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Nine Women That Will Rule This Year’s Toronto Film Festival

Nine Women That Will Rule This Year’s Toronto Film Festival (photo)

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The Toronto Film Festival starts today and throughout the festival, we’ll be providing updates, interviews and reviews, but in scrolling through the massive schedule — 300-plus films in 11 days — there’s a noticeable case of gender inequality. Yes, following rave reception in Telluride, a new king is expected to be crowned with a stuttering Colin Firth in the British historical dramedy “The King’s Speech,” while James Franco appears to have capped off a year of ubiquity with Danny Boyle’s latest “127 Hours,” which recounts the harrowing survival of rock climber Aron Ralston during five excruciating days in which his arm was stuck under a boulder. (On a less serious note, or too serious perhaps, “I’m Still Here” star Joaquin Phoenix and Vincent Gallo, who is in Canada with not one but two new films, should bring as much attention as they do the crazy.)

However, judging by many of this year’s most anticipated titles, this year’s festival threatens to be taken over by a group of very prodigious ladies. Up-and-comers Juno Temple (“Dirty Girl,” “Kaboom”), Kate Mara (“127 Hours,” “Peep World”) and Emma Roberts (“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “What’s Wrong With Virginia”) each could have their own double bills alone, but it is mostly a group of veterans in their prime who look ready to make the most impact. While we’ll be writing at length about some of these films further in the days to come, here’s a primer on which women to watch out for.

Lubna Azabal

If the true mark of a great actress is not knowing her identity until well after the end credits roll, Azabal certainly fits the bill. Born in Brussels, but of Moroccan descent, Azabal might be remembered best for her role in 2006’s Palestinean drama “Paradise Now,” yet it’s likely one won’t realize the same person appears in the British drama “I Am Slave” and French-Canadian helmer Denis Villeneuve’s highly touted multi-stranded “Incendies.” Using her distinctive cultural background to slide seamlessly between roles as a cold Arab slave owner in contemporary England in “I Am Slave” and the stoic heroine who braves the hardships of war in “Incendies,” Azabal speaks minimally in both films, yet says volumes with mere glances.

Susanne Bier

While American productions have fumbled in translating the Danish director’s “Brothers” (made last year under the auspices of Jim Sheridan) and “Open Hearts” (which has languished in development since Zach Braff took a shine to it years ago), Bier returns to her native country after her own foray into Hollywood with “Things We Lost in the Fire” for “In a Better World.” Once again collaborating with “Brothers” screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, Bier tells the story of a friendship between two 10-year-old boys who bring their families together and could pull them apart in response to a violent incident. The film was preemptively was picked up by Sony Classics, though it won’t hit theaters until 2011, giving Toronto audiences a head start.

Catherine Deneuve

The legendary French actress is never ever out of style, but she’ll be particularly in vogue in Toronto where she will be featured in “Potiche,” “8 Women” director Francois Ozon’s return to farce that promises a reunion with “Changing Times” co-star Gerard Depardieu and a chance to take charge as a long-neglected trophy wife who proves she can run her husband’s company while he’s said to be taken hostage by some striking workers. Deneuve will also appear with “Heartbreaker” star Romain Duris in “The Big Picture,” a drama about a successful attorney who has to reinvent his entire persona when tragedy strikes, offering a show of range perhaps on par with Deneuve’s glorious 1967 of “Belle de Jour” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort.”

Rebecca Hall

Since last year’s Toronto premiere of “Dorian Gray,” Hall has had a pretty spectacular 2010, first making the most of one of her juiciest roles to date in Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” and now returns to the festival with a pair of films that have her holding her own against the likes of Jon Hamm, Ben Affleck and Will Ferrell. In “The Town,” Hall co-stars as a bank teller who finds herself drawn to both the FBI investigator (Hamm) and his target, one of the men responsible for robbing her bank (Affleck), while she helps bring out Will Ferrell’s more dramatic side in “Everything Must Go,” the directorial debut of commercial director Dan Rush based on the Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance?” about a man who loses his job and his wife on the same day and decides to set up shop on his lawn for a pity party. Hall plays his pregnant neighbor who could inspire him out of his stupor (or vice versa), something the actress may be doing quite a bit of during the fest as a whole.

Sally Hawkins

The “Happy Go Lucky” star will be nearly everywhere you look in Toronto, likely to inspire the most talk with her turn in “Made in Dagenham,” in which she plays an unlikely crusader for equal pay for women during the 1960s as Rita O’Grady, a “Norma Rae”-esque rabblerouser at a Ford plant in the UK. However, equal attention should be paid to Hawkins’ other two films at the festival: “Never Let Me Go,” in which she has a pivotal turn not unlike her haunting appearance in last year’s “An Education,” and the Ben Stiller-produced coming-of-age comedy “Submarine,” which has sleeper potential written all over it as the feature directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, a star of “The IT Crowd.” Hawkins plays the mother of a 15-year-old who spends the summer trying to keep her from having an affair with her capoeira instructor while trying to lose his virginity to an eccentric classmate.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.