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SEP
11
2 WKS

Toronto: 'Act of Killing' Follow-Up 'Look of Silence' Could Also Resonate with Academy

Toronto: 'Act of Killing' Follow-Up 'Look of Silence' Could Also Resonate with Academy

Only one filmmaker has ever been nominated for the best documentary feature Oscar in back-to-back years. His name was Walt Disney and he was nominated — and ultimately won — for both The Living Desert (1953) and The Vanishing Prairie (1954). In those days, an organization (i.e. the U.S. Air Force) or its figurehead (i.e. Disney's Disney) were often recognized for projects that were actually primarily completed by others who worked for them. That was certainly the case with these nature films.

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11
2 WKS

Toronto: Belgium's Oscar Hopes May Rest on Film Starring France's Marion Cotillard

Toronto: Belgium's Oscar Hopes May Rest on Film Starring France's Marion Cotillard

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, Belgian brothers who have been making films together since the 1970s, are, to me, the successors of Vittorio de Sica, the father of neorealist cinema, whose films were, as theirs always are, low-budget, minimalist dramas about the struggles of working-class people just to get by.

Over the past 15 years, three of the Dardennes' films — Rosetta (1999), The Son (2002) and The Child (2005) — have been submitted by Belgium as the nation's official entry for consideration in the best foreign language film Oscar category. However, despite the fact that each was widely acclaimed and the first and third won Cannes' Palme d'Or (they remain the only Belgian films ever accorded that honor), none were even nominated by the Academy.

On Sept. 19, Belgium can do its part to correct this injustice by submitting as their 2014 entry the Dardennes' latest film, Two Days, One Night, which many expected to win this year's Palme or another major prize at Cannes, where it premiered to great acclaim back in May, but which was instead shut out. Then it would be up to the Academy's foreign language committee to get its act together.

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10
2 WKS

Toronto: Fest Fan Favorite 'Wild Tales' Could Take Argentina Back to Oscars

Toronto: Fest Fan Favorite 'Wild Tales' Could Take Argentina Back to Oscars

Sometimes a film can "go viral." Such was the case with Wild Tales, an Argentinean comedy written and directed by Damian Szifron that had its world premiere in Cannes back in May, about which I knew absolutely nothing when the Oscar season kicked off just two weeks ago, but which quickly became the talk of Telluride and Toronto, prompting me to finally catch up with it on Tuesday night at the latter fest. Suffice it to say: the hype was merited.

The film -- which Sony Pictures Classics is giving an awards-qualifying run this year before releasing next spring -- is comprised of six shorts, none of which are related, apart from sharing themes of vengeance and tones of anarchism, but all of which feature laugh-out-loud moments and most of which closed to applause at the screening I attended.

Considering that each of them is better than many of the shorts that have been awarded Oscars during the time I've been on this beat, it should not come as a surprise that, collectively, they form a feature that will be a serious contender, in its own right.

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9
2 WKS

Toronto: Why Julianne Moore Could Win the Best Actress Oscar for 'Still Alice'

Toronto: Why Julianne Moore Could Win the Best Actress Oscar for 'Still Alice'

Everyone's talking about it: This year's two female acting categories are, at this admittedly early date, looking extremely thin. In the lead actress category, of what has already been screened, the one and only slam-dunk contender is Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Of what is still to come, Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) could get in, Amy Adams (Big Eyes) is always a possibility and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) has a plum part — but really, who knows?

This possible opening has been recognized by the teams behind the two most serious best supporting actress contenders, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), both of which are now weighing whether or not it makes sense to give up a relatively sure-fire nom and possible win in the less prestigious of the two acting categories in order to vie for a nom in the other one. (Rounding out the field of potential supporting actress candidates is Keira Knightley for her turn in The Imitation Game.)

I mention all of this because it is in this larger context that Julianne Moore's magnificent performance in Still Alice, an acquisition title that I saw today at its second screening at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, just landed.

