TIFF’S OSCAR TIPSHEET
Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, The Artist… The Toronto Film Festival has an enviable record for showcasing the eventual Academy Award winners. So, what advance tips can we glean from this year’s festival?
1. “The Master” will be the one to beatPaul Thomas Anderson’s widely acclaimed Scientology movie has a few naysayers – some critics complained it was too dense to unpick on a single viewing – but if TIFF had a prize for best picture, there is little doubt that this would have taken it. Put simply, it showed more substance and authority than anything else on display here, and in Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two powerhouse actors at the top of their game. Expect nominations across the board, even if ultimately it lacks the big emotional pay-off the Academy craves to put it over the top.
2. We can discount Terrence Malick this yearMalick traditionally takes years between pictures, but the Oscar-nominated “Tree of Life” was so long in post-production, “To the Wonder” is already upon us. Unfortunately this contemporary love story makes you wonder if he should have taken more time: critics found it slight and repetitive, the biggest let down of the fest.
3. Ben Affleck for Best Director?Affleck – who has the misfortune of starring in “To The Wonder” - garnered plenty of praise for his previous two outings as director, the Boston thrillers, “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town”, but he’s knocked the ball out of the park this time with “Argo” (which he also stars in). Although it takes us back to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980, this gripping drama feels all too timely seen against current events in Libya and Egypt. Granted, with its heroic Canadian ambassador and movie in-jokes it was always going to be manna to the “Torrono” audience, but the movie has suspense, an oddball true story, and cracking comic relief from John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
4. Bradley Cooper for Best Actor?It’s a long shot, but it could happen. The World’s Sexiest Man desperately wants to reinvent himself as a legit actor, not just a slick leading man. And he acquits himself well enough in the kind of role Oscar loves, as a bipolar ex history teacher hospitalized when he finds his wife in the shower with another man. Eight months later he’s back home with mom and pop (Jackie Weaver and Robert DeNiro) trying to live by a new positive philosophy and win back his wife without breaking her restraining order. Directed by David O Russell (“The Fighter”), “The Silver Linings Playbook” has big laughs, romance, and just enough manic energy to keep the whole thing on track.
5. Don’t Forget the Golden OldiesAs Christopher Plummer proved last year, you’re never too old to win an Academy Award. This year, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave could be sentimental favourites with “A Song for Marion”, a charming British comedy about old peoples’ choir (“Old Foakz”) who enter a singing competition. Redgrave plays a terminal cancer patient determined to at least last until the audition; Stamp is her frosty but loving hubbie, who gets sucked into the excitement. They’re both terrific, and this is a bone fide crowd pleaser.
6. “Cloud Atlas” is all over the mapEasily the most divisive movie screened at TIFF, this three-hour magnum opus spans several centuries – past and future – and incorporates half a dozen vaguely related stories to convey eternal philosophical truths, some of them quite trite. Co-directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski of “The Matrix” fame along with Tom Tykwer, and featuring multiple Oscar winner Tom Hanks in multiple roles (along with a bevy of Hallee Berrys, assorted Jim Broadbents and a trifecta of Hugh Grants), “Cloud Atlas” is strikingly original, spectacular and – many thought – a bewildering misfire. If Warner Bros can turn it into a hit, though, all bets are off.