Jeff Simon: Plenty to see, or avoid, at Toronto International Film Festival - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon: Plenty to see, or avoid, at Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO – Well sure. They rounded up the usual suspects. You’ve got your George (Clooney). Your Brad (Pitt.) Your Jennifer (Aniston). Your Nicole (Kidman). All are expected to be at the Toronto International Film Festival during the course of its 11 days.

Which means the city’s hotels will be getting a workout, and everyone in Ontario who happens to be in the private security business is likely to be put to work.

But this is not – yet anyway – a State of the Art Toronto Film Festival. That is, the preponderant film festival in our hemisphere.

There’s a lot I’m very interested in seeing. And a lot that comes into the festival with a big reputation and BIIIIGGG advance curiosity. But the buzz, thus far, has been at a very tasteful honeybee volume rather than the dynamic level of German bombs during the World War II blitz of London.

It seems to me they missed the boat on a couple of things. They’ve got one of the season’s huge movies about the Individual vs. The Elements (“Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock as an unmoored astronaut and the elements being a hostile universe – until, that is, George Clooney shows up to help.) But they don’t have the other upcoming big deal about the Individual vs. The Elements – “All Is Lost” starring Robert Redford, who’s rumored to do some of his best work ever as a man alone in a boat on a hostile sea.

They’ve got a couple of comic folks making directorial debuts in movies – Jason Bateman and Mike Myers. And they’ve got “August: Osage County,” a 400-pound canary as Oscarbait if ever there was one, with a big theatrical pedigree and Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts squaring off as mother and daughter.

But there’s nothing yet that virtually commands the mandatory attendance of the world.

Despite all the conspicuous star power, it’s a bit reminiscent in its new part of town of older Toronto Film Festivals, which were more decorous, more idealistic and less prominent on the world stage of cinematic commerce.

There are a lot of front page movies here with actors portraying Nelson Mandela (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”) and Julian Assange (“The Fifth Estate”) in much-ballyhooed movies that are giving a lot of the festival the feel of a 24-hour news network.

But then the whole point of film festivals is to be paying attention to what comes in through the back door - to be lucky enough, for instance, to be there when a good part of a world film community (critics, filmmakers) was squeezed into a tiny screening room with bad air watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.” Or when Michael Moore was handing out souvenir lint rollers at the first advance press screening of “Roger and Me.” Or when you had to run down Bloor Street to the first screening of a little number by David Lynch called “Blue Velvet” that no one had seen before.

We’ll see how big the surprises are.

In the meantime, would you believe an utterly charming film about a self-adoring hotshot gym rat who’s addicted to pornography and falls in love with a woman similarly addicted to Hollywood celluloid romance? He’s played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, who wrote, directed and starred in “Don Jon” with Scarlett Johansson, and it’s the unlikeliest of foul-mouthed and dirty-minded charmers.

Would you believe a vampire film starring John Hurt and Christopher Marlowe and Tilda Swinton as a woman married to a Detroit rocker who used to hang out with Byron and Shelley? Me neither. It’s called “Only Lovers Left Alive,” from director Jim Jarmusch. I walked out after 45 minutes.


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