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Category: Toronto International Film Festival

'The King's Speech' wins Toronto Film Festival award -- Oscar next?

September 19, 2010 | 11:56 am

"The King's Speech" won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. In past years the same prize went to two films that went on to win best picture at the Oscars ("Slumdog Millionaire," "American Beauty") and others that were nominated ("Precious," "Shine").

"The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper issued this statement that was read at the award ceremony: "I'm absolutely thrilled. The fact that the award is voted exclusively by audiences makes this award especially special. Holding the world premiere here was such a privilege. On behalf of all the cast and crew, I want to thank TIFF and the festival audience."

Kings speechThe film stars Colin Firth as Britain's reluctant King George VI, who struggled to overcome a stammering handicap while rallying his subjects to fight World War II. "The King's Speech" is a shoo-in to be nominated at the Oscars for best picture and could pose a serious threat to front-runner "The Social Network." Most Oscarologists believe Firth is ahead to win best actor, but close behind is James Franco ("127 Hours").

Below: the full list of winners of other festival awards this year. Underneath that, a list of past recipients of the festival's audience award dating back to 1996.

"The King's Speech" (directed by Tom Hooper)
Runner-up: "The First Grader" (directed by Justin Chadwick)

"Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie" (directed by Sturla Gunnarsson)
Runner-up: "Nostalgia For The Light" (directed by Patricio Guzmán)


"Stake Land" (directed by Jim Mickle)
Runner-up: "Fubar II" (directed by Michael Dowse)

"Incendies" (directed by Denis Villeneuve)

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Mark Romanek on 'Never Let Me Go': Not sci-fi, it's a love story

September 17, 2010 |  5:26 pm

The Times' Kenneth Turan hails "Never Let Me Go": "Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, the A Team of young British acting talent, this is a moving and provocative film that initially unsettles, then disturbs and finally haunts you well into the night."

While at the Toronto International Film Festival, I chatted with director Mark Romanek.

Video by Paul Sheehan

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Oscar derby update: Race for best picture

September 14, 2010 |  8:38 am

Now that many Oscar contenders are being widely seen by media and industry wags, I think the race for best picture is becoming clearer. Here's my snapshot of the track as I see it now from my box seat at the Toronto International Film Festival. I won't get to see "The Social Network" until I return to New York on Thursday, but early reviews are in. And they're great, suggesting that we have an official front-runner.

Social network 127 Hours news

"127 Hours"
"Black Swan"
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
"The Kids Are All Right"

"Blue Valentine"
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"Never Let Me Go"
"The Way Back"
"Winter's Bone"

"How Do You Know"
"The Fighter"
"For Colored Girls"
"Love and Other Drugs"
"True Grit"

Photos: "The Social Network" (Columbia), left, and "127 Hours" (Fox Searchlight)

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Calling all psychics: Will 'Hereafter' return Clint Eastwood to the Oscars?

September 13, 2010 |  2:07 pm

Clint Eastwood has had trouble getting back into the Oscar race lately. After winning best picture way back in 1992 ("Unforgiven"), he had a great run from 2003 to 2006 with two best-pic nominees ("Mystic River," "Letters From Iwo Jima") and one more champ ("Million Dollar Baby"), but then he got tripped up. His later films scored acting bids for Angelina Jolie ("Changeling") and Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon ("Invictus"), but they didn't make the best-picture contest. "Gran Torino" got shut out of all  categories, but most Oscarologists believe it would have done better if it had been released to theaters a few weeks earlier.

Hereafter Clint Eastwood news

Trotting out onto the derby track next: Clint's "Hereafter," which just broke out of the gate at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's hard to size up because it's not a typical Clint flick. It's part blockbuster (a tsunami hits in the first few minutes) and part sci-fi/fantasy (Matt Damon stars as a reluctant, real psychic) — two film genres that sometimes have trouble at the Oscars (except if they're "Avatar"). However, lots of Oscar royalty is involved, including producers Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Peter Morgan ("Frost/Nixon," "The Queen," "Last King of Scotland"). Plus lots of academy darlings in the crafts/tech areas.

