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‘Top Five’: Chris Rock’s Super Stealth Awards Dark Horse? (Clip)

'Top Five': Chris Rock's Super Stealth Awards Dark Horse? (Clip)

Starring Rock himself, this smart TIFF crowdpleaser talkfest (which Scott Foundas described as “a candid, fresh, ferociously funny snapshot of life in the celebrity bubble”) tells the story of jaded New York comedian-turned-movie star Andre Allen who wants desperately to be taken seriously–not unlike Michael Keaton’s character in “BIrdman.” His encounter with a flipcam-carrying New York Times interviewer (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career that he’s left behind. The film unfolds over the course of one day (a trope that critics can’t resist). Clearly, Rock learned a few things from writer-director-actress Julie Delpy (“Before” series) when he co-starred with her in “2 Days in New York,” as he deploys the same Linklater-inspired fast-walking-and-talking moviemaking style. 

Paramount snapped up the film’s worldwide rights for $12.5 million in Toronto (“an awesome blend of heart, raunch and classic New York filmmaking,” Megan Colligan, Paramount’s marketing and Oscar maven, gushed to THR, which explores the details of the deal here). The studio is hastening toward an aptly timed December 5 limited release before going wide on December 12. Guess who else makes this into an Oscar play? Producer Scott Rudin, whose other would-be Oscar entry is “Rosewater,” the respected rookie effort of Comedy Central host Jon Stewart. Rudin is very good at persuading a studio to put as much money behind a campaign as possible–see CBS Films’ spending on “Inside Llewyn Davis” last year. UPDATE: Rock killed his November 1 hosting gig at his old stomping grounds, Saturday Night Live. 

We’re not the only ones to embrace this exhilarating warm relationship comedy, which was the hit of TIFF. Reviews are across-the-board amazing. Why the stealth dark horse suggestion? Well, it’s a raucous raunchy comedy that reaches for belly laughs–not always Academy-friendly fare. We’ll see if it’s the sort of film that sticks late in the year with audiences, critics, the HFPA and, maybe, Oscar voters. Rock is a twice-WGA-nominated screenwriter who hosted the Oscars in 2005 and has an intensely likable, box-office-bankable screen presence.

The cast also includes Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Anders Holm, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Michael Che, and Jay Pharoah. The film is produced by Rudin, Eli Bush, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Kanye West; the Executive Music Producer is Questlove.

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