Every year, it seems like the Oscar race gets crazier and crazier. Last year, we had the insane battle between Roma and Green Book that saw the very new competing with the very old. And this year, TIFF looks to shake things up once again by awarding Jojo Rabbit the top prize in its Audience Award circuit.
Now, I for one and elated that Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire won the top prize. It’s been one of my most anticipated since it was first announced a year ago. The reason I am surprised is because just last week, it was receiving incredibly mixed reviews. While the audience score has averaged out around 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been dragged down by its combination of 80s, 100s, and 0s on Metacritic. The people who hate it really hate it. In fact, many pundits were beginning to write it off in the Oscar race altogether. So the fact it has won such a lofty award that often predicts an Oscar nomination is shocking, to say the least – especially considering the number of 90s and 100s received by some of the other contenders. Of course, I do want to note something of importance. Ever since the 2014 controversy where Toronto banned films playing at Telluride and got thoroughly trounced by the critical circuit, TIFF has gone out of their way to make sure films that premiere at their festival, and which they are heavily excited about, have a prestige boost. Last year, the TIFF runners couldn’t stop talking about Green Book, one of their World Premieres, and it ended up winning the People’s Choice Award. This year, they couldn’t stop talking about Jojo Rabbit. I am not suggesting TIFF rigged the voting or anything. I’m just saying it’s entirely possible they were responsible for influencing voters. Considering the festival’s history of weird, sycophantic rules, I wouldn’t put it past them. The runners up for the prize were Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, two of the most-beloved films of the year. Look for all three to make an impact in the Oscar race.
In the Documentary category, National Geographic took home a win for Feras Fayyad’s The Cave, his third film on the crisis in Syria, while the runners-up include the Armenian revolution doc I Am Not Alone and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Dads. Meanwhile, Spanish dystopian thriller The Platform claimed the Midnight Madness award. Venice Volpi Cup winner Martin Eden won the Platform Prize, while Best Canadian feature went to Antigone, an adaptation of the classic Sophocles play updated to modern-day Canada with immigrants. And the FIPRESCI Special Presentations Award went to How To Build A Girl, the mildly well-received adaptation of the novel of the same name starring Beanie Feldstein. In terms of the Oscar race, the only one of these names I would remember is The Cave, as last year only two documentaries (Free Solo, The Biggest Little Farm) and the Midnight Madness runner-up (Halloween) amounted to anything outside of Toronto. But no matter what, these awards make this a fascinating year, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go from here. I’ll see you all soon, and until then, you can see the full list of winners below.
People’s Choice Award: Jojo Rabbit
First Runner Up: Marriage Story
Second Runner Up: Parasite
People’s Choice – Documentary: The Cave
Documentary First Runner Up: I Am Not Alone
Documentary Second Runner Up: Dads
People’s Choice – Midnight Madness: The Platform
Midnight Madness First Runner Up: The Vast of Night
Midnight Madness Second Runner Up: Blood Quantum
Platform Prize: Martin Eden
Best Canadian Feature: Antigone
FIPRESCI Special Presentations: How To Build A Girl