1. Sure the Toronto International Film Festival closed a few weeks ago with 12 Years A Slave winning the Audience Award (FYI, that Audience Award isn’t always an indication that a film will do well, but recent recipients include Best Picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s Silver Linings Playbook).  But the films that showed there are slowly but surely making their way to theaters near you and will continue to do so well into 2014.  Fresh Air Producers Ann Marie Baldonado and Lauren Krenzel have some final thoughts on some films you may want to look out for.

12 Years a Slave (pictured above)I say believe the hype. This film about a free black man (Chiwetel Eijofor) who gets kidnapped and forced into slavery is incredibly difficult to watch, but is so incredibly worth it.  You see families callously separated, slaves beaten to death or near death, and the quiet, outrageous indignities slaves had to endure on Southern plantations in the 1840s and 50s.  During the official TIFF press conference for the film, director Steve McQueen said he wanted to make a movie about slavery because he “wanted to see images from that particular past, (he) wanted to experience it through images.”  This visual artist turned feature film director expertly takes us through scenes that are long, in a way too long, forcing viewers to deal with the brutality of what they are watching.  At times you are floored, you flinch or shut your eyes, you may cry, but you have to deal with the images.  McQueen’s choices are careful, deliberate, political.  Yes, it’s a difficult 2 plus hours to sit through, but if 12 Years a Slave is a film that is trying to honestly address slavery, shouldn’t it be?  (Also stars Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sara Paulson and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.  Release date: October 18th) –  Ann Marie Baldonado
Enough Said
As Nicole Holofcener said during the Q & A after the premiere of Enough Said, this is the film of hers that “actually has a plot.”  Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a divorced masseuse who starts to date a middle-aged man, only to find out she’s also unknowingly befriended his ex-wife who begins listing all of his irritating faults.  It’s a comedy of manners and the performances sparkle.  Louis-Dreyfus uses her considerable comedic skills to portray a flawed woman you can enjoy.  The rest of the cast is also great—-with Toni Collette as a refreshingly honest friend and Catherine Keener as the poetess ex-wife.  But it’s bittersweet to see James Gandolfini here in one of his last roles.  His presence is so keen and natural and intelligent, you’re left feeling slightly bereft at the end of this adult comedy. (In theaters now) –Lauren Krenzel
Dallas Buyers Club
This is the movie Matthew McConaughey lost all of that weight for.  Sure, dramatically transforming your physical appearance for an acting role is the equivalent of donning a sandwich board that says “Reward me with an Oscar nomination”, but I say you have to hand it to McConaughey; in this film he also managed to strap on the acting chops we all kind of knew that he had ( right?).  The film is based on the true story of Ron Woodroff, a straight electrician/rodeo cowboy who contracted HIV in 1986.  He denies that he has the “gay disease” for as long as he can, then finally starts looking for treatment.  After getting frustrated with the lack of drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS patients, he starts smuggling cutting edge treatments into the US from all over the world.  At first, he treats himself, but then begins selling the drugs out of a motel room.  He consequently becomes a lifeline for the mostly gay population suffering with the disease, giving his clients the treatments the FDA is too slow to approve.  Also looking completely skeletal is  Jared Leto, who plays a pre-op transsexual who becomes Woodroff’s unlikely business partner and friend.   Leto may also be getting some Oscar attention for his work.  The film loses a little narrative steam as it goes on, but it’s matter-of-fact style and extremely strong performances can’t be denied. (Release date: November 1st)- AMB
Only Lovers Left Alive
