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September 10, 2008

'Che,' 'Hurt Locker' wake up Toronto


The not-an-Iraq-war movie set in Iraq that follows an elite Army squad during wartime has sold at the Toronto International Film Festival, giving the event the jolt it needed to make it something more than a love-in for standing-ovation-happy Canadian movie fans.

Summit Entertainment snatched up "The Hurt Locker," a rare action film by a woman director -- Kathryn Bigelow, for somewhere north of $1 million. Since even Oscar pedigrees haven't been able to entice people to see recent dramas based on the most unpopular war since Vietnam, new player Summit will have its work cut out.

On the heels of that sale, IFC Films picked up Steven Soderbergh's four-plus-hour "Che," with plans to release it in two parts for week-long Oscar qualifying runs in December. After that, it's going VOD and wider in theaters, one of the highest profile movies ever to test a simultaneous release strategy and the patience of anyone who's not a Latin American history buff.

Audiences at Cannes weren't so thrilled with the biopic, except for Benecio Del Toro's potentially awards-worthy lead performance, but Soderbergh has reportedly tweaked and trimmed.

With the early Monday sale of "The Wrestler" to Fox Searchlight, Toronto has come to life but noticeably without the dangerous overpay-and-regret-later trend of some festivals like Sundance. It's also becoming an early proving ground for major awards contenders-to-watch. Highest on the list so far: Mickey Rourke as a past-his-prime on-the-ropes pro wrestler.

We'll keep following. Y'all keep reading.



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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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