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Toronto 2010: A high-profile festival looks for some sleepers

September 9, 2010 |  8:30 am

The film festival in the lovely city of Toronto, under whose cloudy skies we've just arrived, is especially good at showcasing, and sorting, the high-profile awards titles we'll be bombarded with throughout the fall. We'll have a complete list of the movies likely to get awards traction, as well as some of the more controversial titles likely to put skeptics in traction, on the entertainment landing page later Thursday.

But for all the hoopla around the star-driven and the Oscar-worthy, Toronto is just as much as about the undiscovered gem. As the festival gets under way, here are half a dozen unassuming movies that could, through their humor and their charm, sneak up on people (well, at least until blogs like ours start writing about them).

"Ceremony" --  Last year's "(500) Days of Summer" referenced "The Graduate"; this romantic comedy pays homage to it. In Max Winkler's new film, a 20-something man is thrown for a loop when he falls in love with an unavailable older woman -- and she, surprisingly, returns his affection.

"It's Kind of a Funny Story" -- Wunderkind filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden dazzled festival audiences with their previous "Half Nelson" and "Sugar." They're back with a bigger-budgeted film, this one starring Zach Galifianakis and newcomer Keir Gilchrist as not-quite-disturbed patients in a psychiatric institution. It's essentially a modern-day coming-of-age story, a John Hughes film for the Adderall generation.

"Easy A" -- After acclaimed turns in less-than-acclaimed movies, Emma Stone ("The Rocker," "Paper Man") is ready for her close-up. It may well have been worth the wait. The 21-year-old stars in what early word has as a winning story about a high-schooler mistakenly reputed for her sexual prowess who decides to use the rumors to her advantage.

"Dirty Girl" -- Abe Sylvia's directorial debut takes us back to the '80s in what is a period comedy about a pop-culture savvy girl who runs away with her gay best friend.

"The Whistleblower" -- The slave trade in the Balkans circa the 1990s isn't a topic you see Hollywood taking on very often. The indie world, however, is another story. In the movie, based on a true story, Rachel Weisz (keeping with woman-against-the-system theme of her breakout "The Constant Gardener") plays a Nebraska policewoman who uncovers a sex-trade scandal. This one's less of a comedy, but like "Ceremony" and "Dirty Girl" it too is seeking a theatrical distributor, and could use some Canadian word-of-mouth to pull off the feat.

"Score: A Hockey Musical" -- The opening-night film. It's essentially "Glee" meets "Slap Shot." You need more?

-- Steven Zeitchik in Toronto


Photo: Emma Stone in "Easy A." Credit: Sony Screen Gems


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