Looking back at TIFF 2010: Eight films to watch

Looking back at TIFF 2010: Eight films to watch

As with any film festival, TIFF 2010 had its share of disappointments (Miral, Hereafter) and outright disasters (Passion Play, What’s Wrong With Virginia), but the general consensus is that this was a pretty good year. Critics and audiences found more than a few gems, and an astounding 18 films that arrived here without North American distribution have already found buyers. By our reckoning, however, eight films stood out as the biggest winners of the festival.

The King’s Speech
After winning the People’s Choice Award on Sunday, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech has officially been crowned the film to beat in next year’s Oscar race. Stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are all tapped for acting noms, and a best picture slot is pretty much guaranteed. The only question now is, Can it survive another five months of hype?

See red carpet photos from the premiere of The King’s Speech »
Celebs celebrate Colin Firth’s 50th birthday in Toronto »

Black Swan
Practically everybody who saw Darren Aronofsky’s latest described it as a love-it-or-hate-it experience, but if that’s the case, where are all the haters? Critics were nearly unanimous in their praise, Oscar buzz for star Natalie Portman is through the roof, and the gala screening was easily the hottest ticket of the fest. Looks like love to us.

Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky discuss Black Swan »
• Red carpet photos from the TIFF premiere of Black Swan »

(Natalie Portman thumbnail: Stefania Yarhi)

127 Hours
Going into the fall festival season, no one really knew what to expect from Danny Boyle’s odd Slumdog Millionaire follow-up. Would his take on the true story of trapped hiker Aron Ralston be awards bait or a boon for the gore hounds? According to those who saw it, it somehow manages to be both.

Photos of James Franco and Darren Aronofsky at the Fox Searchlight party for 127 Hours »

(James Franco thumbnail: Stefania Yarhi)

Mike Mills’s sophomore effort, about a man (Ewan McGregor) coming to terms with his 75-year-old dad’s latent homosexuality, was an out-of-nowhere festival surprise and an across-the-board charmer. Though the film hasn’t found a distributor yet, Focus Features is rumored to be circling it for a fall release. Expect lots of kudos for Christopher Plummer as the dad.

In a year with several strong Canadian titles, Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s big-screen adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play Scorched earned rapturous reviews, the Best Canadian Feature Film award, and a big-time U.S. distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics. If the company decides to release the film before year’s end (a Canadian release is scheduled for October), it has a real shot at becoming a surprise Oscar contender à la The Sweet Hereafter.

Let Me In
In the wake of its world premiere here, all of the haters have officially been put on notice to lay off this American remake of the 2007 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. Not only were critics and audiences generally smitten, but some even claim it’s (gasp!) an improvement on the original.

Meek’s Cutoff
This disquieting little period drama by American indie director Kelly Reichardt was one of the best reviewed films of the fest, but it’s probably too low-key, too unhurried to reach a mass audience. No matter: it’ll find an appreciative cult following once it’s released on the art-house circuit next year.

Rabbit Hole
Director John Cameron Mitchell rushed to finish his film in time for its world debut here, but the effort paid off. Nicole Kidman’s work as a grieving mom received lots of acclaim (as did Diane Wiest’s supporting turn), and distributor Lionsgate is now planning to give the film a late fall awards season push.

Nicole Kidman discusses Rabbit Hole »
Red carpet photos from the TIFF world premiere of Rabbit Hole »