Monday, September 18, 2017

42nd TIFF award advertises 'Billboards' as a real favorite

The curtain has come down at the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival, and
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" walked off with the "People's Choice Award."

As result, the darkly comic drama from writer/director Martin McDonagh establishes itself as a year-end awards favorite, that is, if TIFF history has anything to say about it. The fact remains, though, that eight of last the nine winners have gone on to Best Picture Academy Award nominations. Those include "Room" and "La La Land" the last two years, as well as such actual Oscar winners as "Slumdog Millionaire," The King's Speech," and "12 Years a Slave."

Frances McDormand stars in "The People's Choice" winner.
The film from McDonagh ("In Bruges," "Seven Psychopaths") features Frances McDormand leading an all-star ensemble as a tough mom who purchases the billboard space to get the local police moving on finding her daughter's murderer. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish and Lucas Hedges co-star.

The People's Choice runners-up for the festival, which showcased 255 features from Sept. 7-17, were "I, Tonya" (starring Margot Robbie as scandalous figure skater Tonya Harding) and "Call Me By Your Name," the Armie Hammer starrer which has been a critical darling since debuting at the Sundance Film Festival last winter.

Other top TIFF winners included:

Best Canadian Feature: "Les Affames"; Film Critics Fipresci Prizes: "Ava" (in the festival's Discovery program) and "The Motive" (in Special Presentations); Platform Prize: "Sweet Country"; People's Choice in Midnight Madness: "Bodied";  People's Choice in Documentaries: "Faces Places."

Some personal choices (among 30 movies viewed):

Favorite films: The aforementioned "Billboards," which twists and turns brilliantly around McDormand's justifiably angry mom, and "The Shape of Water," co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro's fairytale about a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) becoming infatuated with the subject of a top-secret government experiment. It truly is a movie lover's dream with another smart, superb supporting cast.

Good ones to see: "Battle of the Sexes" (Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs); "Borg/McEnroe" (Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe); "Darkest Hour" (Winston Churchill vs. the Nazis), and "Chappaquiddick" (Teddy Kennedy vs. himself).

Nice surprises: "Breathe" (which first-time director Andy Serkis somehow makes much more than just another disease of the week movie) and "Lady Bird" (which first-time director Greta Gerwig somehow makes a little more than your average teen angst comedy).

And speaking of comedies: Armando Ianucci's "The Death of Stalin" and Louis C.K.'s "I Love You, Daddy" both produced some very big laughs, particularly in the early going. However, the most consistently funny festival film was "The Disaster Artist," from director James Franco, who also stars as the filmmaker credited with making the worst movie of all time. It's consistently hilarious.

Actor accolades: Gary Oldman, as the aforementioned Churchill in "Darkest Hour"; Andrew Garfield in "Breathe"; Denzel Washington as "Roman J. Israel, Esq."; and Michael Stuhlbarg and Timothee Chalamet in "Call Me By Your Name." Their father-son scene at the end is a cinematic masterpiece.

Actress attention: Hawkins in "The Shape of Water"; McDormand in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Claire Foy in "Breathe"; and Laurie Metcalf, as the "mean" mother in "Lady Bird."

Wish I'd seen 'em: "I Tonya"  and "The Florida Project."

Sorry I did: "mother!" I prefer to call it "monstrous!" And, I wasn't the only one. Here's what I overheard walking out: "So Paramount gave (director Darren) Aronofsky a (boat)load of money and basically said, "Go make whatever you want." Sounds about right.

And, on than note, our TIFF coverage becomes a legitimate wrap.

(Info on all of the above films remains available at

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