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Toronto Film Fest Is Full of Award Contenders

Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Murphy, Renée Zellweger look for movie comebacks this year

Toronto International Film Festival Trailers

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The Toronto International Film Festival, running until Sept. 15, is the opening of grownup movie season. TIFF, coming at the end of summer, closes the superhero season and ushers in the period pieces, dramas, biopics, political thrillers and deep-diving documentaries that appeal to filmgoers over 50, who buy 75 percent of all art house film tickets, according to an AARP study.

Among the movies opening in Toronto that will be must-see at award season, including the Movies for Grownups awards Jan. 11:

  • The Two Popes, by Brazil's Fernando Meirelles, 63 (City of God, The Constant Gardener). Jonathan Pryce, 72, and Anthony Hopkins, 81, go toe-to-toe as Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. The two learned men, one conservative, one a reformer, discuss papal succession, the Beatles, empathy, what it is to be human — and what it takes to lead 1.2 billion Catholics. Look out for a Pryce-Hopkins tag team for best and supporting actor, in a chamber movie format that rewarded The Queen's Helen Mirren in 2007.
  • Judy. Renée Zellweger, 50, out of the spotlight for years, returns with a song in her broken heart as Judy Garland, based on the play End of the Rainbow, about the singer's 1968 London solo performances just before her death at 47. Singing and dancing and soul-bearing, Zellweger has a lock on her spot as a best actress nominee, proving her 2003 win as Roxie Hart in Chicago was no fluke.
  • The Goldfinch. Nicole Kidman, 52, is back with the highly anticipated adaptation of Donna Tartt's best seller. The film follows a young man traumatized by a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he nicks a masterpiece from the rubble that swallows his mother and forever changes his life. Kidman plays the svelte, sophisticated Upper East Side surrogate mother who takes him in and staggers under the weight of her own tragedy, aging many years in one of those physical transformations that cries “Oscar!"

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  • Hustlers. Jennifer Lopez is poised for a screen comeback after a raucous concert tour. This ripped-from-New York magazine-headlines revenge story follows a spunky band of ex-strippers who target their well-heeled former Wall Street clients. Word of mouth is sizzling, with Lopez surrounded by Constance Wu, Julia Stiles and Keke Palmer. It certainly sounds like TIFF Audience Award bait.
  • Pain and GloryAntonio Banderas, 59, kills as Pedro Almodóvar's alter ego in the director's soul-searching portrait of an artist as a mature man.
  • The Painted Bird. Stellan Skarsgard, 68, Harvey Keitel, 80, and Udo Kier, 74, star in Václav Marhoul's devastating yet beautiful adaptation of the Jerzy Kosinski Holocaust novel. Not for the faint of heart, this is a movie that has scenes of human desecration that will stun even the most shockproof moviegoer.
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Tom Hanks, 63, stars as Mr. Fred Rogers in a feel-good biopic by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).
  • Dolemite Is My Name. Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy, 58, is on the comeback trail in a biopic about performer Rudy Ray Moore.
  • Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band. A documentary about bold Canadian rock elder Robertson, 76, based on his 2016 book Testimony.

TIFF also offers a bumper crop of grownup lovers. Try Phantom Thread's Lesley Manville, 63, and Liam Neeson, 67, as a couple coping with cancer in Ordinary Love. Or Bill Nighy, 69, and Annette Bening, 61, as long-marrieds splitting up in Hope Gap. Bening also plays a sharp Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a political thriller about torture and cover-up, The Report, opposite Adam Driver. And Meryl Streep, 70, plays a bilked widow exposing global insurance fraudsters in the bouncy The Laundromat, by Steven Soderbergh, 56.

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