10 Oscar-bait films playing at TIFF 2018

As in every year of the fest's history, critical acclaim and audience buzz can push a film all the way to golden glory next February. Here are a few awards hopefuls


Beautiful Boy

In Beautiful Boy, based on American journalist David Sheff’s memoir about his own son, last year’s breakout star Timothée Chalamet plays a young man addicted to methamphetamine, while his father (fellow Oscar nominee Steve Carrell) tries to help him as he slips further away. As parents fight for more rights to protect their kids from the opioid crisis, it’s a timely story that’s sure to resonate, and as Chalamet’s follow-up performance to Call Me By Your Name, this family drama is already building big buzz.

Sep 7, 6:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall, and 8 pm, Elgin Theatre Sep 8, 10:45 am, Ryerson

Boy Erased

After this summer’s The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, the idea of gay-conversion therapy seems to be in the zeitgeist. Hence this adaptation of Garrard Conley‘s recently published memoir about his own (unsuccessful) conversion as an Alabama adolescent. Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges, whose coming out scene in Ladybird was heartbreaking, plays the teenaged son of a Baptist pastor and wife (Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman) who is sent to a church-supported program to rid him of his “affliction.” Director Joel Edgerton plays the program’s leader, and Flea and Canada’s own bad boy of directing himself, Xavier Dolan, have supporting roles.

Sep 11, 9 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 12, 2:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 15, noon, Roy Thomson Hall

Destroyer

Oscar loves it when actors transform physically for a role – see Charlize Theron in Monster, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull and Nicole Kidman in The Hours. In Destroyer, Kidman puts on the prosthetics yet again as an L.A. cop who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of young criminals and solve a case that hits close to home. Director Karyn Kusama broke into filmmaking with 2000’s Girlfight, but her subsequent film work has been uneven (she’s spent more time in TV). With a supporting cast that includes I, Tonya’s Sebastian Stan, our own Emmy-winner Tatiana Maslany and Get Out’s Bradley Whitford, she could be due for a comeback, especially in a year when women’s stories are being lauded.

Sep 10, 9:30 pm, Winter Garden Sep 12, 1:30 pm, Elgin September 15, 9:45 pm, TBLB 1

First Man

This feature has all the elements of an Oscar pic: a dramatic story of a white American hero the award-winning duo of director Damien Chazelle and his La La Land lead, Ryan Gosling and a plot involving outer space. In this biopic, Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, following his life as a young astronaut joining NASA in 1961 to making his moonwalk eight years later. Rounding out the cast is The Crown’s Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife and Corey Stoll, who is also at TIFF in Driven about John Delorean, as Buzz Aldrin.

Sep 9, 2 pm, Ontario Place Cinesphere Sep 10, 4 pm, Elgin Theatre Sep 10, 6 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 11, 11 am, Princess of Wales, Sep 12, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12 Sep 13, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12 Sep 14, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12 Sep 15, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12 Sep 15, 9:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 16, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12

Gloria Bell

Director Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) gives his 2013 film Gloria, about a middle-aged divorcée longing for love and sex, an American do-over. Originally set in Santiago and starring Paulina García as the eponymous Gloria, this remake is set in Los Angeles and casts Julianne Moore in the lead role. García was phenomenal in the original (winning the best-actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival), but we’re betting Moore will be able to live up to her performance. The film also features John Turturro as Gloria’s love interest and Michael Cera as her son.

Sep 7, 9:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 8, 10 am, Elgin Theatre Sept 15, 6:45 pm, TBLB 3

The Hate U Give

While director George Tillman Jr.‘s filmography (Soul Food, Barbershop) might not scream “for your consideration,” this adaptation of Angie Thomas‘s bestselling YA novel about a young Black girl’s political awakening after her childhood friend is shot by the police shows all the signs of being an awards-bound pic. The subject matter – the book takes on #BlackLivesMatter in an accessible way – and high-powered cast (Regina Hill, Common, Issa Rae, Anthony Mackie) are promising. So is the casting of Amandla Stenberg (also at TIFF in Where Hands Touch) as the movie’s sympathetic central figure, Starr, who’s caught between cultures and classes as she tries to find her voice.

Sep 7, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 8, 11 am, Princess of Wales Sep 13, 2:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 16, 11 am, Ryerson

Roma

Known for his sci-fi thrillers Gravity and Children Of Men, Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film finds the Mexican director wading into personal territory. Described as semi-autobiographical, Roma explores the relationship between a live-in nanny and the matriarch of the family she cares for as they both confront the possibility of single motherhood. Netflix has already acquired distribution rights and is currently mulling over a limited theatrical run, similar to what they did with last year’s Mudbound. Although Hollywood vets like Steven Spielberg might think Netflix movies aren’t worthy of Oscars, last year it became the first streaming service to earn eight Oscar noms.

Sep 11, 8:45 am, TBLB 2 Sep 12, 12 pm,  TBLB 2 Sep 13, 9:15 am, TBLB 2 Sep 14, 9:15 am, TBLB 2 Sep 15, 8:45 pm, TBLB 2 Sep 16, 2:45 pm, TBLB 2

A Star Is Born

Hey, just because a film is on this list doesn’t mean it’s going to be great cinema, but there’s lots of buzz around Bradley Cooper‘s directorial debut, yet another adaptation of the rise-and-fall tale that Hollywood seems to love so much. (This is the fourth big screen iteration, and all have been nominated for Oscars.) Cooper himself plays jaded, alcoholic musician Jackson Maine, who discovers a new voice in Ally (Lady Gaga). As her star rises, his plummets. The well-educated Cooper has worked with some of the savviest directors (David O. Russell, Clint Eastwood), so he must have learned a thing or two about helming a picture. And at the very least, the pic will score a best song nomination, right?

Sep 9, 6 pm, Roy Thomson Hall, and 8 pm, Elgin Sep 10, 8:45 pm, TBLB 2 Sep 10, noon, Roy Thomson Sep 14, 6:45 pm, TBLB 2.

Widows

Five years after the best picture Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave, British director Steve McQueen is back with the heist drama Widows. In the film, Veronica (Viola Davis) and three other widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Debicki) are forced to deal with the dangerous aftermath of their criminal husbands’ deaths by repaying their debts. The film also features Liam Neeson as Veronica’s husband, Colin Farrell as an unlawful politician, and Daniel Kaluuya as the crime lord’s muscle. Adapted by Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn, the film is based on the 1980s-era British TV show.

Sep 9, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 9, 10:30 am, Princess of Wales Sep 13, 9:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 16, 6 pm, Elgin Theatre   

Wildlife

It’s hard to believe that Carey Mulligan, despite fine performances in Mudbound, Never Let Me Go and Shame, has only been nominated for an Oscar once, for her breakthrough performance in 2010’s An Education. Actor Paul Dano‘s directorial debut – already acclaimed at Sundance – could change all that. Mulligan plays a woman in 1960s Montana who’s left to make a living and raise her teenaged son (Ed Oxenbould) after her husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves them. With its midwest setting, burgeoning feminist theme and fine literary pedigree – Dano adapted Richard Ford‘s novel with actor Zoe Kazan – this looks like a winner.

Sep 10, 2:30 pm, Princess of Wales Sep 12, 5:45 pm, Ryerson Sep 15, 6:15 pm, Winter Garden

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