seems a ludicrously time to wait for the film, which stars Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan.

“All is Lost”: I just watched Robert Redford’s last film, “The Company You Keep,” and while it was a pretty standard affair, the TIFF 2012 entry was a reminder of how strong an actor he can be. This mostly dialogue-free tale of one man caught in a storm at sea looks mesmerizing. It is J.C. Chandor’s follow-up to his very strong debut, “Margin Call.”

“Nebraska”: I love the state of Nebraska, especially the Cornhuskers, and I’ve liked just about every Alexander Payne picture, but I haven’t been too charged up for this one yet. Still, it’s Alexander Payne, it stars the great Bruce Dern, and the black-and-white looks lovely.

“The Zero Theorem”: Christoph Waltz stars in the return of Terry Gilliam, another future-set bit of Gilliam-ana (I’m coining that). “Zero” is already booked for the Veince Film Festival.

“Oldboy”: Spike Lee’s remake recently shifted release dates from October to November, and while that is often a signal of bad things to come, it may prove wise, since October is a busy month for an action-y film. Anyone interested in cinema is dying to see this Josh Brolin-starrer. I wonder if he eats squid.

“Palo Alto”: There are a number of reasons to be intrigued by this adaptation of James Franco’s story collection. But tops, for me, is its director: Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola. She is the daughter of Coppola’s late son Gian-Carlo, and if her aunt Sofia has proven anything, its that the female Coppola’s are a force to be reckoned with.

There are others that perhaps were not ready, and instead are playing later fests — Spike Jonze’s “Her,” Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips” — or perhaps skipping the festival circuit entirely. I would not rule out some biggies like Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” or George Clooney’s “Monuments Men”

And note that TIFF still has its “Masters” program to unveil. Last year at this time, I was hugely disappointed that Haneke’s “Amour” was not playing the festival … and then there it was, on the “Masters” list. The full schedule arrives on Tuesday (August 20), so I would expect it then.

All of the films mentioned above would have made nice TIFF selections; I’m especially surprised not to see “The Immigrant,” “Llewyn Davis,” and “Nebraska” on the list. But with so many great films over the festival’s 11 days, who can be disappointed?

Robert Redford stars in J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost”; photo credit: Daniel Daz