<p>Natalie Portman reflects on her role in Darren Aronofsky's new film 'Black Swan,' playing at the Toronto Film Festival</p>

Natalie Portman reflects on her role in Darren Aronofsky's new film 'Black Swan,' playing at the Toronto Film Festival

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Toronto: Aronofsky's 'Black Swan' is breathtaking and beautiful

Has Natalie Portman ever been this good in a film before?

There are a number of working filmmakers right now whose work I approach with excitement and anticipation, which is part of the fun of something like the Toronto International Film Festival.  When I look at the list of films playing, I look not only at the film or the title or the synopsis, but the filmmaker.  Movies like "22nd Of May" and "Cold Fish" and "I Saw The Devil" made it onto my list of films to see this week because of who directed the films more than anything specific I read in the descriptions of the movies.  There are only a few filmmakers who I consider truly world-class right now, though, guys whose every move demands attention.  That doesn't mean I'll always love their work, but it does mean that their careers so far have convinced me that they approach film in a way that few of their peers can.

Darren Aronofsky is one of those filmmakers.  He wasn't always.  I liked "Pi" when I first saw it, and I think it's a great no-budget film with some real ambition.  I don't think it all adds up in the end to a complete film for me, but first films are all about establishing a voice, and that voice was interesting enough to follow.  "Requiem For A Dream" is amazing filmmaking, but it's so unrelenting in its efforts to disturb and punish the viewer that it's one of those films I've never revisited.  I can't imagine seeing it again.  I absorbed all the horror the first time, and I don't know that I ever want to invite that back into my head.

For me, things really turned a corner with "The Fountain," a film I love dearly even as I acknowledge that it is an acquired taste.  I think the film is burnished to such a lovely finish that it leaves many viewers outside the experience, and that's a shame.  It certainly felt like Aronofsky was polishing his aesthetic approach from film to film, and that technique came to a head with "The Fountain," a film that was a huge professional struggle for Aronofsky.  It may have been an emotionally and personally draining process for him, something that seemed to be the case when I saw him at the end of that production, but the end result changed him as a filmmaker, and for the better, I'd say.

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<p>David Lawrence and Paul Spence return as Dean and Terry in 'Fubar 2,' a sequel to a cult Canadian comedy hit.</p>

David Lawrence and Paul Spence return as Dean and Terry in 'Fubar 2,' a sequel to a cult Canadian comedy hit.

Credit: Alliance Films

Toronto: 'Fubar II' kicks off Midnight Madness in rowdy style

Sequel to cult Canadian comedy gets the hometown crowd riled up

It was a crazy scene outside the Ryerson tonight when a truck pulled up, packed with pole dancers, Pilsner, and the stars of the movie "Fubar II."  By the time they wrapped up a noisy rock and rap set and made their way up the red carpet, the theater was already filling up with rowdy fans who were there to witness history as, for the first time ever, a Canadian film opened the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Programmer Colin Geddes took the stage to introduce the film and had to yell over the cheering fans who were riled up to an amazing degree, energized and vocal.  He brought out the filmmakers behind the short film that he referred to as "the opening band" for the evening, and then brought out director Michael Dowse, who seemed sort of dazed and amazed by the energy in the room.  He thanked his producers, introduced a few people in the audience, and then brought out, to an insane standing ovation, Terry and Deener.

Wait... who?

I've never seen the original "Fubar," and it sounds like that was more a matter of what sort of distribution deal was signed for the film than any sort of issue of quality.  To be honest, I'd never even heard of the film until I saw the announcement that the sequel, "Fubar II," was set to open this year's Midnight Madness programming.  As it turns out, you don't need to know the first film at all to enjoy the second film.  If anything, it makes me want to hunt down the first film now so I can see how it all began.  But "Fubar II" is a self-contained comedy that stands on it own successfully, and it is also one of the most surprising things I've seen in a theater this year.

