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This story first appeared in the Sept. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
If the movies pan out, the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival could see a flurry of deals — “if” being the operative word.
The finished movies looking for domestic distribution boast an impressive level of star power, both in front of and behind the camera, but until they’re seen in their entirety — and in front of an audience — their strength is unknown. One hitch: There aren’t many good dates left on the 2012 release calendar. To play this year, admits one indie sales agent, “The movie would have to be perfect.” Then again, Fox Searchlight snapped up eventual best picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler at Toronto in 2008 and quickly launched those. Here are 15 titles to watch this year:
Arthur Newman (CAA, UTA)
Director: Dante Ariola
Stars: Colin Firth, Emily Blunt
The Buzz: An irresistible cast. The dark comedy, marking Ariola’s feature film debut, follows two people who, desperate to remake themselves, fall in love and move into an abandoned house.
Byzantium (WME, CAA)
Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller
The Buzz: No buyer will dare miss out on seeing Jordan’s mother-daughter vampire pic. But how commercial can Jordan be?
Director: Peter Webber
Stars: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune
The Buzz: Historical epics — Emperor is set in post-World War II Japan — can be a tough sell, but Jones in particular has a strong box-office following.
Ginger & Rosa (Cinetic Media)
Director: Sally Potter;
Stars: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Alice Englert
The Buzz: From the director of Orlando, this coming-of-age-story about two teenage girls living in London during the Cuban missile crisis is considered a smaller title.
The Iceman (Bleiberg/Millennium)
Director: Ariel Vromen
Stars: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder
The Buzz: Shannon already is drawing strong praise for his portrayal of mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski.
Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon
The Buzz: Wiig, whose character stages a suicide in order to get her boyfriend back but ends up living with her mother, is one of the hit comedy actresses of the moment.
Midnight’s Children (FilmNation)
Director: Deepa Mehta
Stars: Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Shahana Goswami
The Buzz: The pairing of the Oscar-nominated Mehta and Salman Rushdie, who adapted his 1981 book for the big screen, is an immediate draw. The story follows two children born just after India declares independence from Great Britain.
Much Ado About Nothing (CAA)
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Amy Acker
The Buzz: The black-and-white film, shot in Whedon’s home, where he often holds Shakespeare readings, is a definite curiosity, but will it work in theaters?
No One Lives (Pathe)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Stars: Luke Evans
The Buzz: The horror film about a gang who takes a young couple hostage tops the list of must-see titles playing in the Midnight Madness section, which turned out the box-office hit Insidious in 2010.
The Place Beyond the Pines (CAA, WME)
Star: Snoop Dogg
The Buzz: The film, charting the hip-hop star’s transformation into the Rastafarian Snoop Lion, is one of several documentaries that could generate interest if more than a vanity project. Another is Cinetic Media’s Venus and Serena, about the tennis world’s most famous sisters.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Cinetic Media/Hal Sadoff)
Director: Mira Nair
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson
The Buzz: Nair’s latest outing, about a Pakistani man’s journey in the aftermath of 9/11, is generating strong early reviews, but it could be tough to market because Ahmed isn’t known to American audiences.
Thanks for Sharing (UTA, WME)
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins
The Buzz: Another irresistible cast. Blumberg’s film follows three friends in New York City trying to recover from sex addiction.
To the Wonder (CAA)
Director: Terrence Malick
Stars: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem
The Buzz: There had been speculation that Malick’s film, which comes on the heels of The Tree of Life, is more commercial than his previous titles, but early reviews suggest it is even more impenetrable. (Read THR’s review here.)
What Maisie Knew (WME)
Directors: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Stars: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan
The Buzz: The modern retelling of Henry James‘ 1897 novel could surprise. Moore stars in the drama as a seductive rock ‘n’ roll icon.
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