Sunday, September 14, 2008

Naked Gold Man: TIFF Prizes

With the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped, 2008 Oscar buzz is still spinning in the air. This gold dust will need to settle (some films need festival atmosphere to go airborne, others don't) but here's the prize news.

<--- Discovery: Hunger (Steve McQueen)
McQueen's debut film, a political bio, is about the last six weeks in the life of hunger striker Bobby Sands
FIPRESCI Prize (Discovery): Lymelife (Derick Martini) is a coming of age tale starring Rory Culkin. Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Frost and Kieran Culkin co-star.
FIPRESCI Prize (Special Presentation): Disgrace is an Australian feature set in South Africa in which John Malkovich has an affair with his student.
Canadian Film: Lost Song (Rodrigue Jean) is a marital drama about post-partum depression.
Canadian First Feature: Before Tomorrow (Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu) is being compared to Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner possibly because Inuit films are are.

Hopefully Lev and Brian will chime in with last minute film appraisals but the end of a film festival does have a way of knocking people out. They'll wake up sometime tomorrow I expect. Or Tuesday.

The big news everyone will be talking about is that the Audience Award went to Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan) about a Mumbai orphan (Jamal Malik played by Dev Patel from the British series Skins) who became a contestant on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. This prize tends to prompt Oscar Best Picture talk though the track record of that coming to pass indicates far from a 'sure thing'. It does, however, as Fataculture points out insure that it's on people's "must see" lists. That's all you can ask for in the long run: to be seen.

The past 20 years of TIFF Audience winners and how they fared with Oscar.

1988 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown -Pedro Almodovar's classic comedy, an international breakthrough for the world great, got a Foreign Film nod. It lost to the more serious Pelle the Conqueror because serious always beats funny with the gold man.
1989 Roger & Me -Michael Moore's debut film was a critical smash (NSFC, NBR, IDA, NYFF, LAFCA prizes) and a hit in theaters but Oscar's doc branch wasn't interested.
1990 Cyrano de Bergerac -A solid hit with AMPAS racking up 5 nominations including Foreign Film and Best Actor (Gerard Depardieu). It only won for its costuming.
1991 The Fisher King -Terry Gilliam's brilliant oddity won 5 Oscar nominations, and the supporting actress trophy (Mercedes Reuhl). Still, it was a bit too one-of-a-kind for the conservative Oscar voters to push it into the BP Shortlist.
1992 Strictly Ballroom -Baz Luhrmann's debut hit was a crowd pleaser but it didn't score with Oscar at all: too silly. That said, Cannes & BAFTA both gave it big love.

1993 The Snapper -Zero nominations for this Brit-com. It's consolation: a Globe nomination for Best Actor (Colm Meaney)
1994 Priest -Oscar didn't respond (too gay?). But God I loved this when it came out.
1995 Antonia -won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. No other nominations.
1996 Shine -Yes, you can blame Toronto for starting this fire.
1997 The Hanging Garden -Another gay themed winner which means: zero Oscar attention.

Life is Beautiful + American Beauty + Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - A three year stretch of huge Oscar hits. This is arguably why TIFF became the place to announce yourself as Kodak Theater bound. Plus, September is good timing to start golden chatter.
2001 Amélie -This international hit had a surprisingly wild ride to Oscar. Those 5 nominations were nothing to sneeze at (though, despite much word of a mouth, a BP bid failed) but then on Oscar night Amélie won nada... rien... not even Foreign Film.
2002 Whale Rider -didn't use its Toronto win for an awards run. But unlike a lot of titles who wait till they've gone cold buzz wise before re-surfacing for audiences a year later, it managed to resuscitate to the tune of a history making Best Actress nomination. Nothing else though.

2003 Zatoichi -this blind swordsman Japanese film won 5 of Japan's Oscars. But the American Academy wasn't interested.
2004 Hotel Rwanda -missed that Best Picture bid that it clumsily flailed towards with an indecisive and procrastinated release/campaign but all three of its Oscar nominations were big ones nonetheless.
2005 Tsotsi -won itself the Foreign Film Oscar but no other nominations.
2006 Bella -waited a full year for its release and by then the only TIFF winner people were talking about was...
2007's Eastern Promises - from Canada's own son David Cronenberg. Heavily buzzed in the fall, the Russian mafia drama won a well deserved Best Actor nomination for Viggo Mortenson come January. No other nominations.

