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TIFF ’10: Clint Eastwood’s spiritual, supernatural “Hereafter”

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: We continue to preview anticipated titles screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in our “Road to Toronto” feature.

The fest kicks off on Sept. 9, and HollywoodNews.com will be on the ground bringing you reviews, interviews, and a clearer glimpse at the ever-shifting Oscar race.

To read our previous preview columns, punch “TIFF” into our search window. Today, Clint Eastwood returns to Toronto for the first time in decades to unveil a supernatural “chick flick” (his words, not mine) that reportedly has something to do with our connections to the afterlife.

Hereafter

The Plot: Based on a script by “Frost/Nixon” scribe Peter Morgan, “Hereafter” tells three parallel stories about three people affected by death in different ways. Matt Damon plays a factory worker who’s able to communicate with the dead. Cécile de France plays a journalist who survived a tsunami. And twins Frankie and George McLaren play siblings who suffer a serious loss.

The Director: Clint Eastwood

The Cast: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind

The Scoop: Clint’s latest is a mystery … and I’m not referring to the genre or tone. We literally know very little about it, and likely won’t until Eastwood hosts the film’s World Premiere at TIFF. The director has shown a tendency to screen awards-worthy dramas at the proverbial last minute, from “Gran Torino” to “Letters from Iwo Jima.” So from an Oscar perspective, Eastwood is showing this picture early. That either means the director (as well as his distributor, Warner Bros.) has a lot of faith in it … or it isn’t supposed to be a factor in Oscar Race 2010. Either way, we’d line up to see “Hereafter” just to hear Peter Morgan’s dialogue, to witness Damon’s continued maturation under Clint’s direction, to see Jay Mohr in a drama (!!), and to check out this genre switch for the iconic director, who he has never attempted a supernatural, sci-fi thriller in his multi-decade career.

Awards Potential: Eastwood should always be considered a contender for Best Director, while his films usually hang around the Best-Picture-race conversation. “Hereafter” scripter Peter Morgan is another Academy favorite, having received nominations for his work penning “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen.” Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see if Damon, De France, Howard or other cast members emerge to compete in the acting categories.

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