The Toronto Film Festival will again play host to scores of Oscar hopefuls

By: Joey Magidson

With today’s announcement that David Dobkin’s film The Judge will open the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, I figured that it was a good time to talk about the TIFF lineup. That Robert Downey Jr. vehicle will seek to become an awards player, and it’s not alone. Each year, scores of titles descend on Toronto in order to distinguish themselves to Academy members and various precursor voters everywhere. The festival has a solid history of producing Oscar nominees, though the big time competition this year from the New York Film Festival will certainly shine a light on just how essential a stop this fest still is. For now though, it’s a big one, and well worth a bit of discussion.
As mentioned above, the opening film is The Judge, which could be a Best Actor player for Downey Jr. or perhaps even a Best Picture contender if it’s better than expected. It’s definitely one of the most anticipated flicks starting up their run at the festival, along with the closing selection, which is Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Along with those two, the highest profile titles include Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, & Children, Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything. Each of these is considered a major awards hopeful to one degree or another, so it’ll be their first test of viability. Strong reactions set it off on a path to potential Oscar glory, while mixed to poor reactions could sent it straight down the drain into oblivion.
Other big debuts at the fest will be Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Mike Binder’s Black and White, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Equalizer, Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice, Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go, Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, as well as other works like The Drop and The Imitation Game, all of whom have some level of awards hope to them. Most won’t take on that kind of narrative, but at least one or two will, so it becomes almost a game trying to figure out which ones it will be ahead of time.
The other titles of note are Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher of course, along with David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, and Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. All of those wowed at the Cannes Film Festival (with Whiplash also blowing folks away at the Sundance Film Festival at the start of 2014), so they’ll seek to continue the high praise in advance of their fall/winter openings. I have a hunch that the praise will continue for each one of them, leading to heavy awards discussion.
Basically, we’ve got almost all of our festival season laying out in front of us now. Once the full NYFF lineup is revealed, we’ll more or less know which Oscar contenders are going the festival route and which ones aren’t. That doesn’t mean that one choice is better than the other, since both are calculated risks for sure, but it does sort of give you a hint about what studios could be thinking. We’re still very much in the educated guessing phase of the awards season, but once these festivals really ramp up and folks like myself at NYFF see David Fincher’s Gone or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, more will be known, just like the TIFF crowd will know more once they see any of this multitude of titles. Exciting times are ahead…
Stay tuned for more on the fall festival seasons when that NYFF announcement hits!

Jay Leno Returns to NBC on 'Last Comic Standing'

by Ashley Lee

The former "Tonight Show" host steps in as the talent show's final mentor.

The former Tonight Show host appears in the competition's "Title Round," during which the five remaining comics are surprised by host J.B. Smoove with a trip to Las Vegas to work with "one of the funniest comedians in the world." Leno is introduced by  Wanda Sykes and is candidly asked questions about stand-up comedy. NBC notes that he answers them all, sharing personal stories and anecdotes about his experience as a comedian while also giving career advice.
Afterward, the finalists perform sets for judgesRoseanne BarrKeenen Ivory Wayans andRussell Peters, who will determine which four will advance to the next round and which comic is headed home.
The season eight finale of Last Comic Standing airs Aug. 14. The show's winner will receive a prize package worth $250,000, including a cash prize, a talent deal and a development deal for a television show.

Lawmaker to Push Bill Requiring Dinesh D'Souza's 'America' Be Shown in Schools

by Paul Bond

Florida GOP state senator Alan Hays said he’ll propose a bill mandating that students in the 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools are to be shown the film unless their parents object.

A Florida state senator plans to introduce a bill that would make Dinesh D'Souza's docudrama, America, required viewing for most teenagers in the state, The Hollywood Reporter learned on Friday.
Republican Alan Hays said he’ll introduce in November his one-page bill that simply states that students in the 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools are to be shown the film unless their parents object.

The plan is sure to draw fire from liberals not only because D’Souza is a prominent conservative but because he is also behind the movie, 2016: Obama’s America, which is a profoundly negative take on Democratic U.S. president Barack Obama.
America, the movie, espouses a conservative point of view toward telling history. D'Souza takes on leftist arguments that portray the U.S. in a negative light, and he specifically attacks Howard Zinn, author of the book A People’s History of the United States, often considered the most widely used history book in U.S. academia. The movie shows actors Matt Damon and Woody Harrelson praising the book.

Hays said the purpose of his proposal is to introduce more balance into Florida schools.
“I saw the movie and walked out of the theater and said, ‘Wow, our students need to see this.’ And it’s my plan to show it to my colleagues in the legislature, too, before they’re asked to vote on the bill,” Hays said.


Those who oppose the plan are also likely to point out that D’Souza could be headed to prison after he pleaded guilty to illegally promising to reimburse some people who donated to a friend’s Senate campaign. D’Souza faces up to two years for that transgression and he will be sentenced in September.

Nevertheless, the bill could pass, given that Republicans hold a substantial majority in Florida’s Senate and House of Representatives, and Gov. Rick Scott is also a Republican.