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<p>The new TIFF&nbsp;Bell Lightbox is the showcase venue for this year's Toronto International Film&nbsp;Festival, and expectations are high for audiences regarding the long-in-development building</p>

The new TIFF Bell Lightbox is the showcase venue for this year's Toronto International Film Festival, and expectations are high for audiences regarding the long-in-development building

Credit: TIFF

TIFF 2010: What to expect from this year's Toronto coverage

A quick rundown of what we're seeing and when

I've been prepping for Toronto for the past two weeks, working at it like the OCD freak that I am, and it's only now, at the end of my first day at the fest, that I finally feel like I'm ready.

Well… I don't feel completely unprepared.  Which is as close to "ready" as I'm going to get.

What does that mean to you here on the blog?  What should you expect from Motion/Captured for the next week?

How does 35 reviews sound to you?

Last year, when I was at the fest, I didn't have a press badge.  Even so, there was a ton of coverage here on HitFix between what I wrote and what Greg wrote.  I think we offered up a pretty great glimpse of what was available at the festival in 2009, and I was happy with our coverage.

Not satisfied, though, and this year, I'm determined to do something I've never quite accomplished at any festival I've ever attended, no matter how hard I've tried.  I'm going to try to publish something on every single one of the films I see.

I'm armed with a brand-new Macbook Pro, a busy-but-human schedule that has some writing time built into it, and a fairly detailed breakdown of where every screening is, where the nearest wi-fi can be found, and where I'm going to grab quick easy meals to keep myself going.

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<p>Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, and Andrew Garfield star in Mark Romanek's film adaptation of the acclaimed novel 'Never Let Me Go'</p>

Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, and Andrew Garfield star in Mark Romanek's film adaptation of the acclaimed novel 'Never Let Me Go'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Exclusive: A new scene from Mark Romanek's 'Never Let Me Go'

What makes the children of Hailsham so special?

I can't believe I'm seeing this one tomorrow.  It's my first film in Toronto when I get off the plane.  I think Mark Romanek has been sadly underemployed making features so far, and I'll say this for him... he's getting faster.  It was 17 years between his first film, "Static," and his second film, "One Hour Photo."  This time, it's only been eight years.  I'll expect at least one more film from him now before the world ends in 2012, and that makes me very happy, indeed.

In all seriousness, he's an amazingly smart guy in conversation and a huge lover of cinema, and as beautiful and memorable and important as his video work is, I know he's tried with features.  He's had at least three movies implode as he worked on pre-production, big movie star movies, so it's a thrill to see that he's made something that people are responding to strongly.  Even if people dislike it, they seem to be reacting and not just indifferent, and I imagine that's the worst thing a filmmaker can imagine... total bland indifference.

I love the novel this film is based on.  I didn't know Kazuo Ishiguro's work at all until "Remains Of The Day" came out as a film, and I went back and read the book, amazed that it wasn't written by a manor-born Englishman, but instead by a Nagasaki-born Japanese artist who was raised in England in the '60s.  That outsider's perspective informs all of his work, and it gives everything he writes this profound melancholy that imbues each line, each word, each moment.

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<p>If you even think of missing Fantastic Fest 2010, Helen Mirren will show up at your house and .50 caliber you.&nbsp; Don't make her do that.</p>

If you even think of missing Fantastic Fest 2010, Helen Mirren will show up at your house and .50 caliber you.  Don't make her do that.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren in 'RED' join Fantastic Fest 2010's third wave of programming

Bill Pullman, 'Mother's Day,' and more live events also announced

Wow.  Just as I'm gearing up to start posting some of the Toronto coverage we've already been working on here at HitFix for you, this shows up in my inbox.  I can't believe I'm going to enjoy the lunacy of Fantastic Fest this month... that it's already been a year since the last one.

And with every single announcement, it sounds like this year's Fantastic Fest just keeps getting more and more... well... fantastic.  Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren and "RED"?  The ActionFest award-winning film "14 Blades"?  The Bill Pullman events alone sound so geektastic that they just became a can't-miss, and that Indian film sounds... well, I'll let you read it for yourself.

