Tag Archives: 2012 movies

Pre-TIFF Oscar Predictions

With the Venice Film Festival in full swing and the Toronto International Film Festival officially kicking off on Thursday, now seemed as good a time as any to update my Oscar predictions. The outcome of these festivals (along with the assortment of other festivals this fall) will probably help to shape the Oscar race considerably. Past Best Picture winners like The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire picked up considerable traction at the fall festivals, as did last year’s The Artist (though it made its first dent at Cannes). I imagine I’ll probably be altering these predictions in a couple of weeks, but here are my pre-TIFF guesses:

Picture

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

The Hobbit

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

The Master

Zero Dark Thirty

Other Possibilities: Moonrise Kingdom, Anna Karenina, Cloud Atlas, Hyde Park on Hudson, Killing Them Softly, The Silver Linings Playbook, Amour

Director

Ben Affleck, Argo

Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Tom Hooper, Les Miserables

Peter Jackson, The Hobbit

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Other Possibilities: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Michael Haneke (Amour), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), David O. Russell (The Silver Linings Playbook), Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly)

Actor

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson

Other Possibilities: Clint Eastwood (The Trouble With the Curve), Denzel Washington (Flight), Bradley Cooper (The Silver Linings Playbook)

Actress

Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone

Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

Maggie Smith, Quartet

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Smashed

Other Possibilities: Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Kristen Wiig (Imogene), Amy Adams (The Trouble With the Curve), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Won’t Back Down)

Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Argo

Russell Crowe, Les Miserables

Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

David Straitharn, Lincoln

Other Possibilities: Bryan Cranston (Argo), Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths), Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike), Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Don Cheadle (Flight), Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths), Bradley Cooper (The Place Beyond the Pines), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master

Viola Davis, Won’t Back Down

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy

Other Options: Laura Dern (The Master), Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Vanessa Redgrave (A Song For Marion), Annette Bening (Imogene), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Sally Field (Lincoln)

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10 Lesser-Known Films to See at TIFF

If you’ve been following TIFF this year, you probably know that several big films will be playing at the festival. Most notably, Rian Johnson’s sci-fi blockbuster, Looper (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis) was selected as TIFF’s opening night film. As well, the Wachowski brothers’ Cloud Atlas
(which boasts a reported $140 million budget) will play, as well as the 3D blockbuster Dredd (which was announced as part of the festival’s Midnight Madness program). Other big names have garnered quite a bit of attention in during the lead-up to the festival, including Robert Redford’s star-studded The Company You Keep, Ben Affleck’s Argo, and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.

Like a lot of festival-goers, I’m excited for these big TIFF titles. But the festival has so much to offer beyond movie stars and blockbusters that will show up at your local multiplex within a couple of months. To celebrate some of the smaller TIFF films, I thought I’d make a list of 10 movies I’m excited for that you might not have heard about yet. These films haven’t played at any other major festivals and don’t boast big name directors, and they haven’t received much attention, so far.

1. Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter, United Kingdom)

This drama from Sally Potter (Orlando) stars Elle Fanning and Alice Englert as two teenage girls growing up in 1960’s London during the time of the Cold War and the burgeoning sexual revolution. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, England, the 1960’s, and Elle Fanning, so this movie sounds like it’ll be right up my alley. Definitely one of my most anticipated for the festival this year.

2. Lore (Cate Shortland, Australia/United Kingdom/Germany)

Cate Shortland’s last film, 2004’s Somersault, helped to launch the career of Abbie Cornish. Now, she returns with a new film and another potential young ingénue. In Lore, Saskia Rosendahl stars as a teenager who must bring her siblings across the war-torn German countryside at the end of World War II, placing her trust in a man she has been taught to hate. This one looks pretty stunning.

3. Greetings From Tim Buckley (Dan Algrant, USA)

This one is a personal pick. As a massive Jeff Buckley fan, I am both nervous and curious to see how his life has been adapted to the big screen. And while the other Buckley project, Mystery White Boy (which stars Reeve Carney and has obtained the rights to use Buckley’s music) sounds more promising on paper, it’s still in pre-production (and has been in the works for years), so this one will have to do for now. I’m even optimistic about Penn Badgley, who at least showed some signs of life onscreen in a small role in last year’s excellent Margin Call.


4. In the House (Francois Ozon, France)

It’s the plot description on this one that’s got me interested. It revolves around “a high-school student whose essays about a friend’s family start to blur the lines between reality and fiction — and may conceal a dark purpose.” It also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, which is always a bonus.


5. Jump (Kieran J. Walsh, Ireland)

Jump revolves around a group of 20-somethings whose lives intertwine on New Year’s Eve in Northern Ireland. It looks highly stylish, and is described as a “twisty, blackly comic crime thriller”. And that’s enough for me.


