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TIFF ’14: Seymour: An Introduction, Ethan & Seymour

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Fridday Estimates by The Klaze Runner

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-09-20 at 8.43.05 AM

Well, it doesn’t look like there will be a feeling other than “blah” about the theatrical box office between the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first week of August and the opening of Interstellar and Big Hero Six the first weekend of November. There are likely hits and nice openings (Gone Girl, The Equalizer, Book of Life, maybe Fury), but $50 million-plus openings look to be at least another 7 weekends away.

The Maze Runner (“we called it margarine”) will be the best opening since the Mutant Turtles resurfaced on the weekend of August 8. But it’s still looking like it will come up short of the first Percy Jackson film, which was not a big event. Interestingly, looking at the Box Office Mojo chart of YA Adaptations, there is a big gap between Percy‘s opening ($31m) and the next opening, which is The Fault in Our Stars with a $48m launch. The Top 17 titles, all opening at that $48m or better, all did at least $125m domestic. In the lower half (30 titles opening to $31m opening or less), only two films were leggy enough to get to the $100m domestic mark, Lemony Snicket and The Princess Diaries. It is also worth noting that in that Top 17, it’s all Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games except for the two bottom titles, Divergent and Fault.

Speaking of overworked franchises, the Liam Neeson Whispering Threats genre may be coming to an end. A Walk Among The Tombstones is going to be his weakest wide opening since Taken, with the exception of The Next Three Days, a Paul Haggis film that Lionsgate allowed to escape more than released. Or maybe this is just a fluke. Perhaps Neeson will bring new life to the tough guys turned nanny genre next. “I know you don’t want to put away your toys. But I have special skills in dealing with naughty children. I’ll give you one last chance…”

And This Is Where I Leave You seems to be in the Don’t Tell Them It’s About Jews category and the Sell The Ensemble Not The Movie oeuvre. Neither really draws well. It certainly was the quietest big studio premiere in recent TIFF memory. And indeed, with a boatload of talent (though with due respect to Adam Driver, the hot name of the moment has never sold a movie ticket), a marginal number of people bought tickets yesterday. I saw a Tina Fey interview in which she mentioned Admission and noted, “But nobody saw that.” Expect her to use the line on this film in future interviews.

Not a lot of redemption at the arthouse. The big per-screen in limited release will be Yellow Day, which is not another “New Girl” spin-off, but rather another spiritual film. Right behind it will be Hector & The Search For Happiness, a film that I found charming, if imperfect. Lots of new titles riding that $4000 to $5000 per-screen mark this weekend.

TIFF ’14: The Humbling, Al Pacino, Greta Gerwig

Friday, September 19th, 2014

BYOB 091914

Friday, September 19th, 2014


Trailer: Weinstein Co (Smartly) Rebrands Big Eyes As An Amy Adams Oscar Vehicle

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

And Yahoo! reminds us why giving them a trailer exclusive is not a good idea.

Update 5:21p – And now, it is working… thanks…

Update 5:19p – This link seems to work…

TIFF ’14: Jon Stewart, writer/director of Rosewater

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

TIFF ’14: Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

@TIFF: The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch & Knightley

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Wrapping TIFF 2014

Monday, September 15th, 2014

tiff jon stewart

My experience of the Toronto International Film Festival used to be quite different.

The film count was about the same. The location was different… but not so that it really changed the tone of the festival.

The event screenings were, back in the 90s, pretty much exclusively at Roy Thompson Hall. Opening night sported just one film and one party. The RTH was an exotic location, miles from the rest of the festival.

Over time, the Elgin evolved into a key premiere (and sometimes studio “work-in-progress) venue. It only got hotter when the entire event moved into the theater district.

The Princess of Wales was only added to the screening schedule a few years ago, when Jonathan Demme wanted better sound for that year’s Neil Young doc. Dolby built out the best sound at the festival and by the next year, it was a full time festival theater… which was also the preferred choice for many filmmakers premiering at the festival.

So now you have 3, count ‘em, 3 venues at TIFF for major premieres… each of which usually has at least 2 major premieres a night over the opening 5 days of the festival. That makes 30 PREMIERES! (as opposed to the more staid “premiere”).

Parties in the old days might be at Roots or some other retail venue turned party room during festival week. There were some bigger rooms. Some temporary discos. Closing night was in the Skydome.

In 2000, the festival asked 25 directors to make 25 films of (approximately) 25 minutes in length in 25 hours at the festival in celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary. It was called 25 x 25 and featured some very well known directors and some up and comers.

