'Moneyball,' 'Albert Nobbs,' 'The Descendants' among Toronto Film Festival 2011 debuts
Films featuring Channing Tatum, Megan Fox and U2 also make the cut
The Toronto Film Festival announced its initial program for its 2011 edition and the annual awards season staple again features some intriguing debuts.
Kicking off the festival is the Davis Guggenheim documentary "From the Sky" which focuses on the enduring career of U2. It's the first time in the 36-year history of the festival that a documentary has opened the fest. Also making music news and debuting at the festival is "Pearl Jam Twenty," directed by Cameron Crowe.
Here's a rundown of the rest of the star-studded lineup.
"Americano" (Mathieu Demy)
Lowdown: An American who was raised in Paris returns to Los Angeles to deal with his mother's death and becomes obsessed with finding a special woman in their lives. Salma Hayek and Geraldine Chaplin star.
"Anonymous" (Roland Emmerich)
Lowdown: A fictional drama focusing on the idea that Shakespeare wasn't one writer, but a number of them. A passion project from the director of "Godzilla" and "2012."
Awards prospects: No joke, buzz building for Vanessa Redgrave's performance.
"A Better Life" (Cedric Khan)
Lowdown: A drama about a couple split between Canada and France because of economic hardships.
"Albert Nobbs" (Rodrigo Garcia)
Lowdown: Glenn Close stars and co-wrote about a woman who has to pretend to be a male butler in order to have independence in 19th century Ireland.
Awards prospects: Close's big hope to finally land an Oscar.
"A Happy Event" (Remi Bezancon)
Lowdown: A "tragicomic" depiction of pregnancy through the eyes of one young mother.
"Butter" (Jim Field Smith)
Lowdown: A comedy set among an annual Iowa butter carving competition staring Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde.
"Burning Man" (Jonathan Teplitzky)
Lowdown: Matthew Goode and Rachel Griffiths topline this Australian family drama.
"Countdown" (Huh Jong-ho)
Lowdown: Jeon Do-youn plays an ex-con who tries to scam a debt collector in this Korean thriller.
"The Deep Blue Sea" (Terence Davies)
Lowdown: Rachel Weisz plays a 1950's British housewife who leaves her respected husband, a high court judge, for a younger, ex-RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston).
Awards prospects: Assuming it's any good, depends if anyone can get it in theaters in time.
"The Descendants" (Alexander Payne)
Lowdown: Payne's first effort since "Sideways." 'Nuff said.
Awards prospects: See above.
"Elles" (Malgoska Szumowska)
Lowdown: An investigative journalist (Juliette Binoche) has her world turned upside down after meeting two students who moonlight as prostitutes.
"Hick" (Derick Martini)
Lowdown: A road trip dramedy about a 13-year-old girl (Chloe Moretz) who heads west in hopes of becoming a star. Ensemble features Blake Lively, Alec Baldwin Juliette Lewis, Eddie Redmayne and Rory Culkin.
"The Hunter" (Daniel Nettheim)
Lowdown: A drama about a mercenary (Willem Dafoe) sent to the Tasmanian wilderness to hunt the last Tasmanian Tiger. Based on the Julia Leigh novel, this drama also features Frances O'Connor and Sam Neil.
Awards prospects: Intriguing, assuming it finds a U.S. distributor.
"Friends With Kids" (Jennifer Westfeldt)
Lowdown: An ensemble comedy starring Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Edward Burns. We repeat: a comedy with Wiig, Fox and Rudolph in the same movie. 'Nuff said, pt. 2.
Big question: Will this flick save Megan Fox's career?
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" (Jay and Mark Duplass)
Lowdown: The Duplass brothers ("Cyrus") return with this new comedy starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon.
"The Lady" (Luc Besson)
Lowdown: Michelle Yeoh stars in this true story about Aung San Suu Kyi, a hero in Burma's democracy movement.
Awards prospects: Besson has not selected a distributor yet, but Yeoh is said to be phenomenal.
"Moneyball" (Bennett Miller)
Lowdown: Based on the true story of how Oakland A's general manager turned the team around on a budget by using computer-genrated analysis to draft and pick up free agent players. Features the return of Brad Pitt to Toronto and co-stars Jonah Hill and Robin Wright.
