By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 14, 2009 at 9:14AM
With distributor ranks cut to the quick and a dicey domestic market for indie films, sales are slow at this year's TIFF. There are plenty of excellent and not so good films on view, but buyers are hanging back. "It's a buyer's market," says ex WMA agent Cassian Elwes. "They'll figure out which ones they want and wait until the sellers are desperate and then buy them."
At some point after they have sampled the films, buyers will likely step up for:
Aaron Schneider's debut film Get Low, an old-fashioned, well-written, no-nonsense 20s era fable starring Robert Duvall in a heartbreaking Oscar-worthy performance, with able support from Sissy Spacek and a hilarious Bill Murray. It's the kind of story that keeps you wondering what happens next. And just the kind of straight-down-the-middle tweener the bigger distribs are scared of today. The film got a standing ovation from Toronto audiences. "Get Low is too arty, too long," insists one industry player. Three years ago, it would have sparked the kind of bidding war that The Apostle did twelve years ago. Bob Berney, who is in town closing more funding for Apparition, would be the perfect distrib for this. It has heartland appeal. @scottEweinberg tweets: "GET LOW is a thing of beauty. Duvall, Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black. Just great." In Contention's John Foote also makes The Apostle comparison.
Israeli film Lebanon is in the running as a foreign Oscar contender, assuming Israel goes with the Venice Golden Lion winner. "It has SPC written all over it," said one agent.
Venice best actor winner Colin Firth stars in Tom Ford's debut film A Single Man, based on the Christopher Isherwood novel. The question: is it a narrow-niche gay audience play? That's why people need to see how it plays here tonight. Or will it break out, as Brokeback Mountain did? "It will be a small deal, an arty deal," says one agent.
[Photos: Get Low's Duvall and Murray; Ridley Scott sprig Jordan.]
There's interest in Brian Koppelman and David Levien's A Solitary Man because of Michael Douglas. Good reports on Bruce Beresford's Mao's Last Dancer, starring Bruce Greenwood. Buzz is building on the intense Greek film Dogtooth, which screened at Cannes.
Screen Daily liked The Joneses and delivers a mixed review of Til Schweiger-starrer Phantom Pain. Mixed reports on The Loved Ones, Atom Egoyan's sexy Chloe , and Niki Caro's too-ambitious Vintner's Luck , which join Dorian Gray, Creation, and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits on the list of Toronto disappointments. UPDATE: Here's the NYT's mid-fest wrap.
The Hollywood Reporter profiles films from the children of Hollywood players. Jordan Scott, the daughter of director Ridley Scott, makes her directorial debut with 30s Brit boarding school drama Cracks. And Tatiana Von Furstenberg, daughter of fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, co-directed another boarding school story, Tanner Hall, with Francesca Gregorini, the child of Barbara Bach and step-father Ringo Starr. The film debuts Monday night.
Party report: Saturday night I left the dark and noisy Get Low fete on King Street for the Brassai Up in the Air Paramount dinner across the street. I sat with some of the folks from Montecito, who produced and financed the picture: Ivan Reitman's partner Tom Pollock and producer Joe Medjuck and wife Laurie Deans. Talked to some folks from Goldman Sachs, who think that investment in the movie business, post DreamWorks funding, is going to pick up. Said hi to George Clooney, who was hanging with CAA's Bryan Lourd and Paramount chairman Brad Grey. Clooney is still steaming mad about the SAG debacle this year; he and Tom Hanks and other moderates were fighting to keep the union together. Other attendees: the film's Anna Kendrick, Ivan and Jason Reitman, critics David Ansen, Thelma Adams, Peter Rainer and John Powers, and interloper Harvey Weinstein.
Here are some of my Twitter updates on films I've seen here:
science vs. religion redux: Agora not as deadly as Creation. Weisz fine. too much violent action to achieve scope. Noble failure.
Men who stare at goats mildly amusing; clooney, bridges are funny; mcgregor is straight man. Movie is addled in a good way.
Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story is great fun but lacks cohesive structure to pull it together. Will do biz tho.
Barrymore directing debut Whip It is girl-power fun, populist straight-ahead commercial fare with strong mother-daughter bond at core.
Variety also likes Whip It.
[Photos: Dogtooth; Up in the Air's Clooney]