After 10 days of star-studded premieres, parties, and nearly 300 movies, the 2016 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival officially wrapped up on Sunday.
As always, it was a hectic week-and-a-half during the city’s annual celebration of all things film: broken escalators generated (almost) as much breathless coverage as the future awards season favourites, people passed out in the aisles, multimillion dollar deals were struck, and Oscar campaigns kicked off, while others fizzled. Now that the curtains have lowered on another TIFF, here’s our take on this year’s winners and losers.
Musicals get a bad rap, but after Damien Chazelle’s new-school throwback to Old Hollywood La La Land won the festival’s coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award, it’s officially on the fast track to Oscar glory. (Seven out of the last eight winners scored Best Picture nominations.) And, yes, even people who claim to hate musicals have proved powerless to resist La La Land’s charms.
Winner: Barry Jenkins
Not saying we told you so, but after La La Land, Jenkins’ Moonlight was hands down the most buzz-worthy title at this year’s fest. Fans of the filmmaker’s directorial debut Medicine for Melancholy were already well aware of the up-and-coming writer/director, but now he’s landed on the rest of Hollywood’s radar as well.
Winner: Amy Adams’ agent
Between starring roles in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals and the thinking man’s sci-fi blockbuster Arrival, Adams now has not one, but two very good chances to land a Best Actress Oscar this year. And actually, make that three if voters decide to reward her for not busting out laughing during that Batman v. Superman “Martha” scene. Now that’s a real acting challenge.
Loser: Birth of a Nation’s Oscar hopes
The Nat Turner biopic was the talk of Sundance this year for its urgent, angry, and astonishingly current account of Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, but the only thing anyone seemed to be talking about at TIFF was the controversy surrounding the film’s producer, director, writer and star Nate Parker. Well, everyone except Parker, that is, who continually sidestepped questions about the recently resurfaced reports of his 1999 sexual assault charge. In only a few short months, Birth of a Nation has gone from slam-dunk Best Picture contender to an extremely problematic one.
Loser: The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag
No matter what happens with Birth of a Nation, this much is clear after TIFF: there is no damn way we’re going to have another all-white Oscars ceremony this year. Diversity – both in terms of the stories that were told and the people telling them – was a major recurring theme at this year’s festival, and you can expect to see more of the same during the upcoming awards season.
Scotiabank Theatre’s out-of-order escalators were the talk of TIFF that all-important first weekend. But hey, as they say in Hollywood, any press is good press, right?
Not just those forced to walk up a few flights of stairs to get to their screenings (the horror!), but also the ones forced to write breaking news stories and op-ed pieces about a pair of busted escalators at a film festival.
Winner: The publicists for Raw
This graphic French horror movie was already a hit with critics at Cannes in May. But after reports of multiple audience members passing out and paramedics being called during its midnight premiere at TIFF, the gory cannibal movie made international news, earning it instant cult status with horror fans.
Winner: Facial hair
Between the stars of The Magnificent Seven and the ‘70s-set shoot-em-up Free Fire, this was a banner year for guys sporting elaborate facial hair. (We’ll also give an honourable mention to Shia LaBeouf’s award-worthy rattail in American Honey.)
Loser: Anyone who paid $58 a ticket
Going to see one of TIFF’s big-ticket premieres already makes for a pretty pricey evening as is, but this year, a new surge pricing policy added an extra $2 to $7 premium onto popular screenings. And that’s a tough sell, especially for movies that would be coming to theatres (or Netflix) only one or two weeks after their festival premieres.
Winner: Streaming services
Streaming has already taken over TV, but both Netflix and Amazon continued to make their move into the film business in 2016. And both streaming behemoths were major players at TIFF, bringing buzzy titles like Oscar hopeful Manchester by the Sea, Christopher Guest’s Mascots and the controversial Amanda Knox documentary. If TV’s the new film, then streaming companies are quickly becoming the new movie studios.
Winner: Film fans
Let’s be real: a festival that boasts almost 300 movies is going to have a few less-than-stellar offerings. But for the most part, it felt like there were more good-to-great movies at TIFF in 2016 than in years past, and that’s great news for anyone looking forward to Oscar season. Better put those “film is dead” thinkpieces on hold.