Award season opener: TIFF 2011

September 8, 2011 07:11:57 Posted at September 8, 2011 07:11:57
Lainey Posted by Lainey

Written by Sarah

For all you people bitching that 2011 is a sh*t year in film, take a look at some of the directors represented at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival: Cronenberg, Besson, Polley, Meirelles, Moretti, Payne, Fresnadillo, the Dardenne brothers, von Trier, Hallestrom, Almodovar, Coppola, Winterbottom, Pawlikowski. Cameron Crowe, Alex Gibney, Jonathan Demme and Werner Herzog are all presenting new documentaries. Breakout talents like Nicolas Winding Refn, the Duplass brothers, Steve McQueen and Drake Doremus are all featured. For a “sh*t” year, we’re certainly not lacking for top directors showing new films. Nor are we lacking in star power—TIFF 2011 is one loaded talent lineup. It's also the kick-off of award season, and as such, we'll be seeing some Oscar campaigns get started. Here’s a look at what’s going on in Toronto this year.

Award Bait

Canada’s favorite son, David Cronenberg, is already drawing award talk with A Dangerous Method, his film about the fathers of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). Good things happen when Mortensen and Cronenberg collaborate and thanks to a string of top-notch performances, this is Fassbender’s year. Cronenberg really wants to bring home some hardware and Method is his best chance yet. Undoubtedly it will be weird and sexual (Keira Knightley appears as a young woman who is both Jung’s patient and lover), but it probably won’t have the off-putting violence of Cronenberg’s previous bait, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. And of all Fassbender’s performances in 2011, this is his best shot at a nod, too.

Prediction: Cronenberg will score nominations but Cronenberg's anti-Hollywood stance will keep him out of the winner's circle. Again.

The Best Actress race is well represented, with Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), Kristin Scott Thomas (The Woman in the Fifth), Carey Mulligan (Shame), and Sundance breakout Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) all fronting films. Everyone’s favorite alien, Tilda Swinton, is the heavy favorite right now but Close is getting good notice with Nobbs and I’ve seen Martha Marcy May Marlene—Olsen is a lock for the obligatory young’un nod. And Freida Pinto has a showcase in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, though Winterbottom usually skirts mainstream consideration.

Prediction: Everybody's favorite alien won an Oscar a few years ago (for Michael Clayton) so she'll have a bit of a battle with some fuddy-duddy voters who don't like to hand out statuettes "that close together". This opens the door for five-time nominee Close, with Meryl Streep yet to enter the race (with The Iron Lady).

As for the actors, Fassbender has two films screening—Shame and Method. He’s getting crazy good reviews for his stark portrayal of a sex addict in Steve McQueen’s Shame but the general feeling is that the movie is so explicit it’s definitely going to be NC-17 and not likely to be seen widely enough to get real awards traction. McQueen, however, is emerging as a major world talent (he ushered Fassbender into wider notice with 2008’s Hunger).

George Clooney is out in support of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, in which he stars, as well as his own The Ides of March, also featuring Ryan Gosling, and he too has two films at TIFF, the other being Refn’s Drive, which has been winning raves since Cannes. Brad Pitt is making another bid for Oscar (do we think Angelina holds it over him that she has an Oscar and he doesn’t?) with Moneyball, a more likely contender than the divisive and esoteric Tree of Life from earlier this year. Michael Shannon makes a bid for leading-man glory with Take Shelter, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt throws down an incredible performance in Jonathan Levine’s 50/50, guaranteed to be part of the conversation, if not an outright lock.

Prediction: The Fassbender will be the sexy pick (literally), but it's feeling like Clooney's year early on. Clooney will push Ryan Gosling for Best Actor in The Ides of March, and himself for his writer/director efforts, so he doesn't divide his own Actor chances with The Descendants. Pitt will be campaigning hard (I bet he mentions marriage again), but it will take more than a baseball movie to win his Oscar. He probably stands a better chance at Supporting with Tree of Life, which is still a long shot. Michael Shannon could deliver an upset.

French film The Artist, from Michel Hazanavicius, is an early and heavy favorite for the Foreign Film category, though Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In is sure to mix it up, too. Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt is probably too weird for major-category consideration, but the technical and artistic categories could be doable—I get a real Tim Burton vibe from this project. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia debuted strong at Cannes but I’m hearing really good stuff about Take Shelter, which has a similar apocalyptic vibe and has the benefit of 1) debuting later in the year and 2) not having the director on the record saying he identifies with Hitler.

Prediction: The Artist sounds super pretentious. It's a lock.


First time director Sean Durkin turns in an assured, taut drama with Marcy Martha May Marlene, and Jon Hamm’s increasingly insecure looking/long time girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt makes her directorial debut with Friends with Kids, which stars The Hamm and Kristen Wiig (and Megan Fox, ugh). Long time festival favorites the Duplass brothers are premiering Jeff, Who Lives at Home, starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer. Drake Doremus brings his Sundance breakout Like Crazy, and British actor Paddy Considine screens his strong debut, Tyrannosaur. Canadian actress Sarah Polley goes behind the camera for her follow up to Away from Her, Take This Waltz. Then there’s Madonna’s W.E., the Wallis Simpson biopic, which has been pretty much universally panned at Venice. Is it still a breakout if everyone’s talking about what a bomb it is?

Prediction: Tyrannosaur is my sexy surprise pick for writing/directing, and possibly acting for lead Peter Mullan.


Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner are presenting Butter, about the competitive world of butter carving (okay?). Gerard Butler has Machine Gun Preacher, from the director who is currently doing something unspeakable to World War Z (Marc Forster). Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and Roland Emmerich takes a stab at legitimacy by practicing revisionist history on Shakespeare’s life and authorship in Anonymous. Todd Solondz—a director I like more in theory than in practice—has given Selma Blair a starring vehicle with Dark Horse, and William Friedkin gave Emile “colossal douche” Hirsch a job in Killer Joe. Ewan McGregor fronts Lasse Hallestrom’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which is getting buried under what’s turning out to be a competitive year for award bait. And finally, Blake F*cking Lively and Chloe Moretz make for the weirdest on-screen pairing ever in Derick Martini’s Hick.

Prediction: Ralph Fiennes scores a directing nod.

TIFF 2011 is an unusually loaded slate with a heavy lineup of star power. Here’s to ten days of madness in Toronto.

(Lainey - a propos of nothing, and he’s not even on my Five List, but Michael Fassbender seems like he would be really hot to make out with. )

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