Party time: As TIFF grows, so does social calendar of events around festival

11 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Demolition,’ Michael Moore kick off Toronto Film Festival.

Sight unseen, Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” is expected be one of the biggest sales of the Toronto Film Festival. TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is celebrating its 40th edition with a heck of a guest list: Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren and Keith Richards are just a few of the stars set to walk the red carpet for this milestone year.

Buzzy films already generating chatter include the star-packed muckraking thriller “Spotlight,” starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo as part of a team of reporters investigating sex abuse allegations involving the Catholic Church; Scott Cooper’s gangster flick “Black Mass,” with a bald Depp portraying ruthless wise guy James (Whitey) Bulger; and Ridley Scott’s outer space thriller “The Martian,” with Damon playing an astronaut abandoned on the red planet. Ridley Scott’s big budget return to space will hopefully be a far more interesting excursion than Alien prequel Prometheus, a sequel to which he is currently prepping.

Canadian Secretary of State John Roberts (who also was the minister of culture) had invited Hollywood execs to attend the first fest and talk about possible joint ventures with local filmmakers. Though it won’t hit theaters until April, “Demolition” will start the festival off with one of Canada’s top directors, in a film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as an unraveling investment banker. The hotly anticipated look at the United States’ perpetual state of war has been closely guarded, but Moore’s commercial track record is formidable (he is, after all, the director of the highest grossing documentary in history, “Fahrenheit 911”) and the topic seems tailor-made to levitate Fox News commentators. Then there’s the Irish-Canadian “Room,” about a five-year-old’s account of growing up with his mother locked in a shed, which he believes is the whole world; he’s unaware they are captives. “I think there’s a lot of films that deal with the notion of traumatic events changing your life and what it does to you,” TIFF CEO Piers Handling said of trends at this year’s festival, which kicked off Thursday. “There’s such uncertainty in people’s personal lives as well as politically, socially …

A juicy premise (astronaut stranded on Mars) and arguably the year’s most impressive cast (Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels) suggests it might. The more explosive fireworks of opening night may come in the evening’s second major premiere: Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.” The programming of Moore’s first documentary in six years — an investigation of the American military industrial complex — doubled as a revelation of its existence. Four decades ago, Marshall said he and festival co-founders, Henk Van de Kolk and Dusty Cohl, were just avid film-fans eager to learn the tricks of the trade. “We thought we’d like to learn how to make movies, but we didn’t know very much about it,” Marshall told CTV News Channel on Thursday. “So we thought that, if we had a film festival, people who did know would come and it would amuse the local populous and we could learn something!” “There was no one else doing that. After forever being the plentifully nominated bridesmaid, Julianne Moore is hoping for her second best actress Oscar in a row with another Toronto premiere for an awards-friendly role.

So the fest featured a “panel session” with seven empty chairs on the stage and name tags indicated the missing septet: David Picker (Paramount), Ron Miller (Disney), David Begelman (Columbia), Frank Wells (Warner Bros.) Ned Tannen (Universal), Alan Ladd Jr. (Fox) and Mike Medavoy (United Artists). Festival veterans advise making the most of the experience by talking to those beside you — an exercise which can lead to tips on hot films or future star encounters.

In addition to Moore’s latest, the festival will offer up Drake Doremus’ “Equals,” a sci-fi romance with Kristen Stewart; “Man Down,” a war drama with Shia LaBeouf; “Septembers of Shiraz,” an Iranian revolution drama with Adrien Brody; “Remember,” a thriller with Christopher Plummer and “Maggie’s Plan,” a romantic comedy with Greta Gerwig — all of which are on the hunt for distribution. The studios shrugged it off, telling Toronto execs it wasn’t their policy to enter “domestic” festivals, even though they sent new films to New York and San Francisco. So we were the only place you could see Greek, French, Italian, movies.” “The (other film festivals) that you hear about, Cannes, Berlin and Venice, they’re not for the public. While you never know who you might spot getting out of a limo at TIFF, diehard star-gazers know that some venues offer fans better red-carpet access than others. “The best one is Roy Thomson Hall.

There are also unfinished projects or films that are screening out of competition such as “Miss Sloane,” a gun control drama with Jessica Chastain, and “Florence Foster Jenkins,” the story of an aspiring opera singer with Meryl Streep, that could spark intense bidding. “There are fewer of the more obvious commercial titles than in previous years,” complained an acquisitions executive. “There aren’t as many cast-driven projects.” Studios and distributors do appear wary. Celeb stalkers will undoubtedly be on the lookout for Richards, the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist — dare say we, ambling about town with his pirate brother Depp? — as he premières his Netflix documentary, “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” from Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (“Twenty Feet from Stardom”).

