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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 8, 2014 at 8:47 AM

At TIFF: A fine ‘Foxcatcher’

TORONTO — A quick update, before I run to one more movie (“The Imitation Game”) and then head to the airport. Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” supposedly an awards-season contender last year but held until this year, is worth the wait. The strange, sad tale of lonely billionaire John duPont (a remarkable Steve Carell) and Olympic wrestling brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo) Schultz, it has a creepy, deliberate beauty to it. Carell gives duPont the overly dramatic rhythms of a TV newsreader, coupled with an expression of vacant despair; he’s clearly a disturbed man, but at first Mark, eager to make his way outside of his brother’s shadow, doesn’t notice or care, and eagerly accepts duPont’s offer to house and coach him. The odd gymnastics of wrestling seem like choreographed dances; the relationship between the two (and, later three) men likewise feels like an uneasy, wary waltz. Splendid performances from all three, as well as a brief, brilliant turn from Vanessa Redgrave as duPont’s knowing mother. Miller, following “Moneyball” and “Capote” has quietly become a truly fine filmmaker — and a master of pace. Watch for this one in Seattle in December — and again at Oscar time.

“Foxcatcher,” for what it’s worth, is one of only three movies I’ve seen here to draw a round of applause from the usually quiet press/industry audience; the other two are “Two Days, One Night” and “The Last Five Years.” I suspect the same treatment was accorded to “Mr. Turner” and “Whiplash,” both of which I saw before coming here, and both of which are terrific in very different ways. Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” about the British painter J.M.W. Turner, is both an elegant study in light (Dick Pope’s cinematography is art itself) and a star turn for Timothy Spall, who turns the title role into a symphony of grunts and mumbles — and an utterly believable man. “Whiplash,” though it suffers just a bit from some implausibility in its story, is likewise an actors’ showcase: J.K. Simmons, as a tougher-than-tough music teacher, gets the role of a lifetime here, and hits his notes perfectly.

Among the movies I didn’t see, the crime drama “Nightcrawler,” with Jake Gyllenhaal, is getting raves; Bill Murray in “St. Vincent” won over the Toronto audiences, judging by what I’m reading; and I’m hearing good buzz for Al Pacino in both of his TIFF outings, “Manglehorn” and “The Humbling.” And, as I get ready to leave Toronto, one more note on the ubiquitous red-carpet situation here: I spotted one this morning outside a pop-up McDonald’s kiosk — complete with red velvet ropes. Just the thing to make you feel like a star with your morning McLatte, right? More later, back home.

P.S. Favorite overheard-in-the-washroom quote (alas, not heard by me, but a Toronto Star writer: “I’m a producer of a famous television show. You probably haven’t heard of it.”

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