Good Morning Toronto, September 9: Showtime Up North

Everybody’s reading the tea leaves, running the numbers and getting ready for Thursday night’s festival kickoff

In this morning’s inaugural roundup of TIFF news ‘n’ notes from around the web, everybody’s reading the tea leaves, running the numbers and getting ready for Thursday night’s festival kickoff.

(TheWrap’s advance take is here, and full Toronto coverage is here.)

Casino JackSteven Zeitchik examines Toronto in a piece whose headline calls the festival “key to the Oscar race.”  But he doesn’t really get into TIFF’s awards clout – which is pronounced some years and almost nonexistent others – until the final few paragraphs of his piece, most of which deals with potentially controversial Toronto films (“Miral,” “Trust,” “Casino Jack”), documentaries and the sales picture. (Los Angeles Times)

Another TIFF curtain-raiser, this one from Gregg Kilday and Borys Kit, rounds up promising films from “Rabbit Hole” to “Beginners,” predicts a muted marketplace, and asks several companies if they plan to be buyers at the festival. Guess what? They all do. Meanwhile, Kevin Cassidy picks five films “likely to generate strong sales buzz.” One thing they have in common: name actors, including Kevin Spacey, Will Ferrell, Paul Giamatti and Jennifer Connelly. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The flip side of Toronto – the movies that’ll never be competing for Oscars because they’ll never be released in the United States – needs some love too, says David Ehrlich. He compiles a list of 10 TIFF entries that he can “almost guarantee will never play in an American movie theater.” His list includes a “bold and inflammatory” Japanese revenge tale, a three-hour collection of newsreels about Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a Turkish film about “an ailing Istanbul wig-maker,” and the “hardcore gay porn” zombie flick called “L.A. Zombie.” Plus the opening-night film, “Score: A Hockey Musical,” which he thinks sounds promising because, well, it’s a hockey musical. (Cinematical)

For the top dog at Toronto, the most important director who’ll be showing a new film isn’t Clint Eastwood or Danny Boyle or Darren Aronofsky – it’s a cranky Frenchman who’s been in the news lately by making himself scarce when the Academy came calling. The Jean-Luc Godard films “Week End” and “Pierre le fou” are the two movies that changed his life, festival CEO Piers Handling tells Diane Jermyn. “They were the first films I saw that actually engaged me intellectually as opposed to emotionally. I absolutely knew cinema was going to be a great, important part of my life.” About 40 years later, he now oversees a “machine” with 180 full-time staffers and about 2,500 seasonal employees and volunteers. (Toronto Globe and Mail)

But Handling hasn’t been running the show himself for several years – he now shares co-director duties with Cameron Bailey, who joins him for a chat with Melissa Leong. Among the topics: favorite festival films (Bailey goes for a comedy, Handling for a drama about office politics), the director who took off all his clothes when he was introduced to a TIFF audience, and the push to become “the most important cultural film organization in the world.” (The Ampersand)

TIFF’s resident geek, “Midnight Madness” programmer Colin Geddes, also gets a chance to explain himself, to Alison Nastasi. Geddes surveys a brilliant programming career that runs from “Hellraiser II” to John Carpenter’s “The Ward,” with stops along the way for dozens of horror flicks, martial arts epics, weird Asian films and other works beloved by fanboys and girls everywhere. He also points out that he turned down “Paranormal Activity,” and he’s unapologetic about it: “It went on to great success, but I had a lot of basic problems with the nature of the film.” (Cinematical)

Johanna Schneller looks at the deal-making that goes on at Toronto, highlighting the films that need distribution and the changing marketplace that has brought small companies like Summit, Magnolia and Oscilloscope into the fold as potential buyers. One TIFF regular who usually walks away from the festival with at least one new film, Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard, is unusually candid about what he sees as one of the areas in which Toronto comes up short: its failure to empower filmmakers by giving them more information about sales and publicity. (Toronto Globe and Mail)

Jeff Wells posts three TIFF photos and says he’s happy to be back in Toronto. The pool starts immediately on how long I’ll be before he complains about the wi-fi. (Hollywood Elsewhere)