VENICE — As the festival wraps up for another year and prizes are announced, time for my final Venice 2014 report. On a personal note, I'd like to say I've had a blast writing for HitFix for the first time, and huge thanks to everyone who said that they enjoyed the coverage; it always means a lot.
TORONTO — If you were to look over Chris Rock's lengthy and impressive career you might think he peaked with HBO's "The Chris Rock Show." Or perhaps it was his string of Emmy-winning standup specials including 2008's "Kill the Messenger." Or perhaps it was as the producer and co-creator of the critically acclaimed TV series "Everybody Hates Chris." Well, happily, at the ripe young age of 49, Rock has hit a career high with his new film "Top Five," which debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night.
TORONTO — Do you remember saying hello to people on the sidewalk? Whispering in a friend’s ear? Or perhaps you recall the art of purposefully ignoring someone in the hallway when you were in school? Thanks to the advent of smartphones, those key human interactions are slowly becoming extinct. During one of the first few scenes in Jason Reitman’s “Men, Women & Children,” which premiered today at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, the camera slowly moves above a large High School corridor. Not only are the students walking heads down glued to their phones, but so are their teachers. It’s a stark reminder of how much has changed in our day-to-day world this century and a smart framing point for the audience. The question is whether Reitman has anything else to really say about it or if the screenplay's framework will let him.
I came away from Dan Gilroy's "Nightcrawler" with a new level of respect for Jake Gyllenhaal. He's been taking a lot of interesting chances lately, having already decorated his career with a string of notable filmmaker collaborations, but now he seems to really be pushing himself by exploring unique characters that might scare off most stars. The physical specificity of his "End of Watch" cop, the obsession of his "Prisoners" detective, and now, the blind ambition of his "Nightcrawler" psycho.
VENICE — The 71st Venice Film Festival can hold its head high as having had its fair share of exceptional films in the 2014 Competition for Alexandre Desplat's jury to pick from. Going in, I was still kind of hoping for the Golden Lion for "Birdman," partly because it's excellent and partly because its excellence is spread across so many categories -- an amazing cast, especially Michael Keaton's lead turn, career-best direction from Alejandro G. Inarritu, cinematography that defies belief -- which would have made an all-rounder award feel fair. I also hoped for a big prize for "A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Contemplating Existence" and maybe nods for "In The Basement," "99 Homes" or "The Look Of Silence."
TORONTO — You may find this hard to believe, but the last time the world was treated to a movie with Bill Murray in a leading role was 2005’s “Broken Flowers.” The legendary comedic actor has kept busy since then in supporting roles, but much to his fans' chagrin, he hasn’t really been at the center of the action. That has all changed with the new comedy “St. Vincent,” which debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on Friday night.
I guess it was news that "The Gambler" was getting a limited release in December to qualify for awards. This has been in the cards for a while now. Maybe it was all about settling on a date (or even some soul-searching at Paramount, which will be releasing a bunch of movies over a six-month stretch). The date: Dec. 19.
TORONTO — The 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night and its opening night film, "The Judge," brought some major star power. TIFF is known as being a red carpet festival (they seem to even be openly hyping it up this year) and nothing is better than Robert Downey Jr., one of the biggest stars in the world, posing for the paparazzi outside the massive Roy Thomson Hall.
You might recall an Argentinian film from a few years back called "The Secret in Their Eyes." It was a significant player in the awards season in that it bested both "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet" in the Best Foreign Film Category, and ever since, Hollywood has been keen on an English remake. Now, the project has landed a high profile female lead with an eye toward sales in Toronto: Julia Roberts.
I'll try to be brief. With the triple threat of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, we've entered that foggy realm known to the industry as "awards season." And with it we're getting, like clockwork, self-satisfied dismissals of this time of year, pieces that surmise that the Oscar frame is "ruining movies," and that coverage of the prestige months (i.e., places like In Contention) are a root of the problem. I suppose it's time for a reminder that such a position is nonsense.