Reviews have been mixed but mostly positive from major media sources.

ROGER EBERT, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: "I was surprised how enthralling I found it. ... 'Hereafter' is unlike any film Clint Eastwood has ever made, but you'd think he'd been preparing it for years."

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: "The film never is less than intriguing, right from its tour de force opening sequence, and often full of insights into why people long for answers, sometimes with great urgency. ... As with 'Letters From Iwo Jima' and 'Million Dollar Baby,' Eastwood has made a movie that shakes up the whole notion of what studio movies can be."

VARIETY: " 'Hereafter' is a beguiling blend of the audacious and the familiar but is armored against risibility by its deep pockets of emotion, sly humor and matter-of-fact approach to the fantastical."

Cinematical is among its detractors, blasting it as an "unchallenging dullard," but "Hereafter" may be critic-proof. I have a hunch it's going to be a blockbuster hit — just like "Ghost," which gave the masses the same comforting assurance that dead loved ones can communicate with us through the veil. "Ghost" spooked its detractors at the box office, pulling in $217 million domestically. At the Oscars, it reaped five nominations, including a surprise best-picture bid. It won two: best original screenplay (Bruce Joel Rubin) and supporting actress (Whoopi Goldberg).

Back in 1990, there were only half as many slots for best picture, of course. Until we observe how "Hereafter" performs after its theatrical release on Oct. 22, it's unwise to believe some Oscarologists who say it's not a strong contender for best picture. No doubt they're the same Oscarologists who pooh-poohed the possibility of another commercial, feel-good flick breaking in last year: "The Blind Side."

Hereafter clint eastwood tiff news 2
Hereafter clint eastwood tiff news

Photos, from top: "Hereafter." Credit: Warner Bros. Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon arrive at Toronto's Elgin Theatre for "Hereafter's" North American premiere. Eastwood, left, film costar Bryce Dallas Howard and Damon on stage before the film unspooled.  Credit: Tom O'Neil

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Natalie Portman is the official Oscar front-runner

September 10, 2010 |  2:21 pm

"That's it! The best actress race is already over!" gasped a notable Oscar-tracking journo after witnessing Natalie Portman's dazzling diva turn in Darren Aronofsky's ballet thriller, "Black Swan," at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I was equally wowed and tempted to agree with that Oscar assessment except for one cautious reminder. At this point on last year's calendar we didn't know that the eventual winners of the last Academy Awards for best actress and actor -- Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") and Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") -- were even in the running.

Natalie Portman Black Swan-1

That said, it's still fun to make fierce pronouncements, so let's leap as boldly as Portman does on screen while she performs "Swan Lake": Yes, she's out front. Yes, Portman will be very hard to beat because she's got many strong advantages.

1) DIVA APPEAL: In "Black Swan," Portman gives in dance what many past winners did in song -- the full-throttle diva performance: Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Liza Minnelli ("Cabaret") and Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"). Unfortunately, ballet has played only a minor role at Oscars past, so it's hard to look backward for guidance to what will happen ahead. "The Turning Point" spawned two best actress nominees (who probably canceled each other out in the voting), Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, but they played dancers past their prime, not bouncing ferociously and constantly on stage.

2) GET PHYSICAL: Throughout the two hours of "Black Swan," Portman gives an even more athletic performance than Hilary Swank did when boxing her way to an Oscar victory for "Million Dollar Baby."

3) THE BABE FACTOR: Those notoriously frisky good ol' boys in the motion picture academy have clearly turned the best actress competition into a beauty contest in recent years: Sandra Bullock ("Blind Side"), Charlize Theron ("Monster"), Nicole Kidman ("The Hours"), Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") plus many more examples in between and earlier. Portman is knockout gorgeous in "Black Swan."

