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As we move out of the Toronto fray, Venice and Telluride already a memory, we look to the season ahead. The starting gun echo of those three early fall festivals is beginning to fade away, and with the dust settled or settling, it’s interesting to note the lack of an inarguable emerging player. In fact, the only thing Toronto really did was heat up the Best Foreign Language Film conversation.
Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” with George Clooney front and center, is well-liked, but few really think it has the goods to be a significant Best Picture threat. Clooney’s own “The Ides of March” has enough detractors to raise doubt that it will be an across-the-board Academy favorite, while “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” — freshly opened in the UK — is happy to just be making the case for a nomination at the moment.
I don’t want to write too much about “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” right now because, point blank, I want to see it again and digest and — gasp! — consider.
For now, though, I’ll start with this: It’s an impeccably made, satisfyingly dense piece of work from director Tomas Alfredson. It’s the rare film that is a slow burn but nevertheless moves along at a clip, with a very well-honed editorial sense, I might add.
The thing is, I saddled up to the film this afternoon without knowing the source material or bothering to investigate it much. I’ve never read John le Carre’s novel (I will) and I haven’t seen the 1979 British mini-series starring Alec Guiness (I will). And the vibe I get is it would be helpful to come to the new film with a modicum of knowledge on that, but it’s no less satisfying. It just means a second look is in order, and I’m all for it, because you come away with an extreme reverence for craft here.
One of the great unknowns of the season (as I’ll get into momentarily with today’s Off the Carpet column) is Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.” Well today, we finally get a glimpse of the film via the trailer at Apple. The first thing of note, naturally, is Leonardo DiCaprio’s accent, which seems to come in and out in just these few minutes. Also notable is the makeup, which I’ve been saying for a while will be transformative and most certainly something to watch for in that race. Finally, I’ve been hearing that Judi Dench gives the supporting performance to watch for, and that seems evident here. Check out the trailer by clicking on the image below or watch an embed after the jump.
I can’t say I’m all that aware yet of Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?,” which Guy recently called “a serious-minded comedy with musical elements that premiered to warm reviews in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, where it earned a special mention from the Ecumenical Jury.” But the film has swooped in and nabbed the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award when many were predicting “The Artist” would charm its way to the prize. Expect a domestic distributor to pounce any day now.
The film was recently submitted by Lebanon into the foreign film race, and one of the runners-up in Toronto, Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation,” was also slotted by Iran. So for a festival that usually paves the way for the major categories in an Oscar race (more on that tomorrow), Toronto has actually heated up the race for Best Foreign Language Film. Unexpected and, I might say, entirely refreshing, that.
Disney found a somewhat soft spot for children’s films in the 2011 schedule to slot “The Lion King 3D,” and they came away with a healthy #1 take this weekend. Assuming you’re okay with that being added to the film’s already impressive overall take from the summer of 1994, it leap-frogs “Finding Nemo” to become the third-highest grossing animated film of all time. Now that I look at the figures, “Drive” actually opened on a lot more screens than I thought, but I’m nevertheless a bit surprised it bested “Straw Dogs” (which itself was even held in check by the still-chugging “The Help”).
So, it’s been a big week of announcements here at In Contention, and next week, a bigger week of changes. The current plan is to have the new digs off the ground on Tuesday, so we’ll have Monday to say our goodbyes. But it occurred to me I haven’t offered up a Cinejabber space for you to cut loose about any and everything in quite some time. So, let’s do that before we go.
I’m stoked that we’re going out with a bang on our “tell us what you thought” posts, as the “Drive” discussion is easily our most engaging and lively one yet. I saw the film again last night (I’m guessing it’s the first opening night film I’ve taken in in three years). It’s such a brilliant piece of work. I hope it does well this season.