If they tried that these days, the filmmakers would be followed live by TV crews, appear together in a 2-page spread in EW, have a special issue in The Hollywood Reporter, be branded trendsetters by a certain LA Times reporter, and have their sex lives investigated by The Wrap.

I miss the Uptown theater. I miss Dusty Cohl. I miss Roger Ebert.

The Sony Classics dinner, which has been going on forever it seems, used to be quiet and mellow. This year, there was a red carpet and no fewer than 150 people trying to get a look at the parade of SPC talent. I get it… I get it. But it was once a singular respite from the insanity. Now it’s a great place to catch up with filmmakers and journalists… but a bit like a wedding with two dozen brides.

But the past is the past. The TIFF show is bigger and brassier than ever. More importantly, there is still a great film festival there.

I only saw 27 movies at TIFF this year. We shot 30 interviews, but some of those were Cannes titles and there were a few titles that got multiple interviews. I would have preferred over my 7 days at the festival more like 35 or so. I missed some films that I really wanted to see, partially because some were too late in the festival and partially because my production schedule makes a five-screening a day schedule impossible.

Here are my 27:
Black & White
The Drop
Electric Boogaloo
The Humbling
The Imitation Game
The Judge
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
License To Drive
The Look Of Silence
The Reach
Revenge of the Green Dragons
Seymour: An Introduction
Song of the Sea
The Sound and The Fury
St Vincent
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Theory of Everything
Time Out Of Mind
The Yes Men Are Revolting

Only 4 docs… which really sucks. History reminds us that documentaries are, as a group, the best films available at any film festival (except, when like Cannes, they are not a focus). I didn’t see Beats of the Antonov or Do I Sound Gay?, the winner and 2nd runner up, respectively, of the audience award for docs. I did see the first runner up… and loved Seymour: An Introduction. Seymour makes an interesting TIFF bookend with Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look Of Silence, which has much of the perspective and good-heartedness of Seymour, but in dealing with a mass murder whose perpetrators are still in control of the country. Both films could well be…


I decided not to mention the Academy Awards in this piece. I’m going to write another piece about the award season and the recent festival run, so… forget I started that sentence…

Out of my list of 27 titles, there were only 4 that I actually disliked. That’s a pretty good festival. (And don’t forget the great Cannes films from Assayas, Leigh, The Dardennes, and Bennett Miller that I’m not counting. There are probably a few others.)

I’m really interested in talking about the films that didn’t get as much overwhelming media love as some of the others.

I irrationally loved both Al Pacino films. They are very different and yet, somehow connected for me. The discussion of aging and one’s place in the world are also themes in Mr. Turner, Clouds of Sils Maria, Seymour: An Introduction, Time Out of Mind, St Vincent, and even, in a slightly odd way, in The Look of Silence, which includes aging perpetrators.

The Humbling is a Barry Levinson comedy about a man/actor who becomes self-reflective, it seems, for the first time in his life. The reason I lead with the director is that it feels like Barry Levinson. It’s also very Phillip Roth (whose story this comes from)… rye and self-deprecating and full of embarrassing things and wicked smart. Pacino plays the actor who is still able to generate a quick six figures by agreeing to do a dumb commercial or the like. But he is back on Broadway… and he can’t remember his lines or quite find his way through his King Lear. Making things even more complicated, he starts an affair with a much younger woman who is working through her teenage crush on him, even though she is now out as a lesbian. What starts as a fling becomes real and then he faces having his middle age all over again. hat is less Levinson than usual is the visual style of the film. It is the most complex visual experience that I recall seeing in any Levinson film. Its silences are as important and meaningful as its words, words being Levinson’s most obvious gift.

It is worth noting that there are many similarities (and differences) between The Humbling and the steaming-hot Birdman, which was the most talked about film at TIFF without even being at TIFF.

Pacino is back again in Manglehorn, as an aging locksmith who is by turns a free-floating source of wisdom and an immobilized wreck who can’t get out of his own way. Like Levinson, David Gordon Green seems to be pushing himself into new territory visually here, as Manglehorn lives in a world of memory infringing on his reality. It’s quite beautiful to watch. And the material doggedly refuses to fall into traditional ways of telling a story “like this.” Pacino’s Manglehorn is a bit of a genius and a bit of an asshole and a bit of a magician. He is still of the world, not a curmudgeon hiding in the corner or seeking saving. But he is not fully alive either. It is one with David Gordon Green’s work in that it is more interested in the ambiguities than in An Answer.

