News

The Toronto International Film Festival Just Shook Up Awards Season

Our big TIFF takeaways, from Gaga, drugs, and rock 'n' roll to a slew of powerful female filmmakers and performances.

by | September 18, 2018 | Comments

This weekend, the curtain closed on the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival and while several key pieces of the awards season puzzle are still missing, we can just about decipher the image and it is looking glorious. Peter Farrelly’s crowd-pleasing Green Book won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award and Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” were blown away by A Star Is Born, but there was plenty of appreciation for the work of auteurs as well, with Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma coming in second and third in the audience vote. A few notable contenders were missing from Toronto’s screens this year, including Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, the yet-to-be completed Mary Queen of Scots with Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, Dick Cheney biopic Backseat, and Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Despite those notable absences, more than 250 films screened and we spotted some interesting trends and notable surprises among them. Here are our biggest takeaways from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.


THE LADIES CAME TO SLAY, IN FRONT OF AND BEHIND THE CAMERA

(Photo by Merrick Morton; TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.)

This year, TIFF cemented its claim as a champion of diversity and inclusion in filmmaking: Some 28% of the feature-film Gala presentations were directed by women, a TIFF-sponsored initiative funded 175 critics from marginalized communities to attend and cover the festival, and female filmmakers and female performances racked up rave reviews. Jordan Minter of The Hollywood Reporter said of director Claire Denis’ English-language debut, High Life (currently 96% on the Tomatometer): “Denis is a fearless filmmaker who, in her own way, has gone this time where no man (or woman) has gone before.” Critics praised Steve McQueen’s female-led action thriller, Widows, singling out leads Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. Alongside Debicki and Davis, Oscar darlings Nicole Kidman (Destroyer, Boy Erased), Natalie Portman (Vox Lux), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and newcomers Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) and Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) are all now heavy favorites to make deep runs right into awards season. And long-time television favorite Regina King, who picked up an Emmy this week for Netflix’s canceled Seven Seconds, may parlay that favor to her first Oscar nom with her heartbreaking performance in Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk.


TIMELY ADDICTION DRAMAS SET TO MOVE AUDIENCES

(Photo by Francois Duhamel, Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

A common thread this year was tales of addiction, both on the domestic front and on the rock ‘n’ roll stage. Timothée Chalamet’s Beautiful Boy and Lucas Hedges’ Ben Is Back were the two standout stories about recovery and family dynamics. While Chalamet may not have the white-hot heat behind him that he had last year with Call Me By Your Name, he had plenty of critics singing his and co-star Steve Carell’s praises for his new film; Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote, “With lesser performances, [Beautiful Boy] would crumble under the manipulative weight of unearned gravitas, but these two actors transcend the material at every turn.” Her Smell, Vox Lux, and A Star is Born shone a light on how drugs and rock ‘n’ roll go hand-and-hand. Each featured musicians who, though ridiculously talented, battle demons and search for release in a bottle, pill, or pipe. These TIFF addiction stories should fare well this awards season; Bradley Cooper in particular seems to be the only sure lock for Best Actor nominations so far with his gravel-voiced country singer, Jackson Maine. Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com wrote, “Cooper does some of the best work of his career as the kind of man who’s always restless.”


MUSICALS ARE HAVING A MOMENT, AND IT’S NOT JUST A STAR IS BORN

(Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

With so many stories about rock ‘n’ roll addiction, it’s no surprise that there were plenty of musicals – though mostly untraditional ones – at this year’s festival. The splashiest title at the festival, A Star is Born, features originals songs from Lady Gaga (herself reborn as a movie star after TIFF), and be warned: trailer standout song “The Shallows” is a smash-in-the-making earworm that many are already calling the one to beat for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture at next year’s Oscars. But don’t count out Vox Lux – featuring songs from Sia, it is likely to give Gaga a run for her money, as might Mary Poppins Returns. Smaller musical films Wild Rose and Her Smell also showcased standout performances from Jessie Buckley and Elisabeth Moss respectively, with Danielle Solzman calling Buckley’s turn as a fresh-out-of-jail Scottish country crooner “star-making” and Moss’s performance as ’90s punk-rock princess a career-best.


THE PICTURE ON BEST PICTURE STARTS TO TAKE SHAPE

(Photo by © Universal Pictures)

No one really knows yet what’s going to happen at next year’s big awards shows. Some questions around performances were answered at TIFF –  the hopes of Hugh Jackman and Matthew McConaughey faded, while McCarthy and Kidman kept riding a wave of momentum from Telluride – but questions over which films are shaping up as overall contenders is less clear. Green Book took home the audience award and Roma continued to wow critics, as it did at Venice and Telluride, but that doesn’t necessarily mean either is a lock for Oscar glory just yet. Selected by Mexico for its entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, Roma should walk comfortably to a nomination, but the chances of a foreign-language film winning Best Picture are slim to none. The crowd-pleasing A Star Is Born is the odds-on favorite right now – and again, it’s foolish to even talk in these terms so early in the game – but this time last year the same could have been said for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and it was Guillermo del Toro’s horror-fairytale The Shape of Water that eventually took home the top prize. In the end, there is still a lot to be seen and while the chances are high that those in Toronto saw the winner last week – nine of the last 10 Best Picture winners screened at TIFF – it’s still a very long season.

