The 10 movies we can't wait to see at TIFF '18
From Natalie Portman as a diva pop star to Robert Pattinson in space, our team shares their must-see picks
TIFF '18 is almost here, and because there's no way you're reading all 343 entries of this year's program guide before Thursday, we're here to help.
Which features are the CBC Arts team dying to see? They're all on this list — from buzzworthy titles to under-the-radar fare. See you at the movies!
About 10 years ago, the thought of Robert Pattinson being shot into space — hurtling blindly toward a black hole while stuck babysitting a screaming infant — well, that would have sounded about right. Not everybody loved Twilight, OK, and karma bites harder than a Swarovski-skinned vampire. But times change. Supernatural boyfriends grow into actors with increasingly eclectic and compelling resumes (Good Time, The Lost City of Z). And in High Life — the English-language debut from veteran director Claire Denis (another reason to be excited for this one), Pattinson's a criminal in space, stuck on a mission with Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth and Outkast's Andre Benjamin. Maybe the Con Air program was picked up by NASA? Who's to say? But these space crooks have been promised freedom once their journey's complete, which isn't a bad trade, if you're willing to overlook the bit about charting a direct course into a black hole.
Still, this one's billed as a thriller — a sci-fi drama in the vein of Tarkovsky and Kubrick — so there's got to be something more terrifying at stake than getting through an intergalactic work-experience program. If you read enough of the teasers online, you'll find blurbs suggesting that there are scientists on board, too — and they're conducting "sexual experiments" on the prisoners. (And not the fun, coming-of-age-movie kind, either.) Pattinson's character winds up taking care of a baby born on board, so it's probably safe to guess the creepy reproductive research project was involved somehow. But whatever happens, expect a stylish ride (the movie's spaceship was designed by Olafur Eliasson).
—Leah Collins, senior writer
Renowned Indian director Anurag Kashyap follows around an unconventional girl who finds herself caught in a complicated love triangle in Punjab. Starring Bollywood heavyweight Abhishek Bachchan and newcomer Taapsee Pannu, the drama-comedy is a very new territory for both Bachchan and Kashyap. Known for his controversial style of filmmaking as well as his risqué subjects, Kashyap is expected to take a complete spin on the classic romantic triangle. Moreover, this is a much anticipated return for Bachchan to the big screen making this a must watch for all fans of Bollywood. I can't wait!
—Asmi Chandola, video producer
No, it's not a movie about bed bugs. At least I'm pretty sure it's not a movie about bed bugs. But it's still a tale about the terrible things that befall three different women whose (misguided?) need for retail therapy leads them to the same haunted red dress. Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones and Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies) are a couple of the unsuspecting customers who wind up joining this sisterhood of the travelling ghost dress, and the movie's the latest from Peter Strickland, a director already known for surreal and sumptuous cult offerings (Berberian Sound System, The Duke of Burgundy). Between this and Luca Guadagnino's upcoming Suspiria remake, the OTT lushness of "giallo" horror is having a moment this fall, and personally, I am here for a ghost story this garishly stylized. (Just look at the '70s-glam department store in this first clip!) If it can scare anyone (me included) off of their fast fashion habits, so much the better.
—Leah Collins, senior writer
If Beale Street Could Talk
There are certain writers whose stories I believe can only exist on the page. These are often writers whose words are chosen with such deliberate consideration it feels like any distance from the literature will cause irrevocable damage to the world they've constructed. James Baldwin was once on my list of writers whose work should not be touched — but when I heard that Barry Jenkins was behind the adaptation of Baldwin's novel If Beale Street Could Talk, I realized that he was one of the few filmmakers I trusted to translate Baldwin's incisive poetry into a cinematic treatment.
If Beale Street Could Talk is the much-anticipated followup to Jenkins' Oscar-winning Moonlight, and it features a supporting cast of Black actors I'm excited to see in layered roles, with their skin well lit by cinematographer James Laxton and their faces beautifully framed by Jenkins' discerning eye. But I'm most excited about the discoveries. The movie is led by two young talents who may soon become household names: Kiki Layne and Canada's own rising Hollywood star Stephan James. "Black period romance" can barely be described as a genre because of the dearth of films that fit the description. But it's a long-neglected genre that I have been waiting for. From the costuming to the soundtrack, I am ready to immerse myself in a story where Afros are the norm and two Black people loving each other is the reason for every single frame. With a backdrop of false imprisonment and looming motherhood, this is a love story rooted in the America that Baldwin both lambasted and loved, ran from and rooted for. An America where just existing as a Black person is a day to day struggle. What does love look like in this America? We're about to find out.
