Toronto International Film Festival puts awards season in focus

Toronto International Film Festival puts awards season in focus
Sally Hawkins at the Toronto premiere of "The Shape of Water." (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Greetings! I'm back from Toronto, meaning I no longer need to google "peameal" and other strange Canadian cured meats and can concentrate on building my vitamin C levels back up and, of course, focus on the Oscar races.

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.


I'm Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host.

Toronto Film Fest builds more momentum for 'Lady Bird,' 'Shape of Water'

As has been the case for the last few years, Toronto offered a confirmation of the acclaim audiences had bestowed on movies that had already played at the Telluride and Venice film festivals.

Two world premieres — "The Current War," a lifeless drama about the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, and the rambling Denzel Washington legal thriller "Roman J. Israel, Esq." — met with tepid response. Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Edison in "The Current War," seemed to sense as much, noting the rather ironic failure of his microphone during a Q&A that began after most people had left the building.

Other Toronto premieres will likely do better, evolving into showcases for their leads and filling out the slates in the acting races. Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, "Molly's Game," featuring an electrifying turn by Jessica Chastain as a real-life underground "poker princess," could even break through into the best picture race. It's Chastain's best work since "Zero Dark Thirty."

You can read my Toronto festival wrap here, including comments from Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird") and Guillermo del Toro ("The Shape of Water"), the directors of two of the fest's best-loved films.

Greta Gerwig (center, red) and her "Lady Bird" cast.
Greta Gerwig (center, red) and her "Lady Bird" cast. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Check out The Times' TIFF coverage

We had a full crew in Toronto covering the sprawling festival. You can check out film critic Justin Chang's daily diary here, which gets into a great many movies worth bookmarking and finding when they make their way to the States.

We have dozens of video interviews with filmmakers and stars. You can watch Del Toro talk about finally letting the girl get the monster here. Sean Baker discusses the unconventional casting of his beautifully immersive "The Florida Project" here. And listen to Gerwig reveal the real-life inspirations for "Lady Bird" in this conversation.

Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin took about 3,000 pictures a day in The Times' TIFF studio. You can see the best of them in this gallery.

And we're continuing to add new stories, photos and videos. You can find complete Toronto Film Festival coverage here.

Darren Aronofsky, writer and director of "mother!"
Darren Aronofsky, writer and director of "mother!" (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Oh, "mother!"

Darren Aronofsky's psychological horror movie opens in theaters today after premiering at the Venice Film Festival and playing in Toronto. The reviews, for the most part, have been good. (You can read our Justin Chang's rave here.) I am decidedly less enthused about the movie, finding its multitude of metaphors obscure and unconvincing. Its awards season prospects would seem doubtful.

That said, I enjoyed my colleague Steven Zeitchik's profile of Aronofsky, which details his ambitions for "mother!" in a way that almost had me believing he accomplished them. Almost.



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Twitter: @glennwhipp