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.


(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.


(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 wrote, “Cooper does some of the best work of his career as the kind of man who’s always restless.”


(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.


(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

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