TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is many things to many people. Oscar season launching pad for some. Moviegoing nirvana for others. And if you want to catch sight of a celebrity, or two, you could do a lot worse than a festival that lines them up every night as if you’re living inside the poster for “Ocean’s Eleven.” Yes, George Clooney was here (with two movies in tow), as were Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling and Madonna and … well, you get the picture.
TIFF continues through this weekend, but MTV News (and I) packed up our troubles and hours of interviews on Wednesday (September 14). Truth be told, the festival moves into a slower gear by Tuesday/Wednesday every year. As always, I learned a lot in the past week. Here are just a few of those lessons:
Brad Pitt Likes “The Incredibles”
When I sat down with Pitt (for the first time, gulp), he, Jonah Hill and I fell into the standard TIFF conversation before the interview: “So, what’s good?” After I touted a few choice flicks, Pitt admitted all he gets to see are animated films at home, thanks to the kids — which of course segued into the standard animation conversation: best Pixar film ever? Brad and I heartily agreed on “The Incredibles,” while Jonah insisted that “Ratatouille” is it for him because of its unlikely brilliance given the subject matter. Agree to disagree, Jonah.
2011 Belongs to Gosling and Fassbender
If 2010 was all about James Franco and Ryan Reynolds rising to A-list status, let’s all make some room for Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender this year. Each actor brought two films to TIFF this year, and they were among the most talked-about stars on the party circuit — and not for anything gossipy, just for brilliant, charismatic and unique performances.
Gosling, the Canadian boy made good, brought George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” and “Drive” to TIFF, and both films seem destined for a slew of top 10 lists. “Drive” in particular is an iconic movie star role for Gosling — his nameless “driver” says very little but might be the coolest character of the year.
Speaking of cool, anyone who saw “X-Men: First Class” was probably as mesmerized as I was by Michael Fassbender’s badass Nazi hunter Erik Lehnsherr (you can’t put Magneto on a driver’s license). But forget superhero movies for a second. Fassbender arrived in Toronto fresh off a Venice Film Festival win for a truly brave performance in “Shame.” I saw “Shame” at its Toronto premiere, and while it’s not for everyone, this character study of a sex addict in NYC will likely have Fassbender on the awards circuit the next few months.
An ABC Family Star Will Probably Be Getting an Oscar Nod
I’ll come clean and admit I’m not intimately familiar with the “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” but Shailene Woodley certainly has my attention now. The young actress more than holds her own opposite Clooney (himself delivering one of his best performances) in Alexander Payne’s sad, funny chronicle of a family under duress, “The Descendants,” She’ll make you cry. Promise.
Don’t Be Scared of the Cancer Comedy
The only problem with “50/50″ is that the shorthand on it is a tough sell for date night (i.e. the “cancer” comedy). But I’ve now seen this flick twice, and it’s a crowd-pleaser of the highest order. It was the only film I saw in Toronto that received a standing ovation. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard, it’s loosely inspired by screenwriter Will Reiser’s true cancer experience — like “The Descendants” it’s another brilliant and honest film that touches you in all the right ways.
And that’s just the tip of the TIFF iceberg, my friends. In the next few days, we’re rolling out interviews with the likes of Megan Fox, Leighton Meester, Clive Owen, Rachel Weisz, Emily Blunt and Gerard Butler — and yeah, more from those guys Gosling and Pitt.
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