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The Globe and Mail

The Globe's 10 most anticipated films at TIFF 2012

Movie critics Liam Lacey and Rick Groen list the movies they're most excited about at this year's festival

1 of 10

HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON: It’s this year’s The King’s Speech, and thus a classic example of TIFF as a launching pad for an Oscar-ready picture. Stuttering King Bertie and Queen Liz are back again, this time paying a royal visit to F.D.R. and earnest Eleanor at his Hyde Park mansion. All the ingredients are here – history (1939 on the cusp of war); humour (that mansion opens up into a veritable drawing-room comedy); sex (even in his wheelchair, Franklin gets around); star power (Bill Murray with a signature twist on the Prez); and politics (just a smidge, but enough to pretend to a certain seriousness). My, Hollywood’s little golden boy just eats this stuff up. (R.G.)

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TO THE WONDER: Once, a Terrence Malick film seemed as rare as a cosmic event. Now, with his second outing in as many years, the guy’s threatening to become a chatterbox. Still, he’s mandatory viewing, no less because his recent work is taking us where mainstream releases so seldom go – away from conventional narrative toward the abstract realm of pure image. Malick is, after all, a schooled philosopher, and he’s clearly returning to his roots, but using the vocabulary of cinema as his primary search engine. I expect to be daunted, yet excited too. (R.G.)

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WHAT MAISIE KNEW: Henry James helped to usher in the modern psychological novel, which may explain why the movies have always had a strained relationship with his books – reducing them to costume dramas, or travelogues, or acting exercises, but not knowing what to do with the interior subtleties of his crystalline prose. What Maisie Knew is perhaps his most technical novel – a tale of divorce observed, and told, exclusively from the limited perspective of the warring duo’s young child. How in hell do you adapt that? I’m intrigued by the film’s first choice, to update the setting to modern-day New York. The second, casting Steve Coogan as the male half of the narcissistic couple, well, we’ll see. (R.G.)

4 of 10

9.79*: The fest has broken out seminal docs before, like Ira Wohl’s Best Boy or Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, but this one, from British filmmaker Daniel Gordon, comes with some intriguing Canadian content: Ben Johnson’s so-called “disgrace” at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. A revisitation of the event is long overdue, in light not only of the other drug-implicated sprinters in that particular race but of all the other dopers in all the other sports. In the intervening years, Johnson has remained a convenient villain even as it grew clear that he was also an obvious victim – of a pervasive and enduring hypocrisy. Let’s hope this documentary remedies that injustice. (R.G.)

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CAPITAL: Way back when filmdom was surfing its many New Waves, a younger Costa-Gavras proved himself a master of the smart political thriller, investigating the dictatorial dark side in Z (1969) and The Confession (’70) and State of Siege (’72). All these years later, he joins the contingent of aged auteurs at this edition of TIFF, and brings a drama that looks into the contemporary equivalent of the malevolent despot – corrupt financial institutions. Bank robbers were long a staple of the movies; robber banks may well be the new gangsters. (R.G.)

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AT ANY PRICE: With just three features under his belt (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and the superb, Goodbye Solo), Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani has developed a strong reputation as a storyteller. He has been the subject of several retrospectives and was dubbed “director of the decade” by Roger Ebert. His fourth film, At Any Price, represents a distinct upgrade in profile, starring Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Heather Graham among others, in a heartland tale of an unscrupulous farmer and his son who wants a new life. Early Venice reviews suggest a film that is, in the best sense, old-fashioned. (L.L.)

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FOXFIRE: CONFESSIONS OF A GIRL GANG: Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or-winning film, The Class, used young, inexperienced actors to explore the challenges of a teacher in a contemporary French high school. This time he’s using a similar approach shooting a period movie, based on Joyce Carol Oates’s 1994 feminist myth-making novel Foxfire. The previous version, starring Angelina Jolie as the sexy bad girl heroine, left fans of the novel disappointed. Cantet’s much more faithful version features a mostly unknown and very good young Canadian cast and is both more understated and politically potent. (L.L.)

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THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: Bradley Cooper stars in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, adapted from Matthew Quick’s 2010 novel, about a bipolar former teacher who, upon release from a psychiatric hospital, moves back home and gets involved with a troubled young widow (Jennifer Lawrence). Russell’s previous sardonic comedies, Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster were very sharp movies (I Heart Huckabees, not so much), but what grabbed my attention was a sneak preview at Cannes last May, where the off-rhythm exchanges between Cooper and Lawrence struck a chord, evoking some of the serio-comic tone of Anne Beattie’s novel (and 1979 movie) Chilly Scenes of Winter. (L.L.)

9 of 10

SOMETHING IN THE AIR: French director Olivier Assayas has been on a roll lately, with the Chekhovian family drama Summer Hours and the volatile terrorist drama, Carlos. His latest film, Something in the Air is the story of a French teenager in the politically volatile early seventies (the French title translates as After May, following the student protests of 1968). Best of all, this is a return to the time and place of Assayas’s excellent 1994 semi-autobiographical feature, Cold Water, offering what promises to be a portrait of the artist as a young radical. (L.L.)

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THE MASTER: Over his five film career, Paul Thomas Anderson has created a body of work marked by a particularly American style of grandiose eccentricity. Five years after his Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood comes another historic tale of a self-made egomaniac and cult leader, bearing parallels to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. He’s played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Amy Adams as his wife and Joaquin Phoenix as a drifter who becomes his acolyte. Like every other Anderson movie I’ve seen (except for Punch Drunk Love, which I liked immediately), I expect to be initially puzzled but fascinated, and appreciate it’s originality more with passing time. Also, it’s shot in the epic format of 70mm, which hasn’t been used since Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet a decade and a half ago. (L.L.)

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