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September 08, 2008

Wrestler kicks butt in Toronto


The crowds of everyday movie-goers that pack the Toronto International Film Festival might be wildly enthusiastic -- does every film really deserve a standing ovation? -- but buyers so far seem to be keeping their wits about them.

"The Wrestler," fresh off its Golden Lion win this weekend in Venice, sold today after its screening, followed by an all-night bargaining session. Fox Searchlight has snagged the Darren Aronofsky worn-out-pro-wrestler-gets-another-beat-down tale for somewhere around $4 million. There's talk of an Oscar campaign for star Mickey Rourke.

That won't come cheap. All the better that the studio didn't overpay, since critics who've seen the flick say it'll be a tough sell to most multiplex monkeys (urban Canadians excepted).

For the sake of the limping indie movie business, glad to see cooler heads prevail than those at Sundance and other festivals where bidding can and does get out of hand, a set-up for disappointment at the boxoffice, ie "Hamlet 2." Focus Features' acquisition cost: $10 million, with marketing on top; return: $4.3 million to date.

Since "The Wrestler" was the first big deal of Toronto, expect more to come, with special attention to "Management" -- Steve Zahn's a romantic lead! -- and anything that isn't an Iraq war movie.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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