By Matt Neglia The 2016 Toronto Film Festival is still going on but by this point the narrative of the 2016 awards season is starting to come into frame. True stories and fictional ones which feature likable and relatable characters is what’s currently becoming the talk of the race with films such as “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” “Sully,”& “Florence Foster Jenkins.” An interesting film to include in this list is “The Birth Of A Nation” which may feature the most likable lead character but with the most unlikable leading actor playing him as far as the media is concerned. The story of Nate Parker’s journey with “The Birth Of A Nation” continued at the Toronto Film Festival, while others such as “Lion,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “A Monster Calls” began their journeys.
Click below to see what our biggest takeaways from the festival have been and how they will play into the rest of the 2016 awards season.
1. Despite Controversy, “The Birth Of A Nation” Continues To Do Well With Audiences
Much in the same way it did at Cannes, “The Birth Of A Nation” played to an enthusiastic response for those who saw it despite carrying a ton of controversy with it heading into its screening at the Toronto Film Festival. Nate Parker took the stage afterwards with his cast and crew and they received a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance which clearly moved the actor/writer/producer and director who is being reviled for his rape accusation case (Which he was acquitted of) from 1999. It will be interesting to see how the film continues to play the more and more it is shown leading up to its official release on October 7th. We here at Next Best Picture took it out of the running in many categories once the rape scandal news broke, but now we are starting to wonder if the rousing true story of Nat Turner isn’t down for the count after all. This will surely be the roller coaster of the season.
2. “Jackie” Is A Serious Contender In Many Categories
One film that continued to build upon its tremendous buzz after it first screened at the Venice Film Festival is “Jackie” which is said to not only feature a career best performance from Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman, but also Pablo Larrain’s film is said to be a contender in other categories as well. The film could be a contender for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, a few technical categories due to the film’s period setting and even Best Original Score for composer Mica Levi. This is an under the radar nominee that may have unexpectedly strong legs throughout the season.
3. “Lion” Is Harvey Weinstein’s Ace In The Hole
Last year, none of Harvey Weinstein’s films were nominated for Best Picture. I’m sure he didn’t lose that much sleep over it as many tried to say that the reign of Harvey Weinstein over the awards season was starting to dwindle and that he may not have it in him anymore to release quality films which would garner him and his studio a nomination. Well those people certainly turned out to be wrong (And making such claims was ridiculous to begin with) as Harvey Weinstein rolled out debut director Garth Davis’s film “Lion” to a warm response which prompted a few tears for the crowd in attendance. There were also cries for Dev Patel to be a contender in the Best Actor category as much as the film is starting to become a contender in the Best Picture category.
4. “American Pastoral” & “The Magnificent Seven” Are Out, While “A Monster Calls” Is On The Fence
Not every film which premiered at TIFF garnered praise as we finally had our first two failures of the 2016 awards season in the less likely hopeful “The Magnificent Seven” and the excruciatingly disappointing “American Pastoral.” The former was never a serious contender to begin with but there were some who thought maybe a few technical nominations or a mention for James Horner’s final score would come to fruition. Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut though with “American Pastoral” was met with less than enthusiastic response and all of its chances at being an awards season player pretty much went up in the flames the night is premiered. Even Dakota Fanning, who many felt could be the film’s sole nomination despite the rest of the film’s response, did not manage to get the right notices from the press that was in attendance. “A Monster Calls” however, managed to hold on as an artistic fairytale that plays out as this year’s potentially biggest tearjerker which could go a long way for the film’s Best Picture chances. While, the responses weren’t unanimous across the board, the emotional punch that this film delivers could be enough to keep its chances alive as we move forward in the season.
5. Peter Berg’s “Deepwater Horizon” Plays Better Than Expected
In 2013, director Peter Berg surprised many when he released his Afghanistan True Story War film “Lone Survivor” which starred Mark Wahlberg, garnered respectable reviews, earned $154.8 million at the box office and nabbed two Oscar nominations for Best Sound Editing and Mixing. Now here he is again, re-teaming with Mark Wahlberg in the first of two films which will release this year (The other being the Boston Marathon Bombing True Story “Patriot’s Day” set to premiere December 21st), also based on a true story and once again managed to surprise those who have underestimated Peter Berg’s commitment to telling powerful true stories in this new phase of his career. At the very least it stands a good chance to earn at least the same two nominations “Lone Survivor” received in Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Time will tell if this is simply a respectable commercial player or awards season contender. At the very least, it could be the kind of commercial and critical hit needed to boost Peter Berg’s chances for “Patriot’s Day,” depending on that film’s reception.
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the 2016 Oscar Season on Twitter at @NextBestPicture