TORONTO - Matthew Weiner has proven himself to be an incredible writer and director on the small screen. He's earned critical acclaim and numerous awards for his landmark series "Mad Men." On Saturday afternoon, Weiner unveiled his screenwriting and feature directorial debut at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival with the dramedy "You Are Here." It was not his finest two hours.
Boy was there a wealth of topics to write about this week. I could have dug in on an extremely crowded Best Actor race that already features 12 or 13 performances that have actually been seen (with a handful that could be real threats still to come). I could have done a typical roundup of awards prospects for films that dropped in Toronto over the weekend. I could have commented on the amount of quality we've already seen and how, so far, it's looking like 2013 could be one of the great film years.
But then I saw this Vulture piece, and something I had been fending off as mere inside baseball bitching suddenly stuck in my craw. So let's get this business out of the way at the top so we can enjoy the season.
It's safe to say HitFix's Drew McWeeny was a big fan of John Carney's "Can a Song Save Your Life?," which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday. "It should not come as any surprise that John Carney, who wrote and directed 'Once,' has made another great film that focuses on songwriters and the way their lives influence their work, and I love that it doesn't feel like he's just trying to reproduce that movie's charms," Drew wrote in his review. "It's the sort of movie that I feel protective of right away, because it's delicate. It's not trying to be a giant megablockbuster that opens on 3000 screens. It is heartfelt and deeply human, and it means every word it says."
A number of distributors must feel similarly (or see the potential for audiences to feel similarly) about the film, which stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo: an all-night auction eventually led to The Weinstein Company securing exclusive talks to acquire it. Deadline is reporting that the film will be picked up for $7 million minimum for US rights with a $20 million P&A (prints and advertising) commitment.
VENICE - "I have a feeling Bertolucci's going to be a bit spikier than that," a colleague said to me yesterday, after I ventured my not-at-all confident prediction that Hayao Miyazaki's romantic animated biopic "The Wind Rises" would win the Golden Lion. To some extent, actually, we agreed. This year's Bertolucci-led jury didn't exactly seem likely to hand the top prize to the comfortingly middlebrow "Philomena," however much the crowds at Venice wanted them to: with other jurors including Andrea Arnold, Pablo Larrain and Carrie Fisher, it was hard to tell just what they'd agree on, but the odds were firmly stacked against it being safe.
TORONTO - As is often the case during the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, two potential awards season contenders debuted within hours of each other Saturday night. In fact, "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" premiered in theaters literally across the street from one another. And, happily, both have something to add to our long road to Oscar.
The Toronto Film Festival is in full swing and HitFix's Greg Ellwood have chimed in on a number of films, from "Dallas Buyers Club" to "Enough Said," while a handful of Telluride players -- "12 Years a Slave," "Labor Day," "Gravity" (also Venice) have landed as well.
One of the films Greg has been high on is Jason Bateman's directorial debut, "Bad Words." Praising Bateman's transition to feature director (he's been directing television for years), Greg wrote that the film "will make many wonder if some of [Bateman's] recent flicks might have actually been even better if he'd been behind the camera instead of just in front of it." Indeed, with misses like "The Change-Up" and "Identity Thief" as of late, Bateman could certainly use a smash.
Focus Features will be aiming to turn "Bad Words" into just that as the studio acquired the film earlier this morning. Written by Andrew Dodge (and a Black List entry in 2011), it be released worldwide by Focus in 2014.
TORONTO - Over the course of her four previous pictures, Nicole Holofcener has proven to be one of the most observant and insightful American filmmakers working today. Her latest endeavor, "Enough Said," would be noteworthy just based on the fact that its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, hasn't appeared in a live action movie since 1997's "Deconstructing Harry." Sadly, what has put the film on the radar of many moviegoers is the fact its features one of the last performances of the late, great James Gandolfini.
VENICE - Bernardo Bertolucci proved one thing this evening: he still has the power to surprise us. Tonight's Venice Film Festival awards ceremony was the most surprise-laden (at this festival, or any other) in recent memory. In the press room, where I was watching it, the swiftly announced winners induced one gasp after another from the crowd -- along with a smattering of boos -- until the crowning stunner: the Golden Lion for "Sacro GRA," an Italian documentary about a famous Roman highway from Gianfranco Rosi that was surely one of the most little-seen films in Competition. (I missed it too, and will be catching up with it tonight.) Hot Best Actress favorite Judi Dench missed out, though her "Philomena" co-star Steve Coogan was rewarded for his screenplay. I'll have more analysis later; for now, the full list of winners is after the jump.
When I said in yesterday's predictions piece that "Philomena" was the most broadly well-liked film of the festival, I wasn't kidding. Stephen Frears' gentle dramedy, widely tipped to win Best Actress for Judi Dench at tonight's Competition awards ceremony, handily leads the way in the festival's vast array of preliminary awards from alternative juries. Its eight wins include Best Film from the festival's Youth Jury, an INTERFILM award for "promoting interreligious dialogue," even a Cinema for UNICEF mention. No one's singled it out yet for walking on water, but it's only a matter of time.
TORONTO - In hindsight, no one should be surprised that Jason Bateman turned out to be a very smart and talented movie director. The Hollywood veteran has had a lifelong lesson in what works and what doesn't whether it was on the set of TV's "Silver Spoons" when he was a teenager, amongst the creative ensemble of "Arrested Development" or any number of hit comedies he's starred in over the past five years such as "Identity Thief" or "Horrible Bosses." And did we mention he's been directing TV sitcoms since he was 20? With "Bad Words," which premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival Friday night, Bateman will make many wonder if some of his recent flicks might have actually been even better if he'd been behind the camera instead of just in front of it.