Ones to watch
The 10 biggest buzz films at the Toronto film festival
Last Updated: Friday, September 4, 2009 | 3:22 PM ET
By Jessica Wong, CBC News
The 2009 Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 10-19) is fast approaching, and as usual, organizers of the annual extravaganza have programmed a massive slate of films — 335 this year. Here are 10 pictures that are arriving with plenty of pre-festival hype.
Capitalism: A Love Story
Documentarian Michael Moore returns to theatres this fall, turning his distinctive lens to the U.S. financial crisis. In Capitalism: A Love Story, the always-provocative American filmmaker sets his sights on the bailout of Wall Street and calls for executives to own up to their actions. “I have no doubts that people will want to come to a movie that goes after, with humour and reckless abandon, those bastards who've made their lives miserable,” Moore said in an August interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “[People] deserve a night out at the movies where the movie is on their side.”
Made on the sly after Chinese authorities forbade him from making movies for five years, Lou Ye’s Spring Fever has been likened to compatriot Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together (1997) and John Cameron Mitchell’s sexually explicit Shortbus (2006). Spring Feverexplores the tangled love lives of a married, closeted gay man and his cross-dressing lover. The Chinese director completed the film in secret after being censured for an unauthorized screening of his movie Summer Palace — a student drama set against the backdrop of Tiananmen Square — at Cannes in 2006.
Drew Barrymore, Hollywood child star-turned-serious-actor-and-producer, makes her directorial debut with Whip It! Based on a young-adult novel by former roller derby athlete Shauna Cross, the movie stars Canadian sweetheart Ellen Page. The story seems to follow a familiar theme — teen misfit finds herself … and others like her. But we've got our fingers crossed that the cast of sassy, intelligent women — including Oscar and Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden, Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig, rapper-actress Eve, Juliette Lewis, Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, as well as Page and Barrymore — will elevate it to a fall feel-good hit.Willem Dafoe, left, and Charlotte Gainsbourg play an unnamed couple dealing with the loss of their infant son in Lars von Trier's film Antichrist. (TIFF 2009)
Reportedly written during a bout of intense depression, the latest film from director Lars von Trier cements the Dane’s reputation for challenging filmmaking. Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple grieving over the death of their child, the film has shocked even seasoned movie critics with its graphic violence (including sexual mutilation). One of the most controversial titles on the 2009 festival circuit, von Trier’s horror-drama was met with loud boos, sharp gasps, derisive jeers but also applause when it debuted at Cannes in May.
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
A film about an overweight, pregnant, illiterate teen beaten down by sexual, physical and emotional abuse might seem a contender for most depressing movie ever. But Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire dazzled audiences at the 2009 Sundance film fest, picking up the Grand Jury Prize as well as a Special Jury Prize for actor Mo’Nique. The audacious comedienne appears in a rare dramatic role as the monstrous mother of the titular teen. The sophomore directorial effort from Lee Daniel, Precious boasts a pair of high-profile producers: media mogul Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Tyler Perry.
In the teen horror/dark comedy Jennifer’s Body, which opens TIFF’s 2009 Midnight Madness program, Hollywood hottie du jour Megan Fox plays a demonic high school cheerleader. Also starring ingénue Amanda Seyfried and helmed by Girlfight director Karyn Kusama, the much-hyped flick features a script by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody. Jennifer’s Body promises sex, gore, violence and snarky, pop culture-laced dialogue — what more could a horror fan ask for?
The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights
Filmmaker and video director Emmett Malloy shot this concert film during the White Stripes’ much-hyped 2007 tour, during which Jack and Meg White played gigs in every Canadian province and territory (something most Canadian bands have yet to do). Not only did they perform in music halls and other typical venues, the enigmatic pair also branched out into unconventional, spontaneous musical happenings, from jamming with Northern elders to rocking out on a Winnipeg bus. While neither the band nor the film is Canadian, this stylish offering might merit honourary Canuck status. (Hey, it comes with a guest appearance by Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, distant cousin to Jack White!)Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in a scene from Atom Egoyan's film Chloe. (Rafy, Studio Canal/TIFF 2009)
Any new film from Atom Egoyan sparks excitement on the domestic scene — plus, this one features top actors Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson. Chloe is reportedly an attempt by the Toronto filmmaker to do a story with wider appeal, and is the first Egoyan film he hasn't scripted himself (the job is handled by Secretary screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson). This exploration of marriage and loyalty is made all the more poignant by the fact that Neeson was shooting it when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died in a freak ski accident in Quebec in March.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
This is a head-scratcher. A remake, of sorts, of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant, Werner Herzog’s latest matches the noted filmmaker, acclaimed for documentaries like Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, with Hollywood blockbuster regulars like Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. One of two Herzog films at TIFF this year (the other is My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done), Bad Lieutenant looks like Herzog channeling Quentin Tarantino, by way of The Big Easy.
The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke's latest drama comes to TIFF with a hefty pedigree: The White Ribbon won the 2009 Palme d'Or at Cannes, took the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Grand Prix for film of the year and is Germany's official submission for best foreign film at the upcoming Oscars. Shot in stark black and white, this grim pre-First World War tale is set in a small German village rocked by a series of disturbing events in the run-up to the war.
The 2009 Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 10-19.
Jessica Wong writes about the arts for CBCNews.ca.
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