<p>Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen at the TIFF premiere of &quot;12 Years A&nbsp;Slave&quot;&nbsp;last week.</p>

Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen at the TIFF premiere of "12 Years A Slave" last week.

Credit: AP Photo

'12 Years a Slave' wins the 2013 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Award

'Silver Linings Playbook' won in 2012

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.

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Best and Worst of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

Best and Worst of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

What shined north of the border this year?

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.

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<p>Waad Mohammed in &quot;Wadjda.&quot;</p>

Waad Mohammed in "Wadjda."

Credit: Sony Classics

Saudi Arabia makes history with 'Wadjda' in foreign Oscar race, Dutch enter 'Borgman'

Looks like the race might have a new frontrunner

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.

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<p>Woody&nbsp;Allen makes his one and only appearance at the Oscars in&nbsp;March of 2002.</p>

Woody Allen makes his one and only appearance at the Oscars in March of 2002.

Credit: AP Photo

Woody Allen to receive HFPA's Cecil B. DeMille Award

Woody Allen to receive HFPA's Cecil B. DeMille Award

Woody Allen never does awards shows. When he popped up at the Oscars in 2002 in the wake of 9/11, it was a huge surprise, and a welcome one. He eschews this kind of stuff and has never been in attendance to accept any of the four Oscars or two Golden Globes he's received throughout his career.

So it's a little bit of a surprise that he's been bestowed -- however deservedly -- with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award. After all, the organization would surely like him to be on hand to actually accept the lifetime achievement honor. It would be a little strange for a big fete without the guy in the wings to accept and give a speech, etc. Nevertheless, whether he shows up or not, it's an inarguable tip of the hat.

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Jake Gyllenhaal compares the 'Prisoners' cast to playing on the Yankees

Jake Gyllenhaal compares the 'Prisoners' cast to playing on the Yankees

Obviously not this season's team

TORONTO - Like everyone, actors make good choices and bad choices in their career. At this moment, Jake Gyllenhaal is working on a string of great choices. Since the back-to-back 2010 misfires "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Love & Other Drugs," he has starred in the well-respected box office hit "Source Code," earned critical acclaim for the surprise success "End of Watch" and should have one of the biggest hits of his career when the ensemble thriller "Prisoners" opens later this month. Plus, he recently took a major creative chance with "Enemy," an experimental drama he shot with his director Denis Villeneuve before they collaborated on "Prisoners." Both "Enemy" and "Prisoners" debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where the Oscar nominee sat down to talk, mostly, about the latter.

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<p>Scarlett Johansson in&nbsp;&quot;Don&nbsp;Jon&quot;</p>

Scarlett Johansson in "Don Jon"

Credit: Relativity Media

On the resurgence of Scarlett Johansson

Between 'Don Jon' and 'Under the Skin,' the star is partying like it's 2003

Fun fact: it's 10 years ago to the day that Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" went on limited release in Los Angeles, mere days after doing the Venice-Telluride-Toronto stretch that was a rarer feat for prestige films then than it is now. In some respects, it does feel that long since we first laid eyes on Coppola's woozy Tokyo kinda-love story, which is not to say it doesn't hold up rather beautifully. The director's three subsequent films, albeit variations on a consistent theme, exhibit an arc of wearied, cooled maturity, while indie film festivals are still awash with atmospheric imitators that may or may not know the source of Coppola's own cribbing. 

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<p>Julia Roberts at a press conference for &quot;August:&nbsp;Osage County&quot;&nbsp;at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.</p>

Julia Roberts at a press conference for "August: Osage County" at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Contender Countdown: It's already hard out there for a best picture player

New Feature: Rank the top 10 best picture contenders as you see them

It's going to be one of those years, a season where so much is at stake that the back-biting begins very, very early. In fact, too early. We saw signs of these behind-the-scenes shenanigans last season when "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Les Misérables" lost their legit Best Picture-contending statuses in pressure-filled PR takedowns. It's only September and competing consultants and publicists already appear to be trying to influence the media to do their bidding. A few disparaging quotes heard across Toronto…

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<p>Ray&nbsp;Dolby was 80</p>

Ray Dolby was 80

Credit: Dolby Laboratories

Tech Support: Oscar-winning sound pioneer Ray Dolby leaves behind a rich legacy

The audio legend passed away today at the age of 80

Those entering the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 at the 86th annual Academy Awards will pass under the marquee named after a man who changed the art and science of movies, a man whose thumbprint is on the very form itself, a man who passed away earlier today at the age of 80.

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<p>Andrea Arnold</p>

Andrea Arnold

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Andrea Arnold named NYFF's first Filmmaker-in-Residence

The British Oscar winner will focus on 'developing or refining new work' at fest

Just three features into her career, Andrea Arnold has established herself as the kind of filmmaker I'll invest in (with faith if not finance) on pretty much any project she chooses to pursue. "Red Road" and "Fish Tank" were both richly sensual portrayals of modern working-class Britain that defied the Ken Loach-patented model of British social realism; both deservedly earned her Jury Prize wins at Cannes. (Both, moreover, built on the already lofty expectations set by her 2003 short "Wasp," another work of spiky grace amid the tower blocks. It won her an Oscar, in case you've forgotten.)

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<p>&quot;The Wind Rises&quot;</p>

"The Wind Rises"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Miyazaki's 'The Wind Rises' to hit US theaters in February 2014

The animated hopeful will still have an Oscar-qualifying release in November

As it turned out, Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises" wasn't quite the mighty magnum opus we might have hoped from the Japanese animation master's farewell feature -- but at this stage, the man is a victim of his own high bar. It's still a lovely, distinctive and technically awe-inspiring achievement: the lulls in its biopic narrative pass fairly easily when the visuals are so consistently ravishing.

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