On the eve of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, my sense is there's a bit more nervousness in the air as film industry professionals seem to be clueless about where their box office success will come from.
"What have you heard?" and "What do you know?" echoed through a Toronto tavern Wednesday evening, as it quickly filled up with movie studio executives and film critics from across the planet. Nearly all of them were overly curious about each other's opinion on what might be this year's big break-out title from TIFF.
There are a few blockbusters on tap in Toronto. Everyone is anxious to get their first look at The Martian, director Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic starring Matt Damon, and Johnny Depp's star turn as gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. If history is any guide, the star of the festival will probably be one of the smaller, unexpected films that slip in under the radar. In the past few years Enough Said, Frances Ha, Philomena, Still Alice and the Dallas Buyer's Club each emerged, on their own merits, to be audience favorites. I suspect that will be the case again this year.
Another observation as the 40th annual TIFF begins: I've noticed a decrease in traditional American film critics. An increasing number of American newspapers have decided to put film critics out to pasture and, instead, reprint film criticism from syndicates, which, more often than not, are more interested in celebrity-fueled entertainment reporting than documentaries, foreign films or art house movies. That said, this year's TIFF appears to have a growing number of journalists from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America in attendance. And why not? The global movie market is becoming less American-centric and Toronto always packs its schedule with scores of excellent foreign films.
The glitz? The hype? The celebrities? The red carpet? You bet, they're all here in force. But quality always wins out.