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It's That Time Again: The Toronto International Film Festival

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in <em>Beyond The Lights,</em> from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also directed <em>Love & Basketball</em>.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in <em>Beyond The Lights,</em> from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also directed <em>Love & Basketball</em>.

It's that time again, and by "that time," I mean "Canadian time." Because beginning Thursday, NPR's own Bob Mondello and I, along with Bilal Qureshi of All Things Considered,, will be spending a week seeing movies at the Toronto International Film Festival, which your movie-nerd friends call "TIFF."

I wrote last year about the basic rhythms of the festival — its hugely packed schedule and colorful grids and huge collection of respected directors and actors. When I look at the 10 films I watched in the first two days last year, it's remarkable to me how much I've forgotten some of them. I didn't even remember I'd seen The Fifth Estate, particularly, until I reminded myself that I did. Some of them, on the other hand, echoed over and over as I talked about film for the following year: The Past, Jodorowsky's Dune, and the charmer The Lunchbox (which I still hope you'll see, if you haven't).

This year's schedule is just as enticing and hard to pin down. My Day 1 currently includes Whiplash, a drama starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons; Mr. Turner, directed by Mike Leigh; The Voices, directed by graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi; Girlhood, directed by Celine Sciamma, about a group of black high school students in Paris; and at least one player to be named later. And that's if I stick to the plan. I usually don't stick to the plan.

I've weeded out a couple of films about which you'll see TIFF coverage simply because they're opening so soon after we get back that I'll just see them then — first among them This Is Where I Leave You, based on a Jonathan Tropper novel I love and starring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Adam Driver, among others. I'm excited about the film, but the regular press screening is just after we return, so it's a small jump on the movie if any, and I'd rather take that time to seek out something less accessible from D.C.

I'm scheduled to gamble on Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, despite being less than blown away by Labor Day last year. I'm eager enough to see Anna Kendrick in The Last Five Years that I accidentally added it to my schedule twice. I have no idea whether Ruth & Alex, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, is any good, but I'm not sure I can resist the pairing. And do not think for one moment you are keeping me away from Beyond The Lights, the new romance from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who made 2000's delicate and deeply felt Love & Basketball.

It goes on from there: Chris Rock! Noah Baumbach! And, oh yes, Rosewater, which kept Jon Stewart out of the Daily Show chair long enough to allow for the rise of John Oliver.

Two years ago, I wrote up every movie I saw individually and almost broke my fingers from typing; I'm unlikely to do that again. But I'll bring you roundups and updates and whatever interesting business breaks while I'm there. Feel free to peruse the listings and make recommendations; maybe your pick will be a player to be named later.

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