Thursday, September 10, 2009

Black Sheep @ TIFF 2009!

I'm just about to get to my first official festival screening but before that, I wanted to give you last minute ticket scroungers a sampling of what I have already seen and what I think you should try to get your hands on. I will begin with one of the most buzzed about pictures of the year, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE. It may not have a great title but it does have the backing of two incredible entertainment powerhouses - Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey bought distribution rights after the Lee Daniels film won both the critics and the audience award at this year's Sundance film festival. The last time Oprah threw her name behind someone, he became president so you should expect big things for PRECIOUS and rightfully so. This is a bleak story that is fearless in its portrayal of suffering without asking the audience for sympathy and best left undefined so as to enhance the experience.

I am a big Pedro Almodovar fan and his latest certainly does not disappoint. In fact, BROKEN EMBRACES is, in my humble opinion, his best work since ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. This twisted romantic thriller is all about vision. You've got a film director who loses his sight in a car accident, a wealthy producer who spies on his girlfriend by having his bizarre son follow and videotape her, a manager who watches the man she loves from the sidelines and, at the center of it all, the beautiful vision that is Academy Award winner, Penelope Cruz. Almodovar is feeling playful and continues to grow as a filmmaker and Cruz only seems to be getting more beautiful and her acting only more impressive with age.

This year, I had the pleasure of seeing Tom Hooper's mini-series, JOHN ADAMS, and being completely blown away by the incredible command of this director I had never heard of over such dense material. Hooper jumps from HBO to the big screen with his biopic of British soccer coach, Brian Clough, a man who allowed his ego to almost bring down one of the best teams in the league. Written by Peter Morgan, THE DAMNED UNITED stars Michael Sheen as Clough, in what may finally get Sheen the awards season accolades he has been campaigning so hard for these last few years. Though the film is about ego, there is none behind the scenes to drag it down. It is just a great time and a title that might get missed amongst the higher profile selections when it should certainly not be.

THE BOYS ARE BACK and THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE are solid choices too that are made better by excellent performances by Clive Owen and Robin Wright Penn, respectively. I would avoid AGORA though; even the beautiful Rachel Weisz couldn't save that one for me.

Tickets and showtimes to all these films and more are available at the TIFF website. Full reviews of all the above mentioned films will appear on Black Sheep as the festival goes on so be sure to check back often. Have a great festival!

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