The message at this week’s 2015 Toronto International Film Festival announcement press conference was clear: TIFF is back, in a big way. It’s not as if last year’s festival would be classified by most as a disappointment -- ask the scores of audience members who trooped into festival venues last year if they were disappointed, and they’re likely to laugh and shake their heads.
But TIFF’s bold move to only allow films making their world or North American debuts at the festival, a direct strike against fests in Venice and Telluride, led to much grumbling among media and filmmakers. It also meant a number of major films either skipped Toronto altogether, or screened at the tail-end of the festival.
For 2015, Toronto’s head honchos eased up, and the result, as evident from the press conference, is a stunning lineup of heavy hitters and Oscar bait. While there are a few notables missing from the lineup -- Todd Haynes’s “Carol,” the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic “Steve Jobs,” mountain climbing pic “Everest” -- the galas and special presentations announced this week include some real stunners.
Consider just a few of the films announced for this year’s festival, running from Sept. 10 to 20:
- Michael Moore’s the-title-says-it-all documentary “Where to Invade Next” is sure to be controversial.
- Ridley Scott’s “Interstellar”-ish “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon, is one of the most high-profile world premieres in festival history.
- “Theory of Everything” Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne plays a transgender pioneer in “The Danish Girl.”
- Fictional drama “Stonewall,” based on the 1969 Stonewall Riots, is directed by a very unlikely individual: Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day.).
And how about Alfred Hitchcock? The festival concludes with a free screening of “Vertigo,” complete with a live score by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
More announcements will follow in the weeks to come. But make no mistake -- while it may be 80 degrees outside, the Oscar race is on.