“I’ve looked at history books and talked to history teachers and the message the students are getting is very different from what is in the movie,” Hays said. “It’s dishonest and insulting. The students need to see the truth without political favoritism.”

To that end, Hays said he wouldn’t object if teachers paired America with a liberal film to show the political differences. Indeed, many schools already show Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and some of Michael Moore’s left-leaning films, though it’s certainly more unusual to actually require the viewing of a particular movie, as Hays intends with his bill.

“The most dreaded disease in America today is political correctness. We need to inform our students of our whole history, and teach them how to think, not what to think,” Hays said. “Let them talk with their teachers, their peers and their parents, then draw their own conclusions. But they need both sides, and this movie shows a side they just aren’t seeing.”

Hays said his intent is to reach out to charitable groups that would supply schools with the necessary copies of the movie so as not to burden Florida taxpayers.

James Garner dead at 86: Actor leaves big legacy as a ‘Maverick’ on the small screen


With starring roles in ‘Maverick’ and ‘The Rockford Files’ among the many standout turns on his resume, Garner shined as a non-traditional good guy.

Here's why we loved James Garner's TV characters: because they reassured us that even guys with no visible heroic traits could somehow beat the bad guys in the end.

Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, who were basically the same character in different footwear, were the antithesis of almost every traditional good guy on television.

When Bret rode into town in 1957 with the drama "Maverick," justice in Western towns was almost always administered by men like Marshall Matt Dillon, played by James Arness on "Gunsmoke."

Matt Dillon was tall, handsome, rugged, fair-minded, moral and a straight shooter. Like his Silver Screen predecessors — John Wayne comes to mind — he was a righteous firewall whose very presence left no doubt justice would prevail.

Bret Maverick had no such ambitions. He was a gambler who aspired to become nothing higher than a hustler. He'd be happy, he insisted, to finesse a few bucks and leave town untroubled by any gunfire he heard behind him on his way out.

Unfortunately, that plan kept not working out. He kept getting drawn into disputes that kept forcing him to dispense justice.

He didn't use a gun much. He started with his wits and when necessary moved on to his fists.
If there were a hall of fame for TV Western fistfights, Bret's battle with Clint Eastwood's Red Hardigan in the 1959 episode "Duel at Sundown" would be a charter inductee.

The late, great Garner, pictured in 1959, broke big as the star of the television series, ‘Maverick.’ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES/ABC VIA GETTY IMAGESThe late, great Garner, pictured in 1959, broke big as the star of the television series, ‘Maverick.’
At the same time, that episode even better illustrated the real agenda of "Maverick," which was to find laughs where most shows found only the other stuff.

After the fight, Bret finds himself in a rare six-shooter showdown with the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Except "Hardin" turns out to be his brother Bart, played by Jack Kelly. Yup, the Maverick brothers stage a fake shootout to fool Red.

As the brothers ride away unharmed, they pass the real John Wesley Hardin, who's blasting his way into town with steam coming out of his ears to find the varmint who "killed" him.


Bret Maverick wasn't the only non-traditional Western hero on TV in the 1950s. Richard Boone's Paladin on "Have Gun Will Travel" was dark and haunted. Steve McQueen's bounty hunter Josh Randall on "Wanted: Dead or Alive" was hardly a classic white hat.
But no one had the same qualities as Maverick. He wasn't the fastest or the toughest. He may not have been the smartest.

He just had the best sense of humor.

We also sensed he was on our side even as he denied he was serving any cause beyond his own. No matter how dire things looked, there was a wink in there somewhere saying things would work out okay.

Bret Maverick rode into the sunset too early, when Garner got into a real-life contract dispute with Warner Bros. during season 3.

He headed off to the movies, where he did mighty well, and in the long term that early exit probably enhanced Bret's legacy. We hadn't had enough.

Neither had Roy Huggins, who created "Maverick," and 14 years later had the idea of reviving Bret as a modern-day outlier.

So we were in a receptive mood in 1974 when Huggins created Jim Rockford, a low-budget private investigator who, like Bret, had neither the personality nor lifestyle of most of his TV colleagues.

He lived in a mobile home. He liked to eat Mexican food. He really liked to go fishing. He couldn't keep a relationship with a woman for more than one episode. He hung out with a bizarre posse whose help often got him beaten up. He constantly was taking cases so low-end you wondered how they ever got on television.

His one seeming indulgence was that every season except the last, 1979, he got a new Pontiac Firebird. That may have been a contract demand. In real life, Garner loved great cars, and what beat the muscle cars of that era?

Garner holds a dollar bills in one hand, and a handgun in the other in a 1977 publicity shot for 'The Rockford Files.’SILVER SCREEN COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGESGarner holds a dollar bills in one hand, and a handgun in the other in a 1977 publicity shot for 'The Rockford Files.’
However much fun he made the ride for himself, he made it just as much fun for us.

"The Rockford Files" developed characters like a good drama and put them in situations that sometimes seemed closer to a good sitcom.

