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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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I’ve heard a few claim that actors, such as Christian Bale for “The Fighter”, only won an Oscar or other accolades simply due to the sheer amount of weight they either lost or gained for the corresponding role. That their achievement was merely bestowed upon them for such radical weight shifts and was not the result of towering talent and investment. Of course, this topic has come up more often recently due to award season buzz surrounding the aforementioned Christian Bale, who once again changed his weight for the film “American Hustle” and skyrocketing star Matthew McConaughey, who lost a dangerous amount of weight for his film “Dallas Buyers Club.” Is it a coincidence that these two actors are at the centre of most award season rumours and predictions? Or is there merit in changing oneself physically as well as mentally for a role that demands it? What do you think?

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I feel that this statement, regarding the cohesiveness of recognition and weight modifications, which may or may not resonate with each of you, is completely and utterly false, no matter which way you swing it. Even if one was recognized or given an award for a role in which they endured a significant weight change, it takes an incredible amount of balance, self-restrain, and discipline to pull of such fluctuations, and the recipient, in my opinion, is very much deserving of the praise, maybe even an award. I mean, it’s not as if this type of endeavour is a walk in the park, regardless if you’re gaining or losing excessive pounds. I think it’s important for actors to throw themselves entirely into their characters, and if significant physical alterations is what needs to be done in order to achieve total and believable portrayals, so be it.

That being said, of course I think that there is more to garnering universal acclaim in the film industry than mere weight transitions. One can lose all the weight they please, but like a performance that requires no physical changes, if the facial expressions, emotion, authenticity, rawness, talent, and honesty isn’t there, the performance is moot. Keep in mind however, that rising and falling numbers on a scale do contribute significantly to a characters appearance, obviously, as well as the mental stability and impression the character’s surrounding environment has on him/her. It can enhance the viewer’s experience to an uncomfortable, realistic extent and increase the range of an actors talents. Weight fluctuation is a skill, a tool utilized by actors to accomplish their job as impressively, thoroughly as possible.

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PLOT:

Based on the real story of Ron Woodruff, “Dallas Buyers Club” centres around Mr. Woodruff, an electrician who doubles as a hustler and who is your stereotypical redneck, racist and homophobic. When he isn’t at work however, Ron partakes in a lifestyle consisting of frequent, unprotected sex and drug use. Upon waking up in a hospital after a work-related injury, he is informed that he is HIV positive. Fearing the worst, Ron quickly finds an illegal way to obtain the most recent, potent drug to assist in his recovery and stabilization. Soon, Ron comes to terms with the fact that the drug is destroying his body and other patients systems as well. And with the assistance of a foreign doctor, companies abroad, and a few locals, Ron starts the Dallas Buyers Club. A membership-driven organization that distributes unapproved remedies that work safely and effectively to those suffering from AIDS. Of course, illegal activity cannot go unnoticed and unpunished, and it’s not long before those not benefiting from this secret operation take action.

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As I mentioned previously, Matthew McConaughey, the star of “Dallas Buyers Club,” lost a threatening amount of weight for his role as Ron Woodruff. He’s already earned the golden globe for his outstanding portrayal here and has been nominated for an Oscar as well. That should speak enough to the caliber of his performance here. It’s a risky character to undertake, but he’s done a stellar job capturing and exuding the fear, vulnerability, and courage of Ron Woodruff. McConaughey’s recent rapid ascension is unprecedented. Over the past couple of years, he’s shifted from rom-com playboy to Oscar heavyweight with outstanding outings in high-profile gigs such as the television series “True Detective” alongside Woody Harrelson and the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” directed by Martin Scorsese. You can catch McConaughey in another hotly-anticipated flick “Interstellar” directed by the illustrious Christopher Nolan set for release later this year. It’s looks prime to earn him more accolades and praise.

