1. Ann Marie Baldonado: An Update on Distribution at the Toronto Film Festival


    The Toronto Film Festival ended this weekend with the top award,The People’s Choice Award, going to The King’s Speech, the film about King George VI (father of Queen Elisabeth) and the speech therapist who helped him get rid of his stutter.

    The awards at Toronto don’t mean as much as say the awards at Cannes or Sundance, but the winners of the audience award usually end up doing well at Oscar time.  

    Two years ago, Slumdog Millionaire was a clear crowd pleaser and audience award winner, and last year it was Precious.  Coming out of the festival, The King’s Speech is a talked about favorite for a best film nomination, as well as acting awards for Colin Firth as the King and Geoffrey Rush as his trusted friend and advisor.

    In other updates, a number of films I wrote about here have gotten distribution deals.  In fact, industry insiders are calling this the most-active Toronto market in years.  This weekend, Beginners, Mike Mills' second feature film, was picked up by Focus Films.  No official word yet on when they will release the film in the US, but some speculate it will come out the middle of 2011.  

    Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions purchased the Will Ferrell film, Everything Must Go, as well as the Robert Redford directed historical drama, The Conspirator, and Lionsgate alone will be distributing Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole
    Kidman and Aaron Eckhart.  

    Other films that were purchased include the new Kelly Reichart film, Meek’s Cutoff, starring Michelle Williams, Passion Play starring Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox, the films Peepworld, Beautiful Boy, and Dirty Girl, as well as 3 films that have gotten positive reviews that I unfortunately didn’t catch at the festival — Werner Herzog's new 3D documentary Caves of Forgotten Dreams, Submarine, and Incendies, which won The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature, and got a distribution deal from Sony Picture Classics.

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  1. Fresh Air Producer Ann Marie Baldonado on Rabbit Hole

    Will people want to go see a film about a couple dealing with the accidental death of their 4-year-old son?  That question is probably on the minds of film distributors, deciding if Rabbit Hole is worth purchasing.  The film premiered last Monday with stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, and director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) in attendance.

    This may be Kidman’s best performance in years.  Her pale, almost motionless face serves her well as a mom, so rattled by her grief that the only outward manifestations she can muster are perfect posture and the constant baking of pies and cakes.  She waits around in her perfect house, but she doesn’t know what she is waiting for.  

    Meanwhile her husband, played by Eckhart, goes to work and plays squash — while still coming home every evening to watch a 20-second video of his son that is still on his iPhone.  

    It’s a tragedy no one wants to think about and one that seems unlikely that a parent can ever recover. But by never making us really see or experience the exact moment of tragedy, the film shows a bit of self restraint that I appreciated, especially in these ‘show everything in movies’ times (I did just see a guy cut off his own arm, after all.)

    The film, based on a play that won Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award, was not as exploitatively heart wrenching as I thought it might be (another film about the death of a son at Toronto, Beautiful Boy starring Maria Bello and Michael Sheen,  was more so.)

    There were even surprising moment of laughter, some of them provided by supporting cast members Diane Wiest, who plays Kidman’s mom, and Sandra Oh, who plays a mom Kidman and Eckhart meet through a grieving parents support group.

    A few critics have talked about this being a role that could get Kidman another Oscar nomination, but a distributor would have to buy the film and put it on a fast track to premiere in theaters before year’s end, in order for it to qualify for the next Oscar round.  

    Which brings me back to my first question: Would people want to see this movie?  I am not sure I would want to go through the experience of watching a film like this, if I wasn’t doing it for you, dear listeners.  And remember I kind of liked the film. We will see what answer those distributors come up with.

    [Update: Rabbit Hole found a distributor. Lionsgate will release the film by year’s end, making it eligible for Oscar nominations.]

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