This latest film by veteran filmmaker Jim Jarmusch could easily be dismissed as just another vampire project. But this one lingers in the mind long after, with great visuals, grinding, dark music and the luminous Tilda Swinton—who could very well be an actual vampire.  Here, she is centuries-old and lives in present-day Tangiers but travels to Detroit to help her depressed, underground musician, vampire husband, played by Tom Hiddleston.  Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt show up to complicate the plot and in the end, the film becomes an oddly humorous and poetic meditation on eternal life and a very long marriage.  (Release date: TBA)- LK
The Lunchbox
A few years ago, Mumbai and New York City based director Ritesh Batra was working on a short documentary about the century-old practice of delivering homemade lunches to the offices of Mumbai; couriers pick up lunch containers from homes in surrounding towns and through an elaborate system that utilizes bicycles, trains, color coding, and symbols, those boxes somehow find their way to the right desks in the right office buildings, then find their way back to the right homes after lunch.  That exposure inspired Batra to write the screenplay for The Lunchbox, a film that charmed film festival audiences in Cannes before doing so in Toronto (I think this film could have been a serious contender for the Audience Prize, had its second public screening not been upended by print problems).  A stay-at-home mother (Nimrat Kaur) fears she is losing touch with her husband who is working longer hours.  In attempt to get him to notice her again, she pours a lot of love and effort into the lunches she prepares for him (try not to see this film on an empty stomach).  The usually fool proof lunch delivery system fails when her culinary masterpieces are wrongfully delivered to a grumpy widower who is about to retire, played by Irrfan Khan.  The lonely wife and lonely office worker start writing notes to each other, delivered in the lunchbox, and begin to find the connection they have both been longing for.  This is a great first feature by Batra.  He finds beauty and interest in Mumbai’s cramped train cars and non descript office buildings— not an easy feat— though perhaps his best directorial move was casting Kahn as his leading man.  Here again Kahn displays his ability to impart all of his characters, no matter how taciturn, with an interior life.  Inevitably, you can see it in his eyes, a certain longing and regret that is always compelling.  Hopefully the news this week that India did not chose The Lunchbox as its Oscar submission this year (and Batra’s vocal reaction against it) won’t stop people from finding this film.   (Release date: TBA)- AMBBad Words Here is a piece of trivia.  Jason Bateman became the Directors Guild of America’s youngest-ever director when he helmed a few episodes of his show The Hogan Family when he was eighteen.  Now over 20 years later, he has finally directed a feature film.  Why did he choose Bad Words to be his first feature?  He says it was partly due to the fact that the dark, “Blacklist” screenplay was close to his own sense of humor, and partly because “the size and the scope of the film” was something he felt he could take on.  He is right that there is something to be said for not biting off more than you can chew, and he does just that.  This great, tight little comedy kept me laughing throughout, with lines and bits that were just. plain. wrong.  Bateman plays 40-year-old Guy Trilby, a misanthrope who after finding a loophole in the national spelling bee guidelines, decides he is going to compete and take every pre-pubescent kid down.  He verbally abuses the children.  He uses their insecurities— about their bodies, their nerdiness, their parents—against them, shaking  their confidence, disrupting the careful way they attack each word they need to spell.  He does befriend one competitor, Chaitanya, a naive Indian-American boy played by relative newcomer Rohan Chand (who at 9 is about the age Bateman was when he started acting).  One sequence where Guy takes Chaitanya out for a night on the town, complete with ice cream, car chases, pranks on cops, drinking, and an interaction with a prostitute, left the Toronto crowd howling.  Sounds wrong, right?  That’s what makes it funny.  I say with Bad Words, our love affair with Bateman’s portrayal of morally questionable men continues.  Focus features just announced this week that the film will make it to theaters early next year. (Also stars Allison Janney, Kathryn Hahn, and Phillip Baker Hall.  Release date: March 21st, 2014)