I had lunch this afternoon with the soft-spoken and, following engagement on a studio film and the Toronto grind of last week, rather exhausted Bennett Miller. He’s very passionate about the themes and the main character of the film, as I knew he had to be, given how dense it is. One thing he said really stuck out: “Brad [Pitt] told me, ‘I’m proud of this movie, and I’m proud of it for how hard it was.’” Indeed, it was a “beautiful nightmare” getting “Moneyball” made, but Miller ended up giving the material a delicate touch and one that allowed it to work on his terms within the studio system. He’s proud of it for that, too. But more on all that later.
One last solicitation for thoughts today, on Rod Lurie’s “Straw Dogs” remake. I already offered my receptive opinion of the film, but I’m curious what everyone else has to say. So cut loose with your thoughts when/if you get around to it this weekend.
Lots has been written and spoken about “Drive” around these parts. Guy fell in love in Cannes. I hopped on board at Comic-Con. And now, it’s your turn to weigh in. The film opens nationwide today, and I imagine it’ll be a big priority for many of you. Come on back here when you get around to seeing it this weekend. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
In case you’re new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar’s stage and we’re here to address it all as it unfolds.
It’s a bittersweet time. Barring any set-backs, this is the last time you’ll see an episode of Oscar Talk…in this space. As revealed earlier this week, In Contention is moving over to HitFix, aiming for as early as Monday of next week. So this 61st installment of the podcast is all she wrote for these white walls, but the fun will continue at the new destination a week from today. But, for now, with Anne on her last day of Toronto coverage, there is plenty to cover. So let’s see what’s on the docket today…
The great Albert Brooks took playful Twitter umbrage with my yanking him from the predicted five supporting actor contenders recently. I assure you (and him) that it’s a lack of faith in the Academy, which would enter uber-cool territory by giving him (or anything) a nod for this film, not a lack of faith in his work. He’s fantastic in the film and, well, nothing’s impossible. I’d be over the moon. Brooks and the rest of the team recently made the press rounds on the film. So, from our new partners at HitFix, via Awards Campaign:
We’ll have a “tell us what you thought” post on the film later today.
I don’t know if many of you are planning on taking in “The Lion King 3D,” a converted version of the 1994 animated classic that will be in theaters for a few weeks in advance of the film’s Blu-ray bow next month. But I figured I’d offer up a space for you to discuss it anyway. If you’re on the fence, I’d highly recommend it. As noted last month, I think it actually brings a lot of life to the film, which itself is already bursting with it. So head on back here to give us your thoughts if you happen to check it out this weekend.
John Madden’s latest, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” is set for release. Contrary to rumor, it will stay on its March 9, 2012 release date (especially now that Fox Searchlight has filled its awards boat), but it nevertheless looks like the sort of film that could be a lighthearted awards play next year if they wanted it to be. Maybe. For now, the trailer has launched via Apple. Check it out by clicking the image below or watch an embed after the jump.
Here’s a nice change of pace. On the occasion of the UK opening of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” London’s Telegraph newspaper has commissioned actor Gary Oldman for his thoughts on director Francis Ford Coppola. It’s kind of random, though. Yeah, Oldman starred in Coppola’s 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” but there’s no real connection otherwise. Coppola has “Twixt” at Toronto right now, so there’s that, but whatever, I’m not complaining. It’s always nice to get this kind of perspective from an actor. Here’s a taste:
For me, Apocalypse Now is the peak of his career. So much so that I used a bit of it when I directed Nil By Mouth  — that sequence when Dennis Hopper goes to Willard, who is Kurtz’s captive, and starts telling him about Kurtz (“What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man?”). Francis gave me that footage for free, which was very kind of him.
It’s been a bit slow on the whole for acquisitions at Toronto, but one film I’ve kept an eye on is “Barrymore” (which we pointed to over the weekend as a potential Oscar play for Christopher Plummer). It absolutely seems like a powerhouse performance, but man, it’ll be hard to sell a one-man show. I imagine that’s partly what’s stalling a sale. In any case, the trailer is available via TIFF’s YouTube channel. Check it out by clicking the image below or watch an embed after the jump.