Film Intelligence: Chair-ish these days

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. We read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]). This week: the festival circuit in full swing, Ben Affleck in full auteur mode and Dirty Harry, full-on crazy.

1. Festival Fever

If you’re a devotee of film festivals, you’re probably racking up some serious frequent flyer miles right now: The Venice and Telluride fests are winding down just as Toronto ramps up and the awards race begins to come into focus. Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER moved audiences in Italy, while Bill Murray‘s turn as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in HYDE PARK ON HUDSON sparked talk of a Best Actor Oscar in Colorado. Toronto — which opens on Thursday with Rian Johnson’s LOOPER, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis — will feature premieres from Nick Cassavetes (YELLOW), Joss Whedon (MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING), and the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer (CLOUD ATLAS), plus new films from Brian De Palma (PASSION), Harmony Korine (SPRING BREAKERS) and Ramin Bahrani (AT ANY PRICE). The Toronto Film Festival ends on September 16 — just in time for Fantastic Fest to kick off down in Austin, Texas. [Coming Soon]

2. Big Ben, Little Ben

One of the busiest men in Hollywood this fall is Ben Affleck, who was competing against himself for headlines last weekend with two big movies at two different festivals. ARGO, directed by and starring Affleck as a CIA operative who smuggles hostages out of 1970s Iran by posing as a filmmaker, opened Telluride with a surprise premiere — and was hailed by critics as a “near-brilliant nail-biting thriller.” Things didn’t go quite so smoothly for Affleck in Venice, where the response to Terrence Malick’s TO THE WONDER — which stars the GOOD WILL HUNTING actor and screenwriter as a man torn between his love for two different women — was significantly more muted, with mixed reviews and even a few boos. Both films will next hunt some good will at the Toronto Film Festival (drops mic). [Associated Press]

3. Michael Clarke Duncan (1957-2012)

Michael Clarke Duncan was such a strong onscreen presence, it seems almost impossible that he could be felled by something as mortal as a heart attack. But that is sadly what happened to the talented Oscar nominee, who passed away over the weekend after suffering a heart attack in July. Duncan was best known for his Oscar-nominated role in THE GREEN MILE, and he was a memorable heavy in the comic book adaptation DAREDEVIL. But he was a more versatile actor than he was often given credit for, as he proved in his surprisingly deft turn in TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY, where he upstaged more experienced comedic costars like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Duncan didn’t make a ton of great movies, but he often enlivened mediocre material through sheer screen presence: He was one of the few bright spots in Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES remake, and he delivered almost all the best jokes in Broken Lizard’s THE SLAMMIN’ SALMON. His career seemed like it was just starting to get interesting right as he was taken from us. What a shame. Michael Clarke Duncan was just 54 years old. [The Hollywood Reporter]

4. A KICK-ASS role for Jim Carrey

The most intriguing casting news of the week is the addition of one Jim Carrey to the sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s KICK-ASS, which is coming to theaters minus Vaughn but with most of its original cast intact, including Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz in the role that launched her career: junior assassin Hit-Girl. Deadline reports that Carrey, who apparently is a big fan of the first film, will play “The Colonel… a guy who helps galvanize the team of misfit superheroes assembled to fight evil.” Frankly I don’t care who he plays; the chance to see Carrey and Cage in a movie together is way too good to pass up. For my money, this sequel just went from “superfluous” to “absolutely fascinating.” If they get on well together, maybe Carrey can corral Cage for a revised version of that DUMB AND DUMBER sequel that’s floated around Hollywood for years (suggested title: CRAZY AND CRAZIER). Now that’d be kick-ass. [Deadline]

5. “Go ahead… make my chair.”

In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, it feels like it happened about six months ago, but it bears repeating: Clint Eastwood, actor, director, musician, former mayor of Carmel, California, got onstage at the Republican National Convention and interrogated President Barack Obama, represented by an empty chair, for 12 minutes. Eastwood’s rambling, improvised, sometimes hilarious, sometimes cringe-worthy speech totally upstaged Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and became an instant Internet meme, where the Twitter handle @InvisibleObama gained tens of thousands of followers overnight and “Eastwooding” became a new part of the lexicon. It may not have been the most effective political statement, but as a way of drumming up some attention for Clint’s latest movie, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, a few weeks before its release, it couldn’t have gone much better. In response, Democrats have promised this week’s convention will feature Dick Van Dyke vs. an Invisible George W. Bush on a chaise longue. [CNN]

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