ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. It you want to talk to someone in Hollywood this week, chances are you'll have to do it in Toronto. The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing - more than 300 films showing in just 10 days. A few are already being short-listed for Oscars consideration, including "Gravity," a space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GRAVITY")
CORNISH: Also getting people's attention in Toronto, "12 Years A Slave," about a free black man kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "12 YEARS A SLAVE")
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR: (As Solomon) My name is Solomon North. I'm a free man, and you have no right whatsoever to detain me.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) You're no free man. You're nothing but a Georgia runaway.
CORNISH: We're joined now by Linda Holmes, host of NPR's pop culture blog, "Monkey See"; and by our very own movie critic, Bob Mondello. Both join us from Toronto. Hey there, guys.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hi. It's good to be here.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So Bob, I'm going to start with you. I know last year was your first film fest in a long time. You came back, so it must have been fun, right?
MONDELLO: Well, actually, I was claiming last year that I really hated film festivals, but I think it's because I hadn't been to one in 15 years. I'm having a ball. It's also work, let's say that. I've seen an awful lot of films, but a lot of them have been really good. So...
CORNISH: So how many have you actually seen so far?
MONDELLO: Twenty-three - I just counted.
CORNISH: Oooh. Linda?
HOLMES: I've only seen 18. I'm dragging behind Bob in the...
HOLMES: ...coal mining of seeing movies.
MONDELLO: Yeah, only 18, and we've been here almost four days, five days?
HOLMES: Yeah, four.
MONDELLO: Four days. Four days, so 18 films in four days. This is a craziness, trying to do all of this. Sometimes it's 16-hour days, but it is really, amazingly, fun.
HOLMES: It's wonderful.
CORNISH: Well, it sounds fun. Linda, I've been reading you online, and you seem to be really excited about "12 Years A Slave" - we just played that clip - but also about a movie I hadn't heard of, called "The F Word."
HOLMES: Right. "The F Word," in this case, is actually - stands for friends; and it's a romantic comedy that stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Romantic comedies like this - where the boy and the girl are friends and potentially, more than friends - are usually told pretty badly, and this one is told really well.
CORNISH: And any other standouts for you?
HOLMES: I really enjoyed "Prisoners," which is going to come out fairly soon. It's starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, and has to do with a kidnapped child and the battle - sort of battle of wills between her father and the police officer who's investigating her disappearance. I really liked that one. Bob and I both really enjoyed, also, an Indian movie called "The Lunchbox"...
HOLMES: ...which is about a woman who's trying to make a lunch that gets delivered in India using - in Mumbai, they have this system to deliver boxed lunches from home, and hers goes astray. And it goes - instead of going to her husband, it goes to the wonderful Irrfan Khan, who is this sad, lonely office worker. And they begin a correspondence.
MONDELLO: It's really quite lovely. And, you know, we sort of sloughed right past "12 Years A Slave," which is amazing.
HOLMES: Right, absolutely.
MONDELLO: Oh, my God. It's a terrific picture. Steve McQueen directed. We've seen a couple of other pictures by him, including - oh, dear, now I can't...
HOLMES: Steve McQueen did "Shame," and a couple of other films. He, I predict, is going to win a bunch of Oscars; and so is John Ridley, who wrote it; and so is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who stars in that film. It's going to win all the awards, and it's going to deserve it.
MONDELLO: Well, it's going to have some competition from another picture we saw, which we both thought was gorgeous to watch - which was "Gravity." And oh, my lord, it's just - it's like, the opening shot is over 13 minutes long, and it is so immersive. You're so completely in it that by the time that shot is over, it's like you're floating in space. You really feel like it - and in 3-D, and whatever Imax we saw it in...
HOLMES: It's very beautiful. It's one of the few films I've seen in the last few years since the explosion of 3-D technology that I've really thought was well worth being made in 3-D, and seeing in 3-D.
CORNISH: So this will be 3-D for a reason.
