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.
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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:
The Shape of Water
Call Me by Your Name
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
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
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
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