Brad Pitt’s latest, a double dose of Clooney and lots of fine relationship films at this year’s festival.
Toronto — When Brad Pitt and George Clooney are in Hollywood North to promote movies, the media blitz hits the frenzy button and rarely dies down. And so it was on the opening weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival with Pitt in town to promote the baseball movie Moneyball, and Clooney whipping up support for the political drama he directed, The Ides of March, and the family-in-crisis drama from director Alexander Payne, The Descendants.
I enjoyed Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller (Capote) which is very much about baseball, but is also about our expectations in life and what happens when those hopes and dreams are crushed by reality.
George Clooney’s efforts get mixed reviews. His directorial effort, The Ides of March, is a cliché-ridden effort starring Ryan Gosling and pales in comparison to even a so-so episode of The West Wing. The film reveals that most politicians and their handlers are soulless assholes. Is that revelation supposed to shock us?
Better news comes with The Descendants, featuring the same subtle wit and interesting character dynamics that were featured in other Payne films including Election and Sideways. Clooney is the head of a famous family in Hawaii who is juggling the sale of a huge parcel of land while dealing with a family tragedy. He isn’t sure how to handle his two daughters when their mother is hospitalized after a serious boating accident. The family is forced to learn and grow together, and Clooney is wonderful in the role.
The Artist is a delightful black & white film about the era of silent movies when the talking picture came along and took over. It has been done as a non-dialogue movie (there is music, including Bernard Herrmann’s magnificent love theme from Vertigo), and stars the best actor winner from Cannes, Jean Dujardin, as a hammy silent film star, George Valentin. He should be in the Oscar talk, and his dog co-star should be given a special dog-shaped Oscar for supporting actor. The film is from writer-director Michel Hazanavicius.
Relationship movies are first rate at this year’s fest, including actress-director Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz. Set in Toronto, Michelle Williams is happily married to the likable cookbook author played by Seth Rogan, but finds herself delving into a relationship with a neighbor (Luke Kirby), that continues to ignite while she decides if she is willing take the next step. Williams is terrific, but the revelation is Rogan who pares back his goofball persona to deliver some real pathos. Sarah Silverman is also excellent in a key supporting role.
Even if Silverman does cross the line in an offensive way, she refuses to apologize. That was never more apparent more than a decade ago, when she came under fire for using a slang term for Asians on a late-night television show.
As a stand-alone film, Retaliation is a mindless collection of action-set pieces, only one of which is visually interesting, a ninja battle that takes place with trapeze artists/soldiers flying across the face of a mountain.
The film stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in game-changing performances as two broken people with mental issues who find each other, and while that might sound like a drama, it is so funny it resists being so easily labeled.
I wanted Flight to soar and instead it crashed after the tremendous opening section of the film that showed the events leading up to the crash of a commercial airline.
Here is a list of my 10 favorite films from the Toronto Film Fest...
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It is time to look at the summer movie schedule in July and August. 'The Avengers' got us off to terrific superhero start.
While there are the usual stone cold lock Oscar nominees this year, the current award season has divided up the booty just enough to make this an intriguing and challenging year for Oscar prognosticators.
The Descendants was my favorite of 26 films viewed at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and in a year when the Oscar buzz was underwhelming coming out of the festival, Alexander Payne’s dysfunctional family dramedy earned a fair share of the acclaim.
As a movie junkie, I enjoy giving and receiving movie gifts at the holidays so I’m always on the lookout for movies that are either finally being released on DVD format, or classics that are available in Blu-ray for the first time. Here are some titles and collections that have caught my attention as excellent movie gifts.
ATLANTIC CITY — George Clooney batted .500 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Ides of March was disappointing, but The Descendants, written and directed by Alexander Payne (and due for release Nov. 18), is a superb drama with comic accents that explores a family in crisis that manages to reconnect. I’ll present his thoughts on that film closer to its release, but Clooney also talked about his career in general during a Toronto Film Fest press conference. In talking about directing himself, he noted, “Directing myself, I was doing a part that I knew exactly what I needed. I was filling a gap....
Brad Pitt: "As a kid I loved 'The Bad News Bears. I loved 'North Dallas Forty' with Nick Nolte. That was the first R-rated movie I saw so it has a special place. Sports films work on some level at overcoming adversity."
So, which movie will emerge from the Toronto International Film Festival this year as an Oscar frontrunner? Last year it was The King’s Speech, and previous seasons have launched Slumdog Millionaire, Precious, and American Beauty to Oscar glory.
While 'The King’s Speech' was my only 3.5-star movie from TIFF, there were a lot of three and 2.5-star movies, and very few total stiffs. So while the highs weren’t as high, there weren’t many low points either.
This is exactly why I spend my working vacation every year at the Toronto International Film Festival. The 35th TIFF takes place this year from Sept. 9-19. This will be my 23rd trip to cover the global cinematic feast. The festival has grown from an understated, unpretentious celebration of emerging filmmakers, to a film festival that officially launches the Oscar buzz season
for movie showtimes, click here for movie capsules, click here The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) begins Thursday, Sept. 4, and runs through Saturday, Sept. 13. This year marks my 2...
When Brad Pitt and George Clooney are in Toronto to promote movies, the media blitz hits the frenzy button and rarely dies down. I managed to get into a packed press conference featuring Pitt, his Moneyball costars Chris Pratt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and director Bennett Miller (who directed Hoffman in his Oscar-winning Capote performance.
As the summer movie season winds down, the focus switches to the fall and the beginning of the cinematic frenzy known as the Oscar race. The traditional start of the search for Oscar worthy filmmaking begins at the Toronto International Film Festival, which I will be attending for the 25th time.