Movies

At Toronto, Doubling Down With Clooney

Please enjoy this photo of George Clooney looking both harassed and mildly hapless. It's from The Descendants, in which Clooney plays a man whose wife has been cheating on him, which is how you know it's a big-screen fable. i i

Please enjoy this photo of George Clooney looking both harassed and mildly hapless. It's from The Descendants, in which Clooney plays a man whose wife has been cheating on him, which is how you know it's a big-screen fable. Merie Wallace/Fox Searchlight hide caption

itoggle caption Merie Wallace/Fox Searchlight
Please enjoy this photo of George Clooney looking both harassed and mildly hapless. It's from The Descendants, in which Clooney plays a man whose wife has been cheating on him, which is how you know it's a big-screen fable.

Please enjoy this photo of George Clooney looking both harassed and mildly hapless. It's from The Descendants, in which Clooney plays a man whose wife has been cheating on him, which is how you know it's a big-screen fable.

Merie Wallace/Fox Searchlight

The Toronto International Film Festival was once less a premier film event than a greatest hits album — the "Festival of Festivals," it was called, with programmers focused on creating a festival-season Cliff Notes by featuring the buzziest entries from Cannes, Sundance, and other prestigious film showcases.

Over the past decade, though, TIFF itself has arguably become the most influential world film festival, especially as far as the awards derby is concerned. A staggering 38 films from last year's fest scored Oscar nominations, including eventual Best Picture winner The King's Speech. In fact, five out of the last six Best Picture winners have premiered or featured at TIFF, and as I cover the festival for Monkey See, I'll be looking to see which of the 268 films on display this year might continue that streak. (Of course, I'll also be looking for other interesting films that the Oscars wouldn't dare touch.) As Toronto gets underway, here's a look at the early response to some of the festival's featured films:

Leading men doing double duty have generated lots of the buzz for upcoming Toronto features. George Clooney and Ryan Gosling have garnered qualified praise for their political campaign drama The Ides of March, but critics really flipped over their other efforts: Clooney's performance as a cuckolded father in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, and Gosling's role as a stuntman/getaway driver in the creatively titled Drive. Michael Fassbender also wowed audiences as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg's new film about the birth of psychoanalysis) and as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's Shame.

- Few outright flops have emerged so far, but if you're dubious about how a film directed by Madonna made its way into multiple prestigious festival lineups, then your instincts are apparently pretty sharp.

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- Among foreign entries, Alps, Giorgos Lanthimos' follow-up to the brilliant Dogtooth, is apparently so good that reviewers don't want you to know anything about it.

- Lars von Trier is continuing his pattern of career suicide interesting behavior as his otherwise well-received Melancholia opens at TIFF. Instead of backing away from the Nazi-sympathizing jokes that got him banned from Cannes, the man is doubling down.

- The big opening-day premiere at TIFF is Moneyball, the Brad Pitt movie that some are already raving about as "the Social Network of baseball movies". This presumably means that the movie is about how Major League Baseball is gathering information on all your personal activities.

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