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.
VENICE - We're almost at the finish line. 11 days have passed, 20 Competition films have been screened, and tomorrow evening we'll find out what this year's eclectic jury, led by Oscar-winning Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, believes is the best of them. And if it's harder than usual to call this year -- and it's usually pretty damn hard -- that's because the only point of consensus among those remaining on the Lido is that this year's Competition slate hasn't been one of the festival's finest.
Paul Greengrass' "Captain Phillips" is plainly one of the best films of the year. It's the best work the director has offered to date and it features a detailed, ultimately emotional performance from Tom Hanks that is sure to draw kudos. But the big surprise is that Hanks might not even give the best performance of the film.
VENICE - For several years now, the Venice Film Festival has overlapped with not one but two rival North American fests. The "Toronto effect" has been felt since the two festivals started sharing a few days of September calendar space: the exodus of journalists from the Lido in the last couple of days is all too noticeable, though Venice organizers have to accept it, obligingly front-loading their schedule with their highest-profile premieres to as to allow sufficient room for the first wave of buzz and publicity (not to mention reasonable travel time for talent) before the next one at Toronto.
The owner of the best name in show business, Benedict Cumberbatch has been a ubiquitous presence this year. Hell, he's a pretty ubiquitous presence simply at the Toronto Film Festival, which opens with his turn as Julian Assange in "The Fifth Estate" tonight. He'll also be at the fest with supporting roles in two very different awards hopefuls: "12 Years a Slave" and "August: Osage County."
Noted over the weekend, Penn and Teller's "Tim's Vermeer" might be the breakout hit of this year's Telluride Film Festival. Talking to everyone from Oscar-nominated directors to casual movie-goers at the fest, it was clear to me that the film delighted just about everyone who managed to catch it, giving the film a nice boost into the Toronto Film Festival over the next week or so.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced this year's Honorary Oscar recipients, to be presented at the fifth annual Governors Awards in November.
Actress Angela Lansbury, a perennial possibility for this honor each year, will finally get an Oscar, alongside comedian Steve Martin and, in keeping with a recent dedication to the crafts branches, costume designer Piero Tosi. Actress Angelina Jolie will receive the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
And we're back! Yes, it's your favorite weekly rundown of Best Picture contenders. A snapshot of who's up, who's down, who's got it in the bag and who's a big whiny pretender.
With Venice almost completed, Telluride in the books and Toronto opening her red carpets to the world, the 2013-2014 awards season is in full swing. Last year, "Silver Linings Playbook" was the surprise at Toronto as "Argo" kept its Telluride momentum going. "Lincoln's" debut was over a month away and many pundits were getting smoke signals that "Zero Dark Thirty" might not even make its expected end-of-year release. So, yep, a lot can happen between now and Dec. 1st. Telluride, however, was quite, um, telling this year (as it increasingly steals Venice and Toronto's thunder). A number of films proved their worthiness (or not) there. With that in mind, let's review the countdown as it stands today, Sept. 5, 2013.
VENICE - I didn't intend to wait four days to review "Night Moves" -- not least because, in the wake of her last three features, a toothpaste commercial directed by Kelly Reichardt would be high on the year's most-anticipated list -- but the combination of cumulative screenings and the slackening effects of illness kept pushing it unintentionally down the to-do list.
Yet if any film on the Lido this year belongs on the back burner, it's this one. That may be the lousiest compliment I've given a good film all year, but it's a compliment nonetheless; for the more time Reichardt's latest has to let its calculatedly flat terrors work on the brain, the more imposing and guileful an achievement it seems. "Night Moves" is a pretty slow burner while it's on the screen; off it, it's stubbornly inextinguishable, the trick birthday candle of this year's Venice fest.