'Tis The Season To Be Hollywood

Gloria Borger
It's all there, in Toronto. The lights, the limos, the stars. Opening night in Hollywood North.

Just ask actor Jeff Bridges: "It's a great place to show your wares."

It's the annual Toronto Film Festival, a 25-year-old window on what's likely to make it big on the big screen this fall and winter. CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports for Sunday Morning.

Richard Gere was there to promote Dr. T. and the Women because Toronto has become the place to get some attention.

"Toronto's a good place to do it," says Gere. "It's a huge movie-making, movie-viewing public, and people who love movies, and I think that's why filmmakers like to bring their movies here."

Piers Handling, the director of the Toronto Film Festival, explains, "You could literally be discovered overnight at…a festival like Toronto. It's very possible to kind of come into this festival as an unknown, and leave it as somebody who everyone is fighting over your film. The press has discovered you, you're a press darling, and it alters your career."

It can even start the Oscar buzz, as it did last year for American Beauty.

This year, among many other films, the festival showcased Almost Famous, director Cameron Crowe's own story as a teen-age reporter for Rolling Stone magazine; The Contender, a political thriller starring Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen; and Girlfight, the female version of the old movie classic of finding oneself in the boxing ring.

The fall season has begun, which means the not-so-hot summer of 2000 can finally be put to rest.

"This was not a particularly strong summer for Hollywood from, really, from any point of view," observes Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times.. "This was not a record-breaking year. And, critically, people felt that it was really a weak year. I mean, critics like having fun as much as anyone else. But this year, there was nothing really for audiences or for critics to really get passionate about."

In the summer, the studios are nearly exclusively interested in making money. In the fall, while they are still interested in making money, of course, they are also interested in building prestige, because this is the Oscar season, Turan explains.

So what has caught the critic's eye so far?

  • State and Main, about what happens when a crew shoots a movie in a small town in New England.
  • Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? by the Coen brothers of Fargo fame. It's about chain-gang convicts on the lam. "That brings a smile to my face," says Turan. "It's almost an impossible film to describe. It's got all kinds of goofy references and funny performances."
Turan also says Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been the most popular film at every festival where it has been screened.

"It's fun, you know," he explains. "And so mucof what we see isn't fun any more. Everyone just comes out of this film and they say, 'I just enjoyed the heck out of this.' And that's become a rarer and rarer sensation."

This might sound like this is a particularly promising season at the movies. But at this time of year, Turan warns, the fall movies always look good. He adds, "You know, Hollywood is great at kind of teasing you, and everything looks good in advance. Everyone is kind of looking forward eagerly to these films and just hoping they're as good as they sound."

Among other things, there is Castaway with Tom Hanks in the survivor role; Bamboozled, Spike Lee's look at racism in television; and Robert Redford's The Legend of Bagger Vance with Will Smith and Matt Damon.

Pay It Forward is an inspirational fable with young Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey, and Helen Hunt (one of four films she stars in this fall). And there is Unbreakable, pairing train-wreck victim Bruce Willis and mysterious stranger Samuel L. Jackson.

The film that Turan is most looking forward to: Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, partly because Jim Carrey has the starring role.

"It seems like a natural match to have someone with his kind of manic energy playing the Grinch, and people are just crossing their fingers that that works out," says the critic.

And if it really works out, Jim Carrey's Grinch may just end up stealing the lucrative holiday box office.