The Toronto International Film Festival, which ends Sept. 17, is packed with Oscar-bait films that jump-start an awards season that may be severely impacted by the ongoing Hollywood strikes. But if the Oscar telecast comes off as planned on March 10, 2024, the films launched at Toronto will likely be in the mix. Many of TIFF’s movies are tailor-made for grownups, with stars who prove age is no obstacle to achievement worthy of that shiny, 24-karat doll. Standouts this year include Annette Bening, 65, Jodie Foster, 60, Jeffrey Wright, 57, Leslie Uggams, 80, Paul Giamatti, 56, Jamie Foxx, 55, Tommy Lee Jones, 77, and Colman Domingo, 53. And get ready for the documentaries In Restless Dreams, about the music of Paul Simon, 81, and Sly, starring Sylvester Stallone, 77. Here are a few of our absolute favorites to keep in mind — and check AARP’s weekly What to Watch column, so you can catch their premieres in theaters and streaming.
Annette Bening eyes a fifth Oscar nomination with Nyad
After four Oscar nominations, Bening seems to be doing a brisk Australian crawl toward a splashy fifth nomination as the goal-driven marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, 74. The action-packed sports biopic (PG-13, in theaters Oct. 1, on Netflix Nov. 2) follows the prickly Nyad’s five attempts to swim the open ocean between Cuba and the Florida Keys. She failed at 28, tried again at 60, and continues, confronting box jellyfish, sharks, crosscurrents and her own demon memories, to complete the arduous two-plus-day race against herself. It’s a solo sport that takes a village, including best friend and coach Bonnie (a scene-stealing Jodie Foster), to navigate the span and protect the athlete. This is Bening’s Rocky, a performance that draws on every muscle and finds her often puffy-eyed, sunburned and sea-creature-stung. Definitely a 60-is-the-new-30 movie. (⭐⭐⭐⭐☆)
Paul Giamatti and Alexander Payne go for gold — again — in The Holdovers
In 2004, director Payne, 62, made Giamatti famous overnight in Sideways, which got five Oscar nominations and won one (for adapted screenplay). In The Holdovers (R, in theaters Oct. 27), a 1970s memory piece that begins at a tony New England boarding school, the Billions star plays an ancient-history teacher so stuck in his boozy, belligerent bachelor ways that he’s desperately in need of a wake-up call if he’s to experience life in any of its juiciness. Punished for giving a donor’s son an F rather than a gentleman’s C, he must spend the Christmas holiday on campus babysitting a young “holdover” whose mother and new stepfather don’t have room for him on their belated winter honeymoon. With the school’s live-in cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), they struggle toward mutual understanding of each other — and themselves. Hilarious and heartbreaking, it puts Payne, Giamatti and Randolph in the Oscar mix. (⭐⭐⭐⭐☆)