The Toronto Film Festival, which runs ten days each September, has become the unofficial starting point of the Academy Awards season. If you wish a first look at some of the films that will be Oscar contenders early next year, Toronto will be your destination-- not to mention the festivals that run almost concurrently in Venice and Telluride.
Across the years, countless films that spotlight dysfunctional families have featured scenes in which mothers and fathers are screaming and yelling at each other and perhaps even resorting to violence. They are unaware that they are being overheard and observed by their children, or perhaps they do not even care. Meanwhile, the reaction shots of the young ones, which spotlight the hurt and sadness that they are feeling in the moment, serve as a textbook example of the adage that a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words.
One of the better films I’ve seen this summer is a comedy which centers on the intrigues of two sets of lovers. The setting is decidedly contemporary. The male characters wear suits and ties, and so on. But there is a twist here. The characters all speak in Elizabethan English, and the film in which they appear is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, director-writer Joss Whedon’s updating of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.
A couple months ago, while still playing the film festival circuit, an extraordinary documentary-- one of the very best films of the year-- opened theatrically in the U.S. It now slowly is making its way into theaters. I saw it this past fall at the Toronto Film Festival and discussed it in detail. I want to cite it again because it is well-worth spotlighting as it becomes increasingly available to audiences.
HOOP DREAMS, which dates from 1994, is an extraordinary documentary which covers four years in the lives of its subjects, a pair of inner-city Chicago youngsters who yearn for stardom on the hardwood. Well, a new-to-DVD documentary, titled 56 UP, is the latest in a series of films which, in their totality, cover 49 years in the lives of their subjects. They are a group of British youngsters from various classes and backgrounds who first were filmed as seven years olds in 1964. Every seven years, the cameras have been turned back on and they have been revisited and filmed yet again. A bit of simple math tells us that 56 UP is the eighth installment in the series.
While watching MAN OF STEEL, the new Superman movie, I could not help but think of some of the other actors who have played the beloved superhero across the decades both on TV and in the movies. One of them was of course George Reeves, whom Baby Boomers will know as the actor cast as the title character and his alter-ego, Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, in THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, the iconic 1950s television series. These days, George Reeves-- who is not to be confused with Christopher Reeve-- is remembered not so much as a 1950s television star but as a tabloid tragedy. That is because, on June 16, 1959, Reeves, who was 45-years-old, was found shot to death in his Hollywood home.
MAN OF STEEL, the just-released action film which brings to the fore the beloved superhero known as Superman, is yet another special effects-laden extravaganza spotlighting slam-bang good guy-bad guy encounters. If this is to your liking, you probably will relish MAN OF STEEL. But if you are looking for some narrative cohesion and intelligence amid all the mayhem, MAN OF STEEL surely will disappoint.
I have in my hands a DVD of FUN SIZE, a PG-13-rated comedy aimed at the younger demographic that is presented by Nickelodeon Movies, an offshoot of the Nickelodeon cable television network, which produces programming for a teen and pre-teen audience.