This year’s TIFF didn’t really have a breakaway success as far as the awards game is concerned. There were films that got a fair amount of praise, but no one really became the clear frontrunner in the Oscar race like in past years when La La Land and 12 Years Slave took home the People’s Choice Award. While I had assumed that the award would go to either The Shape of Water, which was the big winner out of Venice, or to I, Tonya, which made a splash in its TIFF debut, the People’s Choice Award ultimately went to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with the runners up being I, Tonya and Call Me By Your Name.
To put that in perspective, you have to go back to 2011 for a People’s Choice winner that didn’t at least pull in a Best Picture nomination. That’s a serious boost to Three Billboards and lets the studio, Fox Searchlight, know that they might have a serious contender on their hands even though the film itself doesn’t fit neatly into the kind of prestige picture that the Academy usually rewards. Three Billboards is very much in the vein of McDonagh’s earlier work. It has pitch black comedy, surprising elements of melancholy, and it ends on a bittersweet note. It’s a movie I can’t wait to see again, and I’m curious to see how it will fare through the remainder of the awards season.
The Midnight Madness section also has its own People’s Choice Award, and in a surprising turn, the people went with the Midnight Madness opener, Bodied. Joseph Kahn’s rap battle satire doesn’t have any stars, but that didn’t matter. It struck a chord with the audience (the crowd I saw it with on opening night absolutely loved it), and that was enough to power it past “bigger” movies like The Disaster Artist and Brawl in Cell Block 99. Hopefully, the People’s Choice Award boost can help Bodied find a wide audience.