Toronto International Film Festival

12 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bidding war rages over Where To Invade Next as Demolition fails to fell all critics.

And we’re off! And actress Naomi Watts delivered yet again on Friday while in attendance at the press conference for the upcoming R-rated flick at the Toronto International Film Festival.TORONTO: Jake Gyllenhaal takes a bulldozer to his own life as a man unhinged by grief in “Demolition,” which opened North America’s largest film festival in Toronto on Thursday.When Fox Searchlight announced the company’s fall 2015 release slate in July, it included a bump to April 2016 for Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Demolition.” Many assumed it was a sign of weakness where awards potential was concerned (failing, of course, to note the reigning best picture king’s success with March release “The Grand Budapest Hotel” last year).

Why would a movie with awards hopes have its world premiere at a film festival that takes place a season before its theatrical release makes it eligible for Oscar consideration?Those staying up late for this energy-charged series got a taste of the bizarre in the short film “The Chickening,” a parody of “The Shining” that appropriates footage from that film for a funny, yet unnerving beak-heavy companion piece.

The Toronto film festival has opened with a fierce bidding war that began as the credits rolled on one of the first films to screen and stretched into the small hours of Friday morning.If you’re among those who thought Jake Gyllenhaal would never find a role weirder than Louis Bloom, the sociopathic news videographer of “Nightcrawler,” think again.

She appeared to be in good spirits while being greeted by Director Jean-Marc Vallee, Judah Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and writer Bryan Sipe on the carpet. But the movie that had studios and distributors vying for rights wasn’t the official opener, Demolition – a glossy drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a widower who grieves by smashing up kitchens, taking apart white goods and taking frequent, crowd-pleasing showers. The crowded premiere of opening-night gala selection “Demolition” was our first Canadian screening, capping off a handful of titles we caught before even touching down at TIFF. Each member of the crew showed off their own fashion sense, dapper in tailored suits and button downs while proudly standing in to promote their highly-anticipated comedy/drama. Pressed by his father-in-law to pull it together, Mitchell instead launches into an obsessive campaign against a vending machine company, penning letters of complaint that take on an increasingly confessional tone.

The main event was Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room,” a nasty thriller about a punk band that takes a gig it wishes it hadn’t and must face down a group of neo-Nazis headed by Patrick Stewart. We’ll be bringing you lengthier takes on the festival’s happenings in the days to come, but here are quick reactions to the first few films that comprised our 2015 Toronto experience. It’s unique to grab that slot and then beg off for the next year on release, but the Canadian Vallée really wanted to play to his people north of the border, as he has with “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” “The Young Victoria,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild.” After the film premiered Thursday night, you could already tell it had landed a sour note with a number of critics who tossed out a quick Twitter thought before ducking into Michael Moore’s latest.

For one thing, Vallee is Canadian, Last year, he was forced to choose between Telluride and Toronto for the premiere of his previous Fox Searchlight film, Wild, and he choose Telluride. Where To Invade Next is Michael Moore’s first film in six years and its distribution rights are now being fought over by major studios, indie outfits and new players such as Netflix. Over the past decade, the much-mocked “The Judge,” the reviled “Fifth Estate,” a U2 documentary and “Score: A Hockey Musical” (nope, not a joke) all introduced the festival.

Her son, played by the young CSI: Cyber star Judah, deals with his own emotional and financial burdens with his mother as they too build up from the shambles. Gyllenhaal himself has also become a fixture in Toronto, appearing in last year’s well-received “Nightcrawler,” as well as “Prisoners,” “Rendition” and previously in Ang Lee’s acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain.” “Jake is fully engaged in this performance,” said Bailey. “And Jean-Marc was able to build a world around this character where you feel you’re with that person.” I wasn’t shocked, really. “Demolition” is a delicate film — some might slam it with a pejorative “precious” — and an easy one to be cynical about at that. Additionally, Demolition’s star, Jake Gyllenhaal — who gives a mesmerizing performance as a whacked-out widower who needs to smash property in order to feel something — has awards hopes this year for two other 2015 films: Southpaw, for which he totally transformed his body in order to give an unforgettable performance, and also perhaps even for Everest, an upcoming genre movie in which he does strong supporting work.