—Amanda Parris, host of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists
I'm most looking forward to seeing Alfonso Cuarón's latest film ROMA. He's done everything from the erotic road film (Y Tu Mama Tambien) to the apocalyptic sci-fi (Children of Men) to the big budget blockbusters (Harry Potter and Gravity) but ROMA looks like it may be his most personal film yet. Set in 1970s Mexico City — a time when Cuarón would have been a teen — the film is about the interconnected lives of a domestic worker and her employer, a middle class mother. These two women are of different social classes, but the familial and political conflicts of the era interconnect them. It's a personal, political and poetic ode to the matriarchs that shaped him — and even though you'll be able to watch it from your couch on Netflix soon, it might be the first TIFF film I go see with my mom.
—Lucius Dechausay, video producer
A Star is Born
There was a little bit of a battle royale at CBC Arts as to who got to pick A Star Is Born for our TIFF picks. But after a lifetime of calling dibs on things, I was the first to say, "It's mine," so yay for me! This film had me at the trailer. In this day of binge-watching and social media addiction, cinema has unfortunately dropped a couple of notches in my hierarchy of media needs. But this film seems to have everything I love about movies: a star-making turn by Lady Gaga, a directorial debut from an actor who got to study/work under some of the best directors in Hollywood and a chance to take a classic story and put a "modern spin" on it. Plus, I'm a sucker for musicals and ugly crying in movie theatres.
Getting the sneak peek of this film at the festival before the rest of the world gets in on it is what makes festival viewing so exciting, and the word coming out of the Venice screening is that it's a classic. I don't care much for hype as much as I care about feeling things, and this movie seems to have all the ingredients to melt my cold, jaded heart. Also, the director of photography of the film, the Oscar-nominated Matthew Libatique (who also happens to be a fellow Filipino), is my favourite cinematographer, and my guess is he will be taking home one of the many Academy Awards this film will be nominated for. (Side note: if I didn't get A Star Is Born for my TIFF Pick, my next film would have been the new Halloween because Jamie Lee Curtis with a shotgun is my fave.)
—Romeo Candido, senior producer
Interest is obviously massive in regard to actual pop star Lady Gaga playing one in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born after it came out of the Venice Film Festival with rave, Oscar-buzzworthy reviews. But Gaga has some competition in none other than Natalie Portman, who also plays a pop star in a movie directed by an actor that is coming to TIFF after a rapturous (though admittedly more mixed) debut in Italy: Brady Corbet's Vox Lux. And frankly, my excitement is mildly higher for what looks like the more bonkers of the two. Portman plays Celeste, a woman who became a viral sensation as a 13-year-old after surviving a school shooting and then writing a song about it. Cut to 17 years later and she's a Gaga-sized pop star on the verge of a Britney-circa-2007 style collapse. Featuring songs written by Sia and a performance many are already calling Portman's very best, there's no film at TIFF I have higher curiosity about.
—Peter Knegt, producer
Walking on Water
Right at this very minute, I'm typing this blurb sitting under a framed poster for The Gates, the monumental site specific art installation that took over New York's Central Park in 2005, pissing off crusty locals and enrapturing the thousands of tourists who, myself included, descended on the city to witness the park transformed. It was magical. Now a new documentary takes us inside another such magic trick from the same pair of artists: Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Walking on Water, which gets its North American premiere at TIFF, follows Christo as he attempts to realize a project he'd been cooking up with his late wife and longtime collaborator Jeanne-Claude since the 1970s: an immense pier made of tens of thousands of metres of shimmery yellow fabric floating upon a picturesque mountain lake in Italy. I'm in.
—Andrew D'Cruz, executive producer
Toronto-born Stella Meghie's star is rising like no other. I loved producing an interview with her for The Filmmakers, and I can't wait to see her new film! After writing and director her debut feature film Jean of the Joneses (which premiered at TIFF in 2016 and which will air on the season finale of The Filmmakers on September 15), Stella signed on to direct Amandla Stenberg in the 2017 studio film Everything, Everything. With The Weekend, Meghie is going back to her indie roots with a romantic comedy that she wrote and directed about exes spending a weekend together at an isolated B&B.
—Mercedes Grundy, producer
Viola Davis sets it off in Steve McQueen's new heist-thriller Widows. It's a story that follows four women, connected through criminal enterprises, who must pay back a debt that their dead husbands accumulated. Aside from the all-star cast — which includes Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya and Michelle Rodriguez — this film is sure to draw you in merely because of the explosive plot. These women are transported into a world they all already knew by association, but will now have to participate in. It will be interesting to see the decisions they make in situations that their husbands once faced. This will be Steve McQueen's first theatrical film since 12 Years a Slave, which won the 2014 Oscar for best picture, and there's no doubt in my mind that this will be a film we'll all be talking about.
—Kiah Welsh, digital producer
Toronto International Film Festival. September 6-16. www.tiff.net