As with Bret Maverick, it's probable that some other actor somewhere could have played Jim Rockford. It's just hard to think who, since Garner had a rare ability to look like he was telling the joke at the same time he was putting it on pause for just long enough to solve the problem.

He was one of those characters, all of whom we love, who would look down at their feet, go "aw shucks" and then when it mattered dash out and save the damsel from going over the falls.

As a matter of fact, that's how we see the founding fathers of the whole country, as a bunch of farmers and tradesmen who, when things just got too oppressive under King George, held a meeting and said, ‘Enough, it's time to run this thing by ourselves.’

Granted, we don't always immediately think of the founding fathers when we think of Bret Maverick or Jim Rockford.

But if you went to a ball game, who would you rather sit next to? Bret Maverick or James Monroe?

Sometimes you don't need to found a country. You just want to have some fun.

Famous Directors’ Rules of Filmmaking

wim wenders
Artistic expression is an assertion of individuality, and all artists compose their work differently. In the case of filmmaking, there are numerous approaches to translating a story to celluloid. Inspired by director Wim Wenders’ recent advertising short, “Wim Wenders’ Rules for Cinema Perfection,” we’ve collected the golden rules of filmmaking employed by 100 famous directors. These tips and tricks are a wonderful source of advice and inspiration — even for the most seasoned professionals. The rules also serve as a fascinating snapshot of each directors’ filmography, capturing the spirit of their work.

directors’ filmography, capturing the spirit of their work.
Wim Wenders
“Final cut is overrated. Only fools keep insisting on always having the final word. The wise swallow their pride in order to get to the best possible cut.”
Akira Kurosawa
“During the shooting of a scene the director’s eye has to catch even the minutest detail. But this does not mean glaring concentratedly at the set. While the cameras are rolling, I rarely look directly at the actors, but focus my gaze somewhere else. By doing this I sense instantly when something isn’t right. Watching something does not mean fixing your gaze on it, but being aware of it in a natural way. I believe this is what the medieval Noh playwright and theorist Zeami meant by ‘watching with a detached gaze.’”
Richard Linklater
“There are a million ideas in a world of stories. Humans are storytelling animals. Everything’s a story, everyone’s got stories, we’re perceiving stories, we’re interested in stories. So to me, the big nut to crack is to how to tell a story, what’s the right way to tell a particular story.”
John Waters
“No comedy should be longer than 90 minutes. There’s no such thing as a good long joke.”

Terrence Malick
“I film quite a bit of footage, then edit. Changes before your eyes, things you can do and things you can’t. My attitude is always let it keep rolling.”
Francis Ford Coppola
“When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In The Godfather, it was succession. In The Conversation, it was privacy. In Apocalypse, it was morality. The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.
“I remember in The Conversation, they brought all these coats to me, and they said: Do you want him to look like a detective, Humphrey Bogart? Do you want him to look like a blah blah blah. I didn’t know, and said the theme is ‘privacy’ and chose the plastic coat you could see through. So knowing the theme helps you make a decision when you’re not sure which way to go.”
Sofia Coppola
“I try to just make what I want to make or what I would want to see. I try not to think about the audience too much.”
Jane Campion
“Performers are so vulnerable. They’re frightened of humiliation, sure their work will be crap. I try to make an environment where it’s warm, where it’s OK to fail — a kind of home, I suppose.”
Sally Potter
“I’ve always traveled with the films because I want the audience to be my teacher so that I can learn for the next one.”
Steven Spielberg
“Before I go off and direct a movie, I always look at four films. They tend to be The Seven SamuraiLawrence Of ArabiaIt’s A Wonderful Life and The Searchers.”
Orson Welles
“A long-playing full shot is what always separates the men from the boys. Anybody can make movies with a pair of scissors and a two-inch lens.”
Spike Lee
“Music is, for me, a great tool of a filmmaker, the same way cinematography, the acting, editing, post-production, the costumes are. You know, to help you tell a story. “
Frank Capra
“There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.”
Kathryn Bigelow
“Character and emotionality don’t always have to be relegated to quieter, more simple constructs.”
Jean-Luc Godard
“A film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”
Claire Denis
“I always scout locations first. The apartments, the railway tracks, the café, the canal — I figure out the geography of the film.”
Takeshi Kitano
“I intentionally shoot violence to make the audience feel real pain. I have never and I will never shoot violence as if it’s some kind of action video game.”
Lynne Ramsay
“Don’t try and change things for other people. Don’t try and be persuaded by producers and people to change your vision. If you stick to your vision and you’re true to yourself, it kind of works. I mean, it’s tough. It’s a big Fitzcarraldo journey, but then you’ll have your good karma at the end of the day. You’ll have your good soul. You know, if you start to sell little bits of it, you, you become nothing and nobody, and you don’t have any vision [remaining].”
Andrea Arnold
“When your characters are really living they tell you what they do.”
Mary Harron
“I don’t think there is any one route to directing…. Other than that I think you just have to think ‘By any means possible’ and take any job you can that will get you experience. I also did a lot for free. I got paid virtually nothing for my first film, but it changed my life.”