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7
2 WKS

Toronto: 'The Last 5 Years' Offers Golden Globe Voters a Quality Musical Option

Toronto: 'The Last 5 Years' Offers Golden Globe Voters a Quality Musical Option

Exactly three months ago, I sat in the audience at the Tonys as Jason Robert Brown collected best original score and best orchestrations prizes for his musical adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County, which starred a fantastic Kelli O'Hara but had recently closed after struggling at the box office and being denied a best musical nomination. It was, as Brown conveyed from the podium, a very bittersweet night for him.

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7
2 WKS

Toronto: Eddie Redmayne Leaps to Head of Oscar Pack for 'Theory of Everything'

Toronto: Eddie Redmayne Leaps to Head of Oscar Pack for 'Theory of Everything'

The trailer for Focus Features' The Theory of Everything, a film about the early life of Stephen Hawking, was one of the best in recent memory, and it set a very high bar for the James Marsh-directed film itself to live up to. But, having now seen the complete product at its Toronto Film Festival world premiere on Sunday evening, I can submit to you this much: Thanks to a landmark performance by Eddie Redmayne and standout supporting work by Felicity Jones, as well as great production quality all around, it meets that bar — and then some.

The warm ovation that greeted the heartbreaking but inspirational drama — which was adapted by Anthony McCarten from the autobiography of Jane Hawking, Stephen's college sweetheart turned wife, and directed by Marsh, who previously has directed only one other narrative feature but won the best documentary Oscar for his massively acclaimed film Man on Wire (2008) — support that position. And the prolonged standing ovation that greeted its stars after the end credits support another; namely, that Redmayne will be tough to beat in the best actor race and Jones will have a strong shot of her own in the lead or supporting actress race. (Her placement is still being debated but I'm told Focus is leaning toward the latter.)

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7
2 WKS

Toronto: Hilarious 'While We're Young' Script Could Earn Noah Baumbach Another Nom

Toronto: Hilarious 'While We're Young' Script Could Earn Noah Baumbach Another Nom

Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, one of the most enjoyable films that I've seen in a long time — and one of the first two products of Barry Diller and Scott Rudin's new production company IAC Films (the other being Chris Rock's comedy Top Five, which is also playing at TIFF) — had its world premiere on Saturday night and played again on Sunday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival, after which it was greeted with considerable applause and, I'm told by reliable sources, multiple bids for its U.S. distribution rights, which remain unresolved as of this writing.

The film, a laugh-out-loud dramedy grown adults about the meaning of "adulthood" in the 21st century, feels to me like the best Woody Allen movie that Woody Allen didn't direct — and one that will stand a strong shot at landing a nom in the Oscar category in which Allen has been nominated more often than anyone else in history, best original screenplay, if and when someone picks it up. (It feels to me like Fox Searchlight or A24's cup of tea, but we'll see.)

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2 WKS

Toronto: 'Black and White' Could Propel Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer Into Oscar Race

Toronto: 'Black and White' Could Propel Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer Into Oscar Race

One of the best movies that has already screened at the Toronto Film Festival but hasn't yet found a U.S. distributor is Mike Binder's Black and White. The drama, which was inspired by a true story, stars Oscar winners Kevin Costner (also a producer) and Octavia Spencer as a grandfather and grandmother on opposite sides of a dispute over the custody of a mixed-race child (the excellent 10-year-old newcomer Jillian Estell) to whom they both lay claim. Following its world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, it received a lengthy standing ovation, and it's hard to imagine that it will remain on the market — or outside of the 2014 Oscar discussion — for much longer.

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7
2 WKS

Toronto: Reitman's Back in Form — and Awards Contention — With 'Men, Women & Children'

Toronto: Reitman's Back in Form — and Awards Contention — With 'Men, Women & Children'

The Canadian writer-director Jason Reitman's career exploded with his first three feature films, Thank You for Smoking (2005), Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009), the latter two of which received best picture Oscar nominations and garnered him best director noms, as well. (He was also nominated for co-adapting Up in the Air's screenplay) The two films with which he followed those, however, Young Adult (2011) and Labor Day (2013), proved much more divisive, and led some to wonder if the filmmaker had lost his way.