None went on to great success, at least not in the way that “Whiplash” paraded out of 2014’s Sundance or “Black Swan” rode its 2010 Venice buzz to $330 million at the global box office. Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 remains the highest grossing in history, taking $223m (£145m) globally and winning the Cannes film festival, but his efforts since haven’t been so well received, either by critics or the public.

All of that being said, one can’t help but wonder: might it make sense to reconsider the game-plan and actually slip Demolition, which is clearly ready to go, into this year’s race? The director largely retired from view after 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story, which ended with an entreaty to the audience to up their levels of activism.

Vallee took the stage at the Princess of Wales theater on Thursday night, it became entirely clear why “Demolition” is showing here, a full seven months before its planned release on April 8 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Now, his latest, “Demolition,” which the director introduced as the “most rock ‘n’ roll film” he’s ever made, polarized audience members walking out of Thursday night’s screening. Not to mention: “Youth,” “Brooklyn,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” — Searchlight has plenty to work with this year, having also bumped Luca Guadagnino’s “A Bigger Splash” to clear up some space. Speaking after the first screening of his new film, an emotional Moore said he’d decided to return to the field after believing the Occupy movement had gone some way to answer his call-to-arms. In the trailer, it shows Jake being unable to extract a pack of Peanut M&Ms and subsequently explaining this was a problem because his wife had 10 minutes to live.

Minutes before attending the press junket, Naomi took to her 10.3k Instagram followers, writing: ‘Big day back to back press junkets calls for black hat and jazz hands @Burberry #TIFF15 #Demolitionmovie #foxsearchlight #AboutRay #theweinsteincompany.’ In the flick, Ray (Elle) decides to transition from female to male, while Ray’s mother, Maggie portrayed by Naomi, must come to terms while tracking down Ray’s biological father to gain his legal consent. We need to get off our asses and do something.” In the film, Moore tours Europe – with a brief stop in north Africa – and goggles at what he perceives as enlightened attitudes towards prisons (Norway), holiday pay (Italy), school meals (France) and free sexual healthcare for women (Tunisia). Then again, I suppose you could say the same thing about another movie about an insensitive widower, About Schmidt, which wasn’t nominated for best picture, but for which Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates received lead and supporting acting noms, respectively. But asked whether such precedent encouraged him about Hillary Clinton’s chances in the forthcoming presidential election, Moore was uncharacteristically non-committal, instead hat-tipping to the work of stars such as Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep in lobbying for gender pay equality.

I feel like you could have written a version of this piece last year (and I probably did), but ever since the disappointing 2010 video game adaptation “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” and particularly since an agency switch in 2012, the 34-year-old star has been on a quest to push himself, explore new territory with bold filmmakers (Duncan Jones, David Ayer, Denis Villeneueve, Dan Gilroy) and just keep growing. After a hospital vending machine eats his money, Davis takes to corresponding with the company’s customer-service rep via overwrought letters that double as the only outlet he uses to detail his loss. Said representative, a mother (Naomi Watts) with a problem child of a son (Judah Lewis, destined to be a breakout star) calls Davis at 2 a.m. one morning out of pure intrigue. It’s called apartheid.” But he also cautioned against tokenism, saying: “I don’t think that just be electing an African-American president or a female president is going to fix that.” The film won a standing ovation following its first showing, itself frequently punctuated by applause.

That family conflict magnifies Davis’ war of stoicism, which ultimately leads to destructive behavior, making “Demoiltion” the portrait of a man in desperate need of an emotional tutor. Moore pre-empted criticism over cherry-picking positive European stories by saying his work has a duty to act as an antidote. “The mainstream media does a really good job of telling you night after night how bad all the rest of the world is,” he said. “Just so horrible and sucks and they pay so much tax and it’s just awful.

Here are five reasons Toronto matters so much: TIFF is considered the major launchpad for the awards season and starts on the first Thursday after Labor Day. And next he’s working with Tom Ford (“Nocturnal Animals”), another compelling artist who will no doubt add a whole other shade to the actor’s palette.