Sooooo.... 2008
brings us Slumdog Millionaire from Danny Boyle. He's had an unruly, celebrated but decidedly non-Oscar baiting filmography (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Millions). Will this festival hype translate?


Anonymous said...

I only saw 6 films at the festival, but I am glad that two of them received prizes (Hunger, Slumodog). Hunger was beautifully shot, unnerving to watch, and unflinching in its portrayal of hunger striker Bobby Sands. There was little dialogue but then again, little was needed. A great film.

But by far my favourite film I saw at TIFF this year was Slumdog Millionaire. It is a genuine crowd pleaser, and thus unsurprisingly the People's Choice award. I loved everything about the film. Nit-picking (mostly annoying) critics may point out faults, but I'm no critic. All I know is that I was fully engaged from beginning to end, and I have not seen a film that made me feel so many different emotions in a long time. I hope it does well when it gets released by Fox Searchlight in November. Take my word (and everyone else who saw it at TIFF): SEE THIS FILM.

I also saw Martyrs, Synecdoche, Detroit Metal City, and Is There Anybody There?. I also met some super cool festival goers while working. Nathaniel, I'll shoot you an email later today.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy that Slumdog Millionaire got such a warm reception at TIFF. I saw it at the Telluride fest and it was a huge hit there as well. i know Boyle made a few edits before premiering it at TIFF, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing this film again, and again, and again...
I also saw Synecdoche, New York in Cannes and, aside from a few nice moments, did not enjoy the film. I don't know many people who did. It was over ambitious and severely self-indulgent. I don't think Oscar will be calling.

Anonymous said...

There were actually two FIPRESCI prizes given, Nathaniel. Lymelife won in the Discovery section, but in the Special Presentations section, it was awarded to Disgrace -- the JM Coetzee adaptation with John Malkovich. Could be a title to keep an eye on.

Anonymous said...

wow, i'm really surprised at how well Slumdog has done but i'm thrilled for Boyle and especially Dev Patel. He was great on Skins, and i hope things go well for him from here on up.


I've never seen SKINS -- is it worth seeking out?

Anonymous said...

Trust me Nathaniel when I say Skins is NOT worth checking out.

The actors are bad in it, I cant really blame them since they have barely reached puberty. Its all sex, bad language,rocknroll etc etc the typical life of a Brit youngster.Dev Patel was one of the better reasons for the show which has now been canceled.

Anonymous said...

I thought Skins was terrific -- it's a bit uneven, largely due to some inexperienced cast members, but in its best moments, I found it witty, stylish and quite touching. I think it's a lot quirkier and more layered than most American teen dramas. (That said, I'm a Brit -- maybe Skins doesn't travel very well.)

And it hasn't been cancelled -- the third season starts here in the UK next year with a new cast. (I think the idea is to keep following different groups of kids through the same life stage.)

I actually thought Dev Patel was one of the less interesting links in the Skins cast. The girls (especially Hannah Murray as Cassie) are particularly good.

Anonymous said...

least interesting? Really? I love his character! A complete goof yeah, but lovable anyway.

I dont know if you'd like it Nat. Its dramedy targetted at youths (which i'd fall just outside of) but i enjoy it. Great satire and all.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the only complaint I
have about Slumdog is Dev's performance. The film starts with him in the present day but flashes back to his childhood. I found the child actor who played his character did a much better job. Patel's performance was bland, and lacked.. something. I'm a huge fan of the film, the other actors (especially the children), and bascially everything else, but his performance, to me, was a bit stale. I hadn't heard of him until a day ago when I saw the film, so i haven't heard of, or seen Skins. Is it a Brit show?

J.J. said...

Slumdog's not bad. I am surprised, though, at the ebullient reception, from Telluride to Toronto. I think people are just hungry for something buoyant and pleasurable (but with a whiff of "worldliness").

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised at all with Slumdog's enthusiastic reception. Besides being buoyant and immensely pleasurable, it was great film-making. I thought Boyle did a fantastic job depicting life in the slums of Mumbai, while showing the vibrancy and color if its inhabitants. It's about time that a film can be immensely pleaserable, accesible, and enlightening from beginning to end, while also being a great piece of film-making. Yes, it CAN be both.