4) THE SEX FACTOR: Overt eroticism used to be a turnoff at the Oscars in more prudish times, but nowadays we're seeing those academy gents get excited by sexy roles. Some cynics say Kate Winslet ("The Reader") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") wouldn't have won without their brazen sex scenes. In "Black Swan," Portman has steamy masturbation and lesbian scenes.

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Media check-in at the Toronto Film Festival

September 9, 2010 |  2:41 pm

It's usually a mob scene at the media office of the Toronto International Film Festival when you arrive to pick up credentials. This year the staff is much better organized. The line was short and moved fast.

Press office

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Hollywood glitz versus local muskmelons at the Toronto International Film Festival

September 9, 2010 |  2:34 pm

Two faces of Toronto -- one that showcases the world's film glitterati, the other that hawks tomatoes and carrots to local residents -- collided Thursday outside Roy Thomson Hall, just hours before celebrities and media arrived for the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival. On Thursdays, the grounds of the hall are typically home to a farmers' market that had no intention of shutting down just because paparazzi, TV satellite trucks and lots of Hollywooders dressed in tuxedos and gowns were en route.

In the top three photos, you can see Thomson Hall surrounded by two sets of white tents. One set is cast over the empty red carpet; the other protects food vendors selling everything from fresh farm produce to steaming hot burritos.

The second photo is the most hilarious. Notice that a pickup truck full of muskmelons blocks the entrance to the red carpet. No one is at the wheel. This vendor is in no rush to move for any snooty film folks.

Thomson hall


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Toronto Film Festival lineup loaded with Oscar hopefuls

July 27, 2010 | 10:45 am

TIFFlogo-1024x309 The 35th annual edition of the Toronto Film Festival is scheduled to include the world and North American premieres of a slew of awards contenders. This year's festival is to kick off on Sept. 9 and run for 11 days.

Among the 50 titles announced Tuesday are the following films that could well figure in the contests for kudos this year:

"Another Year" -- The latest domestic drama by Mike Leigh ("Happy Go Lucky") is centered on a middle-aged couple (Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen) and their assorted friends and family, including a saucy alcoholic (Lesley Manville).

"Biutiful" -- Oscar champ Javier Bardem won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal of a dying father looking for redemption in this film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel").

"Black Swan" -- Darren Aronofksy's psychological thriller revolves around a dancer (Natalie Portman) in competition with a young upstart (Mila Kunis) for the prima ballerina position.

"Casino Jack" -- Two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey portrays jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff in this political drama from George Hickenlooper.

"The Conspirator" -- Robert Redford's film about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln features James McAvoy as a war hero defending a mother (Robin Wright) accused of aiding her son in the plot to kill the president.

"Conviction" -- Tony Goldwyn's stirring biopic stars two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the crusading Betty Anne Waters, who worked tirelessly to free her wrongfully imprisoned brother (Sam Rockwell) .

"The Debt" -- Oscar champ Helen Mirren joins forces with "Avatar" star Sam Worthington for John Madden's thriller about Israeli agents on the hunt for a Nazi in 1965.

"The King's Speech" -- Colin Firth plays King George VI and Helena Bonham Carter his supportive wife, Elizabeth, in Tom Hooper's historical drama, which focuses on the work of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who boosts the king's confidence.

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'Precious' = Precious metal (Oscar gold)

September 12, 2009 |  3:01 pm

Precious toronto film festival

Based upon its awards sweep earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and its buzz today after screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, "Precious: Based Upon the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" emerges as a serious Oscars contender.

Watch out for a lead-actress Oscar nomination for Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe and — possibly — one in the supporting slot for Mo'Nique. And maybe a bid for best adapted screenplay. Even best picture? That's not out of the picture considering Oprah Winfrey is executive producer and this movie is a knock-out — literally — as in it knocks the wind right out of you.

