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August 22, 2007
The Line-Up Revealed

With today’s final announcement of the festival line-up, I must confess to some disappointment, as the earlier announcements certainly packed more of a punch. Not that I am complaining about TIFF 2007 – not at all as it looks like the best fest in years – but I had thought the final films being unveiled would be major releases that would vie for Oscar attention as the previously announced films certainly will.

A couple of things excite me, one being the arrival of Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead” with Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney. Lumet is one of the great directors of modern cinema. Efforts such as “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Network,” “Prince of the City” and “The Verdict” are brilliant works more than deserving of the accolades they received over the years. “Daniel” and “Equus” are two efforts that briefly come to mind that are equally stunning and yet under the radar of the general movie-goer.

Lumet’s direction of actors is legendary, and though he has never won an Academy Award he was given an Honorary Oscar a couple of years ago. The director is also taking part in the Dialogue series, one of the festival’s most popular events in which a filmmaker or actor selects a film that inspired them and after screening the film discusses the picture with the audience. Lumet has selected “The Best Years of Our Lives,” the Oscar winning masterpiece by William Wyler that helped heal a nation with its study of post-wartime America and the re-adjustment of the vets.

Kenneth Branagh’s remake of “Sleuth” is here as a Gala, with Michael Caine taking the role once portrayed by Sir Laurence Olivier, while Jude Law tackles the part Caine played in the Oscar nominated 1972 film. Both Caine and Olivier were nominated for Oscars as best actor in the year Marlon Brando won for his performance as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” “Sleuth,” based on the popular play by Anthony Shaffer, who also wrote “Amadeus” (and the aforementioned “Equus”), deals with the confrontation between an older gent who knows that a younger man is involved with his wife. A series of word games and eventually nightmarish games unfold over the course of the film, allowing both actors showcases for their talents.

I would have hoped Sir Richard Attenborough would have stopped directing films after “Grey Owl” in 1998. But here he is again with a Gala Presentation of his new film “Closing the Ring,” which mercifully is not a biography (as Sir Richard seems incapable of making a good biography). And yes, I include the vastly overrated “Gandhi,” which one year after winning eight Oscars looked like an old fashioned Hollywood biography. How did “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” or “Tootsie” lose to that film?

But I digress. “Closing the Ring” is a love story interwoven between present day and the Second World War with Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton and the master of the acting craft, Neve Campbell.

Renny Harlin’s new film “Cleaner” is a big screen “C.S.I.” (sort of), exploring the people who clean up the mess when the body has been taken away. Samuel L. Jackson plays such a soul, responsible for cleaning up the blood, the brains, and the pungent odor of death. Forced to dispose of evidence, he is drawn back into the world he had hoped he had left behind. Ed Harris and Eva Mendes star in this, another Gala.

My favorite program, the Special Presentations, has the aforementioned Lumet film as well as Michael Moore’s latest, “Captain Mike Across America,” a documentary about Moore’s attempt to stop George Bush from being re-elected. The film chronicles Moore’s journey across the US trying to get folks to vote for John Kerry or anyone but Bush.

Another Presidential flavored documentary is Jonathan Demme’s “Man from Plains,” which studies former President Jimmy Carter’s book tour after penning the controversial book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” We watch as Carter, not a young man anymore, his presidency haunted by the hostage crisis, proves to be a most worthy subject, full of gusto and determination to get his message of peace across.

A favorite of the festival, Brian De Palma is back with his newest film, “Redacted,” focusing on a squadron of young soldiers in Iraq. Using different points of view to explore the confusing messages of war, De Palma plunges his audience into a hell that leads to a tragic incident that impacts the squadron.

Of course there are many more titles to check out, but these represent the big ones announced this morning. Others of interest include Alison Eastwood’s “Rails and Ties” with Kevin Bacon, and also in the Dialogue series, Ellen Burstyn will present and discuss her Oscar winning performance in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”

Counting the days, the minutes….


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