In its 40th year TIFF has presented a number of films that are surely Oscar bound.
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22 Sep 2015 - 5:14 PM  UPDATED 22 Sep 2015 - 8:31 PM

In past years, the winner of Toronto's audience award has gone on to take out the Oscar for best film. This was the case with Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty.

This year’s winner Room seems to be on a similar trajectory, although the homage to The Boston Globe's investigative journalism, Spotlight, offers strong competition in the best film category and is currently the favourite.

Room

The 25 year-old up and comer Brie Larson is already a dead cert for a best actress nomination and she deserves credit for coaching her seven-year old co-star, Jacob Tremblay, who is even being touted for a supporting actor award. Emma Donoghue deftly adapts her 2010 bestseller and she admits it was a challenge to stage such an enclosed drama and to make it gripping. Readers had complained that she didn’t show the mother’s point of view in her novel, but she offers more of her perspective here. Donoghue says the story is essentially about her own “claustrophobic” experience of motherhood rather than the real life news stories, including the Elizabeth Fritzl case that provided her initial inspiration. That the Canadian based Irish writer enlisted Irish director Lenny Abrahamson (Garage, Frank), a specialist in enclosed spaces, was itself inspired. Room is set to open in Australia on January 28, 2016.

Where to Invade Next

Nobody had seen Michael Moore’s film, his first in six years, which had been kept under a veil of secrecy and is ultimately his funniest movie since Roger and Me. After the world premiere screening, the typically guffawing dressed-down 61- year-old (baseball cap, baggy pants) dared the hordes of buyers in the audience to stage an auction. It was way after midnight.  Where to Invade Next does not yet have an Australian release date.

Demolition

French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) delivers Jake Gyllenhaal his best role since Brokeback Mountain. Guilt-ridden over his wife’s death, Gyllenhaal’s white collar worker literally smashes his former life to pieces. He takes a club to his modern trophy home and forms an alliance with fellow suffering eccentric Naomi Watts and her cross-dressing son, impressive newcomer Judah Lewis. Demolition does not yet have an Australian release date.

Trumbo

Bryan Cranston, in his first leading role since Walter White in Breaking Bad, makes quite an impression as 1940’s Black-Listed writer Dalton Trumbo, who went uncredited for many a Hollywood hit including Roman Holiday. Trumbo will open in Australia on Boxing Day.

Eye in the Sky

Helen Mirren did double duty at the festival, appearing as right wing columnist Hedda Hopper in Trumbo as well as playing a similarly gung-ho woman, a military colonel keen to launch drone missiles in Eye in the Sky. Directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ender’s Game) the film effectively depicts the moral dilemma in this kind of warfare. What does it mean to sacrifice a kid selling bread when suicide bombers are about to wreak far more damage on a crowd? Eye in the Sky does not yet have an Australian release date.

Truth

One of the surprises at the festival was this very American newsroom drama about the scandal surrounding longtime CBS Evening News anchor and 60 minutes presenter, Dan Rather, and his producer Mary Mapes, who penned a book on which the film is based. Incredibly, it was shot in Australia. Directed by Zodiac writer James Vanderbilt, the story is told from Mapes’ point of view with Cate Blanchett delivering one of her most dogged performances as the real life producer, while Robert Redford lends his lovable gravitas to Rather.

Critics have praised Lantana and Australia cinematographer Mandy Walker’s work on the film, which was co-produced by James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment, while the cast is littered with Australians sporting American accents, including Noni Hazlehurst, Martin Sacks and Andrew McFarlane.

Truth will open in Australia on December 3.

The Family Fang

Nicole Kidman was on stage in London so was unable to attend the Toronto premiere of this adaptation of Kevin Wilson’s 2011 comic novel. As with 2010’s Rabbit Hole, Kidman produced and stars in the film playing the sister of Jason Bateman who also directs. Variety commends the actors for “nicely inhabiting one of the more tender and persuasive brother-sister relationships in recent movie memory”. Christopher Walken impresses as the wacky father.

“This is Nicole’s project,” Bateman explained to the crowd. “She was smart enough to see what a great book Kevin wrote, and she hired Rabbit Hole’s Pullitzer Prize winner, David Lindsay-Abair, to turn it into a screenplay. He did an incredible job.”

The Dressmaker

Jocelyn Moorhouse’s long-awaited film received a mixed reception after its world premiere. The film features Kate Winslet with an Australian accent, though a dowdy dressmaker she is not. She plays a 1950s woman who returns to her tiny town to care for her sick mother (Judy Davis) after a trip to study fashion in Paris. There she hooks up with the town’s hunky football star, played by Liam Hemsworth.

“I loved working in Australia and with so many talented Australians,” Winslet says. “I also loved that it’s a comedy which is different for me.”

The Dressmaker will open in Australia on October 29.

The Wait

Juliette Binoche is in fine form in this French-Italian production. The atmospheric family drama marks the directorial debut of Piero Messina (Paolo Sorrentino’s assistant director on The Great Beauty) and focuses on Binoche and beautiful young newcomer Lou Le Laage, as women holed up in a Sicilian villa as they wait for, respectively, their son and boyfriend to return. The Wait does not yet have an Australian release date.

Keith Richards: Under the Influence

Who can resist the idea of having access to the man who inspired Johnny Depp to create Jack Sparrow - and without the more outgoing Mick Jagger doing most of the talking? As the film depicts his roots in the blues and country music we learn what a true musician Richards really is. He is also surprisingly articulate. Oscar-winning director and music specialist Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) does a fine job. (Keith Richards: Under the Influence is available on Netflix.)

Sky

Probably the face to figure more in festival round-ups than the Stones guitarist was Norman Reedus, aka Daryl in The Walking Dead. This English-language debut by French director Fabienne Berthaud marks her third film with French-speaking German actress Diane Kruger. As a fan of the zombie escapades it was fun to see the two Sky leads in romantic repose as they live together in the American desert. Indications are that the pair became like brother and sister while Kruger’s real life beau, Joshua Jackson, plays a cop who lets her character off the hook, after she thinks she has murdered her husband. Another nice discovery. (And yes, that's Lena Dunham too.)

Freeheld

Julianne Moore probably won’t receive an Oscar nomination for her role here, where she again plays a terminally ill woman. She is the real life police detective Laurel Hester who fought to have her girlfriend Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) receive the benefits heterosexuals are due after a partner’s death. In keeping with the legalisation of gay marriage in the US and her own coming out Page (Juno) spoke openly about her own personal struggles at the festival. Freeheld will open in Australia on November 26.

Je Suis Charlie

My most heart-wrenching TIFF moment was meeting two of the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo blast, joint owners Eric Portheault and Laurent Sourisseau. They also appear in the film, which was directed by father and son duo Daniel and Emmanuel Leconte. Leconte Sr. effectively uses footage from his 2008 film It's Hard Being Loved by Jerks about the court case surrounding Charlie Hebdo re-printing twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which had initially appeared in a Danish newspaper. Featuring rare personal behind-the-scene moments, the film pays homage to the acclaimed murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, Cabu, Charb and Tignous in particular.  Je Suis Charlie does not yet have an Australian release date.

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