Awards prospects: Honestly? Unclear.
"Pease, Love, & Misunderstanding" (Bruce Beresford)
Lowdown: A comedy featuring an ecclectic cast including Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Chace Crawford and Elizabeth Olsen.
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"Take this Waltz" (Sarah Polley)
Lowdown: Polley's awaited second film is a romantic dramedy starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby.
"The Oranges" (Julian Farino)
Lowdown: A comedy about a young woman (Leighton Meester) who falls for her parent's best friend (Hugh Laurie).
"Pearl Jam Twenty" (Cameron Crowe)
Lowdown: Documentary on the popular rock band from a filmmaker who knows something about the genre.
"Rampart" (Oren Moverman)
Lowdown: Woody Harrelson plays a stringent LAPD officer working in the notorious Rampart division in the 1990's whose life comes to a crossroad after department-wide corruption is unearthed. Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Wright and Ned Beatty also star.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" (Lasse Hallstrom)
Lowdown: A British scientist (Ewan McGregor) finds himself trying to introduce British salmon to the wadisof the Yemen and falling for the representative of the local Sheik (played by Emily Blunt."
"Ten Year" (Jamie Linden)
Lowdown: A 10 year high school reunion dramedy with an ensemble cast featuring Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Kate Mara, Anthony Mackie and Chris Pratt.
"Trishna" (Michael Winterbottom)
Lowdown: A tragic love story set in modern day India between the son of a wealthy property developer (Riz Ahmed) and the poor daughter of a rickshaw driver (Freida Pinto).
"Twixt" (Francis Ford Coppola)
Lowdown: Coppola's experimental 3-D-ish thriller featureing Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning and Ben Chaplin. The footage shown at Comic-Con wasn't exactly impressive.
"Woman in the Fifth" (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Lowdown: Ethan Hawke returns to Paris as a writer trying to put his life back together and reunite with his estranged daughter. Things don't go well until he meets a mysterious new lover played by Kristin Scott Thomas.
"11 Flowers" (Wang Xiaoshuai)
Lowdown: An 11-year-old boy and his friends shelter a murderer hiding in the nearby woods until things start to go very wrong at school.
"50/50" (Jonathan Levine)
Lowdown: Inspired by the true story of screenwriter Will Riser who was diagnosed with cancer in his 20's. The dramedy features strong performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Awards prospects: Possibly for Gordon-Levitt, but this looks like an Indie Spirit player.
"360" (Fernando Meirelles)
Lowdown: Meirelles and screenwriter Peter Morgan's tapestry of 21st century love featuring Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz and Ben Foster.
Awards prospects: Depends on if it lands a U.S. distributor and when it does.
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL ARRIVALS
"A Dangerous Method" (David Cronenberg)
Lowdown: Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) discover psychoanalysis through the suffering of Keira Knightley.
Awards prospects: Across the board, but the spotty trailer has us concerned.
"Dark Horse" (Todd Solondz)
Lowdown: Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken star in the latest film from the New York indie provocateur.
"The Ides of March" (George Clooney)
Lowdown: The opening night film at Venice is a dramedy about a presidential candidate who gets a nasty lesson in dirty politics. Clooney's latest directorial effort also stars Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Awards prospects: It's a player until it isn't.
In theaters: Oct. 7
"Killer Joe" (William Friedkin)
Lowdown: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church star in what is either a really dark thriller or a really dark comedy.
"Shame" (Steve McQueen)
Lowdown: Michael Fassbender reunites with his "Hunger" helmer in this New York City based drama about a thirtysomething man whose life of non-stop sexual encourters is interrupted by the arrival of his younger sister (Carey Mulligan).
Lowdown: A modern and period look at the love affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson through the eyes of the Material Girl.
Awards prospects: Maybe? It's still to unknown at this point.
In theaters: Dec. 9
"Chicken with Plums" (Marjane Satrapi)
Lowdown: Historical drama about an Iranian violin player whose life comes to a standstill after his instrument is broken.
"The Eye of the Storm" (Fred Schepsi)
Lowdown: Based on the Nobel prize-winner by Patrick White, this family drama stars Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling.