6. Wasteland (Rowan Athale, United Kingdom)

If you follow young, British actors at all, you’ll probably recognize at least a couple of the leads in this heist thriller from first-time director Rowan Athale. You’ve got Harry Potter‘s Matthew Lewis, Attack the Block‘s Luke Treadaway, and Misfit’s Iwan Rheon all together here, and that is enough to get me interested. The plot sounds a bit standard, but enjoyable nonetheless.


7. Dead Europe (Tony Krawitz, Australia)

Dead Europe‘s TIFF synopsis boasts, “From the producers of Shame and Animal Kingdom.” And while this may be an unsubtle attempt to make the project sound gritty and shocking, aside from that, it sounds and looks like a fascinating film. Ewen Leslie plays a photographer who visits his ancestral hometown, and along the way, discovers some disturbing family secrets.


8. Blondie (Jesper Ganslandt, Sweden)

As part of TIFF’s provocative Vanguard program, this Swedish drama is bound to throw out some interesting twists. The film revolves around three sisters who reunite for their mother’s birthday, causing “conflicts to rise to the surface”. Things are going to get weird.

9. Twice Born (Sergio Castellitto, Italy/Spain/Croatia)

Italian actor Sergio Castellitto directs Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch in this Italian-language war romance. It looks intense and vaguely like Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey, but the cast involved is enough to catch my interest.

10. I Declare War (Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, Canada)

This Lord of the Flies-esque Canadian film follows a group of children whose neighbourhood adventure games turn deadly. It sounds like a great Midnight Madness pick, but as part of the Vanguard program, you know it’ll pack a punch.

TIFF Gears Up for Big Stars, Big Hits

The Toronto International Film Festival announced its first wave of festival programming via a live press conference this morning. After weeks of speculation and rumour, it turns out that many of the films that fans were hoping to see on the list will in fact play at the festival this year.

TIFF, which usually favours smaller, independent fare, will play host to a couple of big-budget blockbusters-to-be in September. Rian Johnson’s Looper will open the festival with a special gala on September 6. The sci-fi action film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, and is set to hit theatres for a major release on September 28. This marks a significant step up for TIFF’s opening film in terms of budget and profile. Last year’s opening film was the U2 documentary From the Sky Down, and the year before that, the Charles Darwin biopic, Creation.

The folks at TIFF also announced that the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas will also premiere at the festival. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant and boasting an estimated budget of $140 million, this is definitely one of the biggest films TIFF has ever welcomed.

On a slightly smaller scale but no less exciting is the announcement that Terrence Malick’s latest project, To the Wonder, will screen at TIFF. Given the long post-production life of The Tree of Life and Mallick’s typical long gaps between films, some fans thought it was unlikely Mallick’s next project would be ready in time. However, the film, which stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem will in fact make its world premiere at TIFF this year.

Other big name directors whose films will show at TIFF include Ben Affleck with Argo (starring Affleck and Bryan Cranston), David O. Russell with Silver Linings Playbook (starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jennifer Lawrence), Noah Baumbach with Frances Ha (starring Greta Gerwig), Joe Wright with Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law), and Robert Redford with his star-packed The Company You Keep (Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Chris Cooper).

Speaking of stars, TIFF will once again celebrate Ryan Gosling, as they host the world premiere of The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Blue Valentine helmer Derek Cianfrance, the film stars Gosling and Bradley Cooper as a stunt rider and a cop who square off. Other big names you might see walking around Toronto this September include Zac Efron (At Any Price), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson), Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch), Kevin Bacon (Jayne Mansfield’s Car), and Kristen Wiig’s (Imogene).

And while it’s easy to get caught up in the glitzy star spectacle that TIFF can become, it is also a festival that honours a lot of Canadian and foreign films, too. TIFF will round out its line-up in the coming weeks with more of these titles. For now, though, we know that Ruba Naddi’s Inescapable (starring Marisa Tomei and Fringe‘s Joshua Jackson) and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children will be two Canadian films having their world premieres at TIFF. The latter also tie’s into the festival’s “City to City” theme, which this year will highlight films from and about Mumbai, India.

The Toronto International Film Festival will run September 6-16. See the full list of films announced this morning at tiff.net/thefestival/filmprogramming

The Mid-Year Report: Favourite Performances

Which Moonrise Kingdom star will crack my top 10?

