2019 Oscars at a Glance: Toronto International Film Festival 2018 Wrap-Up

If Beale Street Could Talk
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The fall film festival circuit ends with the Toronto International Film Festival. This year proved to be an exceptional one, with only a couple of stinkers in the mix and everything else receiving positive reactions out of the critics and audiences.

The coveted People’s Choice Award went to a surprise showing: Green Book. The Peter Farrelly directed picture took home critics’ admiration as well, with all the critics on Rotten Tomatoes giving it a positive score. The reviews say look out for Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali to storm the acting races (Viggo in Lead, Ali in Supporting), and for a Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and potentially Best Director nomination to go along for the ride. Now I wasn’t there, but are we really ready to say that the director of Dumb & Dumber and Kingpin is going to be a Best Director nominee later this year?

Anyways, the runner-up was Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, which also premiered here. While the reviews weren’t as overwhelmingly as fresh as the reviews for Moonlight were two years ago, Jenkins has done it again with 91% of critics giving it a pass. They say look out for Jenkins to score his second nominations in both the Directing and Adapted Screenplay categories, and his cast, specifically Kiki Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King, are all looking to strike up nominations.

Second runner-up went to Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s newest film, which also took home the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last week. The strong reviews continue for that film, which currently sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix might finally have its first Best Picture and Best Director nominations (and potentially wins) this year.

Now for the rest of the bunch. Starting with the opening night film, Outlaw King, which did not receive as warm a welcome as other films did. It has 38% of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics singing its praises, and the word “silly” came up in a lot of reviews. Netflix might want to take a hard pass for this one’s Oscar chances. Unfortunately, another film that disappointed was Beautiful Boy, which has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. While that might sound pretty good, the strong Oscar contenders usually score 85% or higher. It looks like outside of Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet’s performances, the film might be dead on arrival from the Academy’s perspective.

Back on the positive side, though, 20th Century Fox’s The Hate U Give scored very well across the board, in fact 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics saying look out for a Best Actress nomination for star Amandla Stenberg, a Best Picture nod, and maybe some love for its Adapted Screenplay. Vox Lux continued its strong showings after the Venice Film Festival, and NEON Productions picked up the distribution rights. No word yet on when they’re planning on releasing it. It might fall in later this year, like they did last year with I, Tonya, or they could wait until next year.

White Boy Rick opened in the States over the past weekend, and it showed at both Telluride and TIFF, and reviews are mixed with a 63% from Rotten Tomatoes. After all that, it seems Matthew McConaughey might be the only Oscar prospect from the film. Paul Greengrass’ 22 July also returned here from Venice, but after a strong showing there, a few critics were not as positive at Toronto. The film now has 81% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, Netflix may want to put all their bids on Roma in the top categories. Another question mark at this rate is Ben is Back, which garnered an 86% from Rotten Tomatoes. Word on this one is strong performances from Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, but that might be all from Peter Hedges’ latest.

Melissa McCarthy continues to delight with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which continues to play at 100% from Rotten Tomatoes. Herself, co-star Richard E. Grant, the screenplay, and the film itself are all leaning on nominations in a couple of months. Ironic how we pair one of the best reviewed with one of the worst here: Life Itself. The Dan Fogelman film crashed and burned with only 20% of Rotten Tomatoes’ finest giving it a positive reaction. Looks like another dead in the water Oscar hopeful.

Hugh Jackman continues to be the best word out of Jason Reitman’s latest, The Front Runner. While the film sits at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, Jackman may be the sole effort on Oscar morning. The Sisters Brothers scored a great reception from Venice and continues strong reviews here with 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, the film’s Oscar chances are a big question mark for me personally. However, one of the better marked films from TIFF was Steve McQueen’s Widows. The 97% approval from Rotten Tomatoes only promises big things come Oscar time, especially for the film, director, screenplay, lead performance from Viola Davis and supporting role from Daniel Kaluuya.

The fanfare continues for Bradley Cooper and crew on the latest remake of A Star is Born. Another highlight returning from Venice, the film sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and will continue to be the film that could possibly score the most nominations Oscar morning. Cooper could be the first person since Warren Beatty to be nominated in four separate categories in the same year. Then again, Alfonso Cuaron could be the first person ever nominated for five Oscars in one night if Roma does well, so keep that in mind.

Another favorite from Venice and Telluride was First Man, which shows a promising 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s looking for a number of nominations Oscar morning in both top and tech categories. Mid90s proved to be a good debut for Jonah Hill behind the camera. It scored 94% from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not sure what awards A24 and co. will try to shoot for, but Best Picture may be among them. Nicole Kidman may strike a Best Actress nomination for her work in Destroyer, which has an 84% from Rotten Tomatoes. Again, this may be the sole Oscar the film tries to earn.

Peterloo continued its lukewarm struggle with critics and sits at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Mike Leigh might just be looking at tech noms for his latest. Robert Redford should be very pleased with the results from The Old Man and the Gun: 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a slew of critics praising his last performance as one of his best. Outside of himself and Sissy Spacek, however, the film may have trouble landing more nominations. Wildlife continues all fresh reviews for Paul Dano’s directorial debut. The film is hoping for big nominations for Lead Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, and maybe some love for Dano’s work behind the camera.

Another Telluride holdover was Boy Erased, which sits at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. It looks like this will mainly play for nominations in the acting categories, specifically Lucas Hedges for Lead Actor, either Russell Crowe or Joel Edgerton, or both of them, for Supporting Actor, and Nicole Kidman for Supporting Actress. The rest may be wishful thinking. Colette continues to dazzle off of Sundance with 92% from Rotten Tomatoes. Outside of a few tech categories and Keira Knightley, though, I think it’ll struggle at the Oscars.

And finally there’s the Netflix hopeful The Kindergarten Teacher, which has 87% approval from Rotten Tomatoes. Outside of its lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, Netflix may venture more toward their other films for the big categories.

So overall a lot of strong presences here at TIFF, where we usually see similar reactions. A few stink bombs here and there, a couple of high hopefuls, and a few surprises. It’s par for the course, which means we’re looking at another strong Oscar season. I will be back soon with updated predictions for the Oscar nominations.