Tag Cloud

australia Red Carpet zombie game of thrones TruTV PaleyFest Lucasfilm YouTube Red Comics on TV Star Wars BBC America Disney streaming service AMC binge Star Trek Kids & Family OneApp SDCC 2018 elevated horror Fantasy 99% Spectrum Originals ID latino fast and furious Showtime The Arrangement political drama scorecard TCA Winter 2020 BAFTA venice boxing directors Chilling Adventures of Sabrina slashers harry potter CMT Quiz facebook comic books Binge Guide Alien Sci-Fi best festival ratings PBS crime DirecTV blaxploitation New York Comic Con Television Academy Countdown twilight Tumblr Hear Us Out Marvel Television American Society of Cinematographers Warner Bros. comics films Bravo ITV Sundance TV fresh Nat Geo composers Classic Film halloween tv Thanksgiving Emmys cats Emmy Nominations cartoon asian-american Comedy spy thriller ESPN Lifetime crime drama Fox News Sony Pictures dramedy documentaries Television Critics Association Reality Competition mission: impossible superhero X-Men toy story Winners Winter TV spanish language Endgame parents renewed TV shows supernatural Trophy Talk Sundance Now Spike SundanceTV Superheroe VOD Apple TV Plus Starz MTV Musical Music golden globes Trivia E3 talk show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt obituary BBC One social media Peacock finale LGBT Family Pop versus witnail Animation The Academy Box Office unscripted Cartoon Network child's play WGN adaptation breaking bad Amazon Prime Video VICE TCA Awards GoT USA Network Toys thriller Pixar President die hard Rom-Com DC Comics justice league Mudbound laika Pop TV miniseries award winner ghosts TBS Certified Fresh halloween nature mutant Valentine's Day Walt Disney Pictures 20th Century Fox Trailer Vudu theme song a nightmare on elm street Logo History Musicals Academy Awards 21st Century Fox screen actors guild Avengers CNN YA spanish Brie Larson Disney+ Disney Plus black The Witch Hallmark Christmas movies CW Seed war A24 richard e. Grant cinemax TLC dark Captain marvel jamie lee curtis movie Rocketman indiana jones rt archives 007 Turner Classic Movies Teen japanese video on demand Sundance Oscars stand-up comedy science fiction Amazon Studios Universal docudrama Grammys Cosplay Apple zero dark thirty 2019 indie 4/20 james bond Pirates RT History batman Set visit Creative Arts Emmys NYCC quibi politics free movies Photos crime thriller Ghostbusters Discovery Channel cars Pet Sematary Schedule nfl Funimation Song of Ice and Fire Disney Spring TV APB Mary Tyler Moore Arrowverse See It Skip It hist Martial Arts stop motion Horror scary movies classics Election Netflix Christmas movies NBC Stephen King natural history Ovation cops Amazon strong female leads TIFF The Walking Dead Chernobyl Podcast HBO ABC Country Freeform Crunchyroll The CW franchise 2015 Marathons disaster Mary poppins DC streaming service crossover Dark Horse Comics name the review Year in Review Mystery police drama TV Land Esquire Turner universal monsters Summer IFC Hallmark Calendar green book 2016 Black History Month sag awards Awards Tour Shudder Masterpiece space PlayStation Anna Paquin Christmas blockbuster Reality TCA 2017 TNT Comedy Central streaming BET romance medical drama National Geographic Fall TV BET Awards foreign Tomatazos boxoffice Crackle 72 Emmy Awards anime singing competition Fox Searchlight transformers Drama Nickelodeon dceu Marvel stoner cancelled TV shows Baby Yoda werewolf casting chucky DGA Best and Worst serial killer cults Super Bowl Action CBS All Access OWN comic cancelled TV series cancelled television anthology The Purge what to watch 24 frames comedies El Rey canceled TV shows SXSW GLAAD Premiere Dates Netflix Shondaland Marvel Studios period drama true crime vampires historical drama HBO Go A&E Paramount Network Interview all-time Holiday E! concert television Amazon Prime zombies Adult Swim Columbia Pictures documentary Elton John toronto CBS Epix HBO Max joker Opinion independent south america Awards Tubi teaser cancelled doctor who Superheroes Video Games Rocky Film Festival Hulu Pride Month Sneak Peek criterion children's TV screenings adventure reviews Disney Channel Heroines christmas movies MCU Paramount First Reviews spider-man sitcom football First Look italian diversity Travel Channel travel FXX IFC Films Holidays ABC Family FX video dc USA worst kids french hollywood Tarantino GIFs nbcuniversal archives VH1 discovery comiccon rotten psycho Nominations mockumentary Black Mirror spinoff Disney Plus MSNBC Syfy dogs spain hispanic 71st Emmy Awards sequels WarnerMedia series remakes deadpool canceled 2017 Mindy Kaling YouTube movies TV Infographic biography San Diego Comic-Con romantic comedy FX on Hulu Lifetime Christmas movies animated FOX RT21 emmy awards Ellie Kemper festivals Character Guide aliens psychological thriller Women's History Month worst movies Watching Series reboot book 45 TCM Western dragons Polls and Games Rock sequel satire Lionsgate BBC Acorn TV YouTube Premium sports 2020 TCA based on movie game show Mary Poppins Returns Film Cannes revenge tv talk Britbox cooking technology critics rotten movies we love Food Network LGBTQ Extras Biopics DC Universe news Apple TV+ TV renewals robots Comic Book Writers Guild of America