Toronto 2013: Best of the Fest

[caption id="attachment_205742" align="alignleft" width="300"]Gravity Warner Bros.[/caption]

Canada was definitely the place to be this month if you, you know, like movies and stuff.

Another Toronto International Film Festival has come to a close and the 2013 lineup looks to go down in history as one of the best ever thanks to high-profile Oscar contenders like "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity" and "Dallas Buyers Club." Our own Jordan Hoffman sums it up nicely: "I saw 29 films in one week's time and only a few of them were terrible."

Here are the ten TIFF films that belong on your must-see list.

(Capsule contributions by Jordan Hoffman and Laremy Legel)

'12 Years A Slave' (U.S. Release: Oct. 18)

[caption id="attachment_205737" align="aligncenter" width="500"]12 Years a Slave Fox Searchlight[/caption]

Chiwetel Ejiofor's life is about to change forever, as his haunting eyes will now become the visual symbol of America's original sin. This devastating true story about an educated, free-born African-American who was kidnapped and sold into the pre-Civil War slavery system is as eye-opening as it is gut-wrenching. Most remarkable is director Steve McQueen's ability to make the movie devastating but not maudlin or manipulative. This is a very difficult movie to watch - it is physically and emotionally violent - but it is important, dare I say essential, to do so.  — J.H.

'August: Osage County' (U.S. Release: Dec. 25)

[caption id="attachment_205738" align="aligncenter" width="500"]August: Osage County The Weinstein Company[/caption]

Osage County is nowhere to live if you get insulted easily. Meryl Streep locks horns with Julia Roberts in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. An extended family gathers to bury the patriarch, which is as good a time as any to let old festering wounds bust open and get pus all over the dinner table. Streep is in top form here, a pill-popping Oklahoman who speaks her mind loudly and often. Drama queens will be quoting her for years. — J.H.

'Blue is the Warmest Color' (U.S. Release: Oct. 25)

[caption id="attachment_205739" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Blue is the Warmest Color Sundance Selects[/caption]

A surprisingly tender NC-17 film from France, this three-hour reflection on young love is, upon occasion, a difficult watch. The sex scenes between Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos are jarring in their graphic nature, but the film, on the whole, is as nuanced as a relationship movie can be, heart wrenching and hopeful at the same time. Though the running time could be a deal breaker for potential audiences, it would be a shock if this didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. — L.L.

'Dallas Buyers Club' (U.S. Release: Nov. 1)

[caption id="attachment_205740" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Dallas Buyers Club Focus Features[/caption]

Enjoy your first Academy Award nomination, Matthew McConaughey; you earned it. "Dallas Buyers Club" tackles the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when no one had any solutions and people were dying everywhere. McConaughey was born for this part — he's smarmy, charming and smooth as he tries to help the patients who aren't being helped by the medical system. — L.L.

'Dom Hemingway' (U.S. Release: April 4, 2014)

[caption id="attachment_204868" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Dom Hemingway Fox Searchlight[/caption]

What looks at first to be another "Trainspotting" retread turns into one of the funniest British crime films in years. Jude Law is the foulmouthed and unlikable thief who just completed a 12-year prison sentence. When his intended plans for freedom (namely partying like a Roman with the fortune owed him) don't pan out, he ends up doing something unexpected - reconciling with his daughter. Bloody hell, that sounds sappy, but I swear it isn't. It's violent and vicious and Richard E. Grant is at "Withnail & I" levels of hilarious as Law's sidekick. — J.H.

'Gravity' (U.S. Release: Oct. 4)

[caption id="attachment_205741" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Gravity Warner Bros.[/caption]

Sandra Bullock faces down the Universe in this mesmerizing technical achievement that would leave you asking "How the hell'd they do that?" if you had a moment to catch your breath. In a collection of dizzyingly choreographed long takes, Bullock spends 90 minutes furiously working to stay alive in an environment anathema to supporting life. Somewhere in the mix of problem solving there's also room for character development, making this a rich, emotional and far more relatable film than you might originally expect. Still, memo to self: Stay the hell away from exploding Russian satellites. — J.H.

'Jodorowsky's Dune' (U.S. Release: TBD)

[caption id="attachment_205744" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Jodorowsky's Dune Sony Pictures Classics[/caption]

The best documentary of TIFF, "Jodorowsky's Dune" looks at what Frank Herbert's "Dune" would have been like if surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky's project had been put into production. Jodorowsky freely admits to not reading the book, and he's not particularly interested in doing a "by the book" adaptation, instead preferring to enlist Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Pink Floyd in what would have been a truly epic — and crazy — sci-fi movie. — L.L.

'Philomena' (U.S. Release: Dec. 25)

[caption id="attachment_205745" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Philomena The Weinstein Company[/caption]

Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are an unlikely pairing, but "Philomena" makes their disparate styles sing. From director Stephen Frears ("The Queen"), "Philomena" is the true story of Philomena Lee's struggle to find the son she gave up for adoption 50 years prior; Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) is a former journalist who is compelled to help her. It would be tempting to say that Coogan and Dench's characters learn they aren't so different after all, but they don't — they remain polar opposites, making the film alternatively hilarious and poignant. — L.L.

'Rush' (U.S. Release: Sept. 27)

[caption id="attachment_205746" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Rush Universal[/caption]

"Rush" is the dramatic retelling of the 1970s rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Could this be the best movie about auto racing ever? It might just be, especially seeing as there isn't much competition. The most outstanding thing about "Rush" is the balance of the story -- there aren't good guys and bad guys, just two Formula One racers who want nothing more than to win. — L.L.

'Under the Skin' (U.S. Release: TBD)

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Scarlett Johansson is a REAL black widow in this psychedelic freak out of sight, sound and sex. Cruising around Scotland and luring men into her poisonous embrace, ScarJo is an interplanetary siren who has a black, gooey pocket universe in her amorphous apartment. Don't try to take this movie literally; just go with the flow and observe from the passenger seat. And have someone with you to discuss the film afterwards. — J.H.