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Now, I know I might catch some flack for this next statement, nonetheless, it’s my honest opinion and needs to be said. Jared Leto, who has already earned a Golden Globe win like his co-star, did not impress me nearly as much as the performance’s reputation leads on. It’s a good portrayal, but nothing to get overly excited about. I respect and admire the heart and bravery needed for the role and Leto fulfilled it quite well, just not as sufficient and brilliant as McConaughey. Maybe Leto’s character was so over-shadowed by McConaughey’s Woodruff that it left me cold and indifferent. Regardless, it’s definitely a notch above most, but not Oscar worthy, again, in my opinion.

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“Dallas Buyers Club” is completely driven by its performances. The story is inspiring, riveting, and thought-provoking. Yet, apart from these facets, cinematically there isn’t a lot to marvel at. That being said, it does provide some of the most honest, harsh filmmaking of the year. All in all, “Dallas Buyers Club” is without question one of the best of 2013 and should be respected as such, despite what it obviously lacks.

Dallas Buyers Club: 8.5 out of 10.

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My Top 10 Films of 2013:

I wasn’t really planning on posting a personal favourites list for 2013, but upon seeing the results of “Vote: Best of 2013” and how greatly they differed from my own, I felt it necessary to share with you all my favourite films from the past year. As for the results themselves, in which you all kindly contributed, they will be posted this Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll do my very best to keep this list short and sweet. You can find my full review for each film by clicking on the corresponding title, enjoy!

Honourable Mention:

The Place Beyond the Pines:

Earlier on, when this film was released, it was very much at the top of my list. However, as the year progressed and more highly-sought pictures caught my attention, Derek Cianfrance’s lovely epic just couldn’t hold on to a spot. That being said, I truly believe it has a significant amount of staying power and if any of the films listed ahead of it falter with time, “The Place Beyond the Pines” will surely make a jump into the top 10.

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10: 12 Years a Slave:

Directed by skyrocketing genius Steve McQueen, creator of “Hunger” and “Shame.” “12 Years a Slave” depicts the unbelievable story of Solomon Northup, a free black man abducted and sold into slavery, where he stayed for twelve long years. Featuring a plethora of staggering performances, a tremendous musical score, and stunning, yet disturbing visuals. This flick is sure to be apart of cinema’s canon for a good, long while

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9: The Hunt:

The only foreign film to make my top 10 is Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt.” About a man struggling against the simplistic destruction of a rumour, this film is, without question, one of the most disturbing on the list. Starring the magnificent Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt” is a lock for best foreign feature this award season, for me at least.

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8: All is Lost (review coming soon):

Having only become aware of this film in the recent months, its power and sheer brilliance knocked me off my feet. Following a man at sea who becomes shipwrecked and discombobulated, “All is Lost” is a magnificent triumph. Starring Robert Redford, and only him. What this film is able to achieve with limited cast, settings, and dialogue is miraculous.

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7: American Hustle:

My placing of this film may surprise a few as “American Hustle” will undoubtedly be in many cinephiles top 5 films of the year. There isn’t much fault in this flick, the performances are superlative, the direction unparalleled, and its soundtrack timeless. That being said, the film’s shaky story led to its positioning here at number seven.

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6: Gravity:

Up until about November, “Gravity” was very much in play to be in my top 5 films of the year. Unfortunately for Cuaron’s masterpiece however, a slew of infallible films came along and knocked it out of the top tier. Don’t be fooled though, this film is an unrivalled achievement and will be so for many years to come. The imagery, performances, and story are entrancing, not to mention the soothing musical score.

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5: Drinking Buddies:

Okay, here is my shocker, went off the board with this one. All kidding aside however, the truth is “Drinking Buddies” is a masterful character study and one of the most honest, authentic, heartbreaking films you will ever witness. Featuring fantastic performances from the entire cast, Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” managed to surprise everyone, me included, and force its way into my top 5.

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4: Inside Llewyn Davis:

Being a former musician, I can really sympathize with the lead in the Coen brothers masterpiece, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Tossing that aside, this film is still a towering experience and undoubtedly finds itself amongst the Coen brothers best. Featuring outstanding performances and the best soundtrack of the year, “Inside Llewyn Davis” makes the list without question.

