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.
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."