They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
Three Billboards Heads to Best Picture Race After TIFF Win
By J. Don Birnam
September 19, 2017
The dark humor analysis of small town woes, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was announced as the winner of the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, placing it squarely in the Best Picture conversation and signaling the official kick-off of what promises to be a nail-biting awards season campaign.
As you likely know, past winners of this award almost always get a Best Picture nomination, and they include La La Land last year and Room the year prior. Although a win is harder to come by from a Toronto award alone (12 Years a Slave and The King’s Speech both did it), the name of the game is to get in to the lineup and take your chances there. At the very least, it is a sign of competitiveness amongst the contenders, an indication that the movie is having a positive reception amongst audiences, and that still matters to some degree in the awards conversation.
Coming in second and third respectively were the Tonya Harding dramedy I, Tonya, and the gay love story Call Me By Your Name, which I discussed in our last column. Both are obvious crowd pleasers and should find some traction with Oscar voters. Meanwhile, the people behind films like The Shape of Water have to be disappointed. It scored top accolades at Venice and was received positively at Telluride, only to not even place with audiences in Toronto. Still, last year’s Moonlight did not connect with Toronto audiences and still won it all.
In other categories, the documentary Faces Places took the top prize, making that a surefire contender for that category at the Oscars. The James Franco satire The Disaster Artist won second place at the People’s Choice midnight madness series, pretty much ending any silly awards conversation against what will be a niche movie and nothing else.
So it seems that we really have a wide-open Best Picture race in our hands, with no obvious contender emerging from these ashes. That does not mean that one cannot sprout up in New York next month (think of the Richard Linklater Last Flag Flying), or that voters will not coalesce around something we have just not noticed yet. But for now, it is anyone’s game.
I’ll take a look now at some of the other TIFF movies I saw and what we can expect their Oscar chances to be.
Mother!: Too Divisive To Figure Seriously?
Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical allegory has divided audiences to the core since its release on Friday, pretty much dooming any chances it has at serious Oscar consideration. It is too bad, because the movie has generated more chatter and debate than most other Oscar films have in the last few years. The story is purportedly about Jennifer Lawrence fending off home intruders as her permissive husband, Javier Bardem, lets hordes of them in, starting with Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris. Things go wacky, as they do in Aronofsky’s films, but the director proves once more that he is not afraid to push the envelope in his craft. Many people, even most, may not connect with what he is telling us, but that does not mean that Aronofsky’s vision is not worth admiring on its own. At least he has the courage to get there.