So what’s behind Michael Moore’s secret war movie?

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Martian’ to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The blockbuster summer movie season is still going strong, but the Toronto International Film Festival provided a peek Tuesday at some of the movies and performances that could help set the tone for the upcoming awards season.

A bona fide surprise film is rare in modern moviedom — it’s hard enough to keep a minor casting secret these days, let alone word of an entire project. One of the fall’s most hyped films, Ridley Scott’s space epic “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, will have its world premiere at the festival in advance of its Oct. 2 release. Damon stars in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” about an astronaut stranded on the red planet while Depp helms Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass,” about mobster Whitey Bulger. After weeks of intense blogosphere speculation about the fall festival season and palate-whetting gala announcements from the New York Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival kicked things into high gear this morning when it announced more than 40 titles that will comprise the festival’s Gala and Special Presentations categories come September.

More than a decade has passed since the controversial gun control documentary “Bowling for Columbine” was released, and Moore says we’ve yet to make any strides toward ending violence in schools. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)Evan Agostini FLINT, MI — Details on Michael Moore’s upcoming film, “Where To Invade Next,” are still scant, but the Flint-area filmmaker gave a couple clues to Periscope users in a short chat Tuesday, July 28. Directed by Quebec’s Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, “Demolition” is among 49 films revealed Tuesday that will show at the Sept. 10-20 festival. Other movies on the lineup with a local connection include “Spotlight,” the film about the Globe Spotlight Team’s investigation of the Catholic Church; “Black Mass,” which stars Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger; “Freeheld,” which was produced by Cynthia Wade of Western Massachusetts; Jay Roach’s “Trumbo,” which features Bryan Cranston and Newton’s Louis C.K.; and Jean-Marc Vallée’s drama “Demolition,” which features Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Kingston’s Chris Cooper. “Spotlight” and “Black Mass” will have their world premieres at the Venice Film Festival earlier that month. Other premieres in the biopic heavy schedule include “The Program,” Stephen Frears’ film on Lance Armstrong starring Ben Foster as the disgraced athlete; Jay Roach’s “Trumbo,” with Bryan Cranston as the blacklisted screenwriter; and Peter Sollett’s fact-based, marriage rights drama “Freeheld,” with last year’s best actress winner Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. “Demolition,” from “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallée, is not set for release until April and will not be among award contenders later this year. In addition to “Remember,” other Canadian titles include Deepa Mehta’s “Beeba Boys,” Paul Gross’s war saga “Hyena Road” and Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” — a Canada/Ireland co-production based on Emma Donoghue’s bestselling 2010 novel of the same name.

It’s a typically starry list, full of A-list names in front of and behind the camera, some very obvious Oscar bait, and a few Toronto stalwarts to satisfy the requisite quota of local Canadian talent, including Atom Egoyan, who makes a bid for a comeback (after the career-pummeling one-two of “Devil’s Knot” and “The Captive”) with “Remember,” starring Christopher Plummer as a Holocaust survivor trying to track down the former Nazi guard responsible for murdering his family. Other Canadian-directed efforts include two drug-war films: Quebec-born Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicaro,” starring Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin, is set on the Mexico-U.S. border; and “Beeba Boys,” directed by Toronto-based Deepa Mehta, which looks at an Indo-Canadian gang in Vancouver. The description on the festival’s website reads, “Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore returns with what may be his most provocative and hilarious film yet: Moore tells the Pentagon to “stand down” — he will do the invading from now on.” Moore used his Twitter account to announce a live video on Periscope, an app that hosts live video feeds from around the world. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (“Roger and Me,” “Fahrenheit 9/11”) returns to the festival this year with “Where to Invade Next,” while U.K director Stephen Frears (“The Queen,” “Philomena”) takes on the story of cyclist Lance Armstrong in “The Program,” which stars Ben Foster and Dustin Hoffman. A person familiar with the project said it was a movie about the armed forces with surprising themes that are best appreciated if one goes in knowing as little as possible.

He took questions from Twitter and Periscope users during the six-minute video. “The issue of the United States at infinite war is something that has concerned me for quite some time, and provides the necessary satire for this film. We can also safely assume that a quartet of new films listed as “Canadian premieres” will screen first in some combination of Venice and super-secretive Telluride. You’ll see that when you see the movie,” Moore said, when asked if there was a specific trigger that inspired the film. “I don’t think there’s any one trigger. He called it a “film of epic nature” and said the thrust was the self-perpetuating nature of American warfare — or as he put it: “This constant need, it seems, to always have an enemy — where’s the next enemy? — so we can keep our whole military-industrial complex alive.” He also tweeted an image, presumably used in the film or its marketing, that shows a number of very sartorially proper military men sitting around a table. (You can see it above.) Turns out, it’s a picture of the U.S.

