Today, Sept. 11, 2011, with too many reminders of the tragedy that swept through all of our lives a decade ago, I found solace, twice, in an unlikely source: the movies. In two fabulous films the better part of humanity shone through life's cruelty.
The Descendants is without a doubt the new frontrunner for Oscar's Best Picture. In the best performance of his career, George Clooney plays the father of two girls, whose lives turn inside out when his wife slips into a coma following a terrible accident. To complicate matters, he learns that his wife was having an affair prior to the mishap. There are a lot of tears but an equal amount of laughs. Clooney probably owes a good chunk of his stellar performance to director Alexander Payne, who has a habit of directing leading actors to Oscar nominations (Paul Giamatti in Sideways and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt).
But the real surprise for me so far at TIFF has to be 50/50, which will have a wide release on Sept. 30. Like many of you, cancer has cut a wide swath through my family so I have struggled with Hollywood's attempt to portray cancer's cruelty. 50/50 somehow finds a way to break your heart one moment but quickly mend it again the next. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt (500 Days of Summer) is brilliant with great supporting performances from Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) and Seth Rogen (star of practically every R-rated comedy in the past three years). Don't let the subject matter scare you off. I still have a pretty huge lump in my throat, but I also haven't laughed so hard in years.