TIFF: Assessing Oscar chances at the 2014 fest
TIFF: Assessing Oscar chances at the 2014 fest
Celebrities have been easy to spot during TIFF 2014, on red carpets outside such festival venues as Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales and Elgin theatres.
In contrast, that odd little golden man called Oscar proved elusive. This year’s festival gave us many glimpses, especially of possible Best Actor and Best Actress candidates, but few clear views of how the next Academy Awards will unfold.
Several films arrived at TIFF from other fests with their Best Picture campaigns already mapped out, including Foxcatcher and Mr. Turner from Cannes and The Imitation Game and Wild from Telluride. All had a good response here, if something short of must-see buzz from an Oscars perspective, which is increasingly part of the game for TIFF and other film festivals.
With the possible exception of St. Vincent, the Bill Murray showcase that took the fest and the town by storm — TIFF even created a Bill Murray Day — there was no potential Best Picture hopeful causing a stir in Toronto, one comparable to last year’s audience swoons for 12 Years a Slave and Gravity or Argo and Silver Linings Playbook in 2012.
And St. Vincent’s chances at a Best Picture nomination are far from assured, even if the audience that greeted its Sept. 5 world premiere at the Princess of Wales was nothing short of rapturous.
Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company will need to sell St. Vincent to the laughter-averse Academy as the layered dramedy it really is, rather than the simple comedy it appears to be in the trailer. The task will be easier if St. Vincent wins the audience awards at Sunday’s TIFF closing event, which is a good possibility.
There may be better luck at landing a Best Actor nod for Murray, which he deserves.
The situation is similar for Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, another TIFF world premiere. He’s simply perfect as Stephen Hawking, the genius physicist whose severe physical impairments haven’t held back his expansive view of the universe.
A Best Actor nomination seems a good bet for Redmayne, but Best Picture may be a stretch for The Theory of Everything, which groans from Masterpiece Theatreearnestness.
However, Redmayne faces stiff competition from Benedict Cumberbatch, who brilliantly plays persecuted World War II code-breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and from Timothy Spall, who took the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his finely etched portrayal of masterpiece painter J.W.S. Turner in Mr. Turner.
And will the Academy put three Brits in the five Best Actor slots, especially in what looks to be a very crowded race for this category? The Americans are also strong in this field. Besides Bill Murray, there’s fellow comic actor Steve Carell, who seems a surefire nominee for his wickedly dramatic turn as a wealthy bully in Foxcatcher. Word is also very good for Michael Keaton’s slumming superhero in Birdman, a Venice/Telluride sensation that skipped Toronto.
Other possibilities for Best Actor from the TIFF crop include Jake Gyllenhaal, scarily superb as a sociopathic newshound in Nightcrawler; Robert Downey Jr., hitting all his marks as a salvation-seeking legal vulture in gala opener The Judge; Tobey Maguire, no mere pawn as chessmaster Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice; and Andrew Garfield as a desperate family man turned conflicted deadbeat evictor in 99 Homes.
The Best Actress field isn’t quiet so busy. Reese Witherspoon looks sure-footed for her tough trail hiker role in Wild, even if the low-key movie by Canada’s Jean-Marc Vallée seems iffy for Best Picture. (Witherspoon’s simply OK performance as a refugee mentor in her other TIFF film, The Good Lie, directed by Philippe Falardeau, also Canadian, isn’t likely to factor into the Oscar equation.)
Julianne Moore has a shot at parlaying her Cannes Best Actress win into an Oscar nom for playing a desperate thespian in David Cronenberg’s Hollywood-skewering Maps to the Stars. She could face competition from Juliette Binoche, whose aging actress character in Clouds of Sils Maria approaches her own career crisis as more of an existential one.
And if you believe in the Oscar legend that the Academy loves actors who glam down and grit up, then Jennifer Aniston’s scarred, addicted and alienated character in Cake is also worthy of consideration.
TIFF also showed us many possible supporting actor and actress candidates: Channing Tatum and/or Mark Ruffalo as besieged bros in Foxcatcher; Robert Duvall as the out-of-order title jurist of The Judge; Michael Shannon as a real estate shark in 99 Homes; Melissa McCarthy in rare serious mode as Bill Murray’s bothersome St. Vincentneighbour; Peter Sarsgaard as a devoted chess mentor in Pawn Sacrifice; J.K. Simmons as a pounding drum teacher in Sundance hit Whiplash; and maybe even Jane Fonda as a comically oversharing widow in This Is Where I Leave You.
Possible Best Director candidates from TIFF are scant. Mike Leigh for Mr. Turner and Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher have been bruited for Oscar glory since Cannes last May, and Morten Tyldum could join them on the strength of The Imitation Game.
They’re facing stiff competition from directors who weren’t at TIFF: Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) and Christopher Nolan (Interstellar).
And the list doesn’t stop there. Canada’s Xavier Dolan could break into the Best Director camp with his Cannes Jury Prize winner Mommy, a mother/son drama that won many raves at TIFF.
Jon Stewart, meanwhile, could get first-time lucky for his directorial debut Rosewater, in which he turns from observer to crusader to fight for a besieged former guest on hisThe Daily Show.
And this being early September, anything could still happen regarding the Academy Awards — and likely will.
This time last year, it looked like Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks and All Is Lost would be major Oscar players, but they were all but ignored by Oscar. That mercurial man can be hard to track outside of TIFF, too.