They include co-directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion animated feature “Anomalisa” (described, in typically Kaufman-esque fashion, as a film about “a man crippled by the mundanity of his life”); Cary Fukunaga’s child-soldier drama “Beasts of No Nation”; “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” (adapted from Emma Donoghue’s acclaimed 2011 novel); and Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which features Michael Keaton’s first post-“Birdman” screen appearance as Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson, who headed the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 2003 Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1983, though whether the film actually delves into foreign policy from that era or is just a striking Cold War-era photo is an open question. In 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire,” about an Indian boy’s rise from poverty to game-show riches, won the People’s Choice Award in Toronto before collecting eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Moore’s six-year movie absence has been motivated by many things, but certainly the presence of a Democrat in the White House may not be entirely coincidental. Toronto documentary section chief Thom Powers, who saw the film several weeks ago and decided to give it a spot in the festival selection, said the timing may have other roots as well. “You get the sense he’s been saving himself to say something special, to say something meaningful, and that’s what this film is,” Powers told The Times on Tuesday. That’s all for the best, since, at the end of the day, most of these movies need all the help they can get to attract attention amidst the billion-dollar big-studio franchise pictures. Indeed, for all the ink that’s been spilled about 2015’s record-breaking box office figures — with “Star Wars: Episode VII” still to come — it’s been anything but a banner year in the indie sector, with buzzy festival titles like “Love & Mercy,” “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” all performing well below expectations.

Of course, that movie came out in the early, building stages of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tapped into public anger about military incursions there. JUSTIN CHANG: I’m glad Toronto decided not to hold a grudge against Telluride this year, not least because all this tussling over titles and bragging rights ultimately amounts to the sort of passive-aggressive pissing contest that winds up distracting from the films themselves. Moore said he works to make his films have both, and that he likes to use humor as a medium to provide social commentary. “I make movies, and the first thing I tell the crew on day one, is that we’re not making a documentary, we’re making a movie.

Still, Moore had hoped to nudge public sentiment in a presidential election in 2004 when he and the Weinstein Co. opted to release “Fahrenheit 9/11″ four months before Americans went to the polls. As we know, Scott, no film has ever been particularly well served by that sorry excuse for a movie palace called the Roy Thomson Hall, which seems founded on the curious architectural notion that the smaller and more faraway-looking the screen, the better. (Me, I’ll take a seat at the Bell Lightbox or the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema any day.) Still, as this morning’s announcement makes clear, Toronto hasn’t abandoned its policy of strict transparency where a film’s premiere status is concerned — and in this, it does still deal a bit of a blow to Telluride, which has always insisted on keeping its lineup a secret until Labor Day weekend. Documentary or nonfiction is just the vehicle we’re using,” he said. “It’s very important to me that people have that sense what you would call of enjoyment. With its exclusive-yet-inclusive atmosphere, its rarefied feel and its unbeatably gorgeous scenery, Telluride is a festival that commands an unusually high degree of filmmaker loyalty. (Those who go usually wind up going back.) But Toronto has its favorites, too, as I’m reminded by the world-premiere announcement of Terence Davies’ “Sunset Song” — which is, by my count, the great British auteur’s sixth feature to play Toronto (after “Distant Voices, Still Lives,” “The Long Day Closes,” “The House of Mirth,” “Of Time and the City” and “The Deep Blue Sea”).

And then, of course, there are some filmmakers who move around a bit, like the very busy Jean-Marc Vallee, whose “Dallas Buyers Club” made a terrific splash in Toronto two years ago, and who last year took “Wild” to both Telluride and Toronto. I know it’s where you’ll be paying most of your attention, Scott, in your new capacity as an acquisitions and development with the feature films division of Amazon Studios — and needless to say, we will all be anticipating your first slate of pickups with bated breath. But it’s among those couple of hundred other movies in the Toronto lineup that critics and buyers alike hope to find that unheralded diamond in the rough by a promising new director who might go on to become the next Egoyan or Abrahamson or Fukunaga. Amazon and Netflix are two of the companies heretofore associated with small-screen entertainment who are making a high-profile bid to enter the movie business.

Netflix paid a whopping $12 million for Fukunaga’s film earlier this year, and Fukunaga himself is one of a new breed of directors who seem equally at ease working in feature films and long-form television (like “True Detective”). This year, Toronto itself will acknowledge that ever-winnowing line between those two mediums with a new programming section called Primetime, devoted to episodic series from across the globe. It’s a smart move, given that today’s audiences scarcely seem to care what format something was originally conceived for as long as it’s an example of good storytelling. Still, there will always be directors whose work demands to be seen on the largest possible screens, and one of them is Ridley Scott, a classical master of the medium who is still, at age 77, making big-canvas entertainments at an astonishingly prolific rate.

Scott had only just started shooting “The Martian” on locations in Hungary and Morocco, when I interviewed him in London last November (for a Variety cover story about his quite beautiful and underrated “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” a movie I know you, Justin, also admire greatly), and now 10 months later it’s ready to go, with a terrific teaser trailer that burned up the internet when it debuted earlier this summer. CHANG: I know that, as someone who never misses a Claude Lelouch picture, you will also find a way to be first in line for “Un plus une.” Of the titles that have been announced so far, the biggest attention-grabber of the lot, for me, is “The Idol,” Hany Abu-Assad’s drama about the Palestinian pop singer Mohammed Assaf, a kid from a refugee camp in Gaza who went on to win the second season of “Arab Idol” in 2013, and thereafter was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. In the coming weeks, we’ll find out which 12 films will be competing for prizes in the festival’s Platform section, which is being juried by Agnieszka Holland, Claire Denis and Jia Zhangke (whose landmark 2000 drama lends the program its title).

As it happens, Toronto will also host the North American premiere of Jia’s “Mountains May Depart,” which, despite a few obvious third-act problems, struck me when I saw it in Cannes as one of his finest and most emotionally overwhelming achievements. It’s a welcome reminder that Toronto is a place of not just discovery but also rediscovery, and that of all the things one can say or appreciate about a movie, “which festival had it first” is surely the least significant.

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