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.
In the space of a week I've finally caught up to David Mackenzie's "Starred Up," which premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival and made its way to theaters and VOD via Tribeca Film last weekend, and Yann Demange's "'71," which premiered at the Berlinale in February and finally resurfaced again in Telluride last week. The common denominator is actor Jack O'Connell, and with his major break-out project "Unbroken" set for release this December, the question becomes clear: what trajectory will this promising new career take?
Kevin Costner has a lot of skin in "Black and White," the Mike Binder drama set for a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend. He was so passionate about the race-themed project that he financed it himself.
Ben Affleck is currently under cape and cowl as the Dark Knight in Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" sequel "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," but he's somehow finding time to keep his Dennis Lehane adaptation "Live By Night" moving along as well. He's just tapped a trio of ladies to play the female leads in the film.
Anyone who had read my work over the years known if there is any event I have almost complete disdain for, it's the Hollywood Film Awards. You remember that one, right? It's the "awards show" that gives out honors to stars and filmmakers who are usually appearing in films that have not been released and often not even screened for critics or guild members yet. And yet, because it's usually situated at the end of October, movie studios have used it as a one-night publicity vehicle right before awards season really gets into high gear.
VENICE — "Pasolini is me." So sang erstwhile Smiths frontman Morrissey on single "You Have Killed Me" from "Ringleader of the Tormentors," an album recorded in Italy. The very next track on the album opens with a sample of a very distinctive sound: the siren of an Italian ambulance. At the Venice festival, it's impossible to go for more than a day without hearing this dolorous yet urgent wail on the Lido; it's an unofficial soundtrack. These congruences were very much slushing around my head as I sat down for Abel Ferrara's "Pasolini."
James Franco seems to be as busy as ever. The tireless actor, filmmaker, poet, samurai, infantryman, Blue Angels pilot, second string football kicker (OK, only a couple of those) is being honored by the Venice Film Festival this week, where he has a new film, "The Sound and the Fury," screening out of competition. It's the 36-year-old's second William Faulkner adaptation after 2013 Cannes premiere "As I Lay Dying," and it's just one of a slew of features and documentaries Franco has on the horizon.
VENICE — Looking scrawny and sallow compared to his 2013 appearances in Kevin Macdonald’s underrated YA novel adaptation “How I Live Now” and Proclaimers musical “Sunshine on Leith,” George MacKay is the standout in Duane Hopkins’ UK Horizons entry “Bypass” here at Venice. “Bypass” sees Brit-on-the-rise MacKay in loosely similar territory to his other 2013 release, Paul Wright’s dour, artful “For Those In Peril,” in which he also played an almost completely friendless and increasingly desperate youth isolated from his family, though there the similarities between the two films end.