At the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s certainly not all about Oscar, but that’s a pretty good place to start


In Hollywood, there are essentially two seasons: summertime and awards season. And the Toronto International Film Festival marks the unofficial kickoff of the latter.

The festival, which begins Thursday and runs through Sept. 17, is seen as a platform for future Oscar winners. Last year, “La La Land” and “Moonlight” played there, and “Spotlight” was in the mix the year before. (The Venice and Telluride film festivals often host the big premieres, but Toronto is where the buzz builds.)

TIFF — just a four-hour drive from Metro Detroit — has earned a reputation as “The People’s Festival”: everywhere you look, crowds pack the courted off-streets to catch a glimpse of stars and participate in the glitz and glamor surrounding the fest. Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio walked the red carpet and shook hands with fans (while attending the premiere of his climate change documentary “Before the Flood”), while Pharrell Williams gave a concert in the street (tied to “Hidden Figures,” which premiered footage at the fest).

This year’s event includes more than 250 films, including Oscar hopefuls “Darkest Hour” (Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill, say no more), “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (Denzel Washington as a lawyer whose principles are tested) and “Breathe” (Andrew Garfield stars as an advocate for the disabled in the directorial debut of Andy “Green Screen” Serkis). And that’s to say nothing of the genre films, star vehicles, foreign offerings, midnight freak shows and left-field oddities that pack the robust, impossible-to-wrangle schedule.

Here are 10 films I’m dying to see during this year’s TIFF:

“Bodied:” “Torque” and Taylor Swift video director Joseph Kahn — if you haven’t seen his film “Detention,” you should, it’s insane — takes a satirical look at the world of battle rapping. For credibility’s sake, the film counts Eminem and his manager, Paul Rosenberg, as producers. Count me in.

“I, Tonya:” At the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Joe Louis Arena played host to one of the most infamous chapters in figure-skating history when associates of Tonya Harding took a club to the knee of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. In this biopic of Harding, Margot Robbie laces up her skates and takes on the role of the blonde ice menace.

“Suburbicon:” Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac star in this portrait of an idyllic 1950s suburb with a seedy underbelly in this crime comedy from director and buzzed-about newcomer George Clooney (“Facts of Life”).

“Downsizing:” Damon, again, this time in a sci-fi comedy from director Alexander Payne (“Election,” “About Schmidt”) centering on a team of scientists who figure out a way to shrink humans down to a height of 5 inches. With Kristen Wiig and Christoph Waltz.

“The Disaster Artist:” James Franco, something of a disaster artist himself, takes on the making of “The Room,” the infamously bad 2003 cult film from Tommy Wiseau that is still slaying audiences at midnight screenings everywhere.

“The Florida Project:” Willem Dafoe is earning Oscar buzz for his role in this film about a group of people living at an extended stay motel in Kissimmee, Florida. From director Sean Baker, who spun gold out of his iPhone-filmed “Tangerine” in 2015.

“Gaga: Five Foot Two:” This documentary about Lady Gaga — that follows the creation of her 2016 album “Joanne” and her performance at this year’s Super Bowl — premieres this month on Netflix, but this premiere is billed with a performance by the singer, which sounds too good to pass up.

“Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami:” The Goddess Grace Jones — who is still wild and scary and would gladly bite your head off — is profiled in this documentary from director Sophie Fiennes.

“Manhunt:” “The Killer” and “Hard Boiled” director John Woo is back to his old ways — or so goes the pre-release hype, at least — in this action extravaganza that is supposed to be another one of his patented bullet ballets. In!

“Borg/McEnroe:” Tennis, anyone? In the fest’s second big tennis film — the other is “Battle of the Sexes,” with Emma Stone and Steve Carell — Shia LaBeouf stars as John McEnroe and that’s all I had to hear. Sold.

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