The Toronto Film Festival is winding down over this weekend and now it looks like the best picture race could include “12 Years As A Slave,” “August: Osage County,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Gravity,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Philomena,” “Prisoners” and “Rush. That doesn’t even include the dark horses, which could be any of the following: “42,” “All is Lost,” “Blue Jasmine,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Invisible Woman,” “Kill Your Darlings,” “Labor Day,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and “Nebraska.” Having been at a disadvantage of not being able to attend these festivals, I rely heavily on info reported on their respective websites and the journalists that ARE privileged enough to attend.
According to THR correspondent Steve Pond, there are few things learned from the Toronto Film Festival thus far...
1) Size matters … But not always in the right way.
This year’s festival had 288 features, more than 100 screenings a day, and a vast selection of movies of every shape and size and genre.
2) It’s a good year.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any critical bombs on the TIFF schedule this year. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” lived up to their buzz, “Prisoners” ,“Labor Day”, “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Enough Said” won many devotees, and this past Sunday night Ron Howard’s “Rush” got a standing ovation for its kinetic look at the rivalry between two legendary Formula One race car drivers.
Meanwhile, the festival showcased little gems like “The Lunchbox,” “Ida” and “Gloria,” the documentaries “Tim’s Vermeer,” “Midway” and “Burt’s Bees,” the near-wordless survival drama “Canopy” and the wholly unclassifiable “Under the Skin,” a bizarre, creepy and oddly moving sci-fi puzzler with Scarlett Johansson as an alien who picks up men for reasons that have nothing to do with sex.
3) Buyers want friendly movies.
Sure, Toronto is known for Best Picture winners, for foreign films, for docs and dark indies. But what’s selling so far? Crowd-pleasing movies.
By far the biggest deal for a TIFF title was the Weinstein Company’s acquisition of John Carney’s “Can a Song Save Your Life?,” a delightful blend of drama and comedy from the director of “Once.”
With musical numbers ably performed by Keira Knightley, Adam Levine and others, along with a marvelously rumpled Mark Ruffalo as a down-on-his-luck record industry exec, the film drew standing ovations at its public screenings and is the kind of fresh, feel-good movie that seems destined more for the multiplex than the arthouse cinemas.
You could say something similar about “The F Word,” which sources say has received multiple bids this weekend. The film is a small gem, a 21st Century spin on “When Harry Met Sally” with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as best friends who might be more than that.
Radcliffe is quickly putting Harry Potter in the rearview mirror, and Kazan, a year after deconstructing the rom-com genre with “Ruby Sparks,” embraces it – and as usual, she is a delight.
Meanwhile, Focus Features picked up Jason Bateman’s “Bad Words,” a gleefully profane lowbrow comedy that won’t be seen anywhere near awards season, but could be nasty enough to draw a few crowds.
Movies like these are the reason Toronto isn’t like Telluride or Venice, and why it attracts far more money than those festivals. Instead of careful curation, TIFF offers one-stop shopping – and for now, to what should be the surprise of no one, the people with money are stopping and shopping in the commercial-movie aisle.
Based on all the buzz, I decided to share trailers from the films with the most buzz...AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, 12 YEARS AS A SLAVE & GRAVITY...All clips can be found on youtube.com