My top 10 of 2013: 12 Years a Slave (#2)

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More from my Film Stage top 10 list. 

As the end credits rolled during TIFF’s first press and industry screening of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, a peculiar thing occurred: very few people moved. Some quickly sprinted down the stairs, hurrying for their next screening, but many, like yours truly, just sat and stared, feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the experience. The film is that kind of success, a stunningly realized achievement that sees McQueen bring America’s most shameful period to the screen with a fury and authenticity the likes of which audiences have never seen. It’s rare to say a movie has no false notes, but such is the case with 12 Years a Slave, a film that, days later, may still leave viewers shaking.

Schobie’s (premature) Oscar predictions: Best Picture

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Awards season is fun, wild, and absurd. Seeing what is in the mix, what falls away, what sticks, etc., is fascinating, and even though I am not an Oscar insider, I can certainly to pretend to be an Oscar prognosticator. There are still films to be see

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  • Philomena
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

I’m going out on a limb and predicting that All Is Lost, August: Osage County, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska all miss the cut. As I write this, Hustle and Wolf have not been screened, but both seem to be agreed upon as likely candidates. The locks, it seems to me, are 12 Years, Phillips, Gravity, and Mr. Banks. I think respect for Woody Allen and the film’s dramatic power make Blue Jasmine one of the ten (if, that is, there are even ten selections this year). Dallas, Butler, and Philomena, on the other hand, are films that many find extremely moving. That counts for a lot. And even though all three receive strong but not overwhelming reviews, the onscreen emotion will carry them through.

Of course, I could be totally wrong. But I think this ten makes a lot of sense. I believe the ultimate winner will be 12 Years or Gravity — most likely Gravity.

Much depends on how American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street are received. But looking at it logically — box office hit, solid reviews, technological achievement, a “made for the big screen” film, two beloved stars, a respected filmmaker — it is hard not to see Gravity as the film to beat.

I, of course, would be voting for 12 Years a Slave …

The people have spoken: “12 Years a Slave” deservedly wins TIFF’s audience award

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Bravo to Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, and a great cast: “12 Years a Slave” is the deserving winner of the Toronto International Film Festival’s BlackBerry People’s Choice Award. My prediction, “Philomena,” was the runner-up, followed by another strong choice, “Prisoners.”

I had wondered if “12 Years” was simply TOO powerful, but clearly, audiences in Toronto were impacted as greatly as I was. This is a biggie, and clearly sets up the film for an awards run.

Here is my review of the film for The Film Stage. I’ll be shocked to see anything better in 2013.

Photo courtesy of TIFF

My TIFF review round-up (so far)

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I am back from the Toronto International Film Festival, and I’ll continue to be posting articles, reviews, links, and more in the days, weeks, and months to come. But here is a quick round-up of my published TIFF work so far:

I have some more work coming, and I posted plenty on Twitter and Facebook over the course of the weekend.

Photo from “Sarah Prefers to Run” courtesy of TIFF

40 Days to Go: Highlights From TIFF’s First (Cumber)batch of Announcements

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The Toronto International Film Festival is the only major fest I am able to attend each year, so it’s a bit like my Super Bowl. Covering TIFF for Buffalo Spree has been an amazing experience—here is my post-festival analysis from last year—and each year seems to bring new pleasures. In many ways, the festival is an indicator of all the hits (and misses) audiences in Buffalo and beyond can expect for the remainder of the year.

I’m always thrilled to hear the first batch of announcements, and Tuesday morning’s press conference certainly included some films I was hoping would hit TO. Here are some thoughts that first appeared in a piece by me at BuffaloSpree.com.

  • 12 Years a Slave skips Venice for Toronto: This is big. Steve McQueen’s Shame was my favorite film of TIFF 2011—and of 2011, period—so I’m personally thrilled. Skipping Venice and debuting in TO is a major coup for Cameron Bailey and his fellow TIFF organizers.
  • The full Midnight Madness line-up is coming on July 30: It is always fun to see what’s in store here. Last year, I did not make it to any of them. Funny, I recall DESPERATELY wanting to attend the Seven Psychopaths midnight screening. Glad I waited …
  • TIFF’s 2013 MVPs: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Mia Wasikowska all appear in multiple films. Cumberbatch is in three (!), most notably opening night film The Fifth Estate, in which he plays Julian Assange.
  • Under the Skin finally arrives: Jonathan Glazer’s (Sexy Beast, Birth) Scarlett Johansson-starring quasi-sci-fi film has been in production for a lonnng time. Very exciting to see it here.
  • Lots of Cannes hits: The controversial Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour, Like Father Like Son, and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive were three of the most buzzed-about Cannes 2013 entries.
  • The return of Jason Reitman: The first movie I ever saw at TIFF was Reitman’s Juno, and Jared Mobarak and I had the privilege of shaking the director’s hand afterwards. (I’m sure he was thrilled.) Labor Day, starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, seems like a perfect story for his typical blend of humor and drama.
  • Oscar buzz: August: Osage County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Rush, The Fifth Estate, and Gravity are already in the mix.
  • The return of hometown TIFF favorites: In addition to Reitman, Don McKellar and Atom Egoyan are back; the full Canadian lineup is coming soon.
  • Some films I did not even know were in production are screening here: I had no idea Jason Bateman was directing a film (Bad Words), that the late James Gandolfini was starring with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener’s next project (Enough Said), or that Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to Meek’s Cutoff was finished (Night Moves).
  • Missing in action (so far): There is still lots of time for more announcements; TIFF maestro Cameron Bailey said the first batch only included about one-quarter of the complete lineup. But some I’m still hoping to see added are Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (it is playing Venice), and Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man. Also missing, so far, are three of the best-reviewed films at Cannes: the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Robert Redford in All Is Lost, and Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska.

I’ll be covering TIFF 2013 for Spree, on my site, FilmSwoon.com, and hopefully for some other outlets, too, so there is plenty more to come. It’s on, kids …

Photo from 12 Years a Slave courtesy of TIFF.net