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.