Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Festival moments can’t always be huge

Confirming what we already knew, the last week of the 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival did nothing to reverse anyone’s opinion that our hospitable neighbors to the north showcased their leanest lineup of movies in years.

I mean, as noted here in previous posts, no one film even came close to instigating the kind of immediate awards speculation – or rush -- that surged with viewing TIFF stuff like “American Beauty,” “Boogie Nights,” “Crash,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “Away From Her” or last year’s “Into the Wild” and “No Country for Old Men,” to name so very few.

Regardless, with 312 movies unreeling in all shapes and sizes, everybody can’t see everything, and I missed my share, including audience favorite “Slumdog Millionaire,” both of the award-winning Canadian films, and Kathryn Bigelow’s well-received “The Hurt Locker.”

Some of the most compelling moments I did experience in the festival’s waning days came from individual performances from actors who are always good, no matter what kind of material they are hired to work with.

I’m talking about folks such as Ellen Burstyn in both “Lovely, Still,” a nice little golden(age) fairytale, and “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond,” from a dated Tennessee Williams screenplay; and Benicio del Toro as “Che” in Steven Soderbergh’s 4-hour, 20-plus-minute biopic. (Be sure to see it with its very welcome 20-minute intermission.)

Then there’s Rachel McAdams, Toronto’s own young scene-stealer, in a game but unremarkable “The Lucky Ones,” and the note-perfect Mark Ruffalo in three films – “Blindness,” “The Brothers Bloom” and, particularly, a powerful little crime story, “What Doesn’t Kill You.”

On the really small side, I also found a funny horror lark called “Pontypool” from Canadian vet Bruce McDonald. In truth, the legitimate movie joys of spotting an unknown gem like that is what keeps me going back to Toronto every Labor Day week, anyway. So, see you next September, eh?

(In this week’s Sun News, be sure to read my review of “Ghost Town,” the first film I enjoyed in Toronto this year, as well as an interview with its comic star, Ricky Gervais.)

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