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July 18, 2007
The Line-Up So Far

With more films added to the various programs at the fest, excitement is beginning to percolate here in Toronto about what is shaping up to be one of the most impressive lineups we’ve seen here in some time.

As mentioned before, the major and minor studios often use Toronto as their launch towards Oscar glory, and thus far that seems to be exactly the case, as several films already announced seem to be sure-fire Academy Award contenders. Among the Oscar winners or nominees to begin their journey to the golden circle have been “Almost Famous” (2000), “American Beauty” (1999), “The Cider House Rules” (1999), “Crash” (2005), “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), “Walk the Line” (2005), and countless others.

Leading the pack thus far is “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” Shekhar Kapur's sequel to his Oscar nominated “Elizabeth,” which made Cate Blanchett one of the most sought after actresses in the industry. Nine years later she is an Oscar winner and multiple nominee, likely to be pegged by the AMPAS again for her performance as Elizabeth I in this film. The trailer looks extraordinary, and though I am all too aware one cannot judge a film based solely on that, the cast and director give the film a strong pedigree. The focus of the film will be England's war with Spain when the King of Spain makes it clear he wants England to become Catholic once again.

The Coen brothers will bring their Cannes hit “No Country for Old Men” to the city, their strongest Oscar contender since Fargo in 1996. The film deals with a bundle of discovered money, and heroin to boot, with a trail of bodies left in the wake. Tommy Lee Jones is the Sheriff trying to figure things out and Javier Bardem is said to be electrifying as a cold blooded killer.


Oscar winner George Clooney will be on the big screen in “Michael Clayton,” portraying a hot shot in-house legal fixer for a massive law firm, confident in his work, though struggling in his private life. It falls on him to save the company when they are betrayed by one of their own. Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and director Sydney Pollack co-star.

“Rendition” brings together some impressive acting talents with Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Alan Arkin, along with nominee Jake Gyllenhaal in a drama about a wife’s nightmare when her husband disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington. In the role of the desperate woman, Witherspoon tries to track her husband down while as a CIA operative, portrayed by Gyllenhaal, is forced to re-consider what he is doing with his life when he is asked to take part in an unorthodox detainment.

Terry George returns to the festival after the success of “Hotel Rwanda” in 2004 with his new film “Reservation Road,” which features a strong cast including Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo. The film explores the lives of two fathers and families whose lives smash into each other after the death of a child. The film also stars Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino, each in need of a good performance.

Two-time Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster returns to Toronto as a woman who has it all in “The Brave One,” this time directed by Oscar winner Neil Jordan. A brutal attack takes all of that away leaving her badly hurt and her fiancée dead. Unable to shake the tragedy she begins a dark pursuit of justice, prowling the streets on the hunt for the men who did this to her. Terence Howard is the cop watching her closely, with supporting roles to Mary Steenburgen and Nicky Katt.


Helen Hunt joins the many directors who have launched their first film in Toronto with her directorial debut, “Then She Found Me,” in which Hunt portrays a 40 year old woman who hears that biological clock ticking and decides to have a child. This decision is torn apart when her husband announced their marriage was a mistake, leaving her bewildered and rather devastated. When an eccentric talk show host portrayed by Bette Midler declares herself Hunt’s birth mother and she begins a strong relationship with a new man, portrayed by Colin Firth, her life spins wildly out of control.

And the Opening Night Gala film, historically a Canadian project, will be “Fugitive Pieces,” directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who helmed many an episode of “Six Feet Under” and the Genie Award winning “The Five Senses.” With any luck it is a stronger film than last year’s opening night film “The Journals of Knud Rasmussen,” which led to the most walk outs I have ever witnessed at the festival. Me, I found myself lulled to sleep by the stillness of that particular effort.

Also announced so far are a number of films that bowed in Cannes, but this was just a preliminary glance. I’ll be back next week with further updates and commentary.

For more info check the festival site at www.torontointernationalfilmfestival.ca.


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