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August 08, 2007
TIFF Looking Like Oscar Preview

Though we are two weeks away from final announcements, the Toronto International Film Festival is looking more and more like an unofficial Academy Awards preview. Though it seems by now we’re used to that notion. After scouring the Oscar sites on the web, I found that many of the films already announced are among those being touted for Oscars in the major categories, and a few will likely slip in as sleepers. Never before has the festival looked so strong so early, and in all honesty 2007 could be the finest version of the festival yet.

Kris himself has named several of the films here as major contenders.

Among the films arriving that can be considered definite hopefuls for the Academy Award for best picture are the Coen brothers’ acclaimed film “No Country for Old Men” and Paul Haggis’s new picture “The Valley of Elah,” both featuring Tommy Lee Jones, who is being touted for best actor for the latter film.

Certainly “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” must be considered a potential best picture nominee, given the awards success of director Shekhar Kapur’s 1997 initial installment, and Cate Blanchett could skip past Julie Christie to become the frontrunner for best actress for the Oscar she should have won back in '98.

Joe Wright brings “Atonement” here after the success of “Pride and Prejudice” in 2005, again working with Keira Knightley in another British romance that many writers seem very high on. And though snubbed for the brilliant “A History of Violence,” David Cronenburg could find himself in the running this year for “Eastern Promises,” a thriller with Viggo Mortenson.

If that isn’t enough, there is buzz building for Sean Penn’s new picture “Into the Wild,” based on the book by Jon Krakauer about a wealthy young man who walks away from his life and heads into the wilderness to seek adventure and challenge himself as a human being. Again, inside word is building fast on this one, and Penn is long overdue for some attention for his directing.

Not long ago “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was being labeled a troubled film, but recently there has been a turnaround on that front, with some web writers who have seen the film claiming it to be the finest American western since “Unforgiven.” High praise indeed. Is it best picture material? The Academy has always been loathe to name westerns best film of the year, snubbing “Shane” in 1953 and “The Searchers” in 1956, yet honoring “Dances with Wolves” in 1990 and the aforementioned “Unforgiven” in 1992. Indeed, the only other western to claim a best picture prize of its own was “Cimarron,” way back in 1931. If Andrew Domink’s film is as good as the potential of Ron Hansen’s novel, then perhaps we will have a western on the nominee list once again.


Jodie Foster, a two-time Oscar winning actress may find herself up for another performance, this time as a vigilante in Neil Jordan’s “The Brave One.” Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman seems to be in on the comeback trail in Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding.” After winning an Oscar for “The Hours” in 2002 and being cheated of a nomination for “Cold Mountain” the very next year, Kidman cooled off quickly. But this could be the one that brings her back to Oscar. Also in the film, Jennifer Jason Leigh, so long overdue for a mere nomination it is frightening. She may find herself in contention in the supporting actress category, co-star Jack Black across the way in supporting actor.

Best actor in 2005 for “Capote,” Phillip Seymour Hoffman will be seen with Laura Linney in the Sundance sensation “The Savages.” The Tamara Jenkins film could land them both nominations.

Elsewhere, Denys Arcand brings his newest work from Quebec, “Days of Darkness,” while the most recent announcements see two of the more creative directors bringing their films to our fair city. Julie Taymor was here five years ago with “Frida,” which began its march to six Oscar nominations in Toronto. This time she brings “Across the Universe,” a musical of sorts dealing with the hippy culture, Vietnam and love in the sixties. The film has also been the subject of behind-the-scenes editorial strife.

Finally, Woody Allen brings “Cassandra's Dream,” his newest with Colin Farrell (an interesting match) and another in the director’s latest slate of films set outside his beloved New York City.

In the weeks to come festival co-director Noah Cowan has promised some major announcements leading to all sorts of rumors and speculation about which films not yet announced could be coming. Me? I think “There Will Be Blood” is a strong possibility if only because director Paul Thomas Anderson launched both “Boogie Nights” and “Punch-Drunk Love” here to great acclaim.

Francis Ford Coppola watched daughter Sofia bring “Lost in Translation” to the fest and eventually become the first American woman nominated for best director. So it is likely his first film in a decade, “Youth Without Youth” will make an appearance.

Flying far under the radar is “The Bucket List,” not even being mentioned on Oscar sites despite the presence of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two dying men who take a road trip in a film directed by Rob Reiner who was here twenty years ago with “The Princess Bride.”


And finally, Sir Ridley Scott has been here often with his films, thus leaving me thinking that “American Gangster” will move into Toronto for the festival. We’ll soon know the score.

How many of these films will move into the Kodak Theatre for a date with Oscar? Some will, some will fall the way of inevitable disappointment. In two weeks I will begin screening the cream of the crop for 2007.

Tick, tick, tick…


>>After winning an Oscar for “The Hours” in 2002 and being cheated of a nomination for “Cold Mountain” the very next year, Kidman cooled off quickly.

Cooling off quickly?
Have you seen Birth and Dogville? These are two of Kidman's most acclaimed films.

THE BUCKET LIST isn't mentioned on any Oscar sites because it isn't being released until January 18. Besides the fact that it is ineligible for awards consideration, the dump-month release date and Reiner's recent track record don't bode well for the film's quality.

"The Bucket List" is being released limited on December 25th before its wide release on January 18.

numberina, I don't think any member of AMPAS or award body saw Dogville or Birth, they may have heard about Dogville but there was no critical support for Birth at all. I mean, that scene at the opera beat anything nominated that year.
She may even prove difficult to snag a nomination this year because her character is unsympathetic with little redeeming features and it is a tough role to warm to unless she plays Margo the way Annette Benning plays all her neurotic characters, and then there is JJL, who will probably prove to be another Zellwegger for her, she plays a likeable, funnier, character who is more accessible to the audience, an easy thing for AMPAS to pick.

I've been a big fan of Kidman ever since I saw her great turn in Gus Van Sant's "To Die For." In my opinion this film should have earned her an Oscar nom. Her form between 2001 and 2004 was terrific. In this time she did some outstanding films (The Hours, Birth, Dogville) and gave perfomances which I believe will go down in history. When she's on form and in the right type of film she's hard to beat. She's had a bad run recently and made some bizarre choices (Bewitched, Stepford Wives, The Invasion). Let's hope that this phase is coming to an end and that Margot is the right vehicle for her.

I think the movies she has filmed since 2006 will pretty much turn things around.

MATW, TGC, Australia and now The Reader. Her year will probably be the strangest amongst all the actors this year, going from a flop like Invasion to what is shaping up to be a critical hit in MATW and even a more spectacular movie in TGC, it will be something when the year ends for her, lol.

Hopefully, MATW will show up at Telluride.

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