Release goes to Canada

A closer look at TIFF, Toronto's 11 day 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival

The term “film festival,” usually conjures images of places like Cannes in France, Tribeca in Brooklyn, and Park City in Utah. However, our neighbor to the north is actually home to the most publicized film festival in the world, second to Cannes.

Toronto is celebrating its 37th year of hosting the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). TIFF is an event that attracts some of the highest profile stars and films year after year. The festival, which lasts 11 days, began on Sept. 6 and will show a total of 289 films from 65 countries.

“Looper,” directed by American Rian Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Paul Dano, opened the festival.

TIFF is unlike traditional film festivals. For starters, it is much more casual. There are no judges or awards given for best picture or actor; instead, they have what is called “The People’s Choice Award,” where the festival-goers can vote for their favorite film.

In past years, “The People’s Choice Award” has been indicative of the winner for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture title. Films including Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” won both awards in 2008 and 2010 respectively. This year’s winner will be selected at the end of the festival.

TIFF is a known generator of “Oscar buzz” because of the attention it earns from critics and fans. Additionally, it occurs just before awards season begins. Many directors use the festival to premiere their films and receive feedback before they are released to a wider audience.

Nowadays, audience feedback is easier than ever with social media. It also makes festivals such as TIFF even more important. Critics and fans alike have the ability to post reviews online almost instantaneously. A good review can create excitement around a film months before its release date, while a bad one can hurt a film’s shot at an Oscar nomination.

It is things like this that make TIFF accessible to movie-going fans. The tickets are reasonable ($15 a piece if you are under 25) and fans can mingle with stars like Robert DeNiro, Ryan Gosling, Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem and many more there to promote their films.

One notable film premiering at TIFF this year is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” Since Anderson began casting, rumors have swirled around the film, which stars the notoriously mysterious Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Many seem to believe the film is loosely based on the founding of scientology and its creator, L. Ron Hubbard.

The film was shown on Sept. 8 at TIFF, and has been compared to Anderson’s other award-winning film, “There Will Be Blood,” with critics praising the performances of both leading actors.

“Cloud Atlas,” directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tywker, also aired on Sept. 8. The film, based on the book by David Mitchell, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving. Many were excited by the story, which spans several decades and extends into the post-apocalyptic period.

However, critics so far have deemed “Cloud Atlas” over-ambitious and crowded with too many different characters, time periods and storylines.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, also played at TIFF. The film is based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, who also directs the film. The French-Belgian “Rust and Bone” stars Marion Cotillard as a killer whale trainer who is in a horrible accident. Harmony Korine directs “Spring Breakers,” a film where former Disney starlets Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens act anything but kid-friendly.

It is still early to make any calls for certain, but it will be interesting to follow the trajectory of the films playing at TIFF to see which film is the victor come awards season in January.