Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Black Sheep Previews: TIFF 2009 (part one)

The full list of films expected to play at this year's Toronto International Film Festival is now online. The schedule comes later this week and the individual tickets go on sale September 4. I moved to Toronto this summer in order to be closer to the festival really. It is my intention to get in there any way I can and work my way up until I am running the whole show. Lofty? Perhaps. Impossible? Not at all. So far though, the trek has not been so productive. In the midst of my move, I missed the deadline to apply for media accreditation. The good folks at TIFF allowed me to submit anyway but I still have yet to hear back from them. They assure me I will hear soon enough and I figure if I write a bit more about them, the answer will be positive and come sooner than later. I'm willing to try anything here.

I do have access to a few of the films on the roster through film companies that have embraced Black Sheep already - primarily, Maple Pictures and Alliance. Just through these two companies, I have access to the following films and, if I am lucky, access to the stars and filmmakers. Here are the Maple films I am fairly certain I will be covering during TIFF this year. (Alliance will follow tomorrow.) I hope you will be as excited about them as I will.

Directed by Grant Heslov (GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK)
Starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey
GALA Presentation

The TIFF website describes the film as a modern DR. STRANGELOVE, bringing war to absurd conclusions and inspiring hilarious results. If Heslov does anywhere near as well as the beautiful and effective Oscar-nominated GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, it is fair to say that he will have another awards contender on his hands. All the stars are expected at the festival, as is the director himself and the author of the book the film is based on, Jon Ronson.

Directed by Lee Daniels
Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey
GALA Presentation

This is one of the festival's most anticipated titles, even though it has been seen around the world already. It debuted at Sundance, where it won both the audience and critic's awards. It then went on to Cannes. It is expected to screen at the New York Film Festival in October but it makes its Canadian premiere first at TIFF. The film, about an obese teenager who is pregnant for the second time, is horrifically depressing on the surface but I hope incredibly inspiring by the finish. It captured the attention of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, who are both distributing the film through their respective companies. All the stars, the filmmaker and even Winfrey and Perry are expected to be attending the festival. This is a serious Oscar contender! (side note: if i meet mariah carey, i may fall to the floor.)

Directed by Rebecca Miller
Starring Robin Wright Penn, Keanu Reeves, Alan Arkin and Winona Ryder
GALA Presentation

The TIFF website describes Pippa Lee as a woman who has surmounted so many obstacles in her life only to find herself still searching for her identity. Miller, wife to Daniel Day-Lewis and mother to his children, adapts her own novel here. This is also not her first directorial effort, having already helmed the sensitive films, THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE and PERSONAL VELOCITY: THREE PORTRAITS. Wright-Penn has generated strong awards buzz for her part and she is expected to attend the festival with the director and her co-star, Reeves.

Directed by Scott Hicks
Starring Clive Owen
Special Presentation

Director, Scott Hicks, perhaps most famous for his directorial turn of SHINE, which won Geoffrey Rush a Best Actor Oscar, returns to TIFF with this touching tale of a husband (Owen) who loses his wife and has to learn to take care of not only the son he shared with her but the son he left behind from a previous marriage. Like most festival fare, there is some awards hopeful buzz expected and it belongs to Owen here, who has been nominated once before for his role in Mike Nichols's CLOSER. Both Owen and Hicks are expected to attend.

Tomorrow, Black Sheep will take a look at what he hopes to catch through Alliance Films. In the meantime, he will hold his breath until TIFF confirms his accreditation. On second thought though, finger crossing might be the healthier option there.

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