Unlike most festivals that program small films prime for discovery, the Toronto International Film Festival parades nearly 300 films, most of which are well-known going into the ten day moviegoing extravaganza. Big name, award-friendly directors like Ben Affleck, Terrence Malick, David O. Russell, and the Wachowskis arrive on the scene to show off their latest cinematic works, in hopes of stirring up buzz and hooking potential moviegoers.
As a preview of the Fall and Winter line-ups to come, TIFF 2012 was a major success. Impressively, the festival's audiences, both eager for serious, post-summer entertainment and skeptical that respected filmmakers could continue to deliver quality work, walked away wowed. Now that the festival has wound down and its winners have been announced, conversation immediately steers towards awards consideration. Which crowdpleasing films can go all the way to the Oscars?
While an Oscar win does little to impact the quality of a movie (as long as they come out, people who see them in theaters win!), TIFF's award winners and debuts have gone on to see major contention in the Academy Awards races and, in turn, box office success. Will this year follow suit? Here are the Toronto movies we think have what it takes to take home gold:
Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell's follow up to 2010's Oscar-nominated The Fighter has all the makings of a Best Picture contender — including a TIFF Audience Award, shared with previous winners Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech. With two knockout performances by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, that miraculously weave comedy into a dark story of mental illness, Silver Linings Playbook is a human story that never loses itself in schmaltz. Even with the "true story" weight of the material, Russell's unique voice oozes from every moment of the film, which should help him snag a Best Director and Best Screenplay nomination.
Andy and Lana Wachowski teamed up with German auteur Tom Tykwer to realize the three-hour experimental narrative Cloud Atlas which cross-cuts six stories following dozens of characters and spanning hundreds of years. Reviews were mixed at TIFF (although it knocked our socks off), so its Oscar potential is up in the air. There's an unmatched level of craft on display in Cloud Atlas, making it a shoe-in for a technical awards at the end of the season, but if audiences manage to connect with it on a existential level — as intended by the juxtaposition of characters and their souls' many lives — it could blossom into a Best Picture contender. While Tom Hanks has been a viable actor candidate in the past, Cloud Atlas is definitely an ensemble movie. No one steals the spotlight, making the star (and Oscar possibility) of Cloud Atlas the movie as a whole.
Period dramas get a bad rap, belittled as "Oscar fodder" rather than actual efforts to turn classic material into relevant, modern movies. Thankfully, Atonement and Hanna director Joe Wright delivered a stunning riff on famed Russian love story Anna Karenina that should have prejudging naysayers eating crow when it hits theaters this Fall. Wright heightens the reality of his story by constructing Anna Karenina like an immersive ballet or opera. The production design and score are destined for Oscar nominations, but under the eye of Wright, every element seems to bleed into one another — including the great performances by Keira Knightley and Aaron Johnson. The film won't win everyone over, but Wright's hand will hopefully be evident enough to earn him a Best Director nomination.
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest has been lauded for its 70mm cinematography, which should make it a lock for the Best Cinematography Oscar, but its leading men should be the talk of the town come year's end. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman give two impressive and totally different performances in The Master: one unrestrained and feral, the other tempered and controlling. Both Oscar-worthy.
Ben Affleck's third feature kicked Toronto off on a high note, the real-life thriller wowing with its eclectic ensemble and Affleck once again delivering tense, personal action. Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, and Argo may be the greatest story never told: the film follows a group of producers who whip up a fake production in order to covertly sneak Americans out of the Iranian revolution. With Affleck, Oscar voters may see a new great in their midst. Throwing him a few awards would be fanfare for the revelation.
Hyde Park on the Hudson
We were underwhelmed by Hyde Park on the Hudson, a film chronicling President Franklin D. Roosevelt's affair with his cousin during the King and Queen of England's first visit to the United States. There isn't much of a story (and it recalls a better personal interpretation of political strife: The King's Speech). But it has one major component going for it: Bill Murray. His FDR is charming and complex, and while the film may not live up to his grandeur, the Oscars may see through the mess with a Best Actor nomination.
Amour and No
Not to be overshadowed by the major studios releases, both Michael Haneke's Amour and Pablo Larraín's No won over audiences at TIFF and could easily pop up in the the Best Foreign Language Film — and heck, even the Best Picture — conversation come Oscar time. Haneke's devastating look at old age and the waning years before death will be hard to top as the year's biggest tearjerker. No plays like a '80s Chilean version of Mad Men; starring Gael Garcia Bernal, the film tells the true story of a group of ad wizards who use their tactics of selling Coca-Cola and toothpaste to help campaign against the dictator Pinochet in an unprecedented election.
