With Toronto over and a slew of post-fest deals still rolling out, here's a wrap-up of what I saw and learned:
Ten Best Movies in Toronto:
1. Everlasting Moments: Jan Troell’s period masterpiece is likely to be the Swedish Oscar submission (IFC).
2. Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle’s Toronto audience award winner is both a likely hit and awards contender (Warners/Fox Searchlight).
3. The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky directed has-been actor Mickey Rourke as a down-on-his-luck wrestler to likely awards contention (Fox Searchlight).
4. The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War thriller breaks out tough-guy Jeremy Renner (Summit, 2009).
5. Flame + Citron: Ole Christian Madsen’s riveting WW II thriller won’t be the Danish Oscar submission (IFC).
6. Every Little Step: Jim Stern’s moving Chorus Line doc plays like a reality TV show full of winners and losers as dancer/actor/singers put their talent on the line to gain a slot in the revival of the Broadway hoofer classic. It’s a likely awards contender for best doc (juggling distrib offers).
7. I’ve Loved You So Long: Philippe Claudel’s two hander about two sisters could earn French-speaking Brit Kristin Scott Thomas best actress kudos (SPC).
8. Burn After Reading: The Coens return to their darkly comic roots with a skilled acting ensemble led by Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Fran McDormand (Focus Features).
9. Happy-Go-Lucky: Mike Leigh and actress Sally Hawkins could follow Vera Drake into the awards derby (Miramax).
10. Kisses: Lance Daly’s Irish runaway movie starring unknowns turns from black-and-white into color (weighing distrib offers).
11. Adam Resurrected: Paul Schrader directs Jeff Goldblum in a bravura performance as a charismatic showman who survives the holocaust but loses his mind (seeking distrib).
12. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Kevin Smith is back in raunchy, gut-splitting form with two strong actors, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks (Weinstein Co./MGM).
13. Easy Virtue: Stephen Elliott (Patricia, Queen of the Desert) directs a witty culture-clash comedy well-delivered by Ben Barnes, Jennifer Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Colin Firth (seeking distrib).
14. Is There Anybody There? John Crowley’s family comedy stars Michael Caine in a brilliant performance as a senior fighting senility (seeking distrib).
15. Brothers Bloom: Rian Johnson’s ambitious second feature, a con-man caper comedy, showcases Rachel Weisz’s skills as a charming light comedienne (Summit).
16. Me and Orson Welles: Richard Linklater’s 1937 picture of the Mercury Theatre features uncanny Welles impersonator Christian McKay, a glowing Claire Danes and teen throb Zac Efron (seeking distrib).
17. Public Enemy Number 1, a work in progress from France, hangs on the powerful incarnation of notorious real-life French gangster Jacques Mesrine by Vincent Cassel. Filmed over one year in two parts, this film may be combined with number two into a single movie by distrib Senator for its 2009 U.S. release.
18. Dean Spangler: Peter O’Toole and Sam Neill shine in this strange, slow-burn New Zealand fable about reincarnation (seeking U.S. distrib).
Best Cannes Fest Leftovers:
1. Il Divo: Paolo Sorrentino’s exhilarating e-ride through 70s and 80s Italian politics, while accessible, is considered too arcane for stateside release (seeking distrib).
2. Hunger: UK director Steve McQueen directs Michael Fassbender in a breakout perf as Irish activist Bobby Sands (IFC).
3. Waltz with Bashir: Israeli Ari Folman’s animated doc could be nominated in both animation and doc categories (SPC).
4. Wendy and Lucy: Kelly Reichardt directs Michele Williams in a heart-rending performance as vulnerable woman on the road who loses her dog. Williams could be a long shot for year-end kudos consideration (Oscilloscope).
5. The Good, The Bad and the Weird: Kim Jee-woon’s non-stop kimchi western could score with action fans (IFC).
6. Synecdoche, New York: Not surprisingly, first-time director Charlie Kaufman spins a tale you have never seen before, with a sprawling ensemble led by the depressed (natch) Philip Seymour Hoffman (SPC).
7. Che: Steven Soderbergh’s bio-epic wound up as two movies in Spanish instead of one movie in English, but it’s still a must-see for Benicio del Toro’s portrayal of the controversial revolutionary (IFC).
8. Adoration: Atom Egoyan’s explores a tangled web of family history and memory; it's not Canada's Oscar submission (SPC).
9. O’Horten: Bent Hamer paints a precisely rendered, poignant portrait of a retiring train engineer trying to imagine life without trains; it's Norway's Oscar submission (SPC).
Rachel Getting Married: Jonathan Demme’s movie about a dysfunctional family wedding features great actors and musicians and dizzy camera moves: eventually all three get irritating (SPC).
Blindness: Fernando Meirelles locks the audience up in a nasty prison full of piss and poop and murder and mayhem and madness and doesn’t open the doors until the movie’s almost over (Miramax).
Flash of Genius: producer-turned-director Marc Abraham turns the story of a Detroit inventor (Greg Kinnear) who fights Ford and loses all into a straight, old-fashioned, dull tale (Universal).