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50 Buzziest TIFF Films: what to see, what to skip and how to slice through the hype

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for all the screenings at TIFF 2010, but with over 300 titles, guessing at what film is worth the money (and queuing) is as challenging as ever. Well, fear not: our guide cuts through the hype surrounding the 50 most anticipated flicks to reveal which films are likely to give the most bang for your buck.

See our picks and rejects »

Rating Legend

5 – See it at TIFF
4 – See it when it’s released
3 – Wait for it to turn up on iTunes
2 – Wait for it to turn up on Torrentz
1 – Ignore it when it turns up on a flight

Writer-director John Sayles goes the no-stars route again (à la Men With Guns) with this movie about an American soldier embroiled in the early-20th-century Philippine-American War. The always well-intentioned Sayles tends to be at his most maladroit when tackling overtly political, large-canvas tales such as this, but we’ll cross our fingers anyway.
Score: 2

Another Year
It may not have scored any awards at Cannes, but everybody seems to love Mike Leigh’s latest, about a happy, aging couple (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and their numerous messed-up singleton friends. Long-time Leigh regular Lesley Manville is said to give a standout performance as a depressed, booze-soaked secretary. And when has Leigh ever made a less-than-worthwhile film?
Score: 5

This Danish documentary, which follows soldiers fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, racked up numerous plaudits on the festival circuit earlier this year and even became the first documentary to win the Critic’s Week competition at Cannes. People who’ve seen Armadillo say it makes Restrepo (an American doc about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) look like Little Miss Sunshine.
Score: 4

The Bang Bang Club
Best known as a TV documentarian, director Steven Silver makes his feature debut with an adaptation of the 2001 non-fiction tome about four young, white South African combat photographers. The actors—Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch—aren’t exactly A-list, but the film looks intriguing because the photogs aren’t supposed to be journalist heroes, but reckless, morally compromised individuals.
Score: 3

Barney’s Version
Making a movie out of Barney’s VersionMordecai Richler’s final, Giller Prize–winning novel about a jerky Canadian television producer—has been a pet project of big Canadian film producer Robert Lantos for more than a decade. Now that it’s finally come to fruition with Richard J. Lewis (Whale Music) in the director’s chair and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) in the lead, it seems like a patriotic duty to at least pretend to like it.
Score: 3

Most people already know how they feel about Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel), so we’ll just note that critics didn’t have much nice to say about his latest at Cannes. Nevertheless, star Javier Bardem managed to win the best actor prize there, so who knows? If you can get through Bardem’s yammering in the trailer—“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm”—add a point or two to our rating.
Score: 2

Black Swan
The hype is high for this one. Judging by the trailer, director Darren Aronofsky has returned to the hysterical, fevered style of his Requiem for a Dream with this ballet-world takeoff of All About Eve. Our guess: the setting (and star Natalie Portman) will imbue the film with a touch of class, but not enough to conceal its gaudy B-movie heart.
Score: 3

Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance
’s look at the dissolution of a relationship, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, received nearly unanimous raves at Sundance and Cannes, with the two stars garnering plenty of spurious Oscar talk. Our only concern: will the film’s scrambled chronology and relative plotlessness be artistic beauty or directorial wankery?
Score: 4

127 Hours

One film stars Ryan Reynolds as a man trapped in a coffin, while the other stars James Franco as a man trapped under a boulder. Our guess is that the former, Buried, will be the better film, because all it wants to be is an entertaining genre exercise. 127 Hours, however, is based on the true story of unfortunate hiker Aron Ralston and will thus be burdened by seriousness and likely seem as long as its title. (Plus, does anyone really want to see a guy cut his own arm off with a dull army knife?)
Score: 3 (Buried)
Score: 2 (127 Hours)