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September 16, 2006
Movers and Shakers at TIFF

Every film that is at the 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival has been screened now. So what was hurt? What was helped? What is staying where it was?

Two major movie stars – Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt – came up and were media darlings while promoting “Volver” and “Babel”, two of the hottest tickets of the festival. They certainly got ample media attention and their films both ended up quite loved, especially the Almodovar effort.

It turns out that the hype concerning Peter O’Toole’s in “Venus” was legit; his work here was a mini-event of sorts. Imagine if he had actually been here! He seems to have finally found the role that will bring him his eighth Oscar nomination. As no actor has lost eight times without winning, it appears as though that statuette which has been coming for 44 years is on the way, especially as people seem to at least enjoy the film itself.

After O’Toole, the male performance that most got people talking is Forest Whitaker’s outstanding performance as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland”. The longtime underappreciated Hollywood staple has found the role to get him the appreciation he deserves. Hopefully said appreciation will also carry over to the film, which is equally excellent.


“All the King’s Men”, on the other hand, got ravaged by the critics. This shouldn’t really be a surprise for those who have watched the film’s saga from troubled shoot to long delays to holding out press screenings for the longest time. But it’s still a shame to see such a great story crash and burn. Especially as there’s a lot of merit stuck in the messy film.

To add insult to injury, the local media is jumping over the fact that Sean Penn is apparently going to get himself fined for smoking three cigarettes during the film’s press conference (in violation of the province’s strict health laws). Though I can’t help but wonder…why didn’t anyone tell him he couldn’t smoke during the actual press conference? Regardless, I’m sure the hotel will foot the bill.

Kate Winslet and Jude Law, meanwhile, each came to promote another film. I’m surprised that Winslet’s starring vehicle – “Little Children” – did not get more people talking. It’s in many ways a challenging film for the average filmgoer to take and I’ll concede there’s something about it that doesn’t *quite* click. Regardless, most critics seem to like it a great deal (if many others have reservations) with many loving it. Winslet herself certainly seems to be looking at her fifth Oscar nomination which, as she will only turn 31 next month, is pretty damn impressive. Jackie Earle Haley’s haunting performance as a sex offender will also surely be a topic of discussion when the film is released.

Law’s “Breaking and Entering” received a genuinely positive, if not overwhelming, response. His best work as a leading man, hopefully it’s an indication that more great star turns are on the way from this clearly talented actor.


The Weinstein Company, however, seems higher on “Bobby”. From talking to some people up here, you’d think it was one of the worst films of the year. Others would argue it was one of the best. I find myself between these two camps. Regardless, though I disagree with him on the film, I do agree with David Poland in saying that it was a mistake to unveil the film here (especially as a “work in progress”). The hype on the film is now completely out of the studio’s hands.

"The Fountain" came, was seen...and did not conquer. It really is on its way to joining "All the King's Men" in the slaughterhouse. I can't say it's a good film. But I still maintain it's almost worth seeing just for the visuals.

Then there is the issue of films that were lurking under the radar before the festival. “The Lives of Others” received a tremendous response after its opening night screening. It was soon bought up by Sony Pictures Classics. A foreign-language film nomination, assuming it’s submitted, would seem likely. Toronto’s own Sarah Polley unleashed her directorial debut “Away from Her” to quite a positive response, at least from the media. I’m curious to see how the film does in wider release.

Tomorrow, the people’s choice award is announced. The last eight winners are “Life is Beautiful”, “American Beauty”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Amelie”, “Whale Rider”, “Zatoichi”, “Hotel Rwanda” and “Tsotsi”. Not too shabby a lot. So what will join them? I’d personally bet on “Away from Her” (the Toronto crowd pulling through for Polley) though wins for either “The Lives of Others” or “Volver” certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Though the last two winners of this award definately have been surprising. So we’ll see.

Soon enough, the films from the Festival will show themselves in theatres. Yet this is where they’ve chosen to start their North American release. And they’ll always be alumni of TIFF ‘06.


You got the shocker you were (or weren't?) expecting. "Bella" takes the People's Choice.


Well I saw it. And while I truly enjoyed it, I never would have fathomed it would take this. But it's a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the word. So I guess I shouldn't be so shocked.

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