Warning: The following contains trailers — and thus mild potential SPOILERS — for several upcoming movies that screened during the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise.
As the cinematic summer of 2016 slowly fades into memory like an ever-so-slightly soured glass of milk, and a heady winter of Star Wars, Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts-filled fun closes in, it's easy to forget that Hollywood's most iconic race is about to begin. Yep, that's right — the 2017 Academy Awards are now only a little over five months away, and that means it's well past time for the entire movie industry to begin collectively freaking out over who gets the right to keep a small golden statuette in their downstairs toilet. Festival season is pretty much through, distribution deals are being cut as we speak, and more than a few stars are already trying to work out who they'll forget to thank in their acceptance speeches.
With that in mind — and because I've spent much of the last week in darkened Torontonian movie theaters so you don't have to — here's...
Everything TIFF 2016 Told Us About Next Year's Oscars Race
All told through the traditional medium of "made-up high school yearbook-style awards with mildly amusing names," and collected in a numbered list, counting down from 10. First up?
10. Most Likely To Make A Crap-Ton Of Money At The Box Office, And Then Be Shockingly Snubbed For Best Picture
Winner: La La Land
A genuinely charming, inventive and beautifully constructed movie, the Damien Chazelle-directed La La Land seems destined to take the box office by storm, and to then either win a whole bunch of Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Emma Stone seem the most likely) or be completely and thoroughly snubbed for reasons no one will ever fully understand. That, after all, is the risk that comes with making an old-school musical that plays by its own creative rules. Next up?
9. Most Likely To Win Best Actor And Best Actress, And Yet Only Make $20 Million At The Box Office
A subtle, gentle tale of quiet rage and dignity, Loving is anchored by two remarkable performances from its leads Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, both of whom have to be considered strong contenders for the Best Actress and Best Actor categories respectively. The flip side of that, though, is that it's a subtle, gentle tale of quiet rage and dignity, and those hardly ever make much money at the box office. The story of Mildred and Richard Loving — the couple whose legal battle broke down the Southern states' anti-miscegenation laws — deserves as wide an audience as it can get.
8. Most Likely To Cause Jake Gyllenhaal To Be Snubbed By The Academy. Again.
Winner: Nocturnal Animals
Nocturnal Animals may be fresh off a Grand Jury Prize at this year's Venice Film Festival, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to rub a whole lot of Oscar voters the wrong way. A difficult, discomfiting and divisive film, there's likely more chance of it being written off as all-style, with hints of unpleasant substance, than of it being recognized as some sort of grand artistic achievement. Expect star Jake Gyllenhaal — who puts in a big, and possibly a little overblown, performance — to leave empty-handed come Oscars night (and quite possibly to escape nomination altogether).
7. Most Likely To Win A Lot Of BAFTAs, But Few Oscars
Runner-Up: A United Kingdom
While Denial and A United Kingdom ultimately have a lot in common (they're earnest, surprisingly funny tales of the British establishment being dysfunctional, and of certain British people being super racist), their most unifying trait next year is likely to be their shared success at the BAFTAs, and a disappointing time at the Oscars. Timothy Spall certainly deserves Academy recognition for his startling performance as the casually horrifying Holocaust denier David Irving in Denial, and both David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are outside bets for a nomination for A United Kingdom — but it's tough to imagine any of them winning much in the face of strong competition. Outside of the UK, that is.
6. Most Likely To Cement Tom Felton's Place As Hollywood's Go-To Creepy British Dude
Winner: A United Kingdom
Runner-Up: Message from the King
Tom Felton was always going to struggle to escape villainous typecasting in the wake of playing Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise, but his performances in A United Kingdom and Message from the King are unlikely to help matters. In the former, he plays a weaselly British commissioner to Bechuanaland, and in the latter, a weaselly British drug dealer in Los Angeles. The poor guy just can't catch a break. [Note, this isn't remotely Oscar-related, but still very much needed to be said.]
5. Most Likely To Cause Its Director To Be Labelled 'The New Tarantino'
Winner: Free Fire
What with Ben Wheatley's Free Fire being an engagingly light-hearted (and raucously violent) action movie set almost entirely during a lengthy warehouse-based standoff, comparisons with Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs were always likely. Wheatley is arguably in possession of an even more uniquely directorial voice than Tarantino — meaning that it would probably be best to just let him be the current Ben Wheatley, rather than the new Tarantino. It's also worth noting that Armie Hammer's excellent comic turn in the film fully deserves to earn him a second look from anyone who's already written him off as just a pretty-boy leading man.
4. Most Likely To Make Linguistics Degrees Cool Again (Wait, Again?) En Route To Earning Amy Adams Another Oscar Nomination
A carefully wrought, endlessly intriguing piece of subtle sci-fi, Arrival could well earn its star (Amy Adams) and director (Denis Villenueve) Oscar nominations, as well as potentially cleaning up in the technical categories. A Best Picture nod also seems likely for the tale of a language expert's attempts to communicate with a newly arrived alien species. Linguistics professors across the world will likely rejoice when September 2017 sees a massive increase in interest in their shiny new course "How To Communicate With Theoretical Aliens."
3. Most Likely To Get Absolutely Nowhere Near The Awards Ceremony
Winner: American Pastoral
Possibly the most critically skewered movie at this year's TIFF, Ewan McGregor was always likely to have a tough time wrangling Philip Roth's classic novel for his directorial debut. The sheer scale of critical disinterest in American Pastoral has likely put it too far out of the Oscars race to have any chance of fighting its way back. Then again, as McGregor's old friend Yoda would say: "Do, or do not. There is no try." Unless, of course, you just tried to make a great movie, and sadly failed. In which case, perhaps don't listen to wrinkled green puppets for advice.
2. Most Likely To Surprise Everyone And 'Pull A Whiplash'
In stark contrast to American Pastoral's travails, the Barry Jenkins-directed Moonlight could hardly have had a warmer critical reception if it were named La La Land and starred Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Instead, it's looking increasingly likely to earn supporting actors Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris respective Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress nods, and could well prove to be the breakout indie success of this year's festival season. Which worked out pretty well for Whiplash two years ago. And, finally?
1. Most Likely To Make You Bawl Your Eyes Out (And Then Win Fewer Oscars Than It Deserves)
Winner: A Monster Calls
When your press and industry screening leaves a room full of industry professionals in tears, you surely know that you're onto a winner — but A Monster Calls also has the distinct advantage of not resorting to cheap heart-string pulling or emotional manipulation. Instead, it's a complex, intelligent and beautifully made tale of a young boy struggling to deal with his mother's terminal illness, who finds himself awoken one night by a storytelling monster (voiced immaculately by Liam Neeson). In a perfect world, it'd be on the receiving end of Best Picture, Best Director (Jurassic World 2 will be in safe hands with J.A. Bayona) and Best Supporting Actress for Felicity Jones as the central character's terminally ill mother. In reality, it could easily get nudged out by more "adult" fare, despite A Monster Calls offering a far more mature and heartbreaking look at grief and growing up than pretty much any other movie out there. One to root for.
Want to read more on this year's TIFF, and next year's Oscars? Check out:
- What TIFF 2016's Opening Weekend Means For the 2017 Oscars Race
- Could 'Loving' Pull Off An Incredibly Rare Oscar Coup?
- The Marvel And DC Stars Shaking Up The Oscars Race At TIFF 2016
The big question now, though?
What do you reckon? What do you think will win big at next year's Oscars? Let us know below!