Toronto film festival builds buzz, but business is off
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The Toronto International Film Festival reached its midpoint with films like the The Descendants and actor Michael Fassbender winning praise, but a nagging question about the future of dark dramas in Hollywood has hovered over the event. Toronto, which along with recently-wrapped festivals in Venice and Telluride, helps launch the movie awards season and industry pros gather to build buzz for their films. Yet, while some dramas have been praised for their stories and characters, few business deals have been made to put many of those movies into theatres.
Industry observers, such as Sony Pictures Classics head Michael Barker, said that while Toronto is "the ideal way to launch a film," there have been fewer deals made so far due to some content being considered a hard sell for consumers. "Regarding new films that haven't been acquired, my personal belief is it's been slower than in previous years," Barker said. Among the more popular work has been George Clooney's starring role as a soul-searching father in The Descendants, as well as his direction and performance in political thriller The Ides Of March.
Clooney showed up on the red carpet for debuts of both films. The Descendants, from Alexander Payne who directed the Oscar-winning Sideways, brings a familiar blend of comedy and tragedy set this time against a Hawaiian backdrop. It earned a standing ovation at its premiere.
Shame, which was acquired by Fox Searchlight before the festival but may be a hard sell in theatres for various full frontal nudity and sex scenes, won over critics for British director Steve McQueen and lead actor Fassbender, an award winner at last week's Venice film festival. Fassbender, 34, has seen his acting career blossom after a performance in McQueen's first feature, Hunger, which led to a role in Inglourious Basterds and another film showing at Toronto this year, David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. He remained humble about a possible best actor Oscar nomination. "I don't think about it too much to be honest, because that way madness lies," he said. "My energy is better placed in other areas, just really in terms of my work."
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