Toronto 2010: With ‘127 Hours’ and ‘Black Swan,’ a festival enters a time machine


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The calendar might say 2010, but when it comes to awards, Toronto this year felt a lot like 2008.

That was the year when ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ director Danny Boyle and ‘The Wrestler’ director Darren Aronofsky came to the Toronto International Film Festival with unknown commodities and emerged with awards-season favorites.


This year, they had new films to premiere -- and did pretty much the same thing. Boyle brought “127 Hours,” the story of trapped climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), and Aronofsky unveiled “Black Swan,” the supernatural-tinged tale of a fragile ballerina (Natalie Portman). Coming in to Toronto, no one knew what to expect from either. Coming out? Each has loads of goodwill and front-runner status, as we explore in a Toronto wrap-up story in Monday’s Calendar section.

There’s reason for Fox Searchlight, which is distributing both films, to want history to repeat itself. Two years ago, a strong Toronto catapulted “Slumdog” to eight Oscars, including best picture, while ‘The Wrestler” went on to land two Oscar acting nominations and won six BAFTA, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit awards.
Of course, as many pundits here have been noticing, the directors have, in a way, switched positions. Boyle’s movie, like ‘The Wrestler,’ is the more intimate study of one man on the margins of society, while Aronofsky, in the manner of ‘Slumdog,’ tells a genre-bending story against an exotic backdrop.

But in many other ways the comparisons are unmistakable. Nor is it the only parallel to 2008. That year, a David Fincher movie that didn’t come to Toronto hovered in the background of awards season. (Then it was ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’; this year it’s the Facebook drama ‘The Social Network’).

Meanwhile, with another movie, Tom Hooper’s ‘The King’s Speech’ from the Weinstein Company, vaulting to the top tier, there’s another layer of drama. Weinstein and ‘Speech’ will be pitted against ‘Social Network’ and its producer, Scott Rudin. The two outsized personalities famously and publicly tussled over the awards-season status of ‘The Reader,’ resulting in Rudin walking away from that picture. The year that happened? Of course. It was 2008.

— Steven Zeitchik


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