Highlights From The Toronto International Film Fest
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
If you can get a pumpkin spice latte in August, then it's not too early to start talking about the Oscars. The Toronto International Film Festival is the unofficial kickoff of the awards race with big prestige films starting to pick up buzz. This year, those include "First Man," a retelling of the Apollo 11 mission...
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIRST MAN")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Neil, if this flight is successful, you'll go down in history. What kind of thoughts do you have about that?
RYAN GOSLING: (As Neil Armstrong) We're planning on the flight being successful.
CORNISH: ...A film adaptation of James Baldwin's novel "If Beale Street Could Talk"...
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK")
STEPHAN JAMES: (As Alonzo Hunt) I love you. You know that.
KIKI LAYNE: (As Tish Rivers) I do. And I understand what you're going through because I'm with you.
CORNISH: ...And the heist film with a twist "Widows."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WIDOWS")
VIOLA DAVIS: (As Veronica) After this job, we're done. We have three days to look and move like a team of men.
CORNISH: NPR's Bob Mondello and Linda Holmes just got back from Toronto. They're here in the studio now to talk through some of the highlights. Hey there, Bob.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hey.
CORNISH: Hey there, Linda.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hey.
CORNISH: I want to start with the headliners that we were just talking about. Of those three films we just mentioned, which is Oscar-worthy?
HOLMES: Yeah, I personally think they all are. Now, we'll get to the one Bob and I disagreed on. But I think Bob and I both loved "Widows," which stars Viola Davis as this unconventional crime boss. Liam Neeson is in it. Colin Farrell is in it. There's a lot of great stuff in that movie. It's very exciting and also a very good film.
MONDELLO: And the big question is whether it's viewed as Oscar material or a genre picture because it's so exciting as an action film.
CORNISH: It's nice to hear the two things are married now.
MONDELLO: It's true.
CORNISH: OK, also the film from "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins "If Beale Street Could Talk" - why are people excited about this one?
MONDELLO: It's so gorgeous. It's a love story. But it's James Baldwin, so it's also tough, and it's angry, and it's all kinds of other things. But I wrote in my notes about it that was probably the most I have ever believed love onscreen.
CORNISH: I can't even believe you're saying this. You've seen a trillion movies.
MONDELLO: I have seen a couple.
CORNISH: I'm being real right now.
MONDELLO: (Laughter) It was amazing.
CORNISH: OK, it sounds like we are building up to the one where you disagree.
HOLMES: Yes, so...
CORNISH: And this is the Neil Armstrong movie. And I have to say that usually it is catnip to do...
HOLMES: Space movies.
CORNISH: ...A biopic.
HOLMES: Space movies and biopics.
CORNISH: Yeah, it's, like, space hero.
CORNISH: Young actors do this 'cause this is how you get an Oscar.
HOLMES: Well, and the director is Damien Chazelle, who directed "La La Land." So if you sense that you're leading up to a Barry Jenkins versus Damien Chazelle showdown...
HOLMES: ...Which also led to the incredibly dramatic Oscar night when one of them won and then the other one won best picture - I really liked "First Man." Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong. I think the movie is terrific. It's about masculinity to me. And he's sort of a stoic, but also he's doing this incredibly exciting thing. Bob, on the other hand, was wrong.
CORNISH: OK, Bob's here to speak. Yeah (laughter).
MONDELLO: Bob, on the other hand, was wrong.
MONDELLO: I - no, all of that actually I agree with. The problem is that stoicism thing. It means that the emotion in it - it keeped (ph) being tamped down, and I wanted it more to the fore.
CORNISH: Isn't that what the swelling music is supposed to do in these movies (laughter)?
MONDELLO: The swelling - there's a lot of swelling, moving music. This is amazing.
CORNISH: All right, I want to talk about one movie that everybody is talking about, and that is "A Star Is Born" - Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga. Is it as good as everyone thinks or hopes that it might be?
HOLMES: I think it is. I really loved it. I think it's very - it is a melodrama. But I think if you need to see Lady Gaga sing "La Vie En Rose" in a drag bar - and who doesn't? - this is the movie for you.
HOLMES: It's romantic. It's sad. I really, really liked it.
CORNISH: I want to ask you about a bigger story going on in Hollywood this past year - the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others in the industry - mainly because this is the kind of festival where his films would have taken center stage in the past - right? - the launching of Oscar season, Oscar campaigning. Did any of the films address the #MeToo movement?
HOLMES: There is a documentary called "This Changes Everything" which is about sexism in Hollywood. And it has a kind of a postscript about this. But I think you'll see more direct treatment of it onscreen as time goes on.
MONDELLO: Yeah, it's a little early still. It takes about a year and a half to two years for a film to make it through the pipeline and actually get onto the screen. So I think it's a little too soon for that.
CORNISH: You know, I've seen the list of the movies you guys saw in Toronto. Yours is about four pages long, Linda, with...
HOLMES: It is.
CORNISH: ...Notes. Was there anything else you loved?
HOLMES: I really loved a film called "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" which stars Melissa McCarthy as a real woman who did a bunch of literary letter forgeries. It's funny but also really sort of touching.
MONDELLO: I think we were both nuts about a film called "Roma" by Alfonso Cuaron. And then there's this other foreign film called "Capharnaum" which is about a kid in Lebanon who sues his parents for bringing him into a world so awful. It's really powerful.
CORNISH: That's NPR film critic Bob Mondello and the host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Linda Holmes. Thank you to you both.
HOLMES: Thank you, Audie.
MONDELLO: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF M. WARD'S "DUET FOR GUITARS #3")
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