Entertainment

It was a good year for great acting as TIFF points way for Oscar contenders

Actors, including Kate Winslet, Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, garner early nominations buzz.

Director Greta Gerwig speaks during a panel for Lady Bird at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8.

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Director Greta Gerwig speaks during a panel for Lady Bird at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8.

People rather than pictures are likely to receive the most Oscar attention coming out of TIFF 2017.

That’s my read of the current Toronto International Film Festival, which has now screened many of its prestige movies as it heads toward its final weekend.

TIFF’s reputation as a showcase for potential winners of Oscars and other awards remains intact, but this year there were fewer obvious Best Picture candidates among the festival offerings.

Some heavily touted Oscar aspirants failed to light a fire in Toronto. Among them were George Clooney’s Suburbicon, Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War, which all suffered from muddled scripts, unclear intentions and unsatisfying narratives.

Other films arrived with their Oscar campaigns already underway. Of the six films I’ve identified as potential Best Picture nominees out of TIFF, just one had its world premiere here: Dan Gilroy’s late-arriving character study Roman J. Israel, Esq., starring Denzel Washington as an eccentric activist attorney.

The other Best Picture wannabes on my list premiered at other festivals — Sundance, Venice, Telluride — or, in the unique case of war epic Dunkirk, as a current commercial multiplex offering. (Dunkirk was brought to TIFF to help showcase the restored Cinesphere big screen at Ontario Place.)

But there was a wealth of Oscar-buzzed performances that helped make up for the paucity of potential offerings in the top category.

It’s been a good year for great acting, from Gary Oldman’s towering portrayal of British lion Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour to Saoirse Ronan’s amusing title rebel in the coming-of-ager Lady Bird. Many performances were better than the movies they were in, among them Jessica Chastain’s powerful title role as a poker game purveyor in the otherwise disappointing Molly’s Game.

In no particular order and with the caveat that early Oscar bets don’t always pay off, here’s my list of the Oscar bait coming out of TIFF:

Best Picture

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Call Me by Your Name

Darkest Hour

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Lady Bird

Best Director

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name

Joe Wright, Darkest Hour

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Best Actor

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger

Idris Elba, The Mountain Between Us

Liam Neeson, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

Best Actress

Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul

Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes

Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game

Kate Winslet, The Mountain Between Us

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Colin Farrell, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Supporting Actress

Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour

Melissa Leo, Novitiate

Tatiana Maslany, Stronger

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