No one makes movies quite like Christopher Guest. His deadpan explorations of unusual cultural corners take the form of documentaries and feature improvised dialogue to give them a hybrid, high-wire energy. From his work in “This Is Spinal Tap,” directed by Rob Reiner, to the films Guest has made on his own, including “Waiting for Guffman” and “A Mighty Wind,” he has crafted an ongoing, warmhearted celebration of human enthusiasms and failures.
His new film “Mascots,” his first since 2006’s look at ego and awards season with “For Your Consideration,” has its world premiere Saturday as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. Co-written by Guest and Jim Piddock, the new film, as the name implies, is a look at the world of sports mascots centered around a worldwide competition.
The film’s examinations of the characters’ lives out of costume have Guest’s signature mix of sweetness and melancholy, while the actual competition performances are inventively hilarious. The cast features many returning performers from Guest’s earlier films, including Parker Posey, Fred Willard, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr. and Bob Balaban. Chris O’Dowd, Sarah Baker, Zach Woods and Susan Yeagley all make spirited contributions as relative newcomers to the fold. “Mascots” will be in theaters and on Netflix beginning on Oct. 13.
This time last year, we were still a couple of months away from watching Leonardo DiCaprio battle, bludgeon or, if you’re Matt Drudge, mate with that angry mama bear in “The Revenant.” And yet, most awards pundits already had DiCaprio winning the lead actor Oscar, by the sheer pedigree of the movie’s Oscar-winning director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, as well as the demanding nature of the frontiersman character he was playing.
Just as important, DiCaprio, a four-time nominee, was seen as being due his moment on the podium. And, with the Oscars, timing is often just as important as the work itself.
Which brings us to another accomplished actor, one who has earned five Oscar nominations over the course of her distinguished career: Amy Adams.
Not many movies call for a “bespoke weapon recording” credit, but that’s not the only unusual signal “Free Fire” is a relentless and wildly unpredictable film. The latest from British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, who co-wrote and co-edited the film with Amy Jump, the movie had its world premiere on the opening night of the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival.
The scene Thursday night at the Ryerson Auditorium was particularly raucous before the movie began, even by the standards of Midnight Madness. Balloons bounced about the room above the audience’s heads and there seemed to be at least two air horns somewhere in the house, giving the room a pre-hockey game vibe. And that was before the room broke into coordinated clapping during pre-show festival credits.
"The Magnificent Seven" opened the Toronto Internation Film Festival, and two of Hollywood's most popular leading men -- Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt -- were on hand to walk the red carpet for the premiere at Roy Thomson Hall.
Though the official opening night film is the big-budget Hollywood remake of “The Magnificent Seven” starring Denzel Washington, there are actually many other movies also screening Thursday at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Among them is the international premiere of French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello’s “Nocturama,” which has already garnered much attention and controversy. Through its story of simultaneous bombing attacks around Paris has a ripped-from-the-headlines sense of urgency, Bonello pointedly avoids speech-making, polemics or easy answers.
Rather, the film creates a hypnotic, trance-like atmosphere to build a disorienting sense of momentum as viewers follow a group of young people moving through the streets and Metro of Paris, gradually getting a sense of their connection and common purpose.
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker star in "Arrival."
“Arrival.” The prospect of a brainy science-fiction thriller coupled with the muscular filmmaking prowess of Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Prisoners”) would be a considerable lure even without the presence of Amy Adams in the lead role.
“Austerlitz.” A master of the hands-off, long-take documentary, Sergei Loznitsa trains his camera on tourists paying their respects (or not) at the sites of former Nazi death camps. Sounds like people-watching at its most perversely revealing.
“Colossal.” Nacho Vigalondo’s “Timecrimes” and “Open Windows” have established him as a gifted and idiosyncratic genre specialist. And eight years after “Rachel Getting Married,” it’ll be nice to see Anne Hathaway playing a crazed alcoholic again.
In an awards season shaping up as the most socially charged in recent memory, the annual cinema gathering will contain a different feel this year. Movies about racial politics and identity will fill the streets of the Canadian city, injecting Hollywood into a cultural debate — and kicking off a period of Oscar movies that could both inform and reveal a continent's racial attitudes.
There's a whole new mix of films and people that involves race and, equally important, I think there's an appetite for them.
Toronto is one of North America's largest festivals and, with key post-Labor Day positioning, one of its most influential. The arrival of the festival marks the end of the summer tent-pole season and begins Hollywood's all-important fall movie-going period.
Thanks to its place on the calendar, Toronto strongly sets the Oscar agenda to follow. A number of films with awards hopes could see their fates determined by their receptions north of the border.
“We’re lucky to be placed in the fall, at a point when audiences want substantial, high-quality films after the summer popcorn season,” Toronto artistic programmer Cameron Bailey said in an interview. That this summer’s popcorn has tasted stale to some viewers will increase the anticipation for, and pressure on, the 2016 Toronto slate.