CORNISH: Not just boosting the ticket sales.
HOLMES: Absolutely. And for me, the script in "Gravity" has some problems. I think the story could be a lot better, but the visuals really couldn't be.
MONDELLO: But we were talking to somebody who saw it from the front row, and who said that it was incredibly immersive to see it that way. You know, there's a bolt that comes at you, at one point. And it would go right over your head, then. (Laughter)
HOLMES: And a single tear, you know. The movies love the single tear and in this one, the single tear comes right off the face and floats right toward you because of, you know, weightlessness.
CORNISH: OK. So you guys have talked about the headliners but I've got to know: Is there anything that you hated?
HOLMES: Well, we saw...
MONDELLO: Just came from it.
HOLMES: We just came from one that we did not really like, which is called "Enemy" and stars Jake Gyllenhaal. And I just - it stars him as two men who are identical looking and they...
CORNISH: So he plays both characters.
HOLMES: He does. He plays both characters. And it didn't really make any sense to me, and it was the first one where I looked at it and I thought, perhaps film festivals really are over my head.
MONDELLO: You know, there was another one that I was really - there are a couple of others that I was really crazy about. I was really surprised at how much I liked these two documentaries I saw. One was called "Tim's Vermeer," and it's made by Penn and Teller in their sort of debunking mode - you know, the thing they do on television. And it's about a guy who has never picked up a paintbrush in his life, who decides that he can figure out how Vermeer must have done it; and creates a Vermeer using very simple tools like a mirror, and things like that, to make this possible.
I've not heard an audience gasp so much at a festival before, in my life. Everybody kept on going - (gasps) - as you're watching what he was doing on screen. It was just fascinating. And of course, you know, blowing up the artistic process to an enormous screen makes it all just sort of mesmerizing. It's a fascinating process to watch.
And then this other one, called "Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon," which was directed by a guy - and I really didn't expect very much from him; it's the first film he's directed. The guy is Mike Myers, the comedian. And I was expecting nothing, I've got to say. And I went in expecting to just watch the first half-hour because I had another screening I wanted to get to. I couldn't leave this. I was trapped. It was so entertaining. Just a wonderful picture - this is "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon."
CORNISH: Now, Bob, last year you talked about basically seeing these connections between pictures. Is that happening again? Are there themes that are emerging?
MONDELLO: Well, Linda and I both noticed one. There's a Daniel Radcliffe festival going on here. (Laughter)
HOLMES: Yeah, Daniel Radcliffe is in three movies here. In addition to the one that I mentioned - "The F Word" - he's also in "Kill Your Darlings" which Bob saw...
HOLMES: ...which is about - he plays Allen Ginsberg. He is also in a film called "Horns," which is based on a horror novel by Joe Hill. So that's three.
MONDELLO: And the other story here is doubles. There are doubles everywhere you turn. And we actually saw two films in which people meet their doubles; they meet their own doppelgangers.
HOLMES: There's a Jesse Eisenberg, and there's a Jake Gyllenhaal.
HOLMES: And as I was saying to Bob earlier, the most implausible thing about the one with Jake Gyllenhaal in it - despite the fact that many implausible things happen in that movie - is that in a universe with two Jake Gyllenhaals, they would both decide to grow the same terrible beard.
MONDELLO: (Laughter) That's kind of true. Anyway, lots of doppelgangers.
HOLMES: Doubles. Doppelgangers.
MONDELLO: Doubles, doubles everywhere.
CORNISH: (Laughter) It sounds like you could use doubles yourselves, to see twice as many films.
HOLMES: That is a good idea.
MONDELLO: Oh, my God, twice as many films.
HOLMES: That's a good idea.
MONDELLO: (Laughter) That's true.
HOLMES: We've got to get on that, for science.
CORNISH: Linda Holmes, host of NPR's pop culture blog, "Monkey See"; and movie critic Bob Mondello. Thank you both for joining us.
HOLMES: Thank you.
MONDELLO: Great to be here.
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