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3: Her

For a little while there, I thought “Her” was going to be number 1 on my list. Carrying the most original story, a breathtaking script, and spectacular performances, Spike Jonze really outdid himself with this one. People will be talking about “Her” long after the film has ended, perhaps even after humankind has ended…

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2: Mud:

Jeff Nichols “Mud” is a modern-day fable. Conveying a harsh lesson about growing up and love, this impeccable tale starring Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan is my runner-up.

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1: The Wolf of Wall Street:

Scorsese and DiCaprio, enough said…no, not enough? How about Jonah Hill and stunner Margot Robbie? This flick is absolutely crazy in every sense. I didn’t hesitate for one-second putting “The Wolf of Wall Street” at the top of this list.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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There’s been a few controversies surrounding this film in the media since its release, a little over a week ago. Controversies that range in significance and utter bewilderment, regarding the film’s source material, its author, anti-hero, and inspiration Jordan Belfort, to the film itself “The Wolf of Wall Street” being attacked by critics, labeled as shallow drivel glamorizing a life of criminality and abuse. Now, I can’t comment on behalf of the novel, as I’ve never read it (although I plan to), or defend Mr. Belfort as I have never met him, picked his brain, or researched his life (I must say however, it is very intriguing). That being said, there is one thing clouding my brain that I can shed some light on, debate and hopefully resolve. Something that’s distorting my thoughts with its incoherent, simple, overwhelming stupidity. And that is the irrational, baseless notion that “The Wolf of Wall Street” idealizes and absolves an existence free of morality, accountability, and stable relationships.

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I’m perfectly content to dismiss this critical negativity and deem it as idiotic complaints that pander to the obviousness and cosmetic, depthless aspects of a film that uses these highly-superficial, vivid visuals intentionally to mask, bury the truth of these distractions from the emotionally and intelligently inept. I’m fine in doing that and moving on. I form my own opinions, not base them on the unfulfilled experiences and half-witted conclusions of others. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s fair that those who have yet to see the film or those that are looking for more from “The Wolf of Wall Street” should be bombarded by the opinions of those who only have a disdain towards it. I created this site to voice my thoughts, to interact with others, and to educate and be educated, so that’s exactly what I intend to do…

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This adaption of Jordan Belfort’s miraculous, unbelievable tale is directed by the illustrious Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead character, the aforementioned Jordan Belfort. Containing an excessive amount of nudity, sex, drugs, alcohol, vulgar language, deplorable behaviour, violence, and illegal activity. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is quite the unique cinematic experience, a difficult one to stomach and endure at that. Clocking in at a trying two-hours and fifty-nine minutes, one might argue that it’s near impossible to match the celebratory nature and complete disregard for compassion and equality with vulnerability, depression, and regret for the film’s entirety. To that I say this… After roughly the thirty-minute mark, there wasn’t a moment that went by in which I didn’t ponder the stability, endurance, and humanity of our protagonist that was on display. “What about the first half-hour, you ask?” Well, it’s very simple, our lead was a decent human being for that duration.

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One might look at what he does, listen to what he says and brand his actions and reactions as gutless, inhumane, selfish, and heartless…While this is undeniably true, the way in which it’s portrayed, you know, how the light shines upon it has beencompletely misconstrued. Through every abhorrent movement and despicable word of DiCaprio’s Belfort, there is this nagging, disheartening hint of encompassing sadness and loneliness that radiates through the brash chaos. This is not a happy man, and anyone who arrives at any conclusion that contradicts this, his overall demeanour, has misunderstood.

Listen, it’s totally reasonable to connect Belfort’s outward appearance and emotional surface with happiness, a man who is pleased with himself and the choices he’s made. Hell, even the film’s ending seemingly coincides with this ideal. Conversely however, I implore you to see that there is nothing content about this man. He has lost his family, his privacy, his decency, and himself. DiCaprio’s Belfort has been misconstructed from the get go and every drunken stupor, drug-induced numbness, and orgy coma is an attempt to distract…draw his glazed eyes away from his creeping fears that became a reality all too soon. In the end, like us, he is alone, no matter how high he lived each moment. There will be a time after the present, everything becomes the past. DiCaprio’s Belfort has mistaken living for life and love. I don’t believe for one second that, apart from the time he spent with his lover and children, he was happy.

