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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/15/2009

Hitting the Highlights of the Toronto Film Festival

By Jen Chaney

George Clooney at a press conference for his new movie 'Up In The Air' on Saturday in Toronto. (AP)

Jen Chaney has spent the past five days at the Toronto International Film Festival. Today she recaps the highlights of her experience.

Covering the Toronto Film Festival has brought on a bit of an existential crisis. I've tried to be everywhere at once in this celeb-filled Canadian city, and perhaps, as a result, I've been nowhere. Or maybe I just think that because I've seen too many movies during the past few days that raise important questions about the human condition. I've met George Clooney, therefore I am: could that be the meaning of life?

Honestly, I don't know. All I know is that I had a wonderful time covering one of the most significant film festivals in the world. While doing so, I tried my best to get a sense of what was happening in terms of the stars, the cinema and the scene. Here's what I managed to soak up.

The Stars
There are so many famous movie faces in Toronto right now that it's pretty tough to sneeze without spewing germs on someone who previously earned an Oscar nomination. I spotted and/or chatted with several actors and filmmakers during my stay, but the highlight for me had to be the Friday after-party following "The Men Who Stare at Goats" premiere.

Held at a gorgeous, contemporary private residence just outside of Toronto -- and complete with live goats all decked out in T-shirts that said "Stop Staring at Me" -- the event attracted "Goats" stars George Clooney and Jeff Bridges, as well as Jason Bateman and Richard Kind, a Clooney pal and one of the stars of the new Coen brothers movie, "A Serious Man."

I actually spent a few minutes that night chatting with the affable Clooney. What did we discuss? I know we talked about his performance in the movie "Up in the Air." I also know that he had a few drinks and gave a big 'ol kiss on the cheek to a waitress when she brought him another glass of champagne. (To her credit, she accepted the kiss without dropping her tray.) (And apparently without becoming his latest girlfriend. -- Liz) Beyond that, all I can tell you is that I opened my mouth and words tumbled out. Exactly what I said remains a mystery.

Other tidbits I picked up at that party: Bateman confirmed that Mitch Hurwitz is about halfway through the script for the "Arrested Development" movie and that the entire cast is on board to do it once said script is complete. (Hooray!) And director Mary Harron ("American Psycho"), also in attendance that night, confirmed that her adaptation of "The Moth Diaries" will be a vampire film more along the lines of "Let the Right One In" than, say, "Twilight."

Meanwhile, I have to give top film festival honesty points to Gabourey Sidibe, the young actress who plays Precious in the Oprah Winfrey-endorsed film of the same name. During a cocktail reception for the movie on Sunday night, I asked Sidibe if she was having fun at the festival. "No," she said, sounding a little panic-stricken. I asked if she felt overwhelmed by all the attention. She said yes. "I did six hours of interviews today," she added. I didn't want to tell her things will only get more intense if she gets an Oscar nomination. So I said things will probably get better. Yeah, I had to tell a little white lie in the face of Sidibe's truthfulness. But what I really wanted to say was: Precious, it's all right to admit that this Hollywood thing can sometimes be a total pain in the rear.

The Scene
There are different levels of famous-person stalking that can be pursued at the Toronto Film Festival. If you want to spot film critic royalty like Roger Ebert or Elvis Mitchell, hang out at the Cumberland or the Cineplex Odeon Varsity, where most of the press and industry screenings take place.

If you want to see a bona fide movie star, park yourself -- as many people did, for hours on end -- outside the key swanky hotels in downtown Toronto. Numerous young girls camped out at the Four Seasons every day, just hoping for a fleeting glimpse of a Jonas brother making a Starbucks run. (The Disney boys are staying here while shooting the next "Camp Rock" movie.) And a mix of paparazzi and autograph-seekers maintained a permanent residence a few steps beyond the front doors of the Intercontinental, where many of the studios' junkets take place. In some cases, the fans don't even know who they've just managed to meet, as evidenced by one nice young man who showed me his newly acquired signature from Juliette Lewis, yet repeatedly referred to her as "Julia."

The Cinema
Yes, all that star-spotting is fun. But in the end, the Toronto Film Festival is about the films. I didn't catch even a fraction of the movies I wanted to see. But here are a few things I can tell you based on some of the films I saw and the buzz I absorbed.

"The Road" is tough to watch at times but very well done.

The adjective most commonly used to describe the Charles Darwin biopic "Creation," starring Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany: eh.

