As you’ve seen from our copious coverage, the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival was an embarrassment of riches. The prestigious fest is where many of the year’s Oscar contenders first get their jump-start on the season, and one key piece of the puzzle on the Road to Oscar is the festival’s People’s Choice Award. Past winners include 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, and American Beauty, all of which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar, so all eyes were on what would take home the prize this year. Unsurprisingly, it went to La La Land (read Brian’s review here), the new musical from Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle.
The original film enjoyed a rapturous response when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, with Emma Stone deservedly taking home the Best Actress prize, and indeed it gained universal acclaim when it screened to a bevy of critics and industry folks in Toronto. It’s a harmoniously perfect blend of old school Hollywood with a contemporary setting/issues, with Chazelle at once paying homage to the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers while also crafting an original film that feels fresh, real, and alive. It’s a home run, and while I already predicted big Oscar prospects after catching the film myself, this People’s Choice Award win only further solidifies its status as an awards juggernaut this season.
Not all People’s Choice Award winners land Best Picture Oscars, but 7 out of the last 10 winners at least scored a Best Picture nomination, with Room taking home the People’s Choice prize last year. So you can probably take it to the bank that La La Land will, at the very least, be a Best Picture nominee.
The first runner up for the People’s Choice Award this year was Garth Davis’ emotional family story Lion (read Matt’s review here), which stars Dev Patel as a young man who lost his family as a boy in India and subsequently sets about finding his home via Google Earth. It’s based on a true story and while I found it a bit overlong and tedious, it had plenty of folks in tears and could also be a player on the awards circuit. The second runner up was Mira Nair’s true story chess drama Queen of Katwe (read Matt’s review here), which is a delightful crowdpleaser from Disney.
Elsewhere, the Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award went to Kill List and High-Rise director Ben Wheatley’s shoot-em-up Free Fire (read Matt’s review here), with Raw—the French cannibal film that had audience members passing out—scoring second runner up and The Autopsy of Jane Doe landing first runner up.
The Toronto Platform Prize, which recognizes director’s cinema from around the world, went to Pablo Larraín’s striking biopic Jackie (read Matt’s review here), which could also be a significant player this awards season.
To catch up on all of our 2016 Toronto International Film Festival coverage, including reviews, interviews, and Oscar dispatches, click right here.