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Well, that’s enough dissection of this taut character study, on to the technical aspects! Directed by the aforementioned Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a welcomed return to criminal-empire filmmaking for the talented vet. Depicting the life of Jordan Belfort, a kind-hearted family man who gets caught up in the world of Wall Street. Earning a job at a successful firm and passing the Series 7, Belfort is informed by his then boss to adopt a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sexual release to remain atop of the game. Then, having lost his stable job due to Black Monday, Belfort soon starts his own firm, hiring his friends and selling flimsy stocks. Soon, the company is a multi-billion dollar success, with a long list of criminal offences, laundering, fraud, and tampering being a few. Funding lavish parties for his staff, consisting of drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, and obscure events, things begin to spiral out of control. Having divorced his wife, remarried, and becoming a father, Belfort soon begins to crumble under everything.

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It may be misogynistic, abusive, excessive, vulgar, and dirty, but there’s no denying that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the most entertaining film to come around in a good, long while. Scorsese captures the world of Belfort’s Wall Street in his usual, immaculate form. Feeling like a throwback to Marty’s “Goodfellas,” his use of entrancing visuals, unfathomable character depth, and intoxicating music allows him to achieve feats that no other film has this year. Martin embraces the violent language, sexuality, and craziness of his film’s premise superlatively. It’s not long until you’ve completely forgotten the fictitious feel of everything and simply become another stockbroker at Stratton Oakmont. Very rarely does one notice the handiwork of a director, but with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it’s impossible not to marvel at Scorsese’s impeccable form. In all fairness, Martin hasn’t been this good since “The Departed” in 2006.

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I’ve mentioned in great depth the brilliance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street” earlier, clamouring over his deliciously heartbreaking and charismatic Jordan Belfort. However, there is more character perfection here besides Leo’s larger-than-life portrayal. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah hill, Margot Robbie, Joe Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin also star in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and their contributions cannot be overlooked. But before we move onto them, I have one final thing to say about Leonardo. This is the year he finally earns that Oscar, or at least, he damn well better. I mean, this guy has been passed over too many times. Is this the performance of his career? Well, that’s up for debate. That being said, is his take on Jordan Belfort the best performance of the year? Hands down! Open the “best actor” envelope blindfolded, because this award is all but official.

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Matthew McConaughey won’t be winning any awards or nominations for his performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Besides, with “Mud” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” he’s got more than enough material to earn a ton of accolades this award season. That being said, McConaughey continues his ascent to the top with another memorable, hilarious, potent performance here. Who can forget him beating his chest in the middle of a restaurant, making weird noises, and talking about sex, drugs, alcohol, and money? If Jonah Hill should be nominated for “best supporting actor” because of his character in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” you won’t here me complaining. He’s awkward, both personality and appearance wise, down-right hilarious, and dramatically effective as always. Might not be as worthy as his “Moneyball” performance, but it’s certainly one of the best this year.

Kyle Chandler never seems to get the recognition he deserves and it’s starting to really tick me off. Countless films this man has appeared in and has given tremendous performances in each of them. At least Scorsese took notice of this man’s talent and gave him a fairly significant role. Jean Dujardin, who you’ll know as the Oscar-winning actor for his performance in “The Artist,” is used sparsely, but uses each moment to excruciating effectiveness. Whether it’s his invincible mindset or untouchable attitude, Dujardin will make you laugh while you simultaneously beg those around to let you punch him in the face. Jon Bernthal, or Shane from “The Walking Dead,” continues to make a career for himself post zombie apocalypse. His appearance, personality, demeanour, and narcissism will leave you gasping for breaths between laughs.

