Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Festival Coverage: Toronto '09

This is my third year (Luke’s second) attending the Toronto International Film Festival, and though the other majors have various things going for them (the overwhelming prestige of Cannes, Tribeca’s...well, I’m sure it’s got something), to me Toronto is the big one, and the one I always look forward to the most. Once you get your tickets (and make it past the “lottery” stage which thoroughly screwed over Luke this year, as any gambling proposition can) and make all the necessary reservations (flight expenses were way down this year, so cheers to that), navigating the festival is relatively easy, and its organization certainly impresses me more than *sigh* that of Tribeca.

More importantly, Toronto almost always has a great lineup: Cannes may trot out enough high-profile names each year to make the paparazzi say grazie, but Toronto grabs only the best from that group, and adds to their schedule a host of films not completed at the time Cannes entries are due. To me, the most exciting name on that list this year is Claire Denis, whose latest film has had Venice-bound journalists like Guy Lodge calling it a “masterpiece.” Not necessarily a surprise since Denis already has one of those and two that are close enough. This will be the French auteur’s second film at the festival in as many years, a distinction she shares with (among others) Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose odd-sounding Cannes carryover “Air Doll” premiered on the Croisette less than 12 months after his “Still Walking” had its premiere in Toronto.

Then there’s the bigger, awards-baiting stuff which will certainly get the lion's share of blog coverage; this year that includes Jason Reitman's latest, slick-talking seriocomic George Clooney vehicle "Up in the Air" (already getting raves out of Telluride, so probably not one to sneeze at), more Clooney action in "The Men Who Stare At Goats," and that poor, unfortunate and much delayed Harvey Weinstein acquisition "The Road," which hasn't faired as well with critics in Venice as Weinstein probably hoped it would. Speaking of Cormac McCarthy adaptations, the Coen Brothers have a new film in Toronto too, which is perhaps a bit more anticipated than “Burn After Reading” was this time last year. However, both Luke and I are missing that one because a.) it opens not too long after we get back, and we like to see things that don't; and b.) Toronto denied us a ticket (damn lottery), as they did to the latest Pedro Almodóvar as well, which I'm destined to miss just as I did in Cannes.

Obviously there are more Oscar hopefuls, some less hopeful than others I would assume, and some so far under-the-radar (comparatively) that it will take an audience award and we-are-the-world schmaltz to propel them to a Best Picture victory. Y'know, like that Bollywood movie that wasn't a Bollywood movie. In any case, there's no denying the bearing Toronto has on the awards race, so if you happen to be interested in that kind of thing, prick up your ears and read along. [InRO]

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