The annual awards calendar can be divided into two seasons: pre-Toronto and post-Toronto. Before the Toronto International Film Festival everything is complete guess work; predictions are made based on factors like directors, studios, and general buzz. After the Toronto International Film Festival the competitors in the awards race starts to come into focus and words like “lock” and “frontrunner” start getting tossed around.
We have been rounding up reviews from the major players in Toronto over the past two weeks and now it’s time to take a closer look at the films and performances and see if we can drop some of those key words here at Film Misery.
Best Picture Race
There were three films that played at the Toronto International Film Festival that had critics and pundits immediately tossing around the “O” word: Ben Affleck’s Argo, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Enough has been written about the Oscar chances of PTA’s most recent effort on this website and others, but I will quickly recap the pros and cons so we can move on: PRO: Harvey Weinstein, Paul Thomas Anderson is overdue, amazing lead performances, controversy that spurs discussion, most critics love it. CON: Some critics don’t love it, it is less conventional/crowd-pleasing than recent Oscar winners. I still have The Master as the frontrunner in the Best Picture race, even though it’s divisive, because it has such a strong combination of winning factors, that I have a hard time believing it won’t succeed. Also, I’m stubborn and tend to stick with my original predictions for a long time.
The Master does have some strong competition emerging, however. After Ben Affleck’s Argo screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Roger Ebert wrote that it would be this year’s Best Picture winner simply because it was the biggest crowd-pleaser at the Toronto International Film Festival and he claims the last five Best Picture winners have all accomplished that feat (although it’s slightly misleading because The Hurt Locker played at Toronto a full year before it’s theatrical release and No Country for Old Men and The Artist both played at Cannes and already had buzz building months before Toronto). I’ve been suspecting that Ben Affleck would have a Best Picture nominated film since his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone in 2008. He narrowly missed in 2010 for The Town, and with Argo everything seems to be lining up for him.
The biggest boost for Argo might be the fact that it is the only real Best Picture contender that Warner Bros. has in their line-up this year. With Cloud Atlas receiving mixed reviews, The Great Gatsby getting pushed to 2013, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey more likely to be a commercial success than an awards magnet (except the technical categories), Argo will not have to split the attention of the powerhouse Warner Bros. studio. This might give them an advantage over The Weinstein Company, which has at least three major contenders to split their attention between.
Speaking of awards schmoozer Harvey Weinstein, his studio has an excellent fall-back option if The Master is feeling too high brow for the Academy: David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which should also be in the conversation when talking about the best reviewed movies in Toronto. Oscar expert Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere calls it the “slam-dunkiest Best Picture contender” because of its buzz and the fact that it’s getting some mild push-back, an obstacle he says that all Best Picture nominees must face. It was also the winner of the People’s Choice award at TIFF, which is the top prize the festival offers. Since Russell’s film is technically a comedy, it seems unlikely to be the favorite among the often humorless voters of the Academy, but its performances could carry it far. More on those later.
Michael Haneke’s Amour continued its strong push after its Palme d’Or win, so it moves up my ranks this week. Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina received widely mixed reviews, although I will stress that one should never underestimate the Academy’s appreciation for a pretty costume drama. Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible was a surprise crowd-pleaser with the actual tsunami survivors that the film is based on present for the screening. It might be a strong wild card, but needs a little bit more steam and some of the unseen movies to flop in order to have room.
Here are my current rankings for Best Picture:
1) The Master
3) Silver Linings Playbook
4) Beasts of the Southern Wild
5) Django Unchained
7) Les Miserables
8) Inside Llewyn Davis
9) Zero Dark Thirty
View the alternates and the rest of the rankings at the 2013 Oscar Predictions page.
Best Actor and Best Actress Races
According to Indiewire‘s poll of critics, Joaquin Phoenix gave the best performance of the Toronto International Film Festival for his work in The Master. His contorted face and slow line delivery makes each word drip with importance and has audiences leaning in closer to catch every nuance to his performance. I currently have him ranked higher than Daniel Day-Lewis‘ surprisingly high-pitched impersonation of Abraham Lincoln, which was glimpsed in the Lincoln trailer last week.
The newest addition to the Best Actor race is Bradley Cooper who received buckets of praise for his performance in Silver Linings Playbook. The Academy is often willing to embrace an actor who makes the jump from commercial fare to more artistic work and this seems like a great opportunity for Cooper. His biggest competition comes from the many unseen performances like Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, Denzel Washington in Flight, and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables. Chances are good that one of those men does not live up to hype and Cooper has room to slide in as the 4th or 5th nominee.
Here are my current rankings for Best Actor:
1) Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
2) Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
3) Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
4) John Hawkes – The Sessions
5) Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
The Best Actress race has two new frontrunners this week thanks to stellar word of mouth coming out of Toronto for Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook and Naomi Watts of The Impossible. Lawrence seems like the more likely winner because of the stellar year she has already had, thanks to the blockbuster hit The Hunger Games and the fact that she has already gotten her introductory Oscar nomination out of the way. Watts’ character in The Impossible seems a little more conventional, but with her superb acting chops, we should never count her out.
Possible spoilers in the Best Actress race include Judi Dench, who will be campaigned as a lead for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Emanuelle Riva whose success will be dependent on the U.S. reception of Amour. If Haneke and his film seem like strong Oscar contenders, Riva will become a much hotter Awards season commodity.
Here are my current rankings for Best Actress:
1) Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
2) Naomi Watts – The Impossible
3) Keira Knightley – Anna Karenina
4) Marion Cotillard - Rust & Bone
5) Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Be sure to check the 2013 Oscar Predictions page for the most up to date predictions in all categories.
What were your biggest take-aways from the Toronto International Film Festival? Which films are you most excited to see?