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Lastly, my favourite female performer of 2013, up-and-comer Margot Robbie. She’s got the “supporting actress” award all wrapped up in my books. I would like to inform her to start clearing off shelf space or at least get someone, perhaps myself, to build her a case for it. She’s sexy, poignant, ruthless, funny, and seductive as Leo’s ambitious, take-no-shit trophy wife. There has not been a better performance by a female this year. I know that in reality she’ll be lucky to receive a nomination at the very least, but in all honesty, there’s no denying her charm, talent, and beauty here.

Well, here we are, 2013 is now officially over. So I thought it fitting to present you with my favourite film of the year, so here it is. “The Wolf of Wall Street” takes the cake for me and I’m sure it’ll win a few of you over as well.

The Wolf of Wall Street: 10 out of 10.

Top 10 Films Screening at TIFF 2013

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Well, TIFF is a mere 6 days away and I’m finding it extremely hard to contain my excitement. So, I figured I’d compile this list to somewhat ease my strain as well as inform you all of what you can expect to be radiating from the festivities this year. Now, with nearly 300 films screening at the festival, narrowing it down to the top 10 was extremely difficult. Not to mention that each individual carries their own interpretation of anticipation and cinematic values. Inevitably, this means it’s almost a foregone conclusion that many of you won’t agree with most of my choices. That being said, I did my best to include the general public in my decisions regarding the films playing in Toronto and how hotly anticipated they are. So, please keep that in mind when judging this list. Click on the film title for all the information you need regarding the film.

As always, if you feel I’ve overlooked a film or listed one that shouldn’t have been included, feel free to voice your opinions and comments below.

Honourable Mentions: Kill Your Darlings, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her (it’s a film told in two parts from two perspectives), Prisoners.

James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”

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Horror: The Sacrament, The Green Inferno.

Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno.”

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Now, without further ado, let’s get to it!

10: August: Osage County.

Seriously, just read the cast list for this film and you’ll see why I’m so smitten.

9: Joe.

Similar to Mud, except instead of Matthew McConaughey, Nicholas Cage takes on the role of the mentor.

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8: Don Jon.

The Directorial debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, what’s not to like?

7: Enemy.

TWO Jake Gyllenhaal’s, yes please!

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6: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

This just might earn Idris Elba an Oscar nomination.

5: Blood Ties.

Marion Cotillard and Clive Owen light up the screen in this thriller.

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4: The Fifth Estate.

Is this performance by Benedict Cumberbatch going to earn him an Oscar?

3: Dallas Buyers Club

Has anyone ever, in the history of cinema had two consecutive years as amazing as Matthew McConaughey’s past two? They are calling his role in Dallas Buyers Club Oscar worthy, even though he should probably win for Mud.

2: Gravity

This film has recently shot up the list since its initial screening. It is garnering masively positive reviews out of the gate.

1: 12 Years a Slave

There is tremendous Oscar buzz surrounding this film and for good reason. Watch the trailer and you’ll find out for yourself.

That’ll do it for this week’s top 10, hope you all enjoyed it. Remember to leave all opinions and comments below. Have a great weekend!

TIFF 2013 Releases Schedule and Final Announcements

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We are now less than two weeks away from when the Toronto International Film Festival tickets go on sale to the public and a mere 16 days away from the start of the actual festivities. On Tuesday morning, another slew of films were announced along with the schedule itself and a long list of celebrities set to attend the festival. I don’t know about you, but the anticipation is overwhelming me. I suppose the nervousness and excitement will dissipate somewhat when I actually know what screenings I will be attending, or it could skyrocket even higher. Either way, this is shaping up to be one hell of a festival!

Schedule:

Now, for those attending, or those simply who’d like to know what’s going on and when, you can find the full schedule by clicking here.

FInal Film List and Programmes:

If you’d like to know what films are playing at the festival, you can click here for the entire list or click the TIFF button in the main menu at the top of this page. You can also find all the programmes offered by the festival by clicking here. Essentially, all films screening at the festival are divided into groups for attendees to better understand what type of genre and themes the film will contain.

