Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, Canada, does U.S. know you make fine films?


Sony Pictures just picked up worldwide rights to "Defendor," the Woody Harrelson/Kat Dennings superhero flick that premiered this week at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival. Regardless, it would not surprise anyone if the Canada-based spoof never hits big screens in the good 'ol USA.
Why? Because very few Canadian movies I've watched in 16 years of covering what locals readily call "TIFF," have translated into success in the States. Perhaps it's a matter of conflicting sensibilities, or maybe just too much studio control here. Whatever, only two of many very good ones produced up north readily come to mind as far as making enough noise here.
Certainly Denys Arcand's spellbinding "The Barbarian Invasions" (Les invasions barbares), the Best Foreign Film of 2003, is one. The other belongs to first-time director Sarah Polley for her 2007 screenplay-nominated "Away From Her." Of course, Julie Christie earned a well-deserved Best Actress nod for the film, too, but Canada legend Gordon Pinset was robbed of a nomination despite being the glue that held this memorable movie together.
All that said, this year's Toronto fest offers more than a few decent homeland films, with Atom Egoyan's kinky"Chloe" likely to cause some excitement everywhere. The extremely, uh, watchable film stars Amanda Seyfried (also festing with "Jennifer's Body") and the great Julianne Moore (who has two others at TIFF this year: "A Single Man" and "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee") in an intricate sexual experience that also involves Liam Neeson.

There's also a very clever comedy called "The Trotsky," starring a picture perfect Jay Baruchel ("Tropic Thunder") as a high-schooler who thinks he's the re-incarnation of the old Russian revolutionary with the title name.
The Montreal-based laugher probably would be my festival choice for Best Canadian Feature Film. However, unless some courageous studio actually decides to put its money behind a smart teen movie for a change, it won't find easy distribution here anytime soon.
A couple of Canadian documentaries might have better chances to find wider audiences. The 76-minute "Reel Injun" discusses treatment of Native actors with comments from the Hollywood likes of Clint Eastwood. And, speaking of different sensibilites, "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel" is chock full of insights on the active life of the infamous publisher at a lengthy 135 minutes.
We'll be back with a festival wrap, including naming our favorite films, this weekend.
In the meantime, check out Sun News and my reviews of "The Informant!" and "Cold Souls."

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