These films leave TIFF with serious Oscar buzz
As the 2018 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival heads towards its closing weekend, serious Oscar speculation commences — and an interesting divide emerges between glam and grit, big and small.
Based on what we’ve seen on TIFF’s screens over these past frantic days, and factoring in festival buzz and caffeine-fuelled intuition, the two films that most impressed at the fest are in many ways polar opposites: Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born and Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma.
Cooper’s directorial debut is a gold-plated remake of a classic Hollywood tale of rising stardom, burning love and perilous fame. Cooper, a seasoned actor, stars opposite pop diva Lady Gaga as she tackles her first major Hollywood role.
He plays a rock star on the way down; she’s a singer-songwriter ingénue on the way up. Both connect romantically and musically, and command the big screen in a way that bodes well for the film’s Oct. 5 release and the season of gold ahead, where nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and more all seem likely.
Cuarón’s Roma is another home run from the Mexican auteur who has previously given us Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men and Gravity. Filmed in silken black and white, it’s Cuaron’s most personal film, based on his memories growing up in the Mexico City neighbourhood of the film’s title, and of the strong women who raised him during a time of great social upheaval — including the state-backed Corpus Christi massacre of protesters in 1971, recreated in the film.
The central figure of Roma is as far from Gaga’s glamour as you can get, yet she’s also a good bet for a Best Actress nomination. She’s Cleo, played by first-time actor and complete unknown Yalitza Aparicio, whose day job is preschool teacher. Working as maid and nanny to an affluent family, Cleo finds herself unexpectedly bonding with stressed-out mom Sofia (Marina de Tavira) as both women are challenged by personal crises caused by the bad men in their lives.
Roma is a film of tremendous grace, compassion and insight, and like A Star is Born, it beckons multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress and more. But unlike A Star is Born, it will ultimately be seen by most people on the small screens of its corporate backer Netflix, which will make its most concerted push yet for Oscar attention with this film, due for December release. The streaming service is also planning a few big-screen runs of Roma — watch for news about TIFF Bell Lightbox — which is by far the preferred viewing option for this slow-burning masterwork.
TIFF 2018 offered glimpses of many other likely Oscar candidates. Among them are such probable suspects as Damien Chazelle’s moon-landing memoir First Man and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, a tale of love in a time of racial injustice. There were also crowd pleasers with surprising heft: Peter Farrelly’s racially fraught road trip Green Book, Steve McQueen’s cockeyed caper pic Widows and Marielle Heller’s true-life forgery saga Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the latter showcasing Melissa McCarthy in her best-ever dramatic role.
The festival can also mark the end of a potential Oscar bid for films that fail to win over audiences and critics. Such was the unfortunate case of Xavier Dolan’s highly touted The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, a star-laden drama that wants to say something about celebrities, mothers and secrets, but that evidently lost its voice and way after two years of second-guessing by Dolan in the editing room.
What follows are my calls, all of them educated guesses, on possible candidates for the top six Oscar categories coming out of TIFF 2018. Note that these do not include other likely Oscar candidates such as Black Panther, which didn’t screen at the festival.
BEST PICTURE: A Star is Born, Roma, First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Green Book, Widows, Beautiful Boy, Boy Erased, The Front Runner
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Karyn Kusama, Destroyer
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
KiKi Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk
Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Claire Foy, First Man
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Sissy Spacek, The Old Man and the Gun
Elizabeth Debicki, Widows
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk
Daniel Kaluuya, Widows
Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm
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