The 6 Movies Likeliest to Start a Toronto Bidding War

Whether you believe it's the best of times or the worst of times for independent film (and the studios' boutique variations thereof), dollars will exchange hands over the next 10 days at the Toronto International Film Festival. But whose dollars, and whose hands? It's pretty much folly to go cherry-picking the few higher-profile buys out of the fest's scores of titles available for acquisition -- but hey, follies are fun! Have a glance at Movieline's crystal ball after the jump.

(In alphabetical order)

· Get Low: Robert Duvall plays a hermit who, after decades in the Tennessee woods, emerges from hiding in preparation for his funeral. Bill Murray stars opposite as the undertaker who will oblige him. Sissy Spacek drops in as the hermit's ex-lover. Director Aaron Schneider's 2002 short film Two Soldiers, based on a William Faulkner story, won an Oscar. What else do you want to hear? If Creation fails to dazzle on opening night, then this may be the first film to go this year after its Saturday premiere. Focus, Apparition and possibly Summit are the likeliest buyers.

· Harry Brown: Michael Caine's tour de force would be an interesting pick-up for Sony Pictures Classics or IFC Films, who both have a taste for this kind of prestige kitchen-sink pulp starring Caine as a vigilante who goes to war in his drug- and gang-infested neighborhood. Sure, as bidding wars go, it would be on the modest side -- very low seven figures (Lionsgate might lowball for the genre element) unless Bob Berney and Apparition believe they can fashion an Oscar vehicle out of it, in which case you'll be hearing about it over the next week. A lot.

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· The Joneses: David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Holligsworth star as a family whose quaint suburban life isn't what it seems. It's not quite as simple as that, though; some wags have revealed a logline that the festival itself has hidden, which implies a spoiler, which implies a twist, which implies a sharp marketer like Fox Searchlight could spin it and its cast into gold -- if it's any good.

· Leaves of Grass: Edward Norton plays identical twins, Susan Sarandon plays his mother, and Richard Dreyfuss portrays a drug lord named Pug Rothbaum. This could -- and will -- go to pretty much anyone for mid-seven figures, but I'd say it's Miramax's to lose (probably to Fox Searchlight, if they can commit Norton to promoting it).

· Love and Other Impossible Pursuits: Starring Natalie Portman as the second wife of her former lover -- and stepmother to his kids -- this is probably an obvious choice. Or maybe it's not: It depends on which Don Roos shows up to write and direct -- the one who snuck out of nowhere with his debut The Opposite of Sex? Or the one who put you to sleep a few years back with the ensemble mess Happy Endings? He's about due for a comeback, and between Portman and Roos fave Lisa Kudrow (also rumored to be fantastic here), Summit, Overture and Miramax (which is looking for lighter dramatic fare these days) could both afford to try something interesting -- and profitable -- with this.

· Ondine: Director Neil Jordan is on something of a hot streak creatively; after the dreary, mediocre combo of End of the Affair and The Good Thief, Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto (2005) and The Brave One (2007) were two of the most underrated films of their respective years. Both came to Toronto with deals in place, however (no less than Warner Bros. choked on the latter), leaving the independently produced Ondine -- and its fantasy of an Irish fisherman (Colin Farrell) who discovers a mermaid -- in a position to capitalize on a filmmaker whose prime remains oddly indeterminate over the years. If this is it, it's a safe gamble for a mini-major like Focus or Sony Pictures Classics to squabble over for spring/summer 2010.



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