Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Toronto: Colin Farrell, Olivia Colman Set Up for Oscar Buzz at Back-to-Back Searchlight Screenings


Just when you thought Fox Searchlight would just be a legacy, Disney Searchlight is back in the Oscar race.

Yesterday, the now slimmed down to one name– just Searchlight-debuted back to back hits at the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto.

“Empire of Light” directed by Sam Mendes has been a little divisive so far on Rotten Tomatoes. But I’ll fight anyone who didn’t like it. Starring Olivia Colman, Toby Jones and incredible newcomer Michael Ward, “Empire of Light” is exceptional filmmaking. I had no qualms about it. Maybe it’s because it’s set in 1981 Britain by the sea and features ska hits from the Specials and others. But it’s also about the restorative power of films, a moment 40 years ago when theaters still meant something.

Colman plays Hilary, a damaged character, an older woman who suffers from schizophrenia and goes off her meds to feel alive. It’s Ward’s Stephen, a much younger man who is also Black, whose love, attention, and friendship save her. Roger Deakins’ precisely lush cinematography and a gorgeous art deco set of the Empire Movie Theater underscore this film’s beauty. Colman is set for an Oscar nomination, the whole film is awards worthy.

Searchlight’s second film of the day is the already much ballyhooed “Banshees of Inisherin” from writer-director Martin McDonagh. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are pals on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Gleeson suddenly “ghosts” Farrell, dropping him for no apparent reason after a long friendship. Both actors are sensational although it’s Farrell who outdoes himself with a brilliantly textured performance. They should each get Oscar nods. McDonagh, whose “Three Billboards” was an awards favorite just three years ago, is a stellar playwright who creates memorable characters. Some of “Banshees” is a little grisly — be warned — and things take a bad turn in the third act, but this is lovely work and not to be missed.

And, you know what? It was great to hear the old 20th Century Fox theme music before each film. It warmed the heart!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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