Check this out:

"Fantastic Fest, the largest genre festival in the U.S., is excited to announce additional films to its mind-blowing roster of features & shorts.  Highlights of this announcement are the US premiere of the hyper-stylized action film Bunraku, a sneak preview of Darren Bousman’s terrifying new horror-thriller film, Mother’s Day (featuring a bravura performance by Rebecca DeMornay), and the world premiere of Agnosia, the latest film from Fantastic Fest 2005 Alumnus Eugenio Mira. 

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<p>Jon Hamm is coming to get his Emmy, damn it, and there's nothing you can do about it... or maybe this is a scene from 'The Town'.&nbsp; Either or.</p>

Jon Hamm is coming to get his Emmy, damn it, and there's nothing you can do about it... or maybe this is a scene from 'The Town'.  Either or.

Credit: Warner Bros./Legendary

TIFF: Ben Affleck's 'The Town' is a conventional but gripping crime drama

Affleck's voice as a filmmaker gets even more specific this time out

Ben Affleck is, at heart, an extremely conventional storyteller.

One of the earliest reviews I sent to Harry Knowles in my time at Ain't It Cool News was for an advance screening of "Good Will Hunting," which I liked quite a bit.  Still do, and unreservedly.  The film's open sentiment is a big part of the surprise punch it packs, and it amuses me to think about the other versions of the film that existed at various stages of the film's development as a screenplay.  The final version is a fairly simple boy meets girl story crossed with the story of the troubled but gifted artist who just needs a hug to succeed.  It's the way "Good Will Hunting" is told, the specific energy of the film's version of Boston, the characters, the details of the power struggle between Damon and Williams.  That film pushes buttons like mad, and Gus Van Sant has to be given credit for making such a blatantly, carefully commercial film.

At that point, you can't really be sure, even with the Oscar win, how much of the finished film was Matt and Ben's screenplay.  There were whisper campaigns at the time about the film's authorship, but I've talked to enough credible people about the film that I think the script really was theirs.  And they tried to get together on something else several times over the years, and it didn't really work out.  Damon's taste seems to be reflected in the material he chooses as an actor, and there's a sort of a rejection of sentiment in a lot of his work.  He seems to be drawn to flinty characters who are decent but unpolished in some way, and even his biggest commercial project, the "Bourne" trilogy, is gruff, cold, brutal.

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<p>This is just a taste of the instantly recognizable, iconic work included in the remarkable new book, 'The Art Of Drew Struzan'</p>

This is just a taste of the instantly recognizable, iconic work included in the remarkable new book, 'The Art Of Drew Struzan'

Credit: © Copyright Drew Struzan. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Exclusive premiere: 'Art Of Drew Struzan' images, Indy Jones, Marty McFly and more

We've got a look at the fall's coolest coffee table book

I've waxed on at blathering length about my blessed childhood, growing up geek in the shadow of "Star Wars," and how I feel so fortunate to have spent my formative years in movie theaters watching the work of a generation who spoke some secret nerd language that informed every moment in their own movies.  Guys like Coppola, Lucas, Scorsese, Spielberg, Zemeckis, Dante, Carpenter, and Cronenberg, the filmmakers I called my own, people whose films led me to discover whole oceans of film that had come before them, that had influenced them and shaped the movies they made.

And one of the things that really made the era special was the power of the movie poster in those days.  The poster was one of the most important parts of the theatrical release.  Working in theaters in the '80s, I saw over and over that people would show up at the theater without any idea what they were going to see, and they'd look at the posters and pick the one that looked the best.  Time and again, I'd see them walk around a kiosk, checking out all eight of the posters we had up for our current releases, and stop with a sudden, "Oh, man, it's Eddie Murphy!" or some similar lightning bolt moment.  And they'd walk over to the box-office and say, "I'll have one for Eddie Murphy."  And it was that basic.  Sometimes it was the movie star.  Sometimes it was the title, recognition of something that had been recommended or that had that great trailer or that starred that one person, and they'd see the title and it would jar the memory and they'd buy that ticket.  It was always fascinating to watch people react to posters, and I loved picking which posters went up in the theater in our "coming soon" galleries.  I'd give great placement to a memorable poster, even if I didn't want to see the film, just out of respect to a great one-sheet.  My room all through high school was wallpapered with movie posters, posters over posters over posters.  I loved it.

