» Movies » Anupam Kher's Silver Linings Playbook sets off Oscar buzz

Anupam Kher's Silver Linings Playbook sets off Oscar buzz

By Arthur J Pais
September 17, 2012 12:23 IST
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A scene from Silver Linings PlaybookA few months ago, there wasn't much buzz for Silver Linings Playbook, an engaging comedy-drama about a man returning home from a psychiatric ward.

The film stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and our very own Anupam Kher.

But as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) began about two weeks ago, the buzz for the movie directed by David O Russell (The Fighter) kept increasing.

On Sunday as the 37th edition of the film festival which showed over 200 feature films from more than 60 countries, ended, everyone was talking about the film.

It will be a strong contender for the Oscars, the pundits said, and while the critics gave it a standing ovation, the audiences stood in serpentine queues to see the special shows. The movie begins a platform run across America and Canada next month.

Adapted from Matthew Quick's bestselling novel, it is built around a depressed high school teacher (Bradley Cooper) who, after being in a mental health facility for many years, is released into the care of his parents (Oscar winner Robert De Niro and Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver).

While trying to woo his ex-wife (Brea Bee), he becomes entangled with a neighbour (Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence) who has her own problems.

Not surprisingly, the film won the BlackBerry People's Choice Award, the top audience award at the TIFF.

It beat several Oscar nomination contenders such as the disturbing drama about a cult, The Master, and Ben Affleck's adventure comedy, Argo, about an attempt to help Americans trapped in the Canadian embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution to escape while disguised as a film crew.

Though a number of films with high Oscar potential such as Ang Lee's The Life of Pi and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (with Reliance as a producing partner), Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit are yet to open, one can say that as it has happened many years in the past, TIFF has set the Oscar ball rolling.

The last five Oscar Best Picture winners have all screened at TIFF.

An Oscar winner has captured the TIFF audience award twice in recent years: Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 and The King's Speech in 2010.

Previously films such as Chariots of Fire and American Beauty began their Oscar race at TIFF.

The audience award has been one of the better harbingers of Oscar success since it was first presented in 1978, according to the industry publication The Hollywood Reporter.

Almost all of its 34 previous winners went on to garner attention from the Academy. Collectively, they have accounted for 105 Oscar nominations, including 10 for best picture and nine for best foreign language film.

Thirty-nine of those nominations resulted in Oscar wins, including four for best picture, the weekly wrote. 'This has helped to cement TIFF's reputation as one of the first important stops on the awards trail,' it added, 'along with the Telluride Film Festival that precedes it by a week.'

The runner-up, Argo, is surely going to be a bigger crowd pleaser and may even get more Oscar nominations than Silver Linings.

An adrenaline pumping thriller inspired by real life, Argo is also a smart comedy with glorious digs at Hollywood. Directed by Ben Affleck, who also plays the lead, the film is about a highly secret CIA plan to use an imaginary low-budget sci-fi flick as cover to get hostages out of revolutionary Iran.

It is based on a bestselling book by former CIA agent Tony Mendez. There is also an excellent buzz for veteran actor Alan Arkin who many critics believe will receive his fourth Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as a Hollywood producer who can pull off impossible stunts.

Sold out public shows and standing room only at the critics screening greeted The Master which has deeply etched performances by Joaquin Phoenix as the drifter and army veteran with deep emotional problems and an eccentric cult leader, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The film is said to have been inspired by Ron L Hubbard, the founder of the controversial 20th century religion called Scientology.

The film which opened at five locations in America following its prize winning run in Venice, and triumphant showings in Telluride and Toronto, grossed an awesome $730,000 over the weekend.

It will be playing on some 600 screens next week and by the first or second week of October, in many foreign countries. But some box office observers believe that the deep psychological drama may not do well outside the big cities and end up with a decent but unspectacular $100 million worldwide.

There were also a handful of other award-buzz creators.

Peter Howell of Toronto Star was one of the many critics to warmly welcome Stories We Tell and wrote that he was 'happily going out on a limb to predict Sarah Polley's astonishing new film will not only land an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, but also one for Best Picture.'

'I write this fully knowing that no doc has ever been nominated for the Academy's top prize,' he mused, 'but then Stories We Tell makes "documentary" seem the most limiting of labels. Polley's brave quest to uncover her family's deepest secrets unfolds like a thriller, one where the resolution is literally part of her DNA. It's an intimate film of truth, memory and reconciliation, not just for Polley and her family but also for astonished viewers. Polley isn't just a Canadian talent, she's a Canadian treasure.'

The Cloud Atlas, based on David Mitchell's mind-tripping 2004 novel, which many think was unfilmable, divided the critics. Unless the film, which tells several interconnected stories, does good business at the box-office, it may not enter the Oscar race.

But the film could get a lot of technical nominations, some critics believe. 'With stars like Tom Hanks and Halle Berry playing multiple roles, many of them completely disguising, the film is a shoo-in for makeup and costume attention,' the Toronto Star reported.

'With its high-wire narrative and lush visuals, an art house film aimed at a multiplex audience, Cloud Atlas also courts nods for cinematography, sound, adapted screenplay, special effects and more. Best Picture, however, drifts on the winds of uncertain box office, as do the director and acting categories,' the Star added.

While Deepa Mehta's The Midnight's Children received a cold embrace from the critics and Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist was given a mixed reception, first-time film-maker Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus was very well received.

If India makes it an official Oscar entry, the enigmatic and visually stunning film which received three stars (out of four) from The Globe and Mail has a very good shot at winning a nomination.

Ship of Theseus was showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival's programme 'City to City: Mumbai'

'The daily struggles of a blind artist,' wrote Canada's most influential daily newspaper, 'the ascetic routines of an ailing monk, a stockbroker coming into contact with the illicit trade in human organs: Gandhi uses these to illustrate how the chaos of Mumbai serves as an elaborate system of cause and effect, one life impacting another. The stories are fiction, but they are really philosophical essays rendered on the screen.'

Amour, the German film which celebrates enduring true love even when the body fails, is directed by Michael Haneke, the Palme d'Or winner from Cannes 2012. It was yet another well regarded film at TIFF.

An elderly Parisian couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) must find a way to endure after the wife suffers one stroke and then another, losing her speech and then mobility.

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Arthur J Pais in Toronto