The crowd at the press and industry screening this morning was wowed by the film about an obese ghetto teen beaten by her mother and raped by her father (resulting in two children). I overheard lots of whispers of "Oscar! Oscar!" as we exited the theater, but, strangely, more for Sidibe than Mo'Nique. That's a surprise.

At Sundance, "Precious" won three awards: grand jury and audience prizes for best picture plus a special jury award for Mo'Nique's performance as the girl's vile momma. The latter laurel has sparked major Oscars buzz for Mo'Nique. But wait! She portrays a monster so scary that Oscar voters may resist embracing her. However, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe cries out for a hug and her performance is so shattering and unshakable as a viewing experience that she's a serious contender for best actress — even to win.

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Telluride Film Festival to debut 'Bright Star' and 'The Road' (which 'leads nowhere,' says Variety)

September 3, 2009 |  6:59 pm

The Road Telluride Film Festival Oscars entertainment news

Films to unspool at the Telluride Film Festival, which begins tomorrow, were announced today: Jane Campion's "Bright Star," John Hillcoat's "The Road," Lone Scherfig's "An Education," Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime" and Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or champ at Cannes "White Ribbon." Curiously missing: "Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," which was rumored to be among the offerings. Nonetheless, it will make its official debut the following week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Read Variety's report here. Also check out the preview by L.A. Times scribe John Horn, which was penned before the official announcement was made that "Up in the Air" would not be included.

Unfortunately, it looks as if "The Road" may be derailed in its Oscar path. Last year, its release was bounced from the previous derby when it looked as if the screen adaptation of the novel by Cormac McCarthy ("No Country for Old Men") had hit some creative bumps observed during early screenings. "The Road" took a u-turn into the editing room. Today Todd McCarthy said in his Variety review, "'The Road' leads nowhere.... Except for the physical aspects of this bleak odyssey by a father and son through a post-apocalyptic landscape, this long-delayed production falls dispiritingly short on every front." 

Photo: "The Road" (The Weinstein Co.) 

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Toronto Film Festival update: Slugfest over 'Slumdog' | Oscars buzz for Kristin Scott Thomas | Zac Efron 'excellent' in 'Orson Welles'

September 12, 2008 |  4:57 pm

Following up on our first recap of how potential Oscar contenders fared at the Toronto Film Festival, word continues to flow south from Hollywood north.

However, it turns out the biggest drama of the 10-day fest may not even have unfolded on the big screen. NY Post critic Lou Lumenick and Chicago Sun Times scribe Roger Ebert had a real-life altercation during last Saturday's packed press screening of breakout hit "Slumdog Millionaire." Seems Lou was blocking Roger from seeing the subtitles and after Roger, being unable to speak due to ongoing health issues, tapped him on the shoulder a few times, Lou hit back. Ebert, who attended the fest despite his ongoing health problems, did not write about the incident till the New York Daily News ran with it. To read Roger's version of events, CLICK HERE (Lou has remained mum on the matter.)


As for the movie he was struggling to watch, Ebert called it "a leading contender for the all-important Audience Award, which is the closest thing the Toronto Film Festival has to a top prize. And an Oscar best picture nomination is a definite possibility." (Yes, Roger's right and remember, dear Gold Derby reader, I called this one earlier — HERE.) For Roger's full review of "Slumdog Millionaire" — CLICK HERE.

Over at AndTheWinnerIs blog, Scott Feinberg agrees that "Slumdog Millionaire" "unquestionably deserves to be an award winner" and posts a leisurely podcast chat with director Danny Boyle (CLICK HERE to give a listen).

At the Hollywood Reporter's Risky Biz Blog, Steven Zeitchik hails "Slumdog" as "one of the nuggets to emerge" from Toronto, but reports an issue that may cause an Oscar glitch: It's locked "in an interesting little give-and-take with the MPAA. The arbiter of ratings standards is considering giving the pic, which contains some visceral violent images but nothing even close to raunchy, an R rating, while Searchlight and Boyle are pushing hard for the PG-13."