TIFF Guests:

Perhaps the most exciting news released Tuesday morning was the endless list of celebrities ready to attend the festival. Amongst the names are Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Rebecca Hall, Josh Broliin, Alan RIckman, Clive Owen, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hiddleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Ben Foster, Anton Yelchin, Liam Neeson, James McAvoy, Nicole Kidman, Felicity Jones, Ed Harris, Spike Jonze, Melissa George, Paul Giamatti, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah Gadon, Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, Jesse Eisenberg, Sandra Bullock, Chris Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Mia Waikowska, Owen Wilson, Steve McQueen, Jason Reitman, Keanu Reeves, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Ti West, Eli Roth, Daniel Radcliffe, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Oliva Wilde, Mike Myers, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, and Thandie Newton, just to name what I feel to be the most important. And honestly, I couldn’t type any more names. There is a bunch more on the list you can find here. Also, these are just the people confirmed thus far, it is expected that the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, amongst others will be attending.

Jason Reitman’s Live Read:

You can find all the information below, provided by the TIFF website.

The Festival proudly welcomes back Jason Reitman’s Live Read — a unique event in which classic movie scripts are read by contemporary actors. With no rehearsal, the actors come together for a one-take read-through with Reitman narrating stage direction. In 2012, the Festival welcomed Reitman and an all-star cast — including Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Adam Driver, Sarah Gadon and George Stroumboulopoulos — for a live table read of Alan Ball’s screenplay for American Beauty. This year, Reitman is back with a surprise script from a modern classic and a new cast at the Ryerson Theatre on Friday, September 6. Details, including cast and script, for the 2013 Live Read event will be announced in early September.

IMAX Screenings:

New this year, audiences are invited to be part of the action with two official Festival selections and two special screenings presented in spectacular IMAX. The two films will be Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and Keanu Reeves “Man of Tai Chi.”

Next Wave and Manifesto Announced:

You can find another plethora of titles announced by clicking here.

New Galas and Special Presentations:

Metallica Through the Never: Nimród Antal, Canada/USA, World Premiere

Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines) stars as a Metallica roadie dispatched to hell and back in this mind-blowing mash-up of concert film and post-apocalyptic adventure, presented in IMAX 3D.

The Wizard of Oz: Victor Fleming, USA, World Premiere

Experience Judy Garland’s over-the-rainbow adventure in vivid new detail with this IMAX 3D presentation of Victor Fleming’s family classic.

10th Midnight Madness Film Unveiled:

Witching & Bitching:

Fleeing through the impenetrable forests of the Basque countryside after a jewel heist, a hapless band of robbers runs afoul of a coven of witches, in this madcap supernatural spectacle from Spanish genre specialist Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus).

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Okay then, that’ll do it for the pre-TIFF announcements. The Cinema Monster will be covering the festival in full, providing reviews, news, and Q and A’s as often as possible, make sure to follow our website to keep up with the festival. Also, follow The Cinema Monster on Twitter (@cinema_monster) and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news and posts, not to mention special pictures and videos provided by me from the screenings. Have a great week!

Mud (2012)

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A harrowing, instant classic that, without any doubt, blossoms into legend. Mud is a charming, captivating, irresistible coming-of-age yarn that transcends and disarms. Rich with dynamic visuals, a sweet, at times cunning script, and superlative performances from its entire cast. Mud is comprised upon an endless source of infallibility and revered assets. Filmed entirely in the state of Arkansas, rooted along the Mississippi River and its tangents. Mud’s locations are a breathtaking backdrop evoking a sense of wonder and serenity. Written and directed by up-and-comer Jeff Nichols who continues his rise to fame with this, his third full length feature. The only thing more reliant than the unsurpassable portrayals and unmatched scenery throughout Mud is Nichols sturdy, visionary direction. Despite some heavy, dark subject matter and clinging to innocence for effectiveness, Mud never loses its way.

