Toronto: 5 lessons we've learned from the festival so far
Actor Brad Pitt arrives for the "12 Years a Slave" screening at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto
By Steve Pond
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - The Toronto Film Festival has only completed four days of its 11-day run, but with a typically front-loaded first weekend designed to accommodate the studios, buyers and press who will be heading home by mid-week or earlier, it's safe to say that the meat of the festival has already been served.
In those four days, we've seen hot buzz movies ("12 Years a Slave," "Gravity"), Hollywood royalty (Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock), TIFF royalty (David Cronenberg, Jason Reitman), big money deals ("Can a Song Save Your Life?"), sleepers ("The F Word"), parties and much more.
So even with a full week remaining, it's safe to draw some conclusions from TIFF 2013.
1. Size matters ... But not always in the right way.
This year's festival has 288 features, more than 100 screenings a day, and a vast selection of movies of every shape and size and genre. Those are all good things, right?
Right, until the lines reach epic lengths and lobbies get so jammed that even making your way to an exit is an exercise in endurance.
Toronto is always crowded on the opening weekend, but this year reached such epic heights of crowded-ness that "I've never seen it this bad" joined "What have you seen that you've loved?" as the most-uttered phrases in conversations between longtime TIFF-goers.
One programmer for a different festival probably had the right idea when he said, "I'm not even trying to see the big movies like ‘Gravity' this year. I'll see those later — I spend my time here going to the movies that nobody else wants to see, and it's been great."
2. It's a good year.
You'd be hard-pressed to find many critical bombs on the TIFF schedule this year. "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" lived up to their buzz, "Prisoners" and "Labor Day" and "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Enough Said" won many devotees, and on Sunday night Ron Howard's "Rush" got a standing ovation at Roy Thomson Hall for its kinetic look at the rivalry between two legendary Formula One race car drivers.
(In fact, you could say that "Rush" has joined "Gravity," the non-TIFF title "Captain Phillips" and last year's "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" as exciting, smart major-studio titles that can actually figure in the awards picture and attract viewers.)
Meanwhile, the festival has showcased little gems like the foreign films "The Lunchbox," "Ida" and "Gloria," the documentaries "Tim's Vermeer," "Midway" and "Burt's Bees," the near-wordless survival drama "Canopy" and the wholly unclassifiable "Under the Skin," a bizarre, creepy and oddly moving sci-fi puzzler with Scarlett Johansson (frequently naked, which will no doubt be used as a selling point down the line) as an alien who picks up men for reasons that have nothing to do with sex.
It's enough to make you wonder if it wouldn't be more fun for Toronto to throw in a debacle every so often (Madonna's "W.E." from TIFF ‘11 comes to mind), just for variety's sake.
But in fact, the steady stream of good movies makes for a strong and satisfying festival experience.
3. It's only September, and already the Oscar race is too crowded.
One of the side effects of this being a strong festival is that few of the films that came in with Oscar hopes have seen those hopes dashed. Almost every significant movie has found at least one website to trumpet its premiere as a sign that something else has entered the race.