Danny Boyle & Darren Aronofsky: Toronto Déjà Vu

Image credit: Chuck Zlotnick

At the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, most of the Oscar talk surrounded the latest films by acclaimed directors Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), both of whom reached new heights that year. Slumdog of course went on to win Best Picture and Best Director, while The Wrestler scored acting nods for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Well, fast forward two years, and Boyle and Aronofsky have done it again. Boyle’s 127 Hours (featuring James Franco as hiker Aron Ralston, who was forced to amputate his own arm after being trapped by a boulder) and Aronofsky’s Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman as a mentally unstable New York ballerina) have just screened in Toronto after successful showings at Telluride and Venice, respectively, and they’re now challenging The King’s Speech for the title of most Oscar-buzzed film of the festival.

What’s interesting is that the two directors seem to have swapped styles since their last efforts. After the frenzied Slumdog, Boyle has crafted a much more intimate drama with 127 Hours, while Aronofsky has traded The Wrestler‘s character study with Black Swan‘s noirish visual flourishes. “Darren and I, at the beginning of the Slumdog/Wrestler thing, watched each other’s films and did an interview where we interviewed each other about the films,” Boyle told me today. “I remember thinking, I must do a film where I follow an actor the way he did with The Wrestler. So 127 Hours is my version of that. And I haven’t seen Black Swan, but I understand there’s more sparkle on the screen than in The Wrestler, which was very straight. I love that sparkle as well.” Both films will have their best Academy shot in the lead-acting categories (Franco for 127 Hours, Portman for Black Swan), but I’d call them both contenders for Best Picture and Best Director nods as well.

Comments (13 total) Add your comment
  • DW

    I’m extremely excited for both these films, even though I find both Slumdog and The Wrestler to be two weaker offerings from these brilliant directors. Here’s hoping they bounce back this year.

    • Lee

      I disagree. I loved Slumdog. It definitely deserved the Best Picture Oscar. Unlike a lot of arthouse films, such as Get Low, it wasn’t pretentious and boring.

    • Mr. Holloway

      Disagree about “The Wrestler.”

      It’s definitely not Aronofsky’s showiest work and Rourke’s performance (as well as Tomei’s to a lesser extent) dominated the attention paid to that movie, but I thought Aronofsky crafted an OUTSTANDING character study and geniusly tapped into the world of pro wrestling, especially on the lower level.

      “Black Swan” looks more stylish which means that, for better or worse, Aronofsky will almost certainly end up getting more attention for his work there.

  • Middento

    Just a quick clarifying note: “Black Swan” played at Telluride as well, in the same “Sneak” category that “127 Hours” did. And both had great buzz there, along with “The King’s Speech.”

  • steely dan

    I think best actress will be a full category this year, especially if both of the “Kids are all right” ladies get noms. It also seems like that’s been the best movie of the year so far, according to the critics.

  • Jax

    Not sure that I could sit through 127 hours what with the amputation thing. Its kind of a turn off. But I’m sure that Danny Boyle does it tastefully. Black Swan is the film I most want to see. Here’s hoping Portman wins Lead Actress. At least a nomination will be pleasant. It’s been too long.
    Another film that I’m waiting for is the King’s Speech. COlin Firth is brillant and the best chance at getting back to back nominations (Bridges will probably not get nominated because the Coens will ruin True Grit. They shouldn’t have done it in the first place. What happened to the creative ideas of their earlier career? I miss “Fargo”. Now they seem to only stick to formula. It’s very sad.

  • m1

    I was a huge fan of the PHENOMENAL Slumdog Millionaire, so I am looking forward to 127 Hours.

  • Jethro

    Can’t wait to see the scenes where he is actually cutting off his arm. I hope it is realistic and gory and the scene is not disppointing since this is actually the reason the movie got made. Hopefully there’s lots of blood!

  • Shane

    Just saw 127 Hours. I was a bit disappointed. I really don’t see it as a Best Picture contender at all. It’s just too simplistic, too basic a concept. It doesn’t have the large scope that is of the same magnitude of something like say, Inception. And the amputation scene felt quite watered down. It’s pretty watchable. I felt they underplayed that scene. It should’ve been visceral as hell but it wasn’t.

  • Mr. Holloway

    Given Ralston’s ordeal, Franco appears to be a pretty strong contender for Best Actor.

    Portman, I’m not so sure about, especially since there seems to be a lot of Best Actress competition. Wouldn’t “Black Swan” appear to be a contender in some of the technical categories?

    • w11

      No, Portman is a VERY strong contender for Best Actress. Even the reviews that weren’t out and out raves for “Black Swan” praised Portman’s performance. She’s a sure a contender as Franco is in the lead actor category.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Obviously, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see, but that’s good news…I like her.

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