Thursday, September 6, 2012

Oscar season opens with the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival - New York Daily News

Bruce Willis as "Joe" in TriStar Pictures, Film District, and End Game Entertainment's action thriller LOOPER.

Alan Markfield

The opening slot at the Toronto International Film Festival goes to "Looper." The film features Bruce Willis, here sporting a nasty gun, as the the future self of an assassin, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is faced with the challenge of having to kill said future self. The sci-fi actioner has good buzz and Gordon-Levitt, many think, is due for an Oscar nomination.

The Toronto International Film Festival always arrives at the perfect moment: just as we’re starting to feel overstuffed on summer popcorn flicks. TIFF has brought serious films to serious film buffs since 1976, but its impact has never been greater than in recent years: the last five Best Picture winners screened at the festival before opening in theaters. 

This year will surely be no exception; the lineup is stocked with Major Oscar Contenders. 

Thursday’s opening night film, “Looper” â€" about an assassin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) faced with killing his future self (Bruce Willis) -- sounds like a fairly typical sci-fi thriller. But advance word is strong, and its prestigious opening slot means festival organizers obviously expect big things. Plus, Gordon-Levitt is already overdue for his first Academy Award nomination.

Of course, he’ll have plenty of competition over the next ten days.

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman can expect big boosts from Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly-anticipated “The Master,” a loose take on the origins of Scientology. 


Phil Bray/The Weinstein Company

TIFF will also screen Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” a loose take on the origins of Scientology.

Ben Affleck will be doubling his odds, aiming for both Best Actor and Best Director: He helmed and stars in the Seventies hostage thriller “Argo,” and romances Rachel McAdams in Terrence Malick’s sure-to-be-enigmatic “To the Wonder.” 


Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Ben Affleck is a double threat at TIFF. He helmed and stars in the hostage thriller “Argo,” (seen here) and romances Rachel McAdams in Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder.”

Bradley Cooper is upping the ante as well, by working for two awards-friendly filmmakers. He’ll portray a teacher coming out of a psychiatric hospital in “Silver Linings Playbook,” by David O. Russell (“The Fighter”), and a cop facing off against desperate dad Ryan Gosling in “The Place Beyond the Pines,” from Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”). 

Also likely to have a good week: Bill Murray, playing FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson,” Frank Langella as an eccentric millionaire in “The Time Being,” and John Hawkes, who hires sexual surrogate Helen Hunt in “The Sessions.”

Starting with Hunt and McAdams, there will be no shortage of potential Best Actress nominees, either. Keira Knightley seems like a safe bet, as the lead in “Anna Karenina,” while Halle Berry could impress with multiple roles in the expansive, still-mysterious “Cloud Atlas,” costarring Tom Hanks.

Nicole Kidman may not win any prizes for Lee Daniels’ already-notorious melodrama “The Paperboy,” which the official program describes as a “deliciously trashy chunk of Southern-fried Gothic.” But her BFF Naomi Watts should get attention for “The Impossible,” in which she and Ewan McGregor have to survive a tsunami. And hopefully, Walter Salles’ “On the Road” adaptation will provide Kristen Stewart with a chance to bring everyone’s focus back to her films.

It’s worth remembering, however, that festival buzz fades as quickly as it builds. Last year, the event’s biggest stars included Elizabeth Olsen, Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, and Michael Fassbender, none of whom actually made it to the Academy Awards. 

Then again, fellow TIFF attendees Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Plummer wound up right where they wanted to be come Oscar night. Let the games begin.

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