Even though we saw 15 movies each, we still managed to miss a few that caused lots of excitement and bidding wars at the festival:  The F Word, starring soon-to-be Fresh Air guest Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver;  Can a Song Save Your Life, starring Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo, directed by John Carney who directed Once, and All is By My Side, directed by John Ridley, starring Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 of Outkast as a young Jimmy Hendrix.  Ann Marie saw sections of this film and found Benjamin’s turn as Hendrix to be kind of extraordinary. (Release dates to be announced) View in High-Res

    Sure the Toronto International Film Festival closed a few weeks ago with 12 Years A Slave winning the Audience Award (FYI, that Audience Award isn’t always an indication that a film will do well, but recent recipients include Best Picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s Silver Linings Playbook).  But the films that showed there are slowly but surely making their way to theaters near you and will continue to do so well into 2014.  Fresh Air Producers Ann Marie Baldonado and Lauren Krenzel have some final thoughts on some films you may want to look out for.



    12 Years a Slave (pictured above)

    I say believe the hype. This film about a free black man (Chiwetel Eijofor) who gets kidnapped and forced into slavery is incredibly difficult to watch, but is so incredibly worth it.  You see families callously separated, slaves beaten to death or near death, and the quiet, outrageous indignities slaves had to endure on Southern plantations in the 1840s and 50s.  During the official TIFF press conference for the film, director Steve McQueen said he wanted to make a movie about slavery because he “wanted to see images from that particular past, (he) wanted to experience it through images.”  This visual artist turned feature film director expertly takes us through scenes that are long, in a way too long, forcing viewers to deal with the brutality of what they are watching.  At times you are floored, you flinch or shut your eyes, you may cry, but you have to deal with the images.  McQueen’s choices are careful, deliberate, political.  Yes, it’s a difficult 2 plus hours to sit through, but if 12 Years a Slave is a film that is trying to honestly address slavery, shouldn’t it be?  (Also stars Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sara Paulson and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.  Release date: October 18th) – Ann Marie Baldonado


    Enough Said


    As Nicole Holofcener said during the Q & A after the premiere of Enough Said, this is the film of hers that “actually has a plot.”  Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a divorced masseuse who starts to date a middle-aged man, only to find out she’s also unknowingly befriended his ex-wife who begins listing all of his irritating faults.  It’s a comedy of manners and the performances sparkle.  Louis-Dreyfus uses her considerable comedic skills to portray a flawed woman you can enjoy.  The rest of the cast is also great—-with Toni Collette as a refreshingly honest friend and Catherine Keener as the poetess ex-wife.  But it’s bittersweet to see James Gandolfini here in one of his last roles.  His presence is so keen and natural and intelligent, you’re left feeling slightly bereft at the end of this adult comedy. (In theaters now) –Lauren Krenzel


    Dallas Buyers Club


    This is the movie Matthew McConaughey lost all of that weight for.  Sure, dramatically transforming your physical appearance for an acting role is the equivalent of donning a sandwich board that says “Reward me with an Oscar nomination”, but I say you have to hand it to McConaughey; in this film he also managed to strap on the acting chops we all kind of knew that he had ( right?).  The film is based on the true story of Ron Woodroff, a straight electrician/rodeo cowboy who contracted HIV in 1986.  He denies that he has the “gay disease” for as long as he can, then finally starts looking for treatment.  After getting frustrated with the lack of drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS patients, he starts smuggling cutting edge treatments into the US from all over the world.  At first, he treats himself, but then begins selling the drugs out of a motel room.  He consequently becomes a lifeline for the mostly gay population suffering with the disease, giving his clients the treatments the FDA is too slow to approve.  Also looking completely skeletal is  Jared Leto, who plays a pre-op transsexual who becomes Woodroff’s unlikely business partner and friend.   Leto may also be getting some Oscar attention for his work.  The film loses a little narrative steam as it goes on, but it’s matter-of-fact style and extremely strong performances can’t be denied. (Release date: November 1st)- AMB


    Only Lovers Left Alive


    This latest film by veteran filmmaker Jim Jarmusch could easily be dismissed as just another vampire project. But this one lingers in the mind long after, with great visuals, grinding, dark music and the luminous Tilda Swinton—who could very well be an actual vampire.  Here, she is centuries-old and lives in present-day Tangiers but travels to Detroit to help her depressed, underground musician, vampire husband, played by Tom Hiddleston.  Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt show up to complicate the plot and in the end, the film becomes an oddly humorous and poetic meditation on eternal life and a very long marriage.  (Release date: TBA)- LK


