They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

TIFF Part 2: Room Wins at TIFF, Set for Best Pic Nod

By J. Don Birnam

September 21, 2015

Batman and Hulk, sporting the dad look.

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The heart-pounding Room, based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, priming it for a solid awards run this upcoming season. The movie tells the story of a young mother (a surefire Best Actress nominee Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son (a revelatory Jacob Tremblay), who have been held kidnapped in a small room for over half a decade. It deftly explores the beauty of discovering the world for the first time, of the difficulties inherent in the mundane and the extraordinary in the complex. At times a drama, at times a light-hearted comedy, and at times a tense thriller, Room grips you from the start and forces you to examine in a non-trite manner the beauties of life.

With the win, the movie has a more than decent shot at a Best Picture nomination (all but one of the past eight TIFF winners have gone on to receive at least a nod, and several of them a win), and Larson will find herself squarely at the center of awards chatter. But, if there is any justice, the eight-year old Jacob Tremblay should become the youngest nominee in Academy Awards history. He’s that good. Every step is calculated and poignantly shows the awe of discovery of the greatness of the world. Rounded up by a strong Joan Allen, Room will be one of the must-sees this fall season.

Room, of course, was not the only thing we saw over the jam-packed TIFF weekend. Our first group of solid TIFF viewings included the highly anticipated Matt Damon vehicle, The Martian, as well as the surprisingly surging Spotlight, which was the second runner-up at TIFF. Follow our other updates about the 40th Toronto International Film Festival on Twitter, and see how the reception of movies may affect the upcoming 88th Academy Awards. Check-out our coverage of the first weekend of TIFF here. We will have one more column reviewing TIFF movies after this one, including The Danish Girl, Beasts of No Nation, and Youth.

Please note that reviews necessarily contain thematic spoilers, although I will avoid using explicit plot spoilers if at all possible.


Spotlight: Another Good Bet for a Best Picture Nomination

Todd McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) penned and helmed one of the movies that got the most buzz out of Telluride last week and that did very well with the audience at TIFF this weekend. Spotlight tells the true story of how Boston Globe reporters uncovered the extent of priest abuse scandals in their community in 2002. The movie lives up to the hype and has landed squarely in the awards race.

At times, it was hard to separate rooting for the characters and admiration for the film. But one step removed, it is clear that the film itself is laudable. For starters, it is even-keeled throughout, almost exacting in its business-like approach to storytelling. It avoids common pitfalls in scandal-type stories by resisting the temptation to insert unrealistic setbacks or phony threats to the characters. It also avoids romantic involvement clichés.

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