Bryan Cranston aims to finally shake off the meth-cooking shadow of Walter White with a lead in Austin Powers director Jay Roach’s McCarthyism-era biopic. It’s spacious,” says Mac Pourmoslemi, a serious TIFF celebrity chaser. “Another one is Ryerson (Theatre) when it’s rainy, because there’s a roof.” Any fan prepared to wait up to 10 hours to spend a few precious moments with their favourite actor knows that there’s strength in numbers. Digital players like Netflix and Amazon are driving up the cost of acquiring content and that’s making it more difficult for traditional companies that make their money from theatrical releases and home entertainment sales to stay grounded. “The bottom line is there are more distributors than there are good movies, and as long as that’s the case, it’s going to be competitive,” said Jeff Deutchman, VP of acquisitions for Alchemy. “Thats what leads to irrational prices in the market.” Festival fever certainly seemed to be on display at last year’s Toronto, when “Top Five” sold for $12.5 million, managing to eke out $25 million at the box office but with much higher expectations. Snub.” As the fest concluded, reporter Sid Adilman wrote, “The U.S. majors got lambasted publicly every day from the start to finish of Toronto’s week-long Festival of Festivals for A) failing to send representatives to talk or B) failing to send U.S. films.” Canadians said the snub was a bad business move, since their country represented the No. 1 audience for movies outside the U.S., with $66 million in net film rentals for the previous year.

The difference is that we do it for the people who live here.” And while much has changed – from the festival and its fans to the film business in general – Marshall says he still makes it out to TIFF every year. The program’s six titles include the Hulu comedy “Casual,” executive produced by Jason Reitman, and the second season première of France’s supernatural drama “The Returned.” But the focus for many cinephiles at TIFF, of course, is on finding the upcoming awards-season contenders. The indie film market came roaring back, with films like “Dope,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” and “The D-Train” all snagging big paydays, only to wither at the summer box office. “It’s hard to compete in a market against ‘The Avengers’ and “Jurassic World,’” said Mara Winokur, senior vice president of digital at Starz Digital Media. “The amount of money you have to spend on [advertising] is amazing.

The sense of being drawn into a world that is entirely new and seeing things that are really surprising.” “It’s just a terrific coming of age and coming out story — beautiful stylish, very emotional. While her role as a bored housewife in the romantic drama Carol has pretty much ensured her an Oscar nomination next year, Cate Blanchett is hoping to double her chances with a supporting turn in this journalism drama. In 1977, Variety ran the headline “Cooperation Replaces Condescension.” To show that the studios had atoned, the fest opened Sept. 9 with an American icon: Fonzie. Henry Winkler brought a reel from his film “Heroes.” Hollywood was also represented by the Al Pacino film “Bobby Deerfield” and a few scenes from Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Originally Toronto was billed as a “Festival of Festivals,” intending to showcase only films that had screened elsewhere.

Roland Emmerich might be an unlikely figure to helm a 60s-set drama about the Stonewall riots in New York but this has been a passion project for the director, usually associated with disaster epics. Certain screenings at TIFF feature the opportunity for audience members to ask questions of a film’s director and cast — a rare chance for fans to interact directly with the talent without having to press up against red carpet barricades for hours.

While there’s already been controversy over the white, cisgender cast, this could still prove to be a much-needed take on an under-reported period in gay history. Though Marshall observed the lack of above and below-the-line talent in Canada, the industry has burgeoned so much that California has been pushing hard to bring production back to the state. One of a number of music biopics landing during festival season (Ethan Hawke is Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue and Don Cheadle plays Miles Davis in Miles Ahead), this is likely to be the most traditional of the three, in terms of structure. Hoping for more luck is director Matthew Cullen, best known for Katy Perry’s California Gurls video, who is bringing this noir thriller to life with a cast that includes Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton and Johnny Depp.

After acclaimed Australian drama 52 Tuesdays and the recent Venice premiere of Eddie Redmayne’s fact-based drama The Danish Girl, 2015 is shaping up to be an important year for transgender stories on the big screen. In this drama, Elle Fanning plays a teenager going through the transition from female to male and Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon star as mother and grandmother.

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