This final Toronto roundup is a combined one for Toronto and Telluride, which happened almost two weeks ago now, but I didn't get to summarize the few films that made their debut there. They did also play Toronto this week though, so we'll start off with the big winner out of Telluride, which was The Imitation Game, another biopic about a British genius, this time telling the little known story (at least here in the U.S.) of Alan Turing, the man who broke the Enigma code in WWII and invented the first computer, before he was prosecuted by the British government for being gay, which was illegal at the time. This movie came roaring out of Telluride and also hit big in Toronto, beloved by audiences across the board and could arguably be declared the one surefire Oscar contender to debut at the fall festivals so far (along with Birdman, which skipped TIFF). Benedict Cumberbatch in particular is being championed for a supposedly incredible performance as Turing and is considered nearly a lock for a Best Actor nomination, so I can't wait to see this when it comes out November 21st. Critics are a little more measured in their praise so far (always distrustful of anything crowdpleasing) but still positive, especially about the acting, and it'll be interesting to see if this will have to battle The Theory of Everything for attention as a rival biopic. But The Imitation Game has The Weinstein Company behind it, so frankly, I'd bet on this one, at least right now.
"Strong, stirring, triumphant and tragic, 'The Imitation Game' may be about a man who changed the world, but it's also about the world that destroyed a man." (Film.com)
"The movie is undeniably strong in its sense of a bright light burned out too soon, and the often undignified fate of those who dare to chafe at society's established norms." (Variety)
"Dominating it all is Cumberbatch, whose charisma- tellingly modulated- and naturalistic array of eccentricities, Sherlockian talent at indicating a mind never at rest, and knack for simultaneously portraying physical oddness and attractiveness combine to create an entirely credible portrait of genius at work." (Hollywood Reporter)
Then there's Wild, the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed. Wild premiered at Telluride to mixed-negative reviews at first, but seems to have had a much more enthusiastic reception at Toronto, interestingly enough. The movie looks like it will ultimately be well received, and Witherspoon looks almost certain to land her second Best Actress nomination, but any other nods would probably be a surprise (unless the movie ends up taking off at the box office).
"Reese Witherspoon delivers her best performance since she won the Best Actress Oscar for 'Walk the Line' a decade ago." (New York Post)
"The premise sounds corny, but Vallee, in collaboration with screenwriter Nick Hornby, gives the film its energy by pulling the narrative apart." (The Guardian)
"'Wild' never really earns its hard-fought struggle for redemption and personal reinvention." (The Playlist)
The other films out of Toronto were mostly acquisition titles that don't yet have release dates, or even distributors. Jason Reitman's latest film Men, Women & Children was roundly panned (his second miss in a row after last year's Labor Day), while Chris Rock brought a film he wrote and directed to Toronto called Top Five, which got great reviews and was won in a bidding war by Paramount for over $12 million (probably for a 2015 release). Another movie that did get a very good reaction from the festival was Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, a comedy with Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, but it's also unclear if that film will come out this year or next.
"The most hilarious Woody Allen film in years is directed by Noah Baumbach, with Ben Stiller as basically an updated version of the idealistic documentary filmmaker the Woodman played in 'Crimes and Misdemeanors.'" (New York Post)
"'While We're Young is a mostly enjoyable movie, but what it's trying for is wisdom, and that's a quality that Baumbach doesn't earn." (BBC.com)
So, from Telluride and Toronto (and Venice), I think what we're looking at so far in terms of major fall movies are Birdman, The Imitation Game and Foxcatcher, which continued to receive outstanding critical notices for Steve Carell and Channing Tatum as it bowed here in the states. Outside contenders could maybe include Wild and The Theory of Everything, but we'll see how it plays out, because there's still more to come as the fall season rolls on. Next up is the New York Film Fest (starting Sept 26th) where we'll get to hear about two highly anticipated films, David Fincher's Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice. Stay tuned.