Another film that didn’t get the attention I felt it deserved (though it did win a critics award) was Time Out Of Mind, a remarkable collaboration between Oren Moverman and Richard Gere. Simply – surely too simply – the film is a slice of time in the life of a man of 60 or so and has found himself living on the street. Why? We don’t know. And the movie is in no rush to explain itself. The film was shot by the great Bobby Bukowski, who conspired with Moverman and Gere to make the city a set and the camera as invisible as possible at all times. We experience this man’s journey, trying to find his way, with just one attachment in the world. It’s not a doc. But it is one emotionally, really. When the quiet gets too much – Gere’s character is not a guy who likes to gab – alongs comes a glorious – yes,i will say it, breaking my own rule – Oscar-nomination worthy turn by Ben Vereen as a thinks-he’s-seen-it-all motormouth who provides an entertaining, if sometimes exhausting narrative. This movie is truly one of a kind. Special. Challenging. And again… word of the day… ambiguous.

Nightcrawler, which is being released by Open Road, is imperfect… but a thrilling thing to watch. Jake Gyllenhaal turns himself into an absolute creep. And the story, of a guy who sees his opportunity specializing in getting footage from the most unpleasant news scenes possible to great success with the local news, is not quite Chayefsky for 2014… but it makes a real stab at it. I really look forward to seeing the film again soon. My biggest argument in the film is that it doesn’t get degrading enough. Others feel the opposite. But this is in-your-face stuff that will make you look around carefully next time you are in a car at night in Los Angeles.

Finally, distribution-free Learning to Drive is this year’s The Visitor. It’s an unexpected, charming, serious, sexy, goofy, philosophical, heartbreaking little movie from Isabel Coixet (working the comedy beat as lightly as she can). Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson are a pairing of opposites, but both are searching for something. The joy is in the journey. I’m not sure why Fox Searchlight or Sony Classics hasn’t already picked this one up. It’s a delight and will be a money-maker for someone.

It was a really good TIFF. Solid.

What was missing, really, were the home run-hitting feature films. (Great docs… but we expect that.) I really like The Imitation Game, but it is old-fashioned in many ways. Great performances in The Theory of Everything, but as wonderful it is in humanizing Stephen Hawking, it doesn’t quite make the connection to his genius. St. Vincent is a Bill Murray showcase, but it isn’t as special as Rushmore or Broken Flowers or Lost in Translation. Rosewater is terrific for everything it chooses not to be, which is leaving many feeling like they are missing something.

After some seemingly over-the-top negative reviews of Men, Women & Children, I went to go see it on my last day… but I arrived a little late and then left within 20 minutes because I was so exhausted that I just wasn’t in a mood to deal with the darkness. But I can’t wait to check it out here in L.A. It could easily make it into the “underappreciated” ranks for me.

The issue of Toronto vs Telluride, which was wildly overwritten before both festivals, turned out to be mostly a non-issue. I know it was a pain in the ass for Sony Classics and Toronto would have done well to have an opening weekend gala for a couple of their titles that they took to the mountains. But aside from that, it actually stretched the festival. And even though people still streamed out of town on Monday and Tuesday, the festival had a lot to offer in the second half… more this year than in many. And frankly, I lost out by leaving on Thursday afternoon. There was a lot to do on Thursday and Friday that I missed and will have to catch up on soon.

I would love to see TIFF try to keep moving the bar and make it a must-stay event through Wednesday, at least.

It’s taken me a few days to regain my sanity after going into the bunker of fabulousness for a week. But I can’t wait until next September, when the whole insane thing will happen again.

Weekend Estimates: September 14, 2014

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

No Good Dead|24.4 (11,230)|NEW|24.4
Dolphin Tale 2|16.6 (4,540)|NEW|16.6
Guardians of the Galaxy|7.9 (2,550)|-23%|305.8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|4.8 (1,630)|-26%|181.1
The Drop|4.4 (5,480)|NEW|4.4
Let’s Be Cops|4.3 (1,570)|-22%|73
If I Stay|4.0 (1,320)|-28%|44.9
The November Man|2.8 (1,030)|-36%|22.5
The Giver|2.5 (1,120)|-26%|41.2
The Hundred-Foot Journey|2.5 (1,270)|-21%|49.4

Weekend Estimates by No Good Tale Klady

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Weekend Estimates 2014-09-14 at 9.34.54 AM

Not a whole lot more to say about this weekend. The weekend estimates are a bit better than I expected based on Friday estimates.

Screen Gems seems to be back in its groove with its third $10m opening in four films released so far this year.

Dolphin Tale 2 is another Alcon film, released by WB, that like its predecessor found an audience that studios don’t spend a lot of time working for anymore.

