Controversy flourishes at Toronto film fest
Michael Moore's latest, along with a spotlight on films from Tel Aviv, brings out the protesters, while others swoon over Clooney.
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Of course, controversy, real or manufactured, can also help sell tickets. Even "Creation" got into the act. According to its producer, the film has so far failed to find a US distributor because the theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences. Maybe the lesson to be learned here is that if you're going to make a movie about the struggle between faith and reason, it shouldn't be as dull as "Creation."Skip to next paragraph
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And then there is George Clooney, who was in Toronto with two films, the mostly marvelous "Up in the Air," directed by Jason Reitman ("Juno"), where he plays a "career transition consultant" – i.e., he fires people for a living – and "The Men Who Stare at Goats," partially based on fact, where he is part of a top-secret "psychic" military unit in the wake of Vietnam which trains to be invisible, walk through walls, and kill goats by, well, staring at them. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
Clooney, who is often referred to in the local press as "Cary Grant 2.0," is a perennial festival favorite. Asked at a press conference when did he first know he was famous, he answers, "Very early on. My parents told me." Speaking of "Goats," he says, "I have done a couple of war satire films before, 'Batman and Robin' obviously being the first." What does he have in common with the "consultant" in "Up in the Air"? "Well, we're the same height."
Michael Caine was in town in connection with "Harry Brown," where he plays a pensioner who goes on a "Death Wish"-style rampage in his gang-infested neighborhood. (It was filmed in the same south London slum where Caine, and much earlier, Charlie Chaplin grew up.) It's a dreadful movie – who wants to see Michael Caine in a Charles Bronson vehicle? But the good news is that Caine, who seven years ago in Toronto said he had just six more movies left in him – that was about 20 movies ago – now says, "I won't retire. I'll keep going as long as the scripts keep coming and someone will back the movie."
One of the biggest festival hits is Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," which, aside from that mouthful of a title, which Herzog detests, is a cop thriller of surpassing oddness. (In one scene an iguana appears from out of nowhere to sing "Release Me.") It features Nicolas Cage in one of his most outré performances – not since he actually ate a cockroach in "Vampire's Kiss" has he seemed so entertainingly over the top. "I've always been labeled 'that obsessive Teutonic filmmaker,' " says Herzog, obsessively. "But wrong. I've always been hilarious," he adds, grim-faced.