Elsewhere at the Risky Biz Blog, Borys Kit reports that Mickey Rourke's performance does, indeed, live up to the hype in "The Wrestler." READ MORE.

Following the successful launch of her French-language pic "I've Loved You So Long" at Telluride, English beauty Kristin Scott Thomas continued to pile up the rave reviews in Toronto too. Jeff Wells of says, "She'll definitely land a best actress nomination, and she just might win, considering that she achieves so much in ILYSL with very little 'acting.'" He is equally enthusiastic about the film, calling it, "a landmark-level achievement" and putting it at the top of the year's best.

Ebert is more tempered in his response to the film: "An actor in the right role can be transforming, and be transformed. Consider Kristin Scott Thomas in 'I've Loved You So Long.' She is known to us as British, but effortlessly plays a mysterious French woman who returns from prison to her family after an absence that is only slowly revealed. This new French film by Philippe Claudel guards its secrets and focuses on their emotional aftermath." As such, Ebert thought, "With no expository dialogue to win us over, Scott Thomas does, anyway, but by sheer force of her personality. She's a possibility for an Oscar nomination."

Over at Gold Rush, T.L. Stanley weighed in on the Oscar odds of "The Hurt Locker" noting that, "as 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." Reporting for, Nancy Kriparos thought helmer Kathryn Bigelow delivers "an excellent film and probably the best I have seen thus far on the Iraq experience."

Anne Thompson of says Bigelow "has more talent and style and smarts than she does strong commercial sense. But perhaps because she was ready to prove her mettle, she went against the grain and did her own thing with 'The Hurt Locker,' financed independently." Watch Anne's flip-cam video chat with Bigelow HERE.

Edward Douglas of  passed judgment on courtroom drama "Nothing But the Truth" saying, "Kate Beckinsale gives the best performance of her career" and he thought this "may be one of Rod Lurie’s strongest film scripts that really pops due to such memorable performances from all involved." Douglas "expects the cast, particularly Beckinsale, and Lurie’s script to get a lot of attention in the next few months."

Douglas was also enthusiastic about "Me and Orson Welles" the latest from Richard Linklater with Zac Efron starring as a teenager cast in Orson Welles' 1937 radio production of "Julius Caesar." For Douglas, "Christian McKay, who plays Orson Welles (reprising the role he played in "Rosebud"), was excellent, as was the screenplay." In agreement was John Foote of, who thought, "McKay transforms himself into the tyrannical, mysterious Welles, capturing the man’s beautiful speaking voice, his cadences, his movement, and most brilliantly, his presence."

And count Foote among those disappointed with Viggo Mortensen in "Good." As he writes, "Never have I seen a film about the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazi party with such little emotion." And he thought Mortensen, "usually an actor of uncommon grace and intelligence, seems lost in the film.  Perhaps he too was not clear where the director was going, but he never seems connected to this role."


(Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Pinewood Studios)

Oscars contenders break loose at the Toronto Film Festival

September 9, 2008 | 10:36 am

Lots of top Oscars contenders skipped the Toronto Film Festival this year (read my gripe about omissions HERE), but yet some brave ponies hit the derby track running while others, oops, stumbled ("Burn After Reading," "The Burning Plain").

Four fillies had good runs in the lead actress race: Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky"), Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), Kristin Scott Thomas ("I've Loved You So Long") and Keira Knightley ("The Duchess"). Many film critics dreaded seeing "Duchess" because they anticipated another pat costume drama but were surprisingly pleased with the pic. One of the naysayers was reporter Nancy Kriparos, who found fault in Knightley's turn because of "little chemistry" with her lover (Dominic Cooper).

I had to exit the fest early today (Tuesday morning), so I'm missing the final buzz on others like Kate Beckinsale in "Nothing but the Truth," but there was much encouraging early word, like the view of Jeff Wells of, who declares it "perfectly acted ... easily among the best three or four films I've seen at TIFF." However, can its small studio compete against big movie-companies in the derby?


