Simmons, Carell, Gyllenhaal stand out in Toronto entries | Inquirer Entertainment
Only In Hollywood

Simmons, Carell, Gyllenhaal stand out in Toronto entries

By: - Columnist
/ 12:10 AM September 05, 2014

JK SIMMONS is an Oscar front-runner as a mercurial, cantankerous college jazz band instructor in “Whiplash.”

LOS ANGELES—JK Simmons is one of the actors who should be dusting off his tux for the awards season, based on the entries we saw ahead of the Toronto International Film Festival, which opened yesterday. In director Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” one of the best films we’ve seen so far this year, JK is terrific as a “terror” college jazz band instructor.

The thespian, best known for “Spider-Man,” “Juno” and TV’s “The Closer” and who is certainly one of the finest character actors of his generation, will finally get his overdue recognition with this performance.


Spewing crisp politically incorrect insults like no one has done in cinema in a long while, JK’s teacher character, Terence Fletcher, commands the big screen from start to finish. JK has a good match in Miles Teller, whose Andrew Neyman is an ambitious, talented young jazz drummer who crosses paths with the mercurial instructor.


Sarcasm, humor

Damien also wrote the script, which crackles with pathos, sarcasm and humor. We still can’t get over the film—it delves into the age-old themes of pursuing art and passion and never giving up.

Shedding his comic persona, Steve Carell gives the performance of his career as John du Pont in Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” which is based on true events.

It’s a film and a performance that initially take some getting used to. We kept expecting Steve to revert to funnyman mode. Instead, he is often dour, quiet and taciturn—striking a consistent tone as the eccentric member of the wealthy Du Ponts, who invites Olympic gold medalist wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to train with a team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a state-of-the-art facility on his family’s estate.

STEVE Carell (left) and Channing Tatum earn good reviews for “Foxcatcher.”

Steve and the film draw us in. In an unhurried pace, Steve and Bennett offer an absorbing glimpse of the eccentric millionaire, whose erratic behavior and cruel psychological machinations eventually lead to a tragedy that hogged headlines in the 1980s.

In buying his way into “coaching” a wrestling team, John sought to gain some respect, especially from his mother (Vanessa Redgrave, memorable even in a short role) who sees wrestling as a “low” sport.


Channing and Mark Ruffalo (as Dave Schultz) are also noteworthy as champion wrestling brothers whose lives drastically change when John enters their lives.

Nocturnal underbelly

Jake Gyllenhaal has always been a well-regarded actor but he’s especially compelling in writer-director Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler,” a thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of Los Angeles’ freelance crime journalism.

Jake, who lost 30 pounds for the role, is gaunt, eyes burning with hunger, ambition and crazed determination, as Lou Bloom, a man desperate for work. Lou eventually discovers the sleazy world of LA crime journalism.

Learning that there are freelance camera crews who chase ambulances and listen to the police scanner so they can film crashes and fires, murder and crime scenes ahead of everyone else, Lou worms his way into the field to capture these grisly scenes and sell them to  TV news shows. TV stations pay top dollar for sordid footage to score high ratings.

JAKE Gyllenhaal portrays a crime reporter in “Nightcrawler.”

Jake keeps us glued to the screen with his sleazeball “nightcrawler,” who develops a relationship with a veteran will-stop-at-nothing-to-get-high-ratings TV news exec, played by Rene Russo.

Riz Ahmed, a find as Lou’s apprentice, is equally memorable in the part where they talk and banter inside a car while waiting for the next police siren and ambulance.

Comedian/TV talk show host Jon Stewart makes an impressive feature film directorial debut with “Rosewater,” adapted from the best-selling memoir, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” by BBC journalist Maziar Bahari.

Gael Garcia Bernal is onscreen most of the time as Tehran-born Maziar, who is arrested, interrogated and tortured in an Iranian prison for 118 days. In one particularly moving scene, Gael’s Maziar dances in his prison cell to Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” (from Maziar’s memory of the song).

Kevin Costner, underrated as an actor, is one of the chief reasons to watch Mike Binder’s drama, “Black and White.” Playing a widowed grandpa left to raise his biracial granddaughter (a wonderful Jillian Estell), Kevin spars with an equally outstanding Octavia Spencer as the paternal grandmother. Kevin imbues his character with depth and humanity.

The noteworthy support cast includes Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr and Andre Holland.

Eccentric artist

TIMOTHY Spall gets kudos as a painter in “Mr. Turner.” He won Best Actor at this year’s Cannes fest.

Timothy Spall, best known to “Harry Potter” movie franchise fans as Wormtail, shines as the great British painter J.M.W. Turner, who lived from 1775 to 1851, in Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner.” Timothy brings empathy to the eccentric man of conflicting sides, an artist who once had himself tied to a ship’s mast so he could paint a snowstorm. The film itself has several beautiful painterly scenes.

Julianne Moore is excellent as a desperate, fading actress in David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars, a satire on our celebrity-mad culture which also stars Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska and Carrie Fisher.

Among the entries we will definitely watch in Toronto:

David Dobkin’s “The Judge,” starring the two Roberts as father and son: Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. The latter essays a city lawyer who returns to his childhood home where his estranged father (Duvall), the town’s judge, is a murder suspect.

Eddie Redmayne portrays genius theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones, his wife Jane Hawking, in “The Theory of Everything.”

Benedict Cumberbatch is reportedly very good as Alan Turing, the genius English mathematician and logician who helped crack the German Enigma Code that steered the Allies to win World War II in “The Imitation Game.” While Alan is also credited for assisting in the development of computers at the University of Manchester, he was prosecuted by the UK government for homosexual acts.

JULIANNE Moore is excellent as a desperate, fading actress in “Maps to the Stars,” which won her a Best Actress award at Cannes 2014.

Reese Witherspoon is being touted as a Best Actress contender in “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

Tina Fey, Jane Fonda and Jason Bateman top-bill actor-director Shawn Levy’s dramedy, “This is Where I Leave You.” The movie is an adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s book of the same name.

The Philippines’ entries are Lav Diaz’s Locarno Film Festival top prize winner, “Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What Is Before),” Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya” and Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s “Hari ng Tondo (Where I Am King).” For “Hustisya” and “Hari ng Tondo,”  Nora Aunor and Robert Arevalo won Best Actress and Actor honors, respectively, in the recent Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Festival.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

(E-mail the columnist at [email protected]. Follow him at

TAGS: “Whiplash”, Damien Chazelle, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jake Gyllenhaal, JK Simmons, Julianne Moore, Movies, Steve Carell, Timothy Spall, Toronto International Film Festival

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.