Toronto Film Festival Recap

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The Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) came to a close this past Sunday, and, as always, it was full of lots of hits and misses. The festival is known for giving an official jump-start to Oscar season by gauging what films may or may not be nominated.

The festival opened this year with the Robert Downey, Jr., drama “The Judge,” (in theaters Oct. 10) co-starring Robert Duvall as his father who has been convicted of a crime. The opening film isn’t always a strong one, and “The Judge” was no exception, receiving mixed reviews and receiving little buzz.

However, things quickly picked up when unexpected films took some spotlight. Chris Rock’s “Top Five” (in theaters Dec. 12) had its screening and quickly got picked up by Paramount for $12.5 million (the most any studio has paid for a film at TIFF). Another surprise came in the form of a drama with “Still Alice” (no release date announced), a film in which Julianne Moore plays a professor who begins to suffer from early stages of Alzheimers. Moore’s performance was met with massive critical praise and quickly placed her among the top spots in the Best Actress conversation.

The big talk of the town was the People’s Choice winner at the end of the festival’s run. Traditionally, the People’s Choice award is the frontrunner for the rest of awards season (past winners have been “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” and “12 Years A Slave”). This year, that award went to the Benedict Cumberbatch drama “The Imitation Game” (in theaters Nov. 21), a historical biopic about genius inventor Alan Turing and the computer that helped break enemy codes during World War II.

The runner-up to this award was the Bill Murray comedy, “St. Vincent” (In theaters Oct. 24), in which Murray plays an angry, wisecracking veteran who befriends a neighbor kid who just moved to town. Don’t let these films leave your radar, because you are likely to see them pop up again later in the year.

While the festival is known for showcasing the best of the best, there are sometimes a handful of flops that sneak their way in. The biggest loser of the festival? Adam Sandler. To be fair, it’s not Sandler’s fault for once, just poorly timed and ambitious material. His new comedy, “The Cobbler” (no release date announced), directed by Thomas McCarthy, was poorly received all around and believed by critics to be the worst film of the festival. His other film, “Men, Women & Children”(in theaters Oct. 10), directed by Oscar nominee Jason Reitman, fared much better but was still a disappointment all around.

It goes without saying that this year’s fall movie season is packed with films to look forward to and to avoid. TIFF does its job in previewing them to make it easier on film fans everywhere.