‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ Makes Itself Oscar Contender After Winning People’s Choice Award At TIFF

The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival has come to an end, and it certainly knows how to throw a wrench in things. While there wasn’t the opportunity for any major surprises after the wind was taken by Venice and Telluride, they change things up by not rewarding the critical hits The Shape of Water or Lady Bird, but instead award the small-time Venice hit Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

I’ve written a bit about Three Billboards for this site, but for those who don’t remember, the film is the most recent by In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths scribe Martin McDonaugh, a great filmmaker in his own right. It tells a parable about revenge, forgiveness, and redemption surrounding a woman’s quest to find justice for her daughter, who was raped and murdered. She puts up a series of billboards with controversial accusations about police misconduct in their small Missouri town, and questioning the kindly (and dying) police chief who has failed to find results. A dopey, bigoted deputy engages the woman in a destructive war throughout town as they all seek closure for the traumas they’ve all seen in their lives. Oh, and it looks really funny. The film stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell as the three main characters, respectively, and McDormand and Rockwell have already been building goodwill and Oscar buzz. Considering the fact that nine of the last ten winners of the People’s Choice Award went on to be nominated for Best Picture, you can definitely expect this to be a major Oscar contender come this winter.

Things really become interesting when you learn that, despite high praise all around, The Shape of Water and Lady Bird, neither film even received a Runner-Up placing. Those went to I, Tonya and Call Me By Your Name. I, Tonya is the story of Tonya Harding’s tumultuous life, from her abusive childhood to her time as one of the most talented athletes in the world to her downfall when her husband hired two dumbass criminals to take out her competition, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. The film really connected with people, thanks to its breezy, comical attitude and its ability to handle the darker moments with gravitas. Star Margot Robbie has received heaps of praise and a little bit of buzz, and Allison Janney is unrecognizable as Harding’s overbearing mother, with many people calling her the new frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress. I’m not sure that Neon, the studio that won the bidding war for the film’s distribution rights, has the funds or the strategy for a full Oscar push, but regardless, this film should be one of your most anticipated for the back half of the year. Meanwhile, Call Me By Your Name is the new film from director Luca Guadagnino, and follows the relationship between a seventeen-year-old Italian boy and the college student studying abroad and staying with his father. The film has been impressing critics ever since Sundance, and after it fell off the radar a few months ago, this was exactly the adrenaline boost it needed to stay in the race. That being said, it’s supposedly a very European seventies throwback, and could be off-putting to the casual audience member. We’ll find out how the Academy feels about the film shortly.

Amongst the documentary awards, the field was led by Agnes Varda’s newest film Faces Places, which I’ve heard is just wonderful. However, most eyes were on the Midnight Madness competition, which was one of the greatest fields in recent memory. The winner was Bodied, a dramedy about a grad student who decides to invest himself in the hip-hop scene for his thesis, however, most eyes seemed to be on The Disaster Artist. Introduced by James Franco and Tommy Wiseau themselves, the film won over fans of The Room and those who’d never seen it, receiving universal praise and earning the best reviews of the entire festival. That film received the runner-up award. Vince Vaughn’s career-changing Brawl in Cell Block 99 took the second runner-up prize.

However, not every film premiering in Toronto had success. Oscar contender The Current War bombed hard, eliminating itself from competition. Suburbicon’s reviews tanked even harder than they did in Venice. Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store had its strengths, and critics appreciated her eye, but it ultimately didn’t impress the way it wanted to. And while it still has fans, Downsizing is really not connecting with North American audiences. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t an Oscar contender, but for the moment, that might be worth watching.

You can see the full results from TIFF below. I will have an Oscar update later this week to reflect the three festivals we’ve witnessed thus far. I won’t say too much about it here, but I will say the update will be good news for Three Billboards, The Shape of Water, and Call Me By Your Name, and bad news for The Current War and Downsizing.

People’s Choice Award: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
First Runner Up: I, Tonya
Second Runner Up: Call Me By Your Name
People’s Documentary Award: Faces Places
Documentary First Runner Up: Long Time Running
Documentary Second Runner Up: Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!
People’s Choice Midnight Madness: Bodied
Midnight Madness Runner Up: The Disaster Artist
Midnight Madness Second Runner Up: Brawl in Cell Block 99
Platform Prize: Sweet Country
Platform Prize, Honourable Mention: Dark River
Best Canadian Feature Film: Ravenous (Les Afflamés)
FIPRESCI Discovery Prize: Ava

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