Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 09-12-11

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in “Straw Dogs”

Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in “Straw Dogs”

“Drive” – In theaters September 16th

“Drive” – In theaters September 16th

Toronto talk: Today’s talk in Toronto is likely to be tomorrow’s Oscar buzz.

That’s why Hollywood loves the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and uses its media spotlight as a springboard for films it hopes will resonate with Academy members.

Since people don’t vote for movies they haven’t seen, the first priority in competing for Oscars, Golden Globes, British Academy BAFTAs or anything else is to get awards givers to take the time to see your film — preferably at a screening, but at least at home with a DVD screener.

Because so many movies are competing for awards consideration, it helps to get an early start by generating media attention and, hopefully, good reviews at TIFF. As a result, Toronto’s become a must-play stop on the festival circuit for many films that got started with showings in late August at the Venice Film Festival or in early September at Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival. Because Telluride is a movie buff driven event that doesn’t announce what’s playing in advance of selling festival tickets, films can play there and still celebrate their official world premieres elsewhere.

Columbia’s world premiered its biographical drama “Moneyball” at TIFF last Friday. Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”), it stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright.

Pitt plays Oakland A’s maverick general manager Billy Beane who builds his club on a budget, using computer-generated analyses instead of home run statistics to draft his players.

Another high profile Toronto contender is Rodrigo Garcia’s (“Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her”) drama “Albert Nobbs.” It’s a magnet for attention with Glenn Close playing the male title role in a story set in late 19th Century Ireland. “Nobbs,” which screened at Telluride, is world premiering at TIFF. Also starring Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Aaron Johnson, it opens later this year via Roadside Attractions.

“Butter,” a satire about butter carving in the Midwest, is directed by Jim Field Smith (“She’s Out of My League”) and stars Olivia Wilde, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner, who’s also one of its producers. World premiering at TIFF after having played Telluride, it opens later this year via The Weinstein Company.

One of TIFF’s most anticipated world premieres was “The Descendants,” directed and co-written by Alexander Payne (“Sideways”), which had already been well received at Telluride. The drama received an enthusiastic reception in Toronto Sept. 10. It stars George Clooney, Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard and opens Nov. 23 in limited release via Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) also has another awards contender at TIFF — the political thriller “The Ides of March,” which he directed, co-wrote and stars in. “Ides,” which was the opening night film at Venice, screened Sept. 9 in Toronto. Also starring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, it opens wide Oct. 7 via Columbia Pictures.

Another film on TIFF’s playlist that launched at Venice is David Cronenberg’s (“The Fly”) drama “A Dangerous Method,” starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen (as Sigmund Freud), Michael Fassbender (as Carl Jung) and Vincent Cassel. It opens in New York and Los Angeles Nov. 23 via Sony Pictures Classics.

Exposure at TIFF is valuable not only to influence awards givers, but also to attract ticket buyers. To make the most of its publicity in Toronto, Columbia is opening “Moneyball” Sept. 23, right after the festival winds up Sept. 18.

“Moneyball” has the additional benefit of starring high profile celeb Brad Pitt, who’s a potential best actor Oscar nominee for anything he does. Not surprisingly, the film’s tracking well as a first choice for 25-plus males and is doing almost as well with under-25 males.

If “Moneyball” should win TIFF’s People’s Choice Award, that would be fantastic timing just as it goes into theatres. It also would give it an early leg up with Oscar buzz. Last year’s People’s Choice Award winner at Toronto was The Weinstein Company’s “The King’s Speech,” which clearly made the most of its TIFF success.

“Speech” went on to win Oscars for best picture, directing (Tom Hooper), actor (Colin Firth) and original screenplay (David Seidler). It also was honored with numerous other awards, including the Golden Globe for best motion picture – drama and the BAFTA for best film.

Meanwhile, back at the boxoffice this weekend we’ll see four new wide releases eager to take on Warner Bros. and Participant Media’s thriller “Contagion,” which just got off to a great start with about $23 million, and DreamWorks, Participant Media and Disney’s drama “The Help,” which has done over $137 million in five weeks and is still going strong.

This weekend’s newcomers include:

  • Screen Gems’ R rated remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 classic “Straw Dogs,” directed by Rod Lurie (“The Contender”). It stars James Marden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard and is tracking best with under-25 females.
  • Disney’s re-release in 3D of its animated classic “The Lion King.” It’s tracking best with under-25 females and should also do well with family audiences.
  • The Weinstein Company’s comedy “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” directed by Douglas McGrath (“Infamous”) and starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan. It’s also tracking best with under-25 females.
  • Film District’s R rated action drama “Drive,” directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (“Valhalla Rising”) and starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. It’s tracking best with 25-plus males and doing nearly as well with under-25 males.

Bottom line: Keep an eye on Toronto and you’ll know who’s got a good shot at Oscar consideration.