About 80% of the 2013 festival is scheduled, and I just presented the fruits of my year of filmgoing to the festival board. For the rest of you, the program will unfold in a series of announcements between now and October 15, when the final highlights are unveiled.
So now I’m hunting for the final selections, most of which will be drawn from the newest titles and releases that premiered at the just-completed Toronto Film Festival. I’ve been going to that festival since 1984, missing only a couple of years when I chose Telluride instead. This year, I saw about twenty films in five days, and had to wrench myself away because there was so much I still wanted to see. Based on what I saw and heard, this was one of the richest selections ever; as the films are released in the year ahead, cinephiles are going to be feel sated and satisfied.
Films with an arts focus were plentiful, and strong. I enjoyed the tale of a brilliant inventor’s efforts to unearth the secrets of Vermeer’s techniques (Tim’s Vermeer, directed by Penn and produced by Teller). The Jimi Hendrix biopic, All Is By My Side, starring Andre Benjamin of Outkast in a stunning performance, wove a rich and complex portrait, and is simply one of the best rock n’ roll films I have ever seen. Music was the strongest inspiration for great filmmaking this year. Ron Howard made an excellent documentary about Jay-Z’s Made in America concert and emerging talent Megan Griffiths captured the Seattle music scene and a great comic performance by Thomas Haden Church in her feature Lucky Them. A particular highlight of my trip was seeing the premiere of Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors, which he had previewed with a short clip at our festival two years ago. Conductor Michael Riesman led the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Philip Glass’s wondrous score, which Reggio’s meditative visuals (just 74 black and white shots in 83 minutes) allowed one to fully savor.
I was impressed by Ralph Fiennes’ direction and performance as Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman. Literary adaptations were particularly strong, including the Alice Munro-based Hateship Loveship starring Kristen Wiig, the star-studded August: Osage County, and an adaptation of James Franco’s short stories, Palo Alto, by a third-generation filmmaking Coppola, Gia.
Will any of these make our program? That depends on the films’ distributors and their release plans. Most of them can expect a call from me this week.