Toronto Film Festival Precursor to Oscar Success

Photo courtesy of Siebbi, Flickr Creative Commons

The largest film festival in the world, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), kicked off on Thursday with plenty of buzz provided by largely independent productions. The public festival has become one of the most prestigious of its kind and noted as the first stop and indicator of a film’s success come Oscar season in February.

The 10-day event will conclude on Sept. 20, when a noncompetitive selection will be made deeming one feature length film as the “people’s choice,” a recognition voted on by the people who attend the festival. Last year’s distinction went to “The Imitation Game,” which went on to be nominated for best picture but only managed the prize for best adapted screenplay. While not the only award, this recognition is the jumping off point for future Academy Award nominations and gains films significant attention.

A wealth of important films will be debuting globally or making their North American debut at TIFF this year. “The Martian” starring Matt Damon will be director Ridley Scott’s comeback since the release of “Prometheus” in 2012, which received lukewarm reviews. The film is adapted from Andy Weir’s bestselling novel of the same name, which hit shelves in 2011.

Swirling with controversy and intrigue is Tom Hooper’s biopic “The Danish Girl,” which tells the tale of transgender trailblazer Lili Elbe, who is played by Eddie Redmayne. The film has experienced criticism for taking a “safe” approach, but the nature of the subject matter has been enough to get it through the door of TIFF, and the film will be tested by the public in late November.  

Based on a true story, “Spotlight” has been overshadowed by many of the larger names at TIFF but has proved to be a force with a dynamic ensemble, which includes Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton. Many critics are already touting the film as the underdog and surprise favorite, which bodes well for its success in the coming months.

The trend of the antihero and the villain persists at TIFF with leading men like Johnny Depp in “Black Mass,” Tom Hardy in “Legend” and Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” taking center stage in the race for a best actor Oscar. Depp and Hardy both play gangsters, while Elba is a ruthless warlord in the Netflix-released film.

Documentaries are also beginning to leave an impact on TIFF goers, including “Keith Richards: Under the Influence.” Quite clearly the film follows Rolling Stones guitarist Richards, and it will make its premiere at TIFF. Director Morgan Neville is seeking to add another best documentary Oscar to his name, as he did with “20 Feet from Stardom” in 2013. The always outspoken and provocative Michael Moore will be screening “Where to Invade Next,” which takes a harsh and satirical look at American military practices.

A wide variety of films have been making a splash at TIFF, all which are vying to grip the attention of the Oscar jury. Plenty of films are still awaiting their premiere in the upcoming days in an already crowded field of buzzworthy flicks.