Can’t wait for the Toronto International Film Festival? Here’s our A-Z guide to TIFF 2014.
A- Auteurs. The public wants stars, but cineastes want auteurs — like Jean-Luc Godard, whose latest is Goodbye to Language 3D (“That obscure metaphor! It’s coming right at us!”) or Sweden’s Roy Anderson (Songs From the Second Floor), whose latest is A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence. I love animal films!
B- Cameron “Go Ahead, Make My Day” Bailey. TIFF’s artistic director is at war with festivals like Telluride and the New York that have poached its premieres. As a result, Ben Affleck’s anticipated Gone Girl, which is premiering in New York, won’t be here (the same fest scooped the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips last year). Toronto has the hammer in most cases, though.
C- Benedict Cumberbatch. Last year’s “it” kid is back. And it’ll cost you $1,500 to be in the same room under the festival’s new “Buzz Pack” program — gala tickets to five films at $300 per (The Imitation Game, Wild, St. Vincent, Foxcatcher and While We’re Young). Stars include Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon, Keira Knightley and Channing Tatum.
D- Direct. As in, “What I really want to do is…” Actors-turned-directors at TIFF include James Franco (an adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury) and Chris “Captain America” Evans, who directs himself in Before We Go, a movie that sounds an awful lot like Before Sunrise. There’s also Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater — about the five-month imprisonment in Iran of Iran-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari.
E- English. More than half of the 285 features will not be in that language. Bring reading glasses. White subtitles on light backgrounds can cause eye strain and missed plot points.
F- Fans. Real fans. The ones who are there to see movies, and if they’re lucky, get to listen to the director explain his vision in a post-screening Q&A. They couldn’t give a rat’s butt about the red carpet. They line up for the latest Hong Kong crime flick or Almodovar sex romp, book their holidays accordingly, and see as many as 50 movies over the 10 days of the festival. Here’s to them, in all their pallor!
G- James Gandolfini. His death was the talk of last year’s TIFF, but his last film is finally on offer. The erstwhile Tony Soprano’s final bow is The Drop, taken from Dennis Lehane’s book about double-crosses between Chechen and local mobsters in a Boston bookie joint. Tom Hardy stars.
H- Hollywood. Because of TIFF’s accuracy as an Oscar predictor (see "O"), predatory animals of every stripe native to L.A. show up in town to deal, wrangle and bully the local fauna. They are very territorial but usually tip well.
I- Iran. Despite (or maybe because of) more than 30 years of fundamentalist tyranny, its filmmakers continue to speak out bravely and brilliantly. Kaveh Ebrahimpour’s A Ceremony for a Friend is a dark satire of moral policing, involving a group of friends who resolve to execute one of their own for “going too far.”
J- The Judge. TIFF’s opening night gala, with an A-list star — Robert Downey Jr. — as a detective on a hometown case. Still, a lot of people were left wondering which film fell through to give the director of Wedding Crashers the coveted spot.
K- Korean. A language it would be great to know, considering how South Korea continues to produce films with violence and sexual license on par with ’70s Hollywood. In a twist this year one of them is Canadian — the haunting drama In Her Place, shot in Seoul by York grad Albert Shin.
L- Liquor laws. Being world class and all, we don’t want to betray our parochialism to the outside world. So during TIFF, key downtown bars are allowed to remain open until 4 a.m.
M- Bill Murray. Sept. 5 has been declared Bill Murray Day by TIFF, with a full day of public screenings of his films. Murray’s attendance, as always, is up in the air. But he could show up for beer and wings at your post-softball game pub get-together.
N- Nick Broomfield. The guy who entertained the Kurt-was-murdered theory in the doc Kurt & Courtney is back with Tales of the Grim Sleeper, a post-mortem on a botched multiple-murder case. Also of note: Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s The 50 Year Argument (about the New York Review of Books), a new doc called The Yes Men Are Revolting by activist pranksters The Yes Men, Merchants of Doubt by Robert Kenner (Food Inc.) about scientists on corporate payrolls, and Gabe Polsky’s acclaimed Soviet hockey movie Red Army.
O- Oscars. TIFF still marks the start of awards season. 12 Years a Slave and Gravity both came out of their fest debuts last year with a full head of steam (joining past winners like Argo, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech).
P- Al Pacino. Here for Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, and a coveted autograph indeed. A signed Scarface poster can fetch $600, while a Godfather 2 can go for $1,000 — one reason why autograph hounds wait outside the Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, and Intercontinental.
Q- Quantum physics. The Theory of Everything is the Stephen Hawking biopic by James Marsh (Man on Wire), starring Les Miserables’ Eddie Redmayne as the Cambridge physicist who’s defied time, space and ALS.
R- Rush seats. The tickets that are tossed open to the general public five minutes before every screening. Don’t count on it, though. You’d have better luck with Leafs’ scalpers.
S- Adam Sandler. Is he in "I want an Oscar mode"? He's got not one, but two movies at TIFF — The Cobbler and Men, Women and Children. He's also got a bit part in Chris Rock's Top Five.
T- Toronto. Apparently, Torontonians are richer to the tune of $189 million per year because of TIFF, according to a 2013 study.
U- Uzbekistan. Shockingly, not among the 79 countries that have films on offer at TIFF this year.
V- V.I.P. You’ll know them by the velvet rope that divides them from the riff raff. Even the V.I.P. parties have parties within parties.
W- Windfields Estate. The former home of E.P. Taylor is now the digs of the Canadian Film Centre, where Norman Jewison hosts his annual TIFF picnic on Sunday afternoon. Sean Penn passed out there once.
X- Xavier Dolan. The enfant terrible of Quebec film debuted at Cannes with his film J’ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother). He’s here with his latest, Mommy. Your punchline here.
Y- Yorkville. Kind of a ghost town these days since TIFF moved to the entertainment district. Still some celeb sightings to be had at the Park Hyatt and Hazelton though.
Z- Zzzz. As in a good night’s sleep — 10 full days away for many.