And the best movie to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is … "Sightseers?"
British director Ben Wheatley's black comedy, which deals with a couple whose vacation around the U.K. also includes a few murders, isn't one of the highest-profile titles at the festival. But when the Saturday Night at the Movies blog invited Twitter followers and TIFF journalists to list their three favorite movies at the festival, "Sightseers" (below) showed up on four of the 24 lists, more than any other film.
"'Sightseers' takes what should be a safe and loving relationship, replaces it with a cancerous growth of paranoia and resentment, and then magnifies this corruption to the point where it becomes comically grotesque," writes Matt Goldberg approvingly at Collider.
Runners-up, with three votes each, include Ben Affleck's likely hit "Argo," Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" and Sarah Polley's acclaimed documentary "Stories We Tell," along with Harmony Korine's divisive "Spring Breakers," Pablo Berger's Snow White overhaul "Blancanieves" and Javier Ruiz Caldera's "Ghost Graduation," a Spanish John Hughes homage in which all of Hughes' high-school archetypes are present as ghosts in a fire-damaged school library. (Will Smith has the English-language remake rights.)
Films with two votes include the documentaries "The Act of Killing" and "Berberian Sound Studio," as well as "Frances Ha," "The Hunt," "Rust and Bone," "To the Wonder," "Silver Linings Playbook" and others. The 30 single-vote getters include "Cloud Atlas," "Ginger and Rosa," "The Impossible," "Looper," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "The Sapphires" and "Seven Psychopaths."
"The Paperboy," which had its TIFF debut on Friday, didn't make any of the lists, which isn't a surprise – Lee Daniel's overheated Southern Gothic potboiler holds a certain fascination, but it's more seamy than steamy and more silly than sexy.
Zac Efron, who plays the younger brother of Matthew McConaughey's Florida reporter, joined Daniels to introduce the film (right) – but Nicole Kidman, who got all the headlines out of Cannes for the scene in which her lusty character urinates on Efron after he's stung by jellyfish, did not make the trip.
Considerably classier, presumably, is "Emperor," which stars Tommy Lee Jones and General Douglas MacArthur and had the night's biggest premiere, at the Roy Thomson Hall. Director Peter Webber and his cast got the usual standing ovation, and a number of gushing reactions from fans in attendance: "a spellbinding, extraordinarily beautiful and exceptionally well told story" was a typical tweet. (Critics, though, have yet to chime in.)
The film also benefited from some good timing: Not only was the first clip from the tale of the occupation of Japan immediately after the end of World War II released a few hours before the premiere, but its acquisition by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate was announced almost simultaneously with the debut.
Shortly after "Emperor" debuted, the documentary "Artifact" played to an enormously enthusiastic audience at the Ryerson. The film is directed by actor-musician Jared Leto, and it chronicles the lawsuit between Virgin Records and the band in which Leto is a member, 30 Seconds to Mars.
The first time Leto – who plays in the band under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins – screened the film for a preview audience in Los Angeles, a man rushed the stage and dropped a suspicious package at Leto's feed; the bomb squad was called, the building evacuated and the screening postponed for a day.
In Toronto, the audience was considerably more enthusiastic, reportedly welcoming the doc with a lengthy standing ovation.
And speaking of lengthy ovations, the Gauri Shinde film "English Vinglish" got one of its own after midnight at Roy Thomson Hall. "Slumdog meets Bend It Like Beckham meets Monsoon Wedding," tweeted Toronto "cultural impresario" Marcello Cabezas of the film, which marks the return of Indian actress Sridevi after a 14-year absence from the movies.