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Toronto: Winners, Losers, Oscar Contenders

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 20, 2009 at 3:20AM

There was plenty to see in Toronto. Here's how the films shook out for me.
Thompson on Hollywood

There was plenty to see in Toronto. Here's how the films shook out for me.

Best of Toronto
1. A Serious Man
2. Up in the Air
3. A Single Man
4. Get Low
5. City of Life and Death
6. The Damned United

Good, not great
7. Capitalism: A Love Story
8. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
9. Whip It
10. The Men Who Stare at Goats
11. The Boys are Back
12. Mother and Child
13. Jennifer's Body
14. Leaves of Grass

15. The Informant!
16. Creation

Sundance/Cannes Holdovers
1. Bright Star
2. An Education
3. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
4. Fish Tank

Good, not great:
5. The White Ribbon
6. Samson & Delilah
7. Broken Embraces

8. Antichrist
9. Agora

Toronto's impact on the Oscar race is on the jump:

Thompson on Hollywood

This year especially, Toronto reaction was crucial to distributors' decisions on placing real money on Oscar campaigns. (Check the updated Oscar Predicts chart.)

New Oscar entrants:

Focus Features delivered another top-notch Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man, a funny personal serious movie with no stars that should wind up one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. Oscar noms are in the offing.

Another fest winner was the George Clooney-starrer Up in the Air. Commercial and awards prospects for Paramount look good.

The Weinstein Co. paid seven figures to nab the only hot Toronto title for sale, A Single Man. Designer/filmmaker Tom Ford, Colin Firth and Julianne Moore also come out winners, with the Weinsteins pushing them hard this fall. Also, the Weinsteins grabbed some forward momentum for their film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is a tough film for people to love, but is earning positive reaction, especially for Viggo Mortensen.

Lionsgate made a starry splash for its Sundance pick-up Precious by importing not only star Mariah Carey and singer Mary J. Blige, but exec producers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey who worked the fest like pros. Precious has Oscar momentum. And it has done what no other film has ever done before: won the best audience prize at both Sundance and Toronto.

New distributor Apparition got the Toronto attention it needed for Bright Star, an admirable but uncuddly film that is exquisitely made. Reviews are stellar: 81 on Metacritic. Bob Berney opened it early, on Wednesday, to give it a pre-Rosh Hashanah boost going into the weekend. It earned 5000 a screen.

Sony Pictures Classics built more momentum for An Education, especially for new star Carey Mulligan. The White Ribbon is Germany's Oscar entry, and prison film A Prophet was picked by France as a foreign contender, while Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces, which stars Oscar perennial Penelope Cruz, lost ground when Spain failed to submit that film for Oscar consideration.

Unless Boys Are Back takes off at the fall box office, it seems unlikely that Miramax will mount a serious Oscar push for Clive Owen. Besides, the best actor category is jammed. Similarly, I'm not feeling momentum behind Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria.

It remains to be seen if Get Low and Mother and Child, two films with Oscar-worthy performances, will be acquired in time for 2009 release.

This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Festivals, Independents, Studios, Exhibition, Oscars, Coens, Michael Moore, Toronto, Overture, Lionsgate/Roadside, Weinsteins, Apparition, Fox Searchlight, Twentieth Century Fox, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics, Paramount/Vantage/Insurge/CBS, Disney

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.