Now, though, with his sixth feature — Men, Women & Childen, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival's Ryerson Theatre at 6pm on Saturday, just like all of his others except Young Adult, which skipped the festival circuit — I am pleased to report that Reitman has recaptured the formula that endeared him to critics, audiences and the Academy in the first place: employing a big and talented ensemble to smartly and dryly satirize the world in which we live.

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6
2 WKS

Toronto: Bill Murray Guns for Another Shot at Oscar with 'St. Vincent'

Toronto: Bill Murray Guns for Another Shot at Oscar with 'St. Vincent'

In 2004, Bill Murray won the best actor in a musical or comedy Golden Globe and almost won the best actor Oscar for his work in Lost in Translation; for the latter, he came up short in a hotly contested race, to Mystic River's Sean Penn. Now, a decade later, Murray could be back in the running for that same Golden Globe, if not that same Oscar, for his finest work since: his indelible portrayal of a grumpy old man who bonds with his young new neighbor in Ted Melfi's St. Vincent, a dramedy that The Weinstein Co. is distributing.

The film was very well received at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday (which the fest declared "Bill Murray Day") and at its encore special presentation screening on Saturday (which a festivalgoer astutely suggested calling "Groundhog Dog").

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6
2 WKS

Toronto: Can the Acclaimed Genre Film 'Nightcrawler' Crack Into Oscar Race?

Toronto: Can the Acclaimed Genre Film 'Nightcrawler' Crack Into Oscar Race?

Open Road Films' Nightcrawler may or may not turn out to be "an awards movie" — "genre films" rarely do — but it is destined to become a classic and was received accordingly, with a loud and partial standing ovation after its world premiere on Friday night at Roy Thomson Hall as part of the Toronto Film Festival.

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2 WKS

Toronto: Al Pacino Is Back in 'The Humbling'

Toronto: Al Pacino Is Back in 'The Humbling'

Among the actors who have multiple films playing at this year's Toronto International Film Festival are Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Watts – and a young up-and-comer by the name of Al Pacino.

Pacino, of course, is actually as much of a veteran as anyone at the fest, and yet, as he nears his 75th birthday in the spring, he is still working regularly. Of his 2014 TIFF entries, I haven't yet seen David Gordon Green's Manglehorn. But, on Friday, I saw Barry Levinson's The Humbling, which Millennium Entertainment will be distributing, and I am pleased to report that it features some of the best work that Levinson or Pacino have done in years — certainly their best since their prior collaboration, on HBO's 2010 Jack Kevorkian biopic You Don't Know Jack.

If someone picks up the low-budget dramedy, which features numerous laugh-out-loud moments — it was adapted by the great Buck Henry (The Graduate), who is now 83, and Michael Zebede, from Philip Roth's 2009 novel of the same name — there's a chance that strong word-of-mouth could propel it to a decent showing at the box-office and Pacino and his always-solid costar Greta Gerwig to Independent Spirit Award noms and the like.

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3 WKS

Toronto: 'The Judge' Opens Fest, Now Awaits Academy's Verdict

Toronto: 'The Judge' Opens Fest, Now Awaits Academy's Verdict

The 39th Toronto Film Festival got underway Thursday night with the world premiere of Warner Bros.' The Judge at Roy Thomson Hall. David Dobkin's drama stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall as a son and father who have never really gotten along, but who begin to bond when the son, a hotshot lawyer, begins representing the father, who is facing murder charges for allegedly killing a man with his car and then fleeing the scene. The film, which will be released nationwide on Oct. 10, received a warm ovation that became a standing ovation when a spotlight was shined on the film's principal talent among whom are also Vera Farmiga and Vincent D'Onofrio as the credits rolled.

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3 WKS

Toronto: Oscar Contenders, Start Your Engines!

Toronto: Oscar Contenders, Start Your Engines!

The 2014 Toronto Film Festival kicks off Thursday night with the world premiere of Warner Bros.' The Judge, a legal thriller directed by David Dobkin and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.

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