TORONTO: IT’S A WRAP

FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

After 10 days and more than 300 movies, the lights go out on the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL tonight. Event director PIERS HANDLING remarked that the 2008 edition was characterized by some impressive onscreen turns.

“I think that it was the year of the performer, of the actor,” he said in an interview after the festival awards brunch. “I saw so many extremely well acted films where the performances were the things you noticed the most.”

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, a rollicking adventure tale from TRAINSPOTTING director DANNY BOYLE, received the $15,000 CADILLAC PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD. The honour delighted one of the film’s stars, FREIDA PINTO, who arrived at the fest with “no expectations”.

“It was an exhilarating feeling,” she said of sitting in the audience at the premiere. “When they clapped and gasped and literally went ga ga over the last dance sequence, it was wonderful. I was shaking.”

The $10,000 DIESEL DISCOVERY AWARD went to British director STEVE McQUEEN for HUNGER. That particular prize is voted on by 1,000 individuals that make up the festival press corps of international media.

An international critics’ award (the FIPRESCI Prize for Special Presentations) was bestowed upon STEVE JACOBS’ DISGRACE, based on the BOOKER prize winning novel by J.M. COETZEE.

JOHN MALKOVICH stars as a South African professor whose life falls apart after he has an affair with a student. He escapes to his daughter’s farm. He is brutally attacked there and the violent episode places a strain on their relationship.

A special jury citation was also given to ATOM EGOYAN for his film ADORATION.

Last year’s fest, which featured such eventual Oscar nominees as JUNO, was a tough act to follow. The lack of such titles this year caused some critics to grumble early on that the 2008 crop simply wasn’t up to the task.

However, there were many motion pictures that the CANADIAN PRESS writers who covered the event responded to favourably. Here are some of their general impressions…

BEST FILMS:

IT MIGHT GET LOUD – DAVIS GUGGENHEIM, who won an Oscar for AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, turns in an entertaining doc about the electric guitar with commentary from U2’S THE EDGE, JACK WHITE and JIMMY PAGE. No earth shaking insights. Just one hell of a lot of fun.

LOVELY, STILL – This wonderful effort from first time filmmaker NIK FACKLER features ELLEN BURSTYN and MARTIN LANDAU as elderly neighbours who fall in love. The final scenes are heartbreaking.

THE WRESTLER – A brilliant account of a has been fighter beaten down by life but given a second chance.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – An inspiring crowd pleaser that follows a homeless Indian teen to the final question of that country’s version of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE – all while he searches for the girl he loves.

BEST PERFORMANCES:

SALLY HAWKINS plays an overly optimistic school teacher who faces trouble head on in MIKE LEIGH’S HAPPY GO LUCKY. She successfully straddles the line between lovable and downright obnoxious.

MICKEY ROURKE was the fest’s comeback kid in THE WRESTLER as a washed up fighter who’s told he’s no longer fit for the ring.

KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS is mesmerizing as a newly released prison inmate struggling to reenter society in the French film I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG.

BEST PERSONALITIES:

MARK RUFFALO, MATT DAMON, ALICIA KEYS, PAUL GROSS, JULIANNE MOORE, RICKY GERVAIS (who giggled throughout his interview) and EVANGELINE LILLY all made the list for being particularly generous and lovely with the media.

BEST BEARDS:

(It’s an enormous personal turn on. I really can’t help myself…)

SCOTT SPEEDMAN said he despised the beard that he cultivated for a role in a western.

ADRIEN BRODY had an outstanding beard that he said he grew “for life” – and not for a movie.

STEVEN SODERBERGH arrived fully bearded in Toronto.

GEORGE CLOONEY got all grizzly to play a moronic federal marshal in BURN AFTER READING.

MISFIRES:

With a great cast (ADRIEN BRODY, MARK RUFFALO and RACHEL WEISZ), it seemed like con artist caper THE BROTHERS BLOOM couldn’t miss. But it did. Though the film looked amazing, it made little sense. Journalists at one press screening had no qualms whatsoever about heading for the exits long before the final credits rolled.

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