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Toronto Film Fest Offers Hints Of Oscar Contenders


The eyes of Hollywood are focused north of the border right now on the Toronto International Film Festival. More than 300 movies from 60 countries are on offer. Many of those titles are headed to theaters and possible Oscar bids later this year. Our film critic, Bob Mondello, is in Toronto, trying to see as many of them as he can. And, Bob, apparently, I'm hearing this is your first festival in almost 20 years. Please tell me how a film critic has managed to avoid film festivals.


BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Well, it's kind of nice to avoid them actually. You know, a really rough week for me sometimes is to see four or five pictures in a week. Here I'm seeing four or five pictures a day, which can be a little crazy. They run together in your head. But I'm discovering that there's another side to that. You also see connections between films. For instance, I've got this sort of mini festival running in my head with all these pictures about revolution. And I've got another festival running in my head about aging and a third one about dance and theater because there are a whole lot of pictures that use theater in them this time. And I just think that's all very interesting.

CORNISH: All right, let's dig in a little more then. How many movies have you seen and what have you liked the best?

MONDELLO: Well, I've seen 22. I've been here - this is my sixth day. And I've seen 22. Among my favorites are the very first one I saw, which was called "Rust and Bone." It's a French film and it has Marion Cotillard losing her legs below the knee about 40 minutes in, and has some of the most spectacular special effects you've ever seen. I kind of flipped over "Anna Karenina," that's one that everybody's talking about here. Which is Keira Knightly as Tolstoy's heroine and Jude Law as her husband who doesn't quite understand her. And it is gorgeous and choreographed, the whole thing looks like it's danced almost. It's really beautiful.

I also went crazy over "Stories We Tell," which is a documentary by Sarah Polley about her family that has so many surprises, I'm puzzled about how I'm going to review it because you kind of don't want to give away any of the surprises. And then there's a picture that I think is going to be enormously successful, although it doesn't sound like it. It's called "Silver Linings Playbook." It's a story about a bipolar guy played by Bradley Cooper who hooks up with a very neurotic young woman played by Jennifer Laurence. And it is very, very funny.


JENNIFER LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) What meds are you on?

BRADLEY COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) I used to be on Lithium and Seroquel.

LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) I was on Xanax.

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Did you ever take Klonopin?

LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) Klonopin.

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Like is it what?

LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) I'm tired, I want to go. Are you going to walk me home or what?

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) You have poor social skills. You have a problem.

LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) I have a problem?

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Mm-hmm.

LAURENCE: (as Tiffany) You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.

CORNISH: So what's been the big talk of the festival?

MONDELLO: Well. There are lots of things that are the talk of the festival almost always. But one of the pictures - and I haven't seen this one yet - that everybody is talking about partly because Canada closed its Embassy in Tehran, and they did it the same day that this picture premiered here. It's called "Argo," and it is Ben Affleck's pic about a scheme to involve Hollywood in getting people out of Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis.


BEN AFFLECK: (as Tony Mendez) I got an idea. We're a Canadian film crew for a science fiction movie. I fly into Tehran. We all fly out together as a film crew. I need you to help me make a fake movie.

JOHN GOODMAN: (as John Chambers) So you want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without actually doing anything?

AFFLECK: (as Tony Mendez) Yeah.

GOODMAN: (as John Chambers) You'll fit right in.

MONDELLO: It sounds comic, but it's also supposed to be very serious and quite a picture. Everybody's been talking about it.

CORNISH: And Bob, lots of people end up talking about the disappointments out of these festivals and I'm curious which films right now are getting that reputation.

MONDELLO: Well, not for everybody, but I think there were a lot of people who liked, for instance, "Cloud Atlas." I was less excited about it. That's the new one by the Wachowskis that spans six centuries, and it's a very complicated science-fiction story about the interconnectedness of people. And I was not ecstatic about that one. But, with 300 pictures, you're bound to think that some of them are not everything you'd hoped. But there's a pretty high level of filmmaking being shown here.

CORNISH: And one last thing, Bob, since it's your first festival in decades, any fun or cool kind of cultural moments?


MONDELLO: Well, yes, actually. At the beginning of all the public screenings - this doesn't happen so much with the critics' screenings, but when you're at a public screening as soon as they put up the screen that says to be careful not to record anything, the anti-piracy note, everybody starts making pirate noises and going argh, argh. It's a little strange.


MONDELLO: I wasn't expecting that.

CORNISH: NPR's Bob Mondello at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bob, thank you.

MONDELLO: Oh, it's always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.