Guardians of the Galaxy passes the elusive $300 million domestic mark. Absolutely a phenom. Even though based on a comic, unknown enough to really be seen as an original. Shows how helpful it is to have some free space after your opening. Not as big a hit overseas, though that was the trajectory for Marvel’s Captain America and Thor as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will likely be the 9th $200 million domestic grosser of the summer. $350 million worldwide is in range. $400 million would require some very strong performances in still unopened international markets.

The Drop is a… not great success. Whether its international cast can drive greater numbers is to be seen.

One of the unacknowledged hits of the summer is Let’s Be Cops, which is, I think, the least expensive film released by a studio this summer, and is not only going to do over $80m domestic, but will be over $100m worldwide.

Luc Besson’s Lucy, by the way, has almost doubled its domestic gross and is now over $350 million worldwide.

Also stronger than the stories out there would suggest was The Hundred Foot Journey, which will pass $50m domestic this week and hasn’t yet started overseas.

The Expendables 3 has tripled its domestic gross internationally… but that is because domestic is so weak and is probably still not enough to make the film profitable.

On the indie side, Boyhood is the top limited domestic release (under 1000 screens) of 2014 so far (and of this week), now slowing to under $1m a week with $21.8 million. Number 2 indie for the year is A Most Wanted Man, with $16.6m. #3 is Belle, with $10.7 million.

Indie newcomers are led in per-screen by Roadside’s The Skeleton Twins and in gross by Fox International’s Finding Fanny.

Friday Estimates by Len No Good Withheld Screening Goes Punished Klady

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-09-13 at 8.25.46 AM

Before I start pulling apart the meager entries of this weekend, let me note once again… the box office story of this last summer looks quite different when viewed in micro perspective instead of macro perspective. The sky is forever falling for media writers. That is the preferred story. And there are serious issues about what is coming to be deconstructed (especially the rest of the world tending to follow U.S. behaviors a few years later… which will become a major problem if it holds true). But this summer was not a box office disaster simply because overall domestic grosses were “off” $850 million or so from last year’s total summer domestic gross. There was less profit on the high side, but there was also a lot fewer losses on the low side. Ask a studio about the summer and they will concur that it was down, but then ask about the details of their studio and they will tell you that they were not strong as they would like or that they were pretty happy with the results.

Here is a simple example, which I do not think explains away everything. But it is specific and it is legit. Animation only. No Pixar movie this summer. Last year released-by-this-date, the 4 animated movies in the Top 20 grossed $2.6 billion worldwide. This year, the 4 animated movies in the Top 20 have grossed $1.5 billion worldwide. The total drop from last year – to date – is about $1.7 billion. Take out animation and it’s about $600 million… or about a 4% drop… a little above average, but not terribly dramatic. And while you can’t just blink your eyes and change the numbers, a single Pixar movie could have easily been expected to deliver $700 million of the animation sector’s $1.1 billion “deficit” for 2014 or about 40% of the overall “deficit.” One movie.

I will do a full piece about summer box office soon, but I keep reading the doom and gloom headlines, as well as those who would love to claim that it’s all about quality and the end of the great movies and yadda yadda yadda…

There is certainly a discussion to be had and weaknesses to be poked at, but any disaster that can be fixed by a couple hit movies is not the end of the line for the movies or for theatrical. It just isn’t.

As for this weekend, Sony hid No Good Deed from critics and Sony won that bet. The truth is, critics were not likely to damage this film. But why take the chance of a wave of negativity just before opening. Sony found their market – a combination of thriller lovers and people of color – and surely knew they were in good shape going into the weekend and chose not to rock their own boat with no upside. This doesn’t bother me. Never has. Frankly, it’s amazing that studios screen as high a percentage of their films ahead of time as they do. None of these films are culture changers. They are pieces of business. And as such, they are treated as nothing but product, dedicated to their best possible product launch.

Dolphin Talk 2 is the sequel to the surprise 2011 Alcon hit that WB didn’t want to fund and though this is not a terribly impressive Friday number, it’s off only 18% from the first film and projects to a $15.5 million 3-day weekend and a possible $60m domestic gross. Like other films, Alcon is surely hoping that the sequel will perform better overseas, where it only did $23 million the first time out.

Guardians of the Galaxy finally hit $300 million domestic, the only film of 2014 to do so. It is still #8 worldwide for the year… but will surely get up to #6 or #5 before international plays out. (It is possible that it will get a much bigger Chinese boost… that is the wildcard here).

The Drop opens to $1.4 million, which is not good… even for Tom Hardy’s limited history. It opens behind the great Warrior (a box office disappointment) and Lawless.

