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Toronto Wrap 2008: Best to Worst

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 13, 2008 at 6:39AM

With Toronto over and a slew of post-fest deals still rolling out, here's a wrap-up of what I saw and learned:
Thompson on Hollywood

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).

Next Best:
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).

This article is related to: Festivals, Directors, Darren Aronofsky, Toronto

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.