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Ellis (Sheridan) is 14 years old and lives in a houseboat on the banks of a river in Arkansas with his mother Mary Lee (Paulson) and father Senior (McKinnon). One morning, after he sneaks out past his parents, Ellis meets up with his best friend Neckbone (Lofland), who is also 14 and lives with his uncle Galen (Shannon). The boys set out to an island on the Mississippi river where Neckbone has discovered a boat stuck high in a tree, believed to have been put there by an extreme flood. Soon after climbing the tree and into the boat, they discover footprints and fresh food. Upon returning to their boat, figuring it best to leave before the inhabitant returns, they are surprised to see a rugged man fishing. The stranger, who is soon revealed to be named Mud (McConaughey), asks the boys for food in exchange for the boat in the tree. As time passes, the three become close friends and begin to trust one another. This is when Mud and the boys enter into an agreement that will change their lives forever.

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Filled with the vibrancy and uncertainty of life and youth. Nichols honest take on the struggles of growing up is both refreshing and astoundingly accurate. Managing to convey the hardships and vulnerability that comes with being young and wide-eyed. Mud places the world at your feet, just to render you helpless when you reach out to grasp it. To accomplish this feat while simultaneously leaving the viewer content and without being overly sappy is stupefying. Yet, the theme most prominent and riveting in Mud deals with the emotion that leaves us confounded and in a daze, love. Stating that regardless of age, we always succumb to the idea of love and will always stumble over and sacrifice ourselves and one another for a taste of it. Mud is undeniably one of the best films of 2013 and will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

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With a plethora of symbolism, lyricism, and dynamism, it’s easy to get caught up in the ripples of Mud and lose sight of its heart…If you can keep track of each, individual storyline strand, Mud has so much more to behold. For instance, the forests and rivers ingeniously resemble the appeasing exteriors of Mud’s characters. And like these peaceful settings and docile people, there are unforeseen dangers that lie beyond them. Just a quick note on Mud’s tranquil soundtrack which is composed by David Wingo, who also wrote the score for Nichols 2011 hit, Take Shelter. Wingo’s ability to match Nichols ideals with music is unparalleled and I’m overjoyed that the two continue to work with one another.

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Even though Mud might not be as psychologically exhausting as Take Shelter or disconcertingly ferocious as Shotgun Stories, it is certainly just as visual and rewarding. Nichols continues to grow with each release and every single outing of his sheds a little more light into his bright, limitless future. The most reassuring and remarkable trait of Nichols films is that the newest chapter is stronger than the last. Nichols effortlessly and eloquently absorbs the natural and elemental beauty of Arkansas, the surrounding terrain, and vast skyline. There is no denying that Mud’s numerous, incredible performances and original script would be useless without Nichols keen, eccentric direction.

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Finding a pair of young, close-knitted, and talented leads is imperative to Mud’s success and Nichols found them in Jacob Lofland and Tye Sheridan. Mud again reunites Nichols with Michael Shannon, who stared in both of Nichols other films, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter. Now, even though his role is certainly smaller than the duo’s previous collaborations, Shannon is equally as effective. Also starring Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Reese Witherspoon, and Sam Shepard. Mud’s ensemble easily gives one of the best collective efforts of the year.

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It is quite astonishing when an actor, let alone an ensemble breaks through the screen, allowing the viewer to discard the notion that what they’re watching is just a film, Mud has this effect. McKinnon and Paulson’s portrayal of a couple who’s marriage is on the rocks reaches a new level of believability. As they fight against the closing inevitability and try, relentlessly to keep their son stable regardless of their current circumstance causes a profound euphoria of respect to rush over the viewer. As for Shepard, who’s role is somewhat typical, is able to surpass its regularity with an unusually strong, aching performance. Witherspoon, who garners very little screen time, makes terrific use of her limited role. To be honest, I had very limited respect for Witherspoon as an actress, but after Mud, it has grown substantially.