Awards prospects: Landing a U.S. distributor would help…
"Habemus Papam" (Nanni Moretti)
Lowdown: A newly elected Pope has a crisis of faith over whether he is the right man for the job and a psychoanalyst -- who just happens to be atheist -- is called in to set him on the right track.
"Headhunters" (Morten Tyldum)
Lowdown: A headhunter gets in over his head while stealing art on the side.
"A Simple Life" (Ann Hui)
Lowdown: Based on the true story of a Chinese woman who worked over 60 years for the same family in Hong Kong.
"Where Do We Go Now?" (Nadine Labaki)
Lowdown: Described as a "heart-warming" tale of a group of women who band together to protect their sheltered community from "divisive" outside forces.
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"The Artist" (Michael Hazanavicius)
Lowdown: Accclaimed silent film set in 1920's Hollywood about a successful silent movie star whose career is about to suffer with the advent of talking pictures.
Awards prospects: Adored since it's Cannes debut. Could be a surprising player.
In theaters: Nov. 23
"Coriolanus" (Ralph Fiennes)
Lowdown: Ralph Fiennes modern adaptation of Shakespeare's classic play featuring Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain.
Awards prospects: Buzz for Fiennes and Redgrave's performances.
In theaters: Dec. 2
"Drive" (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Lowdown: Refn's fantastic thriller that won the best director award at Cannes in May. Great perforances by Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks.
Awards prospects: It would be criminal if Brooks didn't get a best supporting actor nod for this one.
In theaters: Sept. 16
"Like Crazy" (Drake Doremus)
Lowdown: Sundance Grand Jury winner about two college graduates who have their romance tested by immigration issues. Featuring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence.
Awards prospects: Jones, Yelchin and Lawrence all have shots at Oscar nominations.
In theaters: October 28.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" (Sean Durkin)
Lowdown: Disturbing drama about a young woman's attempt to escape a cult in upstate New York and the psycological ramifications of her experiences. Starring Elizabethe Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy and Brady Corbet.
Awards prospects: Olsen is a player in a very competitive best actress race.
In theaters: Oct. 21
"Melancholia" (Lars von Trier)
Lowdown: Von Trier's acclaimed Cannes drama featuring a career turn by Kirsten Dunst.
Awards prospect: If von Trier can keep quiet he might not hinder Dunst's chances at a best actress nomination.
In theaters: Nov. 11
"The Skin I Live In" (Pedro Almodovar)
Lowdown: Pedro Almodovar's creepy thriller about a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) and the mysterious woman who is his captive guinea pig.
Awards prospects: Almodovar could find himself in the run for screenplay or best foreign film again.
In theaters: Oct. 14.
"Take Shelter" (Jeff Nichols)
Lowdown: Michael Shannon is a man who is convinced a major storm is coming to destroy his home and family. Will he throw his life away with his obsession over building an underground shelter? A buzzworthy flick from Sundance last January.
Awards prospects: Shannon is a player in the best actor race.
In theaters: Sept. 30
"Tyrannosaur" (Paddy Considine)
Lowdown: A drama about an abusive family starring Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsdan. The Sundance drama is also the feature directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine.
Awards prospects: Tough.
In theaters: Oct. 14
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" (Lynne Ramsay)
Lowdown: Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly try to deal with the consequences of their son's actions in this Cannes debuting drama.
Awards prospects: Swinton is certainly a possibility in a very competitive best actress field.
In theaters: Sept. 28
Surprisingly not screening at Toronto is Jason Reitman's new dramedy "Young Adult" (everyone of his previous films has appeared there before now), "The Iron Lady" with Meryl Streep (seemingly waiting for a later awards season debut), Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" (still opening just six weeks later) and Walter Salles "On the Road" (still in the editing room) and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." The latter is the biggest surprise considering it's expected Venice debut and the fact it's opening in the U.K. the week of the festival. Still, that doesn't mean it can't be added to Toronto's slate down the road.
Which film are you most interested in seeing or hearing about from this year's Toronto Film Festival? Share your thoughts below.
For year-round entertainment commentary and awards news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.
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