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Fall Film Festivals: Darren Aronofsky Will Shock Us, Angelina Jolie Will Surprise Us, and 4 More Predictions

Telluride and Toronto will introduce a wave of surprises to the fall movie season — and some surefire bets.

4. Aronofsky will shock us — again.

Three years after his biblical blockbuster “Noah” underwhelmed even his diehard fans, Darren Aronofsky is back in a more thrilling mode with the psychological horror flick “mother!” While shrouded in secrecy, the Paramount-backed production stars Jennifer Laurence as a young woman whose husband (Javier Bardem) invites a devious group of people into their home.

While the trailer suggests the makings of a supernatural horror film in the vein of “Rosemary’s Baby,” Aronofsky — also the film’s producer — never sags into convention, so expect this one to surprise and shock audiences as it makes its way from Venice to TIFF. Whether or not it brings Aronofsky the kind of praise that met “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” is yet to be seen, but there’s no doubt that “mother!” (which opens shortly after its TIFF screening on September 15) will get audiences talking about Aronofsky’s provocative style all over again.


Jennifer Lawrence in “mother!”

5. The crowded Best Actress race will come into focus.

Jennifer Lawrence was in the zone where she could do no wrong — until “Passengers” became a commercial disappointment. While “Black Swan” was too darkly violent for some Academy voters, Natalie Portman still went on to an Oscar win. So far, Lawrence has earned four Oscar nominations and one win (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and could rack up another nod for “mother!” — although the Best Actress race is getting crowded.

Telluride and Toronto will winnow the field as critics and audiences check out the likes of Judi Dench as another Queen (Stephen Frears’ “Victoria and Abdul”), Annette Bening as another aging Hollywood Actress (“Movie Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”), Frances McDormand as a single mom whose grief over her raped and murdered daughter turns to anger (“Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri”), last year’s Oscar-winner Emma Stone as tennis star Billie Jean King (“Battle of the Sexes”), Sally Hawkins as a mute lab worker who communes with an experimental subject (Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water”), and Jessica Chastain as a real-life high-stakes poker wrangler (Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game”).

director Morgan Spurlock

Director Morgan Spurlock

Daniel Bergeron

6. People will complain about a slow marketplace.

While these festivals tend not to generate the volume of big sales typically seen at Sundance each year, the acquisitions market is less lively than before because so many distributors have already scooped up the most commercially promising material as pre-buys. Plenty of buyers are still combing through the lineups for promising new films. The hot titles are already starting to take shape — including a rumored seven-figure offer for Craig Gillespie’s TIFF-premiering Tonya Harding biopic “I, Tonya,” which stars Margot Robbie in the lead role.

And movies with strong potential that have piqued buyers’ interest include Brie Larson’s feature directing debut “Unicorn Store,” a magical fable starring the actress, Samuel L. Jackson and Joan Cusack, Chilean director Sebastian Lelio’s English language debut “Disobedience” (Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams play Orthodox Jewish women in a love triangle), Lisa Langseth’s Alicia Vikander vehicle “Euphoria,” co-starring Eva Green and Charlotte Rampling, Tali Shalom-Ezer’s “My Days of Mercy,” starring Ellen Page, Kate Mara, and Amy Seimetz, and “The Children Act,” in which “Notes on a Scandal” director Richard Eyre adapts Ian McEwan’s novel about the British High Court’s role in religious decisions, with Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci in leading roles.

Big buyers like Amazon and Netflix may open their wallets wide, while other companies will be digging around for more niche-oriented fare. Smaller outfits may be curious about Paul Schrader’s theological eco-thriller “First Reformed,” with Ethan Hawke as a disgruntled priest, and the TIFF midnight premiere “Bodied,” a rap satire produced by Eminem. The buzzy documentary offerings across TIFF’s slate range from Matt Tyrnauer’s Hollywood scandal documentary “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood,”  Spanish-actor-turned-director Gustavo Garcia Salmeron’s Karlovy Vary documentary-prize-winning portrait of his eccentric family, “Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle,” and Obama-focused “The Final Year” to Morgan Spurlock’s secretive chicken experiment “Super Size Me 2.”

There’s little doubt that all of these movies will land offers on the festival circuit, whether or not they close deals there, so don’t believe for a second that the marketplace has gone cold.

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