The Highlights From The Toronto Film Festival

Melissa Block talks with Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Steven Zeitchik about what he's seeing at the Toronto Film Festival, which runs through this Sunday. Zeitchik points to the Brad Pitt baseball movie Moneyball and the sex-addiction story Shame as the two big films receiving buzz. He adds two of his favorite smaller flicks — Your Sister's Sister and A Dangerous Method to his list of interesting movies.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Three hundred thirty-six films from 65 countries in 10 days. That's the bounty being presented at the Toronto International Film Festival, which wraps up this Sunday.

And reporter Steven Zeitchik is trying to get to as many movies as humanly possible. He covers the film industry for the Los Angeles Times and he joins me from Toronto. Steve, welcome to the program.

STEVEN ZEITCHIK: Thank you, Melissa. Good to be here.

BLOCK: Why don't we start with the big high profile movies. Pick out one highlight, something that really jumped out for you that you thought was great.

ZEITCHIK: Well, I think the movie that's really jumped out for me and for a lot of people in the audience during Toronto is the film "Moneyball." This is a Brad Pitt movie about baseball, kind of an underdog team, the Oakland A's and a general manager who kind of finds a way to take a ragtag group of players and sort of give them a new lease on life.

And I think what made it so resonant here was the fact that it's both a very kind of classic Hollywood uplifting underdog story on the one hand and also a very smart and sophisticated sort of character drama on the other. And I think that's the movie a lot of people are really watching as we head out of the festival.

BLOCK: Steven, let's talk about another movie that's getting a bunch of buzz. It's titled "Shame" and it's apparently, I gather, highly explicit. It's about a man who's addicted to sex.

ZEITCHIK: You know what, there's really no better way to describe it than that, Melissa. I mean, this is a film about a kind of 30-ish upper middle class New York man played by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. It was described to me as "Leaving Las Vegas," except with sex instead of alcohol and the movie is almost inevitably going to get an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, which hands out these things. And it remains to be seen whether that actually helps the film or stigmatizes it.

BLOCK: What about some small movies, Steven? Some hidden gems that you've really loved there?

ZEITCHIK: You know, there have been a number of comedies and sort of dramatic comedies, smaller, more modest films. One film is called "Your Sister's Sister." This is a movie from a director named Lynn Shelton, the director of a film called "Humpday" a few years ago. And what she basically does in this movie - it stars Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. They play these sisters in a sort of love triangle of sorts, but it's basically kind of a movie about relationships and sort of how people live their daily lives and it has a real sweetness to it, a real tenderness and it's also quite funny.

You know, there have been a number of directors, though, on that score who've kind of come back after being here a number of years ago and kind of maybe tried to redefine themselves. One director who comes to mind is David Cronenberg, of course, the famous auteur behind "The Fly" and "History of Violence." And he hasn't had a movie in four years, but he comes with a movie called "A Dangerous Method," which is basically a period drama about the history of psychoanalysis and it's sort of all the kind of psycho-sexual obsessions that are in all of his films, sort of in a genre context.

He now explores sort of the origins of that and how Freud and Jung came up with all of these theories and it's kind of a bit of a departure for him. So we're seeing some directors try to redefine themselves a little bit, as well.

BLOCK: I think that movie stars Michael Fassbender again, the same guy we were talking about who's the star of "Shame," right?

ZEITCHIK: It does. So he's one of several actors who got two movies here. The other notable performance in that film, I should mention, is Keira Knightley, the talented young British actress. And she gives a very expressive performance, to say the least, as a kind of patient-turned-lover-turned-researcher of Young's and a lot of people found the performance hysterical and over the top, others found it bold and brave. And I think that's going to be a very polarizing one when the film comes out in a number of months.

BLOCK: Well, Steven, how many more movies do you think you can squeeze in before the festival is over?

ZEITCHIK: You know, it's funny. This is sort of that period when everything starts to slow down, so I can get a few more in. But you know what, after three or four in a day, yeah, your eyes start to glaze over and you forget what scene was in which film, so hopefully, you can keep that all straight after a while.

BLOCK: I'm not feeling too bad for you right now. It sounds like a pretty good gig to me.

ZEITCHIK: It is a bit of a champagne problem, isn't it?

BLOCK: Steven Zeitchik, thank you very much.

ZEITCHIK: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Steven Zeitchik covers film for the Los Angeles Times. He spoke with us from Toronto.

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