    The Lunchbox

    A few years ago, Mumbai and New York City based director Ritesh Batra was working on a short documentary about the century-old practice of delivering homemade lunches to the offices of Mumbai; couriers pick up lunch containers from homes in surrounding towns and through an elaborate system that utilizes bicycles, trains, color coding, and symbols, those boxes somehow find their way to the right desks in the right office buildings, then find their way back to the right homes after lunch.  That exposure inspired Batra to write the screenplay for The Lunchbox, a film that charmed film festival audiences in Cannes before doing so in Toronto (I think this film could have been a serious contender for the Audience Prize, had its second public screening not been upended by print problems).  A stay-at-home mother (Nimrat Kaur) fears she is losing touch with her husband who is working longer hours.  In attempt to get him to notice her again, she pours a lot of love and effort into the lunches she prepares for him (try not to see this film on an empty stomach).  The usually fool proof lunch delivery system fails when her culinary masterpieces are wrongfully delivered to a grumpy widower who is about to retire, played by Irrfan Khan.  The lonely wife and lonely office worker start writing notes to each other, delivered in the lunchbox, and begin to find the connection they have both been longing for.  This is a great first feature by Batra.  He finds beauty and interest in Mumbai’s cramped train cars and non descript office buildings— not an easy feat— though perhaps his best directorial move was casting Kahn as his leading man.  Here again Kahn displays his ability to impart all of his characters, no matter how taciturn, with an interior life.  Inevitably, you can see it in his eyes, a certain longing and regret that is always compelling.  Hopefully the news this week that India did not chose The Lunchbox as its Oscar submission this year (and Batra’s vocal reaction against it) won’t stop people from finding this film.   (Release date: TBA)- AMB


    Bad Words

    Here is a piece of trivia.  Jason Bateman became the Directors Guild of America’s youngest-ever director when he helmed a few episodes of his show The Hogan Family when he was eighteen.  Now over 20 years later, he has finally directed a feature film.  Why did he choose Bad Words to be his first feature?  He says it was partly due to the fact that the dark, “Blacklist” screenplay was close to his own sense of humor, and partly because “the size and the scope of the film” was something he felt he could take on.  He is right that there is something to be said for not biting off more than you can chew, and he does just that.  This great, tight little comedy kept me laughing throughout, with lines and bits that were just. plain. wrong.  Bateman plays 40-year-old Guy Trilby, a misanthrope who after finding a loophole in the national spelling bee guidelines, decides he is going to compete and take every pre-pubescent kid down.  He verbally abuses the children.  He uses their insecurities— about their bodies, their nerdiness, their parents—against them, shaking  their confidence, disrupting the careful way they attack each word they need to spell.  He does befriend one competitor, Chaitanya, a naive Indian-American boy played by relative newcomer Rohan Chand (who at 9 is about the age Bateman was when he started acting).  One sequence where Guy takes Chaitanya out for a night on the town, complete with ice cream, car chases, pranks on cops, drinking, and an interaction with a prostitute, left the Toronto crowd howling.  Sounds wrong, right?  That’s what makes it funny.  I say with Bad Words, our love affair with Bateman’s portrayal of morally questionable men continues.  Focus features just announced this week that the film will make it to theaters early next year. (Also stars Allison Janney, Kathryn Hahn, and Phillip Baker Hall.  Release date: March 21st, 2014)



    Even though we saw 15 movies each, we still managed to miss a few that caused lots of excitement and bidding wars at the festival:  The F Word, starring soon-to-be Fresh Air guest Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver;  Can a Song Save Your Life, starring Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo, directed by John Carney who directed Once, and All is By My Side, directed by John Ridley, starring Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 of Outkast as a young Jimmy Hendrix.  Ann Marie saw sections of this film and found Benjamin’s turn as Hendrix to be kind of extraordinary. (Release dates to be announced)

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