Reactions to "Men Who Stare at Goats" are mixed, ranging from "hilarious" to "I hated it." (Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.)

The "Dorian Gray" remake isn't great.

Clive Owen delivers a solid performance in "The Boys Are Back."

And everyone loves "Up in the Air." It will earn at least one or two Academy Award nominations. Mark those words. You heard them from the Toronto Film Festival first.

By Jen Chaney  | September 15, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Extreme Fans, Pop Culture  
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Comments

"Gabourey Sidibe, the young actress who plays Precious in the Oprah Winfrey..."

Sherri Shepard plays a character named "Cornrows" in this movie. Tee-hee.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 15, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Jen, promise you'll tell us if anyone asks what you and Roger Ebert talked about.

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 15, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The adjective most commonly used to describe the Charles Darwin biopic "Creation," starring Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany: eh.

I was hoping it would be fantastic, if only to stick it to the Creationists.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

byoolin, I'm not so sure that poor Roger can talk much any more. Doesn't he mostly just type his thoughts nowadays?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Jen, I volunteer to go with you next time. You may need a doctor with you if you swoon. Call me.

Posted by: hodie | September 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

hodie, Hippocrates would be so proud of you!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm turning green with envy over the fact that you got to see "The Road."

Oh I'm envious over Clooney too, but Viggo...I'd take him over Clooney any day.

Posted by: wadejg | September 15, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Nosy, I would even do it for free!

Posted by: hodie | September 15, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

hodie, doesn't Clooney's injured hand still need your tender ministrations?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

What about Tom Ford's movie A Single Man starring the amazingly brilliant Colin Firth? Any Firth sightings?

Posted by: audiomom | September 15, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"The Road" sounds like the book. I thought it was astounding, but it was not an easy read.

And I'm sad that "Creation" isn't fab. I do love me some evolution and some Darwin. (Some Paul Bettany isn't bad either.)

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | September 15, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Oh, forgot to ask! Any word on how "Precious" was? I'd love to hear the word in Toronto.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | September 15, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

hodie, doesn't Clooney's injured hand still need your tender ministrations?

I would do that for free too! ;o)

Posted by: hodie | September 15, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Your pro bono instincts are impeccable, doc!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Your pro bono instincts are impeccable, doc!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Lol!

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 15, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Future News:

In a post to be titled "Hitting the Highlights of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival," I look forward to Jen talking about meeting director Peter Berg and the cast of his new film, "Battleship," based on Hasbro's naval combat board game.

I [rhymes with 'hit'] you not.

http://weblogs.variety.com/bfdealmemo/2009/09/peter-berg-boards-battleship.html

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 15, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Jesus:

"Aside from "Battleship" and "Stretch Armstrong," [Universal] is separately developing "Clue" with Gore Verbinski, "Monopoly" with Ridley Scott, "Candyland" with director Kevin Lima, and "Ouija" with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes."

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 15, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Jesus:

"Aside from "Battleship" and "Stretch Armstrong," [Universal] is separately developing "Clue" with Gore Verbinski, "Monopoly" with Ridley Scott, "Candyland" with director Kevin Lima, and "Ouija" with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes."

What?! No Parchesi? What about Sorry?

Posted by: hodie | September 15, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Cheney, I believe you forgot to ask one vital journalistic question.

Where in God's name (or, perhaps, in Toronto) does one rent live goats for a party?!

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | September 15, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Bawlmer, perhaps the goats came from Amish and Mennonite farms outlying Kitchener and Waterloo. byoolin? byoolin???

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Toronto's greatest and most consistent supply of goats come from one of four sources:

the Maple Leafs (NHL)
the Blue Jays (MLB)
the Raptors (NBA)
the Argos (CFL)

Any one of those teams are usually good for a goat a game...

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 15, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Jesus:

"Aside from "Battleship" and "Stretch Armstrong," [Universal] is separately developing "Clue" with Gore Verbinski, "Monopoly" with Ridley Scott, "Candyland" with director Kevin Lima, and "Ouija" with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes."

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 15, 2009 4:35 PM

Hmmm... only thing I see missing is "Hungry Hungry Hippos" with the Universal Studios execs.

Posted by: northgs | September 15, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Poor ol' Make Believes.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

hodie
What?! No Parchesi? What about Sorry?

Makes one long for "The Name of the Rose."

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | September 15, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Jen, I'm dying to hear about Stephen Poliakoff's Glorious 39. Have you seen it?

Posted by: film4future | September 15, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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