The announcement of this year's Toronto Film Festival line up included a number of pictures expected to premiere or screen north of the border. Award season contenders such as Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," Bennett Miller's "Moneyball," Sarah Polley's "Take this Waltz" and Jonathan Levine's "50/50" seemed destined for Toronto months ago. There were three films, however, that didn't make the initial cut which raised some eyebrows.
The biggest surprise was that Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" isn't in the mix. Written by his "Juno" collaborator Diablo Cody, "Adult" stars Charlize Theron as a writer who returns to her hometown in Minnesota hoping to snag her ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) who just happens to be married with kids. It's a dramedy in the same vein as Reinman's last three films all of which screened and/or premiered at the Toronto Film Festival (as well as "Jennifer's Blood" which he co-produced). Normally that would be intriguing enough, but when you take into account that TIFF's brand new modern headquarters and screening facility, the Bell Lightbox, sits on the officially renamed Reitman Square it's certainly news. The block around the Lightbox was named in honor of Jason's father, Ivan, who is Canadian and has been a huge supporter of the festival. According to Paramount, Reitman certainly isn't dissing the festival which launched his career with "Thank You For Smoking." Instead, the studio and Reitman just believe that "Adult" is better served by going wide on Dec. 16 (it opens in limited release on Dec. 9) and skipping a good chunk of festival season. It's also no secret that Reitman has been through two long and grueling awards seasons for "Juno" and "Up in the Air" over the past 3 1/2 years. And, considering how "Air's" Oscar chances were somewhat deflated as that particular long season wore on, trying a different strategy might not be such a bad idea this time around.
Another film that was expected to hit either Venice, Toronto or Telluride is Phyllida Lloyd's "The Iron Lady" (well, at least by the media). Featuring Meryl Streep as iconic U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, this Weinstein Company release seemed like a logical fit to follow "The King's Speech's" winning publicity and festival tour last year. While TWC won't comment, word is the film is still in post-production having just shot this past winter. Whether it makes the London Film Festival in October remains to be seen.
Appearing at the Venice Film Festival, but not Toronto is Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." The adaptation of John Le Carre's popular thriller features a stellar ensemble including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Ciaran Hinds. Focus had no official comment on why "Tinker" won't play at Toronto, but rumors are circulating it might be the opening night film at the competing New York Film Festival and the mini-major is known to have high hopes for their prime best picture contender.
Another filmmaker who is no stranger to Toronto is Clint Eastwood. The cinematic legend has screened everything from "Mystic River" to "Hereafter" at the festival. His new biopic "J. Edgar" didn't make the initial cut for Toronto, but could find itself added in the coming weeks or land a major gala at the New York Film Festival. NYFF is also conveniently much closer to its current Oct. 21 release date.
Will not stopping in Toronto be a detriment to the Oscar campaigns for "Adult," "Tinker," "Edgar" or even "Lady"? Four of the last six best picture winners either premiered or screened at TIFF including the last three; "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Hurt Locker" and "The King's Speech." That certainly signifies a trend, but with so many changes in the best picture race this year that might not mean much. Maybe.
For a rundown of the complete 2011 Toronto Film Festival line up, click here.
To check out some brand new images from a slew of Toronto premieres, click here.
Get year-round entertainment commentary and awards season update by following Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.
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