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Richard Jenkins sees you!

Richard Jenkins sees you!

Credit: Overture Films

Watch: Richard Jenkins goes hunting for humans in vampire remake 'Let Me In'

Remaking excellent foreign films so people don't have to read: Discuss.

I'm curious, has anyone who reads Motion/Captured not seen "Let The Right One In?" Is talking about things that happened in a movie that came out two years ago considered worthy of a "spoiler alert" if the movie is being re-made for an American audience?

I ask this because although I have not seen "Let Me In" like some of the HItFix staff has, I know exactly what's going on in this clip that was released for public consumption today. (It was played at its panel at Comic Con.) I would guess that most American horror fans who don't have a problem with the whole "reading thing," will have seen "Let the Right One In" and will also recall a similar situation with this character out hunting. I guess I won't go into it for those who will see this story for the first time in English, no reading required.

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<p>Terry Gilliam's enduring fantasy-comedy 'Time Bandits' just arrived on Blu-ray</p>

Terry Gilliam's enduring fantasy-comedy 'Time Bandits' just arrived on Blu-ray

Credit: Handmade Films/Image Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: 'Time Bandits,' 'Mars Attacks,' and letting go

The column goes on hold until 2011 with two last movies to discuss

I travel a lot.

It's that simple.  In the last fifteen years, I've averaged at least 10 trips out of town a year, and in many of those years, I'd say it's been twice that many.  I've traveled to other countries, other continents.  I've traveled so much that at this point, packing and getting to the airport is a matter of pure muscle memory.

I'm not fond of it.  I don't enjoy being on the road.  I enjoy many of the things I've done in those various destinations, and I'm certainly grateful for every single experience I've had during those travels.  But I don't particularly like being away from home.  I'm a creature of habit, and I've worked very hard to make my nest just the way I like it.  It's been even worse since I got married and had kids.  The day my first son, Toshiro, was born was the same day my first film, "Cigarette Burns," started principal photography.  My wife, god bless her, sent me to Vancouver the day she got home from the hospital, so I got to be there for the last four days of the shoot.  That split focus has defined my life for a while now, and it shows no sign of getting any easier to balance as I get older.

What I'm not used to is having the family travel while I stay here.  And especially not for a full third of a year.

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<p>Pixar Studios has released a batch of artwork from their no-longer-in-development film 'Newt,' and fans can see the work now on the company's official Facebook page.</p>

Pixar Studios has released a batch of artwork from their no-longer-in-development film 'Newt,' and fans can see the work now on the company's official Facebook page.

Credit: Pixar Studios

Development art from Pixar's 'Newt' appears online

The studio offers up a look at the film that almost was

Most of the time, when a film dies during development, that's the last the public hears of it.

Pixar has never been a studio that does things like everyone else, though, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that they've decided to offer their fans a glimpse into the process through a release of a bunch of artwork that was created to help them figure out the proposed film "Newt."

If you weren't aware, "Newt" was set to mark the feature directorial debut of Gary Rydstrom, whose short film "Lifted" was the UFO-themed short in front of "Ratatouille," and Rydstrom is a sound-design genius who has won four Oscars and who was nominated for another six beyond that.  I love that Pixar encourages people from every department to learn the entire process of filmmaking, and Rydstrom could be held up as an example of the best-case scenario when you do that.

Pixar released a synopsis of the film when they first announced it a few years ago, and "Newt" sounded to me like a really interesting way to get into the difficulties of relationships, even when you're sure two people are absolutely right for each other.  Check this out:

"What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other? Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science."

Then we started hearing rumors about the film not coming together, and Pixar officially pulled the plug earlier this year.  Typically, that would be the end of us reporting on it, except today you can get a real sense of just what it is that we're missing as an audience, thanks to Pixar's Facebook page.
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