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However memorable and powerful the supporting casts performances may be. They are simply outdone by Mud’s three leads Jacob Lofland, Tye Sheridan, and Matthew McConaughey. As McConaughey’s stock continued to rise throughout 2011 with his roles in The Lincoln Lawyer and Bernie, it slowly became apparent that there was no stopping his rapid ascension. Following up another hit in Magic Mike with Mud, McConaughey seems to have finally found his muse. McConaughey is now gearing up for another high-profile role as he is set to star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, ready for release late in 2013. There is now, no denying McConaughey’s brilliance as he recently signed on to tackle the lead in the magnificent Christopher Nolan’s next film Interstellar, which will also feature Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway. Thankfully, there seems to be no end in sight for the once discredited Matthew McConaughey.

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Lofland and Sheridan, who were ultimately hired because of their abilities on a boat, knowledge of the area, and the time it would save not having to teach these facets to two other young leads, undoubtedly earn their spots. With a combined age that doesn’t equal some of their co-stars time of acting experience, let alone years on this planet, Lofland and Sheridan prove they’re not intimidated by underestimation. Having performed in Terrence Malick’s, The Tree of Life, Sheridan continues on his path to a fortuitous career. As for Lofland, Mud is his first full length feature, but you wouldn’t know it from his calm and confident performance. Both flourish in this highly advantageous opportunity and look to have extremely bright futures.

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With its unyielding, heavenly toxic imagery, phenomenal performances, and spot-on portrayal of love, death, and youth. It may be a bit premature, but Mud has eked its way into my top 10 all time favourite films and I don’t see it falling out anytime soon. It is a must see for anyone, cinephile or not.

Mud: 9.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Films of 2013 Predicted

To make the directive of this list clear. The films contained are what myself and cinema2033 believe to be the best hopes for cinema in 2013. Again, these are our preferential films, not that of the general viewing public. We are simply predicting what we think will be our favourite or preferred films of the year. We will be creating a separate list with what we believe to be the most anticipated films of 2013. That list will be our perceived notions from discussing and judging the amount of publicity, budget, and overall excitement of the general public. Without further delay, Enjoy another chapter of our top 10 series.

Let’s begin this list with the honourable mentions. Stoker, A Single Shot, The Look of Love, American Hustle, Don Jon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Fifth Estate, Out of the Furnace, Kill Your Darlings, and Before Midnight. We would also like to insert Terrence Malick’s 2013 film, even though its cast, story, and release date are kind of up in the air at the moment.

10: Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed and written by the Coen brothers and starring Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to be another Coen brother smash.

9: Mud. Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols, the mind behind Shotgun Stories and the hauntingly epic Take Shelter. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Shannon.

8: Trance. The new film from the brilliant Danny Boyle. Trance is a mind-bending thrill ride featuring outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel.

7: The Counselor. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s incredible novel and helmed by none other than Ridley Scott. With its outstanding cast that features Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Javier Bardem. The Counselor is ripe with genius and ready for viewing.

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6: The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn. The Place Beyond the Pines is an intricate gem.

5: The Way, Way Back. What seems to be an endearing coming of age romantic comedy. The Way, Way Back looks to have another outstanding performance from Sam Rockwell and an unusual role for Steve Carrell.

4: Nymphomaniac. Directed by the creative and controversial Lars von Trier. Nymphomaniac appears to be a fresh take on sexual addiction with Shia LaBeouf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stellan Skarsgard leading the way.

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3: The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, need I say more?

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2: Only God Forgives. The Duo of Gosling and Refn appear to be stealing the spotlight from Scorsese and DiCaprio, and rightfully so. This follow up to their 2011 hit Drive is one of the most anticipated releases of 2013.

1: Twelve Years a Slave. Steve McQueen, director of Hunger and Shame, teams up once again with Michael Fassbender for this mid-1800 slavery epic. Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and Scoot McNairy. Twelve Years a Slave has all the key facets to take top spot as our best film of 2013 predicted.

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If you think we overlooked a film or made a grave error on our list, please comment below. Also, if you have recommendations for future top 10’s, don’t hesitate to let us know.