Toronto Hot Titles: Theres Optimism, But Only Certainty Is You Wont Get Hit By A Cable Car On King Street

As they say here north of the border: Time to drop the puck on the 2022 Toronto Film Festival.

The weather is beautiful, and they’ve cordoned off King Street from the Lightbox to Roy Thomson Hall. People are getting their bearings, most not wearing masks in the open air. This is a sight better than last year, when the cable cars were not rerouted from King Street, because so few came for the festivities. Not surprisingly, not a single major deal happened on the ground as the festivals and specialty theatrical business were still feeling the fallout from Covid.

Will this year be any better? Some believe it certainly can’t get worse. Buyers and sellers expect the pace to be on the slow side, with some possible exceptions. I hear that the hot title is one that isn’t officially on the for-sale lists, but I expect it to be a big deal. That is The Holdovers, a Christmas-themed film that reteams Alexander Payne with Paul Giamatti for the first time since their 2004 wine country saga Sideways. Sources tell me that there will be a screening for distributors this weekend — Miramax is at the center of this one, with CAA Media Finance — and it’s very possible that one of the usual suspects will step up and put this film in the awards-season race late in the year. Another possible exception is the Paul Weitz film Moving On, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, or a Midnight Madness genre title such as SISU or The Blackening.

The festival will largely be one of those where the preoccupation for distributors will be to launch their films into the Oscar race. But a couple of deals would go a long way toward helping restore confidence in the theatrical film business. And since most distributors don’t have holes in this year’s schedules, these films mostly wouldn’t bow until late 2023, when moviegoing for adult fare hopefully will be better, if not back to normal. But no one will be surprised if the deal making pace is slow. After all, there isn’t such a saturation of buyers here that sellers aren’t anticipating they will have to hold secondary screenings in Los Angeles for some of their sales titles to make sure the buying crowd sees everything. Here are some of the titles we are hearing might sell here. But even if the deals come after the festival crowd leaves, be confident you can cross King Street while texting and not get hit by a cable car, as Toronto comes back to life and for a few days, the streets once again belong to movie lovers.

MOVING ON – Director: Paul Weitz; Cast: Jane Fonda, Malcolm McDowell, Lily Tomlin. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star in this fusion of audacious comedy and bracing drama about estranged pals who are reunited when a beloved mutual friend dies, leaving her widower the target of a revenge plan. Section: Gala Presentation

Jane Fonda And Lily Tomlin ‘Moving On’ To New Movie And Life After ‘Grace And Frankie’ – Toronto Film Festival

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE – Director: Aitch Alberto. Cast: Max Pelayo, Reese Gonzales, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria. Two Mexican American teenagers find an instant connection in 1987 El Paso, in Aitch Alberto’s clear-eyed coming-of-age tale based on the bestselling novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Section: Discovery, Next Wave Selects

DALÍLAND – Director: Mary Harron. Cast: Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Sukowa, Christopher Briney, Rupert Graves, Alexander Beyer, Andreja Pejic. American Psycho helmer Harron pulls back the curtain on the larger-than-life union of Spanish painter Salvador Dalí and his wife. While not touted, The Flash star Ezra Miller plays the painter as a young man.
Section: Gala Presentation

RAYMOND & RAY – Director: Rodrigo García. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor, Maribel Verdú, Tom Bower. Alfonso Cuaron is a producer on this one, with McGregor and Hawke as long estranged half-brothers who reunite to bury their father.
Section: Gala Presentation

WILDFLOWER – Director: Matt Smukler. Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Dash Mihok, Charlie Plummer, Jean Smart, Jacki Weaver, Alexandra Daddario, Brad Garrett, Reid Scott, Erika Alexander. Might this be the next CODA? Smukler’s narrative feature debut is a funny, compassionate coming-of-age story about a young woman caring for her intellectually disabled parents while seeking an
independent life.
Section: Contemporary World Cinema

ON THE COME UP – Director: Sanaa Lathan. Cast: Jamila C. Gray, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Lil Yachty, Mike Epps. After her distinguished acting career, Lathan makes her feature directorial debut adapting the bestseller by The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas. A talented high-school student dreams of making it big in the world of battle rap.
Section: Next Waves

SISU – Director: Jalmari Helander. Cast: Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Jorma Tommila, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila. This could be a sleeper. Big Game helmer Helander returns to TIFF with a gory World War II action epic that pits one hard-to-kill Finn against Nazi soldiers in Finnish Lapland, with a fortune in gold hanging in the balance.
Section: Midnight Madness

THE BLACKENING – Director: Tim Story. Cast: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo. Based on 3Peat Comedy’s acclaimed sketch of the same name, director Tim Story’s savvy and vicious skewering of genre film tropes poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?
Section: Midnight Madness

SANCTUARY — Director: Zach Wigon. Cast: Margaret Qualley, Chris Abbott. Set entirely in a hotel room, the story follows a young man who is about to succeed his late father as CEO
to a large hotel company. He’s been paid a visit by his regular dominatrix, and as he attempts to cut ties with her, we watch the shifting power dynamic as she begins to lay the groundwork for blackmail.
Section: Special Presentation

PRISONER’S DAUGHTER — Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Brian Cox, Ernie Hudson, Tyson Ritter. Pic tells the story of a tough but proud ex-con who’s struggling to find a way to reconnect with his only daughter and grandson; once he begins an attempt at reconciliation, his violent past once again catches up to him.
Section: Gala Premieres

SICK – Director: John Hyams. Cast: Gideon Adlon, Dylan Sprayberry, Beth Million, Jane Adams. A lean, mean, and wickedly timely slasher from American action auteur John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) and Scream scribe Kevin Williamson.
Section: Midnight Madness

DREAMIN’ WILD – Director: Bill Pohlad. Cast: Casey Affleck, Noah Jupe, Zooey Deschanel, Chris Messina, Beau Bridges. What if a childhood dream suddenly came true – but thirty years later? That’s what happened to singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson. His dream of success suddenly – and unexpectedly – came true but only as he approached 50 years old. And while it brought hopes of second chances, it also brought ghosts of the past and long-buried emotions as Donnie, his brother Joe and their entire family came to terms with their newly found fame. This one premiered at Venice, but it’s a sweet film.

MASTER GARDENER – Director: Paul Schrader. Cast: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver. A meticulous horticulturist who is devoted to tending the grounds of a beautiful estate and pandering to his employer, the wealthy dowager. Another one that bowed at Venice.

SAINT OMER – Director: Alice Diop. Cast: Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanda. In the Saint-Omer court of law, a young novelist attends the trial of a young woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to the rising tide on a beach in northern France. But as the trial continues, the words of the accused and witness testimonies will shake Rama’s convictions and call into question our own judgment. Another one that comes out of Venice with action on it.

JOYLAND – Winner of the Jury Prize in the Cannes Un Certain Regard category in May, the film will be shown in the Special Presentations section of TIFF. Director: Saim Sadiq. Cast: Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, Rasti Farooq, Sarwat Gilani, Sohail Sameer, Salman Peerzada, Sania Saeed. As the Ranas – a happily patriarchal joint family – yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for an ambitious trans starlet. Their impossible love story slowly illuminates the entire Rana family’s desire for a sexual rebellion.

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