Rosewater
Yesterday morning brought on my window to select my individual films for TIFF 2014. It should go without saying that the beauty of an early draw is being able to get exactly the films you want, and not having to worry about screenings being sold-out already.

Even though in the past I found that I had very good luck going into the advance draw, there’s still something to be said for getting those last one-or-two that didn’t make the cut in the past.

So while I might add two or three more as the festival goes along, here’s what I have planned for TIFF 2014 (and for those who are curious, my Tiffr schedule is here)

Shrew’s Nest (Spain): After a debilitating fall, an unlucky neighbour finds himself trapped in the mad, cloistered world of two shut-in sisters, in this Misery-style Spanish thriller produced by Midnight Madness favourite Álex de la Iglesia.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Japan): Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) transforms an ancient Japanese folktale into a dazzling animated fantasy.

Coming Home (China): In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, an amnesiac woman (superstar Gong Li) struggles to regain her memory and reconnect with her long-imprisoned husband, in this enthralling and emotional drama from Chinese master Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero).

St. Vincent (USA): A cantankerous, cash-strapped, loose-living retiree (Bill Murray) becomes a spectacularly unlikely role model for his twelve-year-old neighbour, in this delightful comedy co-starring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard and Naomi Watts.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (France): Director Roger Allers (The Lion King) assembled an array of internationally acclaimed animators to realize episodes from the classic text by the renowned Lebanese poet, which are woven into the tale of a mischievous young girl (voiced by Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis) who attempts to free an imprisoned poet (Liam Neeson).

Big Game (Finland): Trapped in the wilderness after Air Force One is forced down by a terrorist attack, the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson) must rely on the survival skills of a 13-year-old woodsman, in this thriller co-starring Ray Stevenson, Jim Broadbent and Felicity Huffman.

Men, Women & Children (USA): The latest feature from Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Labor Day) follows a group of teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. A sterling ensemble cast includes Judy Greer, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, J.K. Simmmons, and Emma Thompson.

Magical Girl (Spain): Desperate to fulfill his terminally ill daughter’s last wish, a grief-stricken man plunges into a vortex of blackmail, deception and double-cross, in this deliriously stylized noir thriller from dynamic young Spanish director Carlos Vermut.

The Last Five Years (USA): A struggling actress (Anna Kendrick) and her novelist lover (Jeremy Jordan) look back on the last half-decade of their relationship from very different viewpoints, in this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical from writer-director Richard LaGravenese.

The Duke of Burgundy (UK): British filmmaker Peter Strickland follows his eerie Festival hit Berberian Sound Studio with this dark melodrama about an amateur butterfly expert whose wayward desires test her lover’s tolerance

Rosewater (USA): The Daily Show host and Iranian Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari discuss the story behind Stewart’s debut feature Rosewater, which tells the true story of Bahari’s five-month imprisonment in Iran after his appearance on Stewart’s show.

It Follows (USA): Stuck with a sexually transmitted serial haunting after a romantic night out, a beautiful nineteen-year-old girl finds herself pursued by a legion of malevolent, lumbering phantoms that will pursue her forever — unless she passes the curse on to someone else.

Three Hearts (France): A twist of fate leaves a hapless accountant (Benoît Poelvoorde) romantically torn between two sisters (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni), in the new film from Festival veteran Benoît Jacquot (Farewell, My Queen).

Red Army (Russia): A smash hit at this year’s Cannes, director Gabe Polsky’s exhilarating documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Soviet hockey in the 1980s.

Bang Bang Baby (Canada): Canadian director Jeffrey St. Jules makes his feature debut with this surreal, fever-dream fusion of small-town musical and 1950s sci-fi.

While We’re Young (USA): Noah Baumbach’s exploration of aging, ambition and success stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz.

Over Your Dead Body (Japan): A theatre troupe rehearsing a classic play of murder, betrayal and phantasmagorical vengeance find life bloodily imitating art backstage, in this wild cinematic detour from madly prolific Japanese auteur Takashi Miike.

The Editor (Canada): A one-time (and now one-handed) master film editor toiling in the cinematic sweatshops of 1970s Italy becomes the prime suspect in a series of brutal murders, in this loving tribute to/parody of the gory giallo thrillers of Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

The Cobbler (USA): A lonely NYC shoe repairman (Adam Sandler) discovers a magical heirloom that allows him to “walk in another man’s shoes,” in this charming fantasy co-starring Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and Ellen Barkin.

Wild (USA): A self-destructive woman (Reese Witherspoon) attempts to leave behind her years of drug abuse and reckless sex with a solo, 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir from director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club).

The Search (France): A nine-year-old Chechen orphan and a teenaged Russian soldier encounter the many terrible faces of war during the 1999 Russian invasion of the breakaway republic, in this searing drama from Academy Award-winning director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist).

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Germany): Swedish master Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor) returns with this absurdist, surrealistic and shocking pitch-black comedy, which moves freely from nightmare to fantasy to hilariously deadpan humour as it muses on man’s perpetual inhumanity to man.

Top Five (USA): Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, Top Five tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Anders Holm and Michael Che. And featuring music by Questlove.

Haemoo (South Korea): The ragtag crew of a fishing boat takes on a dangerous commission to smuggle a group of illegal immigrants from China to Korea, in this tense high-seas adventure co-scripted by South Korean genre-movie guru Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer).

What We Do in Shadows (New Zealand): Taika Waititi (Boy, Eagle vs Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) co-direct and star in this hilarious mockumentary about a trio of vampires living in a New Zealand suburb who struggle to adapt to life in the 21st century.