But Vallée keeps things moving by channeling a more grown-up “Silver Linings Playbook.” The movie also makes for a nice companion piece with Gyllenhaal’s “Nightcrawler” performance — he was more manic there, but both roles are all id in reluctant search for a super-ego. I haven’t met a single person in the industry who understands how Gyllenhaal missed a lead actor nomination for “Nightcrawler.” He bobbed and weaved against critical blows aimed at this summer’s “Southpaw,” emerging unscathed. The 2009 Oscar-nominated film followed the sheltered lives of two sisters confined to their home and raised by their parents’ bizarre rules and illogical definitions. When the role comes, he’s going to seize it and be smart about it and the timing will be right, because he just seems to be doing it for all the right reasons lately. In 2014, the festival doled out some 1,200 media credentials, and studios take advantage of having stars and journalists in one place by banging out junket after junket. “It’s like a worldwide gathering point,” one studio publicist said. “With all the international press and the casts there at once, a lot can be banked for the remainder of the season.” For East Coasters and Europeans alike, this Canadian city is an ideal destination.

It helps that everyone speaks English, and the festival’s thousands of volunteers are friendly and as helpful as can be, happily ushering film lovers through the city’s squeaky clean streets. Gyllenhaal said he approved of such luddite communication and felt a return to that, too, might help interpersonal connection. “The hand-written becomes less and less important to certain generations.

Single residents of The City must stay at The Hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner, and if time runs out, they are physically transformed into an animal of their choice to live out their life in The Woods. The premise isn’t far from a “Black Mirror” episode, embodying the futurism of a world that is at once terrifying to imagine yet not far from the realm of possibilities.

Colin Farrell, in his best performance in years, if not a career-defining one, plays David, a shy, short-sighted man with a belly (this is not Farrell’s usual confident stud). What ensues is a series of events — some shockingly head-shaking, some comedic, some brutally violent — in The Hotel that slowly reveal what this dystopian society thrives on and necessitates: the co-dependence of the couple. Among the famous people who graced TIFF last year: Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and, delightfully, Bill Murray, who was feted with his very own Bill Murray Day. Being a Loner isn’t permitted in this world, which is the name given to those who escape The Hotel and hide out from hunters to embrace their independence. Conceptually, “The Lobster” is not only a brilliant piece of filmmaking, but some of the most original writing and original dystopian storytelling in years.

Léa Seydoux’s Loner Leader stands out as the strongest, a glimmer of hope against the The City’s regime which quickly turns into something even darker. The movie’s first-half crawls along with quiet menace until the second-half thrusts viewers into a deep-broiled war that’s more existential than geopolitical. The marrow of “Sicario” belongs to Kate Macy (Emily Blunt), a robust FBI officer wrangled to help a sketchy former prosecutor (Benecio del Toro) and a sketchier government operative (Josh Brolin) as they hunt down a lethal Mexican drug lord.

At the fore is the sexist mental joust that these men employ to persuade the upstanding Kate to do their bidding, regardless of legal risk or moral bankruptcy. Villeneuve wants us to know that anyone within eyesight could be corrupt, but the execution provides little understanding of why it’s these characters who shepherd the story along. Roger Deakins, who shoots the Coen brothers’ movies and earned an Oscar nomination for “Prisoners,” always trains his lens on the most thrilling images in sight.

The orange saturation of the sunset makes an impending manhunt seem apocalyptic, and the use of night vision manages to eliminate the distance that exists between the audience and the screen – and it recalls the famous “Silence of the Lambs” scene, which is fitting because Blunt’s role contains traces of Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling. Smartly, Villeneuve opts for subtle violence, at times reminiscent of “No Country for Old Men.” But the characters’ ethical indignities, and the patriarchal pressures that Kate endures as a result, are where the film thrives. Hitchcock experimented with it in “Rope,” Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” stunningly pulled it off and “Birdman” dazzled us with the perception of a one-take movie. But German actor-turned-filmmaker Sebastian Schipper has pulled off something truly groundbreaking — an over two-hour heist thriller that’s actually filmed in one complete shot, sans editing trickery. “Victoria” finds the titular young woman from Spain (Laia Costa) partying one night in Berlin.

They spend the evening drinking and smoking on a rooftop, until Sonne and his friends prepare to leave to handle some unknown, but seemingly dangerous business. While the one-shot gimmick might seem like more than a gimmick, it turns out to be so much more fulfilling in “Victoria.” The aesthetic and awe of the technique are the groundwork for the story, but eventually the potency of the cast’s performances take precedence over the Schipper’s cinematic stunt. Travelling through nearly two dozen locations around Berlin, the film becomes a moving play that brings out a raw mix of emotions from the actors that makes it nearly impossible to look away from the screen — even when you’re not asking yourself how the hell it was accomplished.

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