12 flicks that actually deserve your attention.

BY AMBER DOWLING
La La Land

La La Land

Romance

What happens when you follow a jazz pianist and a wannabe actress as they pursue their respective dreams in Tinseltown? An epic love story, of course. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reteam following their turn in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love for this artistic film from director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). The result is an impressive homage to classic Hollywood musicals that’s bound to invoke nostalgia in any self-proclaimed movie buff.

weirdos

Weirdos

Canadian

Prolific television director Bruce McDonald brings his know-how to the big screen with the debut of this Nova Scotia-shot flick. When two teenagers run away from home and embark on an epic road trip in July 1976, they find themselves with an unlikely companion in the form of Andy Warhol. Billed as an offbeat coming-of-age story, the dramedy features Allan Hawco, Molly Dunsworth, Julia Sarah Stone, and Dylan Authors, tackling a script from Daniel MacIvor.

snowden

Snowden

Ripped from the Headlines

Given the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing move against the NSA, it was only a matter of time before the man’s life became fictionalized on the large screen. Who better to tackle the subject than director Oliver Stone, a man famous for embracing heavy subject matter. Based on The Snowden Files, this movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the leading role and a cast that includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant, and Nicolas Cage.

Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen

Comedy

As anyone who has ever grown up with a sibling close in age can attest, the idea of your brother or sister dating your best friend can be a valid concern and potential nightmare. That worst-case scenario comes true for teenager Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her older brother and bestie begin seeing each other, sending Nadine into an amplified, self-absorbed life crisis. Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick round out the cast while Kelly Fremon Craig directs.

Barry

Barry

Profiles

Now that Barack Obama’s second term as POTUS is nearly complete, everyone is at least vaguely familiar with his life as a political leader. Thanks to other certain presidential hopefuls, many are also familiar with the man’s childhood. Director Vikram Gandhi’s film attempts to fill in the blanks in between. Devon Terrell portrays Obama back in his New York City college years, decades before he knew he’d become the elected leader of the free world.

Window Horses

Window Horses

(The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming)

Canadian

Love is the central theme in this animated feature from the National Film Board of Canada. The film revolves around Rosie Ming, a Canadian poet who is invited to perform at a festival in Iran when she’d prefer to be in Paris. Once there, she confronts former skeletons through unexpected connections, and learns to forgive and forget all while finding her true voice. Celebs including Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, and Don McKellar lend their voices to the movie.

Arrival

Arrival

Alternative

French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Sicario) continues his impressive ascent with this fresh take on a potential alien apocalypse. Based on Story of Your Life, a short story by Ted Chiang, the flick stars Amy Adams as a linguistics expert and Jeremy Renner as a physicist who specializes in math. When aliens begin to plant themselves around the planet, the military recruits the pair to avoid a lost-in-translation scenario, and to decipher whether these invaders are friend or foe.

LBJ

LBJ

Profiles

Bryan Cranston may have won over the critical masses for his Broadway and small-screen portrayals of Lyndon B. Johnson, but Woody Harrelson is looking to take TIFF by storm with his take on the former U.S. President. Rob Reiner shoulders directorial duties in this film, which follows the political leader through a new era of civil rights and a controversial war with Vietnam. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bill Pullman and Jeffrey Donovan also star.

Deepwater Horizon

Ripped from the Headlines

When you’re retelling the story of one of the most monumental environmental disasters to ever hit North America, you’re practically required to recruit an all-star cast to do the job. Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, and Gina Rodriguez highlight director Peter Berg’s dramatized take on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which focuses on the bravery of those involved.

Below Her Mouth

Below Her Mouth

Drama

Canadian actor-director April Mullen’s latest, Below Her Mouth, featuring Swedish Louis Vuitton model Erika Linder alongside Natalie Krill, is sure to sizzle the screens in Toronto. Representing what may be the first all-female feature made in Canada, the movie traces a brief but passionate romance between two women that leads to a whole lot of drama.

Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

Western

Antoine Fuqua’s update of the 1960s film has been given the prestigious opening night gala slot. Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and Richard Wenk (Fuqua’s previous film, The Equallizer) rework a script that sees a small town enlisting the help of seven outlaws to restore peace and order after it’s taken over by a corrupt industrialist. The all-star cast includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, and Vincent D’Onofrio as the seven in question, along with Peter Sarsgaard and Haley Bennett.

Birth of a Nation

Birth of a Nation

Ripped from the Headlines

Add Nate Parker’s name to the list of provocative filmmakers headlining at TIFF. Starring Parker, who also wrote the film, Birth of a Nation follows the life of Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion against white plantation owners in 1831. The period drama reclaims the title from the notoriously racist 1916 silent film by D.W. Griffith. It debuted at Sundance earlier this year, where it received a standing ovation before it even began.