Now as one film’s career rises and another falls, it’s fascinating to watch the ups and downs that one screening can lead to at TIFF. It’s like a thumbs up and/or a thumbs down from the Romans in the Colosseum.
And TIFF is giving a definite big THUMBS UP to both “Machine Gun Preacher,” which shocked and surprised me in all the right ways and “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin ” “Preacher”‘s got HEAVY Oscar potential. Gerard Butler is in a career-redefining role as the title character. And it seems very much like this year’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”
It’s a thoroughly griping action-er as well as being an amazing true story of this former alcoholic/drug addict/jail-bird (Butler) who totally gets his life under-control through the help of his devoted Christian wife(Michele Monaghan of “Trucker”) and ends up, like “Book of Mormon”s hapless elders in Uganda. And a very different Uganda from the one that’s selling out on Broadway.
It’s a desolate, lawless, hell-on-earth, where children routinely are dismembered and forced to kill their family members. And director Marc Forster(” Finding Neverland”) keeps the adrenaline pumping and the danger level high as the reformed Butler barrels through the African wilderness like a born-again Rambo, trying to save all the children, and there seem to miliions…who are desparately in need of medicine, schools, orphanages. And Butler tries to build and re-build all of them. AND HE DOES!
The incredible arc his character goes through addiction, jail, murder, reformation, then heroics in the African wild are catnip to Oscar. And Butler hits all the right notes, and is utterly believable all the way through and back again. His scenes with the children will make audiences world-wide cry and stand up and cheer. He and this powerful film and its’ timely topic are definitely going to be part of the Oscar conversation.
Another to be hotly debated Oscar topic is going to be Tilda Swinton’s career best performance in “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin”, an extremely disturbing and powerful look at another difficult and timely theme. What is it like to be the mother of a school shooter? A la Columbine. Swinton is magnificent but will audiences and Oscar voters be able to turn out to watch this? As great as it is, that’s the Oscar topic that is Tilda’s stumbling block here.
The handling of both these films by their campaigners and distributors will determine whether or not “Machine Gun Preacher” and “….Kevin” will be in the forefront of voters minds and DVD piles come this Christmas. They certainly SHOULD be, IMHO.