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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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