There’s one sure sentiment that has run through this year’s Toronto International Film Festival: There have been no sure things here this year.
Yes, people universally admire Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants”; but it isn’t exactly fiery. The silent movie “The Artist” is stone brilliant; but it’s a silent movie. The paranoia study “Take Shelter” features a tour de force performance from Michael Shannon; but it’s so indie. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a strong debut for Elizabeth Olsen; but it’s even indier.
Quite simply, there has been no “The King’s Speech” this year, no “Slumdog Millionaire.” No one movie that everybody points to and says: That’s this year’s Oscar winner.
On the other hand, there have been quite a few very good movies, all the above included (actually, I think “The Artist” may be that golden movie; but it was only screened once for press, so most haven’t seen it).
Today I saw “The Descendants,” with George Clooney as a land baron in Hawaii who has to reconnect with his kids after his wife suffers a terrible accident. It’s a beautifully cast, well-directed film that should absolutely land Clooney a best actor nomination (although that field is getting mighty crowded).
I also saw an out-of-nowhere “Big Chill” update called “Ten Year” that has a parade of twenty-thirtyish stars going to a high school reunion and was surprisingly effective and potentially hugely commercial. Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Rosario Dawson, Chris Pratt, heavenly Ari Graynor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, Oscar Isaac, Aubrey Plaza, Lynn Collins, Aaron Yoo — a lot of talent, and writer-director Jamie Linden knows how to use this huge ensemble.
I saw another movie I won’t mention — hey, we’re all about the bouquets on the road — and then “Page Eight,” a low key modern British spy thriller written and directed by David Hare and starring Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz and a long list of Brit talent. It’s a nifty little exercise in intrigue and spicy dialogue that serves as a reminder of how good and likable Nighy is and how unfair it is that the dinky United Kingdom has so many good actors.
Tomorrow another slew of potentially good films, and then home Thursday.