  1. Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed – For bringing humour and humanity to a character who could have seemed way over the top, and for damn near breaking my heart in the process
  2. Jake Johnson, Safety Not Guaranteed – For not only being hilarious, but also taking a stock character (the douche-y, cocky reporter) and making him someone we care about
  3. Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games – For offering a strong, internalized performance to a teen blockbuster
  4. Channing Tatum, Magic Mike – For making me a Channing Tatum fan
  5. Edward Norton, Moonrise Kingdom – For taking a small role and stealing the whole damn movie
  6. Jack Black, Bernie – For bringing ambiguity and heaps of charm to a character who should be black-and-white
  7. Brie Larson, 21 Jump Street – For playing a hugely charming love interest and being genuinely funny in her own right
  8. Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman – For once again playing the macho leading man while still balancing the physical requirements with humour and warmth
  9. Aubrey Plaza, Safety Not Guaranteed – For proving she has the charisma and acting chops to be an offbeat leading lady
  10. Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman – For bringing the wrath and just generally being fierce

Honorable Mentions: Woody Harrelson in The Hunger Games (for being his usual sassy self, and also hinting at the dark undertones of Haymitch), Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street (for working together brilliantly), Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (for making a fetching pair and elevating otherwise light material), Dane DeHaan in Chronicle (for making a highly charismatic leading debut), Gina Carano in Haywire (for kicking ass and offering up menacing on-screen presence), Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike (for saying “alright, alright, alright” a couple dozen times).

Magic Mike (2012)

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am a young woman. So, yes, ostensibly I am in the “correct” demographic for Magic Mike. But I should also say that I would have almost zero interest in this film if it weren’t for its director, and the fairly positive reviews it’s received. Watching a bunch of beefcakes strip on screen doesn’t really gel with what I usually go to the movies to see. So yes – you could say that I went into Magic Mike a little skeptical.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Channing Tatum used to be a stripper, and in Magic Mike he plays the title character – a stripper. Also along for the ride is Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the aging owner of the strip club, as well as British prettyboy Alex Pettyfer as Adam, one of the club’s new recruits. But while director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Oceans Eleven) certainly does make the best of his extremely toned cast in all the ways you’d expecting (in other words: there’s a lot of stripping), he also manages to tell a compelling human interest story amidst all the thongs and dollar bills.

In fact, Steven Soderbergh structured Magic Mike in a really smart way. There are lots of quiet scenes, and on the whole, the movie is actually a fairly small character study. But by having the high-energy strip club performance scenes interspersed throughout, the movie moves along at a steady clip and feels more accessible than some of Soderbergh’s other “passion projects”. (Whether you see this as a good thing or simply a money grab will probably depend on what kind of Soderbergh fan you are.) And despite all these shifts in tone, Magic Mike feels very evenly paced. Everything that happens in the movie feels authentic to the character that Mike is set up to be, and sometimes a big part of the fun is watching how his day life differs so wildly from his secondary “stripper” lifestyle.

And, I have to say, a lot of this believability stems from Tatum’s performance. Until this year, I had no use for Channing Tatum, and I did not see the appeal. But between 21 Jump Street and now this, I have to give the guy some credit. Of course, he has the moves and charisma to pull off the stripper aspect, but his performance goes well beyond that. There’s one scene in particular, where Mike goes to apply for a loan to get his business endeavours off the ground. He dresses himself up and turns on the charm, but things don’t go as planned. This is such a little, intimate scene, and it relies pretty much solely on Tatum to convey Mike’s vulnerability, and how much he’s out of his league. Tatum nails this scene, and he brings that same surprising depth to much of the rest of the film.

Matthew McConaughey is also pretty fantastic here. Again, I’m really not much of a McConaughey fan at all, but he too has been making smart role choices recently. He offers up enough slimy charm in Magic Mike to steal every one of his scenes, and he somehow manages to make the whole club environment seem fun and absolutely horrible at the same time.

The other star of this movie is its style and cinematography. Any scene that takes place outside of the strip club feels so Soderbergh-y. And, for me, this worked really well. There are so many beautifully composed shots here, and I loved the sepia-tinged look of daylight world. I’m not sure how well these more “artful” elements will sit with general audiences, but if you’re a Soderbergh fan worried that this will be too sanitized, fear not. If you dug the style of his last film, Haywire, you’ll probably like this.

That’s not to say that Magic Mike is some arty, experimental indie flick. Its budget is modest ($7 million), but it’s also got plenty of your standard Hollywood tropes. Especially in the third act, there’s plenty of drama and romance designed to keep your typical moviegoer attentive. And the script, while pretty good for this kind of movie, offers up a few lines of dialogue that feel rather cliché and false.

Part of me wishes that Soderbergh would have gone even weirder and less neat with it all, but at the same time, he did a pretty impressive job of balancing genuine style with an entertaining, commercially viable movie. And, thankfully, he doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow. I’m not saying this is Shame or anything (some of the melodrama – especially in the third act – feels pretty shallow and “Hollywood”), but Soderbergh does cultivate a nice dark-ish undercurrent to it all.

On the whole, Magic Mike may not be anything new, but I think it’ll please a surprisingly wide swath of filmgoers; It’s got plenty of abs for those who are there for the eye candy, it offers enough character development to placate those looking for a little more substance to go with it, and it even has some beautiful camerawork to satisfy film geeks like myself. Most importantly, though, if I go to a big summer movie, I want it to be fun. Magic Mike certainly manages to be that, and also a little more substantial.

7.5/10