Some pundits were high on Dakota Fanning in "The Secret Life of Bees," but Lou Lumenick of the New York Post is among those who doubt she'll nab a nom (READ MORE).

"Blindness" got retooled after disappointing audiences at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but reax in Toronto is split. gives the new version four stars while hailing Julianne Moore as "brilliant," but the Hollywood Reporter claims the pic "continued the tepid audience response that began" in France. Edward Douglas of calls it "one of the worst movies I've seen this year."

Unfortunately, I can't offer my own view because I missed seeing "Blindness" due to so much mob chaos outside the Elgin Theatre on Saturday night. After enduring several days of festival mania at that point, catching up on sleep at the hotel seemed like a much better idea than battling the security goons to find a Miramax publicist to help me battle a path to the front doors.

None of this means that Hawkins, Hathaway, Knightley, Thomas and maybe Moore are in the top five for the ladies' derby lineup, of course, considering how crowded that race is already. Also in the running: Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Nicole Kidman ("Australia"), Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Meryl Streep ("Doubt"), and Kate Winslet ("Revolutionary Road" and maybe "The Reader" too). Of those gals, Thomas, Streep and Winslet seem especially strong at this early point on the track.

Lots of journos and industry types buzzed loudly in Toronto about Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau in "Lovely, Still," but as of this writing it doesn't have a distributor.

In the lead actor race, Viggo Mortensen rode two horses into Toronto, but both fell back: "Appaloosa" and, a lesser distance, "Good." Happily, now he still has "The Road" ahead. See Anne Thompson's Viggo festival prospectus HERE.

Benicio del Toro rallied a bit in Toronto after "Che" caused yawns at Cannes, but new huzzahs were scattered.

In the actors' derby, the mega-buzz was over Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler," which spouted a testosterone gusher among the mostly male film critics and industry gang that threatened to drown the lot, especially when word broke out that it had just won best picture at the Venice Film Festival and got picked up for distribution by Oscar-savvy Fox Searchlight.

Scores of irate late-comers had to be turned away from the "Wrestler" press screening at the 600-seat Varsity 8 theater Monday afternoon, and there was almost a real smackdown in my aisle when, 10 minutes after the pic started, the chap next to me had to dash out to answer his humming cellphone and somebody nabbed his seat in the dark. When my original neighbor returned to claim his spot and saw it occupied, he tried to wrestle it back but got hustled out by a fest usher.

Based upon audience reax afterward, Rourke seems like a sure bet for a lead actor nod, but it's still unclear if "The Wrestler" can strong-arm a bid for best picture or director (Darren Aronofsky). It certainly won over the film critic crowd, which is likely to heap kudos upon it in December.

Cinematical was among the media hailing "The Wrestler" as "flat-out one of the best American movies of 2008." More HERE. But those pampered Beverly Hills snobs in the motion picture academy are sometimes less fawning over celebrations of trailer park dudes. One strong plus in its favor: Oscar voters are overwhelmingly male — and macho and love a good comeback story.

But in terms of best picture contenders, I think one clearly emerged in Toronto based upon its wild audience response plus the typical pedigree of Oscar faves: "Slumdog Millionaire."

Thrillingly, it pursues the two greatest quests of man — love and riches — with plot twists that surprise and satisfy. More and more Oscar gurus believe it's a crowd-pleaser like recent best picture nominees "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine," which were distributed by Fox Searchlight too, or, back in 1997, "The Full Monty," which, curiously, was also written by Simon Beaufoy, who reaped a screenplay nom.

I don't think it matters that India-set "Slumdog" feels so truly foreign. That just adds to its authenticity, and Westerners can still feel propriety about it because of its British creative team — Beaufoy plus Danny Boyle, who has prestige art-house credentials ("Trainspotting").

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