“Like Crazy,” “Butter” and the “sex” question at TIFF 2011- AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: The Toronto International Film Festival rolls on, with first glances at such films as Paramount’s Sundance romance “Like Crazy” and the Jennifer Garner-led homespun comedy “Butter.”

The latter had its Gala screening last night at the Roy Thompson Hall, where co-star Olivia Wilde read a message from Harvey Weinstein that took pot shots at the Tea Party and presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, whom Weinstein (with tongue in cheek) invited to the comedy’s Iowa premiere.

“We could take some math classes in the morning to help balance the budget, brush up on the Constitution in the afternoon, play some ping-pong, and then maybe some verbal ping-pong on gay rights and women’s rights (especially the right to choose),” Weinstein said in the statement.

The crowd lapped it up. But Weinstein’s missive got the evening’s biggest laughs, which isn’t great for “Butter.”

Across town, Paramount was celebrating the TIFF bow of “Like Crazy,” Drake Doremus’ drama about a troubled romance between Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. A crowd-pleaser at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film is receiving warm accolades at TIFF ahead of its Oct. 28 opening in U.S. theaters.

From a business perspective, two big stories are emerging out of this year’s TIFF. First, there’s a belief that while buzz is high around certain titles, from “Moneyball” to “The Descendants,” sales of smaller films is way down.

The other conversation surrounds the emphasis on sex and nudity in films that might have a difficult time reaching mainstream audiences in the States.

Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan go full-frontal in Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” acquired by Fox Searchlight. Keira Knightley is topless as she’s spanked (by Fassbender, coincidentally) in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.” Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman and Jennifer Podemski bare it all for Sarah Polley’s underwhelming “Take This Waltz.” Rarely is the nudity gratuitous. But as one veteran buyer tells THR, it could be an issue down the line.

“‘Shame’ is a brilliant movie, the best film I’ve seen in two years or more, but the sex could be a problem in the States,” said Markus Zimmer of Germany’s Concorde. “Of course in Europe, we’re used to rougher stuff.”

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