Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Toronto talks Oscar, but do movie fans listen?

September 9, 2008

hathaway.jpgA lot of buzz at the Toronto film festival inevitably is about which movies may compete for Oscars as Hollywood begins its months-long campaign for film honors that often — although not always — bring stars fame and movie studios money.

Taken together with film festivals in Venice and Telluride, Colorado, which annually occur in late August and early September, the Toronto event is a key Oscar campaign launch site. But sometimes the movies suffer a critical backlash if they are too widely hyped. Other times critics jump on a movie’s bandwagon and propel the film forward.

A few titles winning early praise here at Toronto, mostly for their performances include: Mickey Rourke as a washed up professional wrestler being urged to make a comeback in a big match in “The Wrestler”; Anne Hathaway playing a drug abusing woman who checks out of rehab to attend her sister’s wedding in “Rachel Getting Married”; and Greg Kinnear portraying the man who invents the intermittent windshield wiper and must battle automakers over his patent in “Flash of Genius.”

 There is little doubt that singer Alicia Keys will garner a lot of media attention for a supporting part in coming-of-age wrestler.jpgdrama “The “Secret Life of Bees,” as will the film’s star, young Dakota Fanning. But whether critics and Oscar voters adore the overall film seems to be a tossup among the film pundits here at the Toronto festival. Two films that clearly have stood out in the early festivals are “The Wrestler,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, and “Slumdog Millionaire” from director Danny Boyle, telling of young Indian boy who aims to be a millionaire by competing on a TV game show.

At a Toronto news conference, we asked Kinnear how he saw “Flash of Genius” playing out during awards season, and here was part of his answer:  “What I’m most excited about is that the movie’s being talked about.

kinnear.jpg“You know I think it’s a little provocative in terms of how people register this film and the fact that they recognize it, as (director) Marc (Abraham) said, he took this project out to studios and you tell studios you’re going to make a movie about a guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper — not a lot of bites…

“It’s an unconventional film and it’s hard to get these kinds of pictures noticed. It really is, especially in a world where 7 or 8 or 12 movies are coming out in a weekend now. So we’re obviously grateful to be here and grateful to anybody who in any way is referencing what you’re talking about right now,” Kinnear said

Not exactly a direct answer, but with awards talk does come attention — at least that is the conventional Hollywood wisdom. But we wonder how much attention moviegoers truly pay to “Oscar buzz”? And what matters most when it comes to picking a movie for the weekend: what critics say in reviews, or what movie marketers put on promotional posters? We — and very likely Oscar — want to know.

(Additional Reporting by Claire Sibonney)

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