Meanwhile, Let’s Be Cops, yet another summer movie that was written off by most writers on opening weekend, will pass $70 million domestic today. And let’s not forget Tammy, which was overhyped as a feminist issue, but grossed $84 million domestic and was not a summer miss, but rather, a success. These films are victims of hit-and-run journalism, which can’t pay attention to anything for longer than the length of a Twitter trend.

On the indie side, Roadside release The Skeleton Twins should get to $20k per-screen on 15… which is okay. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which gets the record for most worked-over project of the year (leading pretty much nowhere), should do about $15k per on 4 screens and never expand to more than a couple hundred screens (maybe) and half a mil (at most). Even people who hate Harvey Weinstein will have to admit that he game this film a LOT of room to be what indie audiences wanted. But as great as the cast is, this one just loves itself a bit too much to allow others to love it. And My Old Lady, which was at Toronto last week, but didn’t seem to work very hard for attention, will be just under $10k per (as will Born to Fly and The Quitter).

BYOB: Back to LA

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Apologies for the disappearing act. It was a brutal week of production for me and a hard-to-hype festival this year. More to come on that…


TIFF ’14 Sneak: Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

TIFF ’14 Sneak: Salma Hayek, The Prophet

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

The Daily Buzz Podcast @TIFF 2014: The Yes Men

Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Fans of comic documentaries can rejoice. If you’ve never heard of the Yes Men, you’re in for a treat; if you’ve followed their antics in earlier films, you’ll delight in a new barrage. Either way, you’ll find in this film a fresh reflection on the question: How does one sustain a life of activism?

The Yes Men Are Revolting chronicles the past five years of pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (not their real names), the infamous activists known for duping the media with their impersonations of corporate shills and government stooges. At this stage of their career, the Yes Men have climate change at the top of their agenda, which takes them to Washington, Copenhagen, Uganda, and the Albertan tar sands. Laura Nix and the Yes Men team up as directors, recording every step of Bichlbaum and Bonanno’s journey as they meet with collaborators and pull off their witty stunts. Their planning and execution is filled with anxiety and improvisation, some pranks fizzling while others turn into media whirlwinds — and one case brings a threat of legal action more serious than any the Yes Men have ever encountered before.

But things become even more challenging as the pair enters a new chapter in their lives. Having crossed into middle age, Bichlbaum and Bonanno now have more at stake than did their younger selves. The stress of nurturing relationships presents greater complications to their lifestyle, giving rise to tensions that threaten to fracture the duo’s long partnership. Even as they question their future, they move forward with one more daring action, gathering a roomful of defence contractors and government officials under absurdly false pretenses. You won’t want to miss how it turns out.

The French Love Sony Classics

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 5.04.20 PM

A press release came across the desktop today… Michael Barker & Tom Bernard of Sony Classics will be awarded Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor later this month.

In a world in which awards are being handed out like candy, one wonders how big an honor any award is. But looking at Wikipedia, I find that they will be only the 9th and 10th Americans in the arts to receive this honor.

Walt Disney
Bob Dylan
Jerry Lewis
David Lynch
Toni Morrison
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Barbra Streisand
Bruce Willis

Wow. That’s quite a list. True, there are two cast members from The Expendables. But aside from those two (and even if you include them), the list is really amazing.

And you know what? Barker & Bernard deserve the honor.

Over 22 years at Sony Classics, the pair (along with co-founder Marcie Bloom) have been and remained heroes to international film in the United States. There are others that have supported world film quite strongly in the US, but Sony Classics is really the only studio-backed distributor to stay the course, year in and year out. 22 years!

Has any other distributor even been run by the same people for that long? Strand’s Jon Gerrans and Marcus Hu have been at it since 1989. But as remarkable as that run has been and as wonderful as Strand is, it’s a different animal.

Sony Classics has survived and thrived… part of the corporate universe, but truly independent as well. Part of the success has been being in a relationship with a company that truly understands and appreciates what these guys do. But the luck of the draw only gets you so far… certainly not 22 years in the same ever-evolving situation.

So serious felicitations to Big Hockey and The Texas Drawl. There has been lots and lots of water and cranky boaters under your bridge. Welcome to show business. But no one can honestly say that you haven’t earned this unique honor. You have made our culture better, consistently, for a long, long time. Thank you.

TIFF DP/30 Sneaks

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

TIFF Sneaks: Stewart, Hayek, Nighy, Pacino, Gerwig

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Weekend Estimates by Klady 9/7/14

Sunday, September 7th, 2014