Amir here, wrapping up my coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.
I have to apologize for my absence yesterday on TIFF's closing weekend. A broken laptop charger prevented me any access to the internet. As you already know, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook snatched the coveted People's Choice Award. In keeping with my tradition of not watching films with set public release dates at the festival, I passed on the film in my original planning. And yesterday, when people lined up for the film’s honorary additional screening, I was in a different theatre watching my favourite actress Julianne Moore playing a rock star in What Maisie Knew.
More including Oscar buzz and a Festival jury of one after the jump...
I have no complaints, actually. Moore's performance isn't revelatory, but the film is very charming and proved to be a delightful festival treat.
The People’s Choice Award, unlike what many seem to think, can be as unimportant as it can be crucial. As Nathaniel’s statistics from yesterday show, for every Slumdog Millionaire that goes from direct-to-video to 8 Oscars because of this award, there's more than one Bella (remember that one? Yeah, me neither.) But I think in the case of this year's winner it will prove to be a significant gain. It's an American production from a director who's already been welcomed to Oscar's club, starring two Hollywood superstars. This award - which was predicted by almost everyone in town - only proves that this is Russell in his accessible The Fighter territory. It might not end up as a Best Picture nominee but it is surely and firmly in the race now. Jennifer Lawrence, too, will almost certainly be a Best Actress nominee and a major threat for the win.
Argo was another big winner at the festival as it planted its flag as the season’s frontrunner. Ben Affleck has been on the rise for a few years now and it's very fortunate for him and his campaign team that their period piece happens to be the year's most timely and relevant film. That will become a major talking point as the season moves forward, something the Oscar strategists can definitely capitalize on.
No other film really came out the festival unscathed. Cloud Atlas was as readily dismissed as it was praised. Anna Karenina was equally divisive. To the Wonder failed to make an impact even on the most ardent fans of director Terrence Malick, though I, for one, think it is superior to his Palme winning The Tree of Life. (Perhaps it doesn’t merit as much discourse because this romantic tale isn’t as intellectually stimulating, or as a friend crudely put it “ideologically opinionated” but it is the more lyrical of the two.) The Master was admired following its big gains in Venice, but I think it remains to be seen if it can go all the way at the end of the season.
So what did I vote for when it came to the People's Choice Awards? Well, you already know the extent of my affection for Beyond the Hills and Frances Ha, but I ended up casting my vote for a different black and white indie, Joss Whedon's charming and hilarious adaptation of my favourite Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing.
Whedon's been on quite a roll this year with the financial success of Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers, two films that seem like far better fits to his resume, but it's this whimsical gem that has finally won over this Whedon skeptic. Whedon's vision is as sharp and clever as Shakespeare's play. Without sacrificing its wit or cheapening the humour, he adds small touches that had the theatre roaring in laughter. It's an interesting adaptation, one where "shall we dance?" is replied to by connecting an iPod to a sound system and "thy lord's castle" has bedrooms decorated with teddy bears. And I totally dug it. The cast was terrific, understanding how to perfectly balance modernity and Shakespearean language without looking ludicrous.
I’m most curious to see how it is eventually handled by the distributors (Lionsgate and Roadside). The public screening was full of people who were there only because of Whedon’s name and they ate it up. Could it have the potential to exceed the financial expectations of a B&W Shakespearean adaptation? Quite possibly. Romeo and Juliet aside, this is probably the easiest Shakespeare to sell and a lot of people will be intrigued to see how a director like Whedon handles it.
I will be back later in the week to discuss the documentaries, one of which I think can be counted on as a serious contender for the Best Documentary Oscar. For now, here is a short list of my favourites and the winners of my one-man jury awards:
1. Much Ado about Nothing (dir. Whedon)
2. Beyond the Hills (dir. Mungiu)
3. Frances Ha (dir. Baumbach)
4. The Place beyond the Pines (dir. Cianfrance)
5. Something in the Air (dir. Assayas)
Tie! Yilmaz Erdogan (Rhino Season) and Bradley Cooper (The Place beyond the Pines)
Saskia Rosendahl (Lore)
Joss Whedon (Much Ado about Nothing)
Cristian Mungiu (Beyond the Hills)
Best Technical Achievement
Berberian Sound Studio (Sound Design)