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Northern Exposure: BW Checks Out the Year's Most Anticipated Films at TIFF 2017

The Toronto International Film Festival screens a deluge of Oscar bait movies


If the Toronto International Film Festival were any more like a Nor'easter, it would appear on a weather map. TIFF, which launches its 2017 slate of more than 200 world and/or North American premieres Thursday, Sept. 7, pushes great movies like a gale-force wind. A change in the weather is just about due:The Los Angeles Times reports Hollywood is suffering its worst summer movie season in 25 years.

Enough about the past, though. Below is a sampling of movies screening in the next 10 days, and plenty of them will compete for Oscar gold in the coming months. In alphabetical order, here are the Oscar-buzzworthy titles I'm most excited to see:

Call Me by Your Name—An adaptation of the 2007 novel that Vanity Fair called "a modern classic of gay literature," starring Armie Hammer and directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash).

Downsizing—The latest film from Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways), stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a middle-American husband and wife who shrink their lives, quite literally (co-starring Jason Sudeikis and Christoph Waltz).

The Florida Project -The follow-up project from director Sean Baker (Tangerine) is a bittersweet story of the goings-on at a cheap Orlando motel, garnering the best notices of Willem Dafoe's career.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer—Director Yorgos Lanthimos follows his break-out hit The Lobster with a supernatural thriller starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.

Mother!—The much-anticipated thriller from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.—Denzel Washington is a mild-mannered lawyer partnered with another attorney (Colin Farrell), a high-powered and often ruthless dynamo.

The Shape of Water—From the genius that is Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) comes an original Cold War-era fairy tale of a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a sub-aquatic creature of the deep being held captive at a top-secret government research facility (co-starring Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins).

Suburbicon—George Clooney directs a Coen Brothers script about a flawed 1950s-era couple making some very bad choices (co-starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore).

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri—Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson star in the latest from dark-humor master Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).

TIFF 2017 also has an abundance of sports-themed entries:

Battle of the Sexes—The epic 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King is perfectly cast with Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Borg/McEnroe—Hollywood bad boy Shia LaBeouf plays the original bad boy of tennis John McEnroe.

I, Tonya—The most famous felon in figure skating, Tonya Harding, is portrayed by Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad).

Some of Hollywood's most accomplished writers and actors will unveil their first-time efforts as directors, including:

I Love You, Daddy—TIFF organizers say comedian extraordinaire Louis C.K. filmed his feature-length film debut entirely in secret with a cast including John Malkovich and Rose Byrne.

Lady Bird—Greta Gerwig, whose breakout performance in Frances Ha lit up TIFF in 2012, returns to Toronto with her directing debut starring Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn).

Molly's Game—Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) directs and Jessica Chastain stars in the true story of a champion skier who becomes the proprietor of Hollywood's most exclusive high-stakes poker games.

Unicorn Store—Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) stars in her directorial debut about a young woman who discovers a magical store managed by a cheerful salesman in a shiny pink suit (Samuel L. Jackson).

All in, BW is expecting to screen nearly sixty films in ten days. Also on our must-see schedule are: 55 Steps (starring Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Tambor), The Disaster Artist (James Franco), The Mountain Between Us (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet), Three Christs (Peter Dinklage and Richard Gere), Victoria and Albert (Judi Dench) and a full slate of television debuts, including the world premiere of HBO's The Deuce and the second season of The Girlfriend Experience from Starz.

I'll be posting capsule reviews online from all the premieres throughout the festival. Follow the coverage at