Toronto film fest offers Oscar bids in strong market

Wed Sep 7, 2011 8:33am EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coming off a robust first half of 2011 for independent films, the Toronto film festival kicks off on Thursday with expectations for a generous amount of business deals, Hollywood star power and Oscar hopefuls.

Film fans and industry pros are heading into this week's festival, which will screen 268 feature throughout 11 days, in a buoyant mood following strong movie lineups and dealmaking at the Cannes and Sundance festivals earlier this year.

Adding to their optimism for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is a full roster of Hollywood A-listers among the event's movies, ranging from George Clooney and Brad Pitt to U2, Pearl Jam and Madonna.

Moreover, attendees will all be looking at a group of films that might turn into Oscar contenders following on from last year's "The King's Speech," which won top prize at TIFF.

"This year is going to be a turnaround in a very big way for Toronto in terms of getting people jazzed on movies. The enthusiasm from Cannes is going to continue through," said film critic and Deadline Hollywood columnist Pete Hammond.

Red carpets will be laid out for films featuring Clooney, Pitt, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Jennifer Hudson along with directors Luc Besson, David Cronenberg, Cameron Crowe, Michel Winterbottom, Sarah Polley and Madonna.

Clooney will turn out for "The Ides of March," which he directs and stars in, as well as "The Descendants," from "Sideways" director Alexander Payne in which Clooney plays an indifferent husband and father forced to reexamine his life. Both films won many fans when they debuted at the Venice and Telluride festivals only days ago. Telluride organizers gave Clooney an award for his contribution to cinema.

Pitt stars in "Moneyball," based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of baseball's Oakland A's who reinvents his team, while David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" starring Mortensen and Knightley will be tested for audience reaction after runs at other festivals.   Continued...