Leonardo DiCaprio, it seems, has never met a prestige biopic he didn't like. We've already seen his respective takes on Howard Hughes (which netted him an Oscar nod), J. Edgar Hoover and the somewhat less immediately recognizable Frank Abagnale Jr., and will soon see him as business shark turned motivational speaker Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street." Next up: Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the US, already played to Oscar-nominated affect by Alexander Knox in a 1944 biopic. DiCaprio will co-produce the new film, based on a recently published biography by Pulitzer Prize winner A. Scott Berg. No denying the star's conscientiousness and commitment, but would anyone else like to see him do a romantic comedy at some point? [Deadline]
TORONTO - Saoirse Ronan has been in this business a long time. She may only be 19-years-old, but the best supporting actress nominee for "Atonement" has been a working actor for a decade. She's already collaborated with filmmakers such as Joe Wright, Peter Jackson, Peter Weir, Neil Jordan and Gillian Armstrong. She's shot all over the globe and walked the red carpets at some of the greatest film festivals in the world. Today, however, Ronan is lying on a couch in a downtown Toronto hotel room as we meet to discuss her latest endeavor, Kevin Macdonald's "How I Live Now."
I was pretty vocal last year about how the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association began to lean too heavily on red carpet glitz (adding more opportunities to honor celebrities with a wealth of new, dubious, categories) while sacrificing potentially great on-camera moments (leaving the great Tony Kushner to accept his screenplay award for "Lincoln" un-televised during a commercial break). Though it might be an uphill battle, I stand by those criticisms as a member of the organization handing out the awards.
This year, the BFCA has staked out the same territory it did last year for its annual awards show: the night of the Oscar nominations. The 19th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be held on Jan. 16, 2014, where the BFCA will hope to continue whatever hot topic conversation will have begun earlier that morning with the announcement of the Academy Award nominees. Last time, that conversation was significant: Ben Affleck, director of "Argo," had not been nominated for Best Director by the Academy. Yet his film went on to win the BFCA's Best Picture award, leaving the slighted helmer to say upon accepting the prize (tongue-in-cheek, of course), "I'd like to thank the Academy."
When I initially skimmed over today’s press release from Fox Searchlight, I somehow absorbed the information that Tomas Alfredson was directing their new adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and was intrigued by the match of the material to his chilly, literate Swedish sensibility. Upon closer inspection, I was certainly right to be intrigued, but I had the wrong Scandinavian auteur: instead, it’s erstwhile Dogme 95 rebel Thomas Vinterberg who will be steering the prestige production, which began principal photography in the UK today.
Every year, during the busy submissions stage for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, France's selection is among the most curiously anticipated -- if only because they annually have such a surfeit of plausible contenders. This year, there was particular intrigue surrounding their choice -- since the film that would otherwise have been the likeliest pick, Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color," was ineligible.
Well, it's safe to say we can already strike one of this year's princess biopics from the list of Oscar contenders, with Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Diana," starring Naomi Watts, having been unveiled the week before last to across-the-board critical derision in the UK, where it opens on Friday. I have yet to see it myself, but have been assured even by more temperate colleagues that its chances of recovery are hovering around nil. I guess we now know why it skipped Toronto.
But can Watts' compatriot (and best pal) Nicole Kidman fare any better with her take on an iconic 20th-century royal?
The Toronto Film Festival always showers Oscar buzz on a critical and audience favorite, but I can't remember the last time a film was quite so aggressively elevated to frontrunner status as "12 Years a Slave" -- which had many rational critics and pundits going so far as to declare the Best Picture race over before it's begun. So just wait a minute, says Mark Harris: "It's a long road to the Oscars, and even if '12 Years a Slave' ends up crossing the finish line first, no movie makes it from September to February without hitting some speed bumps — other movies, backlash, op-ed page harrumphing, hype fatigue." "Argo" stealthily weathered those obstacles after emerging as the ordained frontrunner at Toronto last year; will "Slave" do the same? [Grantland]
Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" took another step on the long road to Oscar by winning the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award. The critically acclaimed adaptation of Solomon Northup's harrowing true story received a standing ovation after both its Telluride Film Festival and Toronto premieres and was long seen as the frontrunner for this year's honor. The win should immediately assist Fox Searchlight, who produced and is distributing the picture, in convincing moviegoers and Academy members who might be concerned with the brutality depicted in the film to actually go see it.
Overall, this year's edition of the Toronto International Film Festival delivered a very strong slate of films. While some major titles such as Cannes players "All is Lost," "Nebraska" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" skipped a repeat at the traditional awards season-friendly event, TIFF could still claim the debuts of "Dallas Buyers Club," "August: Osage County" and quickly-picked-up acquisitions "Can A Song Save Your Life?" and "Bad Words," among others. There were reports that festival organizers were annoyed (like their Venice peers) that films such as "Prisoners," "Gravity" and "12 Years A Slave" all screened at Telluride first, but that didn't diminish the love from the Toronto audiences who saw them. In fact, those films were the talk of the festival even days after their Toronto premieres.
The other day, I described the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar as being wide open. That’s still true, but I wonder if at least one nomination slot might now be emphatically spoken for. For in submitting Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” to the Academy, Saudi Arabia – despite never having taken part in the process before – have alighted on both a film and an accompanying narrative that voters could well find irresistible.