They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Toronto International Film Festival Opens

By J. Don Birnam

September 11, 2017

I'm ready to give my Oscar acceptance speech.

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There is no rest for the weary, as the eyes of the movie world turned from the Colorado Mountains to the Great White North as the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival got under way.

At TIFF, Oscar contenders and Oscar pretenders alike hope for one additional boost before the almost-forgotten stop at the New York Film Festival and the race into the field of the brutal awards season. Few new movies open these days at TIFF that can make a splash, though last yearLion and Jackie both opened here, the former eventually landing a Best Picture nomination and the latter finding distribution and a couple of nods as well.

In any case, TIFF has become more the point of final launch for films that have already achieved some recognition elsewhere. Movies from earlier in the year like Call Me By Your Name this year, can come back into the conversation. Movies from Cannes that few American audiences have been exposed to can also remind people of their existence here, as Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck or the Cannes Winner The Square will do. TIFF is also a launching pad for the Oscar campaigns of many countries in serious contention for the Best Foreign Language Film prize, and there is no doubt that their People’s Choice Awards is a prestigious harbinger that almost guarantees you a Best Picture nomination, as La La Land and have achieved of recent vintage.


So, let’s explore what I have seen at TIFF so far, its Oscar chances, and beyond. Bother me here: Twitter @jdonbirnam and Instagram @awards_predix

“Borg/McEnroe”: A Worthy Opener But Not an Oscar Player

A year after opening the festival with the lackluster revival The Magnificent Seven, TIFF did somewhat better by showcasing the Swedish tennis drama Borg/McEnroe about the 1980 Wimbledon final between the two outsized personalities. Featuring a strong performance by Shia LaBeouf as the cantankerous American, the film is an interesting exploration of the rivalry with some good editing in the pivotal match sequences, but I doubt it will be much of a contender in the Oscar race, with its limited scope and muted ambitions.

Oscar potential: Best Supporting Actor (LaBeouf); Best Editing

“Call Me By Your Name”: A Touching Love Story In The Mix

Premiering first at Sundance way back when, this adaptation of the gay coming of age story had a lot of buzz coming into TIFF and did not disappoint, wowing audiences with its sincere and tender story of two young men falling for each other in Italy over a summer in 1982. By the perfect Italian analyst Luca Guadagnino, who did I am Love and A Bigger Splash, the sweeping romance is a bit too facile at times but its over the top excesses are purposeful and what the movie is going for. And a blockbuster scene by Michael Stuhlbarg at the end (and he’s everywhere these days) really brings down the house and coalesces together a nice message of youthful love for the epic. I expect this to be a serious awards contender come nominations time.

Oscar potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Timothee Chalamet), Best Supporting Actor (Stuhlbarg), Best Screenplay, Best Score

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