Juan Antonio Bayona's dramatization of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has the chops to be an Oscar contender, but it might be too good to actually win over voters. Shocking and heartfelt, Bayona rips apart his two lead actors, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, in an effort to accurately depict devastation. The first half is a frightening wonder (sure to be lauded with Special Effect Oscars next year), but if too many Academy members turn away in hopes of keeping their lunches down, The Impossible may not see the love it deserves.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: CREDIT]
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They say if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, so it's no wonder the 50th Annual New York Film Festival is enjoying so many buzzed about films in its lineup, which was recently announced. Aside from the previously announced opening and closing night films — Ang Lee's Life of Pi, which will open the festival with NYFF's first-ever 3-D screening, and Robert Zemeckis' Flight — NYFF has laid out 32 films to be screened at this year's fest. And the list includes a few projects you've probably already caught wind of.
The Bill Murray-starrer Hyde Park on the Hudson is the film in which the classic comic actor takes on Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cineophiles who've been waiting patiently to see the winner of the Cannes Film Festival Palm d'Or can rejoice because Amour is also gracing the long list of films hitting New York's Lincoln Center. Other highlights include Christina Hendricks as an unhappy mother in Ginger and Rosa and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in Brian DePalma's erotic thriller Passion.
Check out the full 2012 lineup and check back in September for coverage from Hollywood.com:
Amour (directed by Michael Haneke)
Araf—Somewhere In Between (Yesim Ustaoglu)
Barbara (Christian Petzold)
Beyond the Hills/Dupa dealuri (Cristian Mungiu)
Bwakaw (Jun Robles Lana)
Camille Rewinds/Camille Redouble (Noémie Lvovsky)
Caesar Must Die/Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani)
The Dead Man and Being Happy/El muerto y ser feliz (Javier Rebollo)
Fill the Void/Lemale et ha’chalal (Rama Burshtein)
First Cousin Once Removed (Alan Berliner)
Flight (Robert Zemeckis)
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
The Gatekeepers/Shomerei Ha’saf (Dror Moreh)
Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter)
Here and There/Aquí y Allá (Antonio Méndez Esparza)
Holy Motors (Léos Carax)
Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell)
Kinshasa Kids (Marc-Henri Wajnberg)
The Last Time I Saw Macao/A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (João Pedro Rodrigues)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
Lines of Wellington/Linhas de Wellington (Valeria Sarmiento)
Memories Look at Me/Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo (Song Fang)
Night Across the Street/La Noche de enfrente (Raul Ruiz)
No (Pablo Larrain)
Not Fade Away (David Chase)
Our Children/À perdre la raison (Joachim Lafosse)
Passion (Brian de Palma)
Something in the Air/Après Mai (Olivier Assayas)
Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Vous n’avez encore rien vu (Alain Resnais)
NYFF kicks off Sept. 28 at New York's Lincoln Center.
[Photo Credit: Fox 2000]
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Shedding many of those trappings that make a James Bond movie well a James Bond movie Quantum of Solace is really the first sequel ever in the long-running series. While it’s always exciting something gets seriously shaken and stirred in the translation. Picking up exactly where the brilliant Casino Royale left off we see Bond (Daniel Craig) trying to get to the bottom of why his love Vesper Lynd had to die jumping right into the first of many MANY chases as he traverses six countries. Still on rogue patrol Bond then inadvertently meets the crafty and gorgeous Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who introduces Bond to the evil Dominic Green (Mathieu Amalric) the head of an eco-phony stealth operation angling for some prime desert land while financing a crooked Bolivian general’s planned coup. With the ever resourceful M (Judi Dench) trying to keep him in line at all times Bond must put his revenge plans on hold as he crosses paths not only with Greene and his fake pro-environment front but also the intriguing and mysterious group known as Quantum. In this outing Daniel Craig -- leaner and meaner than any previous Bond -- really becomes a man of single-minded determination and grit. He’s less like the James Bond we know and love and more a humorless killing machine like Jason Bourne (those two should really get together). Still Craig is such a compelling actor that we are with him all the way even if he doesn’t go for the suave Bond moves. Olga Kurylenko is a great foil but not totally in the tradition of a Bond girl. A later encounter with Gemma Arterton as a British agent in Bolivia does however briefly recall the heyday of Goldfinger. Judi Dench has taken the perfunctory role of M and turned it into a full-blown supporting role. Her dry wit and take-no-prisoners attitude is welcomed every time she shows up on screen. French star Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) doesn’t really pull off his villainous alter-ego ecologist while Jeffrey Wright is pretty much wasted as U.S. agent Felix Leiter. At least Giancarlo Giannini returns for some nice moments with his Craig. Although they usually leave the challenging job of steering the Bond ship to an English director oddly this time the baton was handed to Marc Forster known more for his intimate dramas such as Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball. His grip on the action sequences is secure but he never really seems to have a handle on what distinguishes this legendary movie spy from everyone else. There’s a reason Bond has survived as a screen icon for almost half a century but the sort of workman-like filmmaking Forster displays here does not represent 007’s finest hour. It’s almost like the producers had a checklist: car chase on winding roads; boat chase; airplane chase; rooftop chase -- all check. Quantum of Solace is definitely worth checking out however. I mean it IS Bond and we wait for these movies on bated breath. Just maybe next time a little less Bourne please.