Unpopular ‘popular film’ Oscar is eliminated; festival favorites emerge

A scene from “First Man,” the story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon.
(Daniel McFadden / Universal Pictures/DreamWorks)

The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing, while Telluride is over and Venice is wrapping.

And the Oscar for best popular film is over and out just a few weeks after the academy announced the new category.

Who’s up? Who’s down? And if Ryan Gosling wore this to the Oscars, would all be forgiven?

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.

‘First Man,’ ‘Roma’ and ‘The Favourite’ find favor at Telluride

Welcome back, newsletter subscribers and random people finding this on the internet through a search for American flag suits. I’ve returned to Toronto where last year Guillermo del Toro pitched “The Shape of Water” in his adopted hometown, apologizing for cursing during his introduction. (“It’s not very Canadian,” he said.) But he couldn’t help it. He was emotional.

Who’s going to be having the feels through the next six months? It’s a good bet we’ll be hearing a lot from Alfonso Cuaron, whose latest film, “Roma,” digs into his childhood in Mexico City. Times film writer Josh Rottenberg spoke to Cuaron and the film’s two lead actresses — Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. “Roma” represents Netflix’s best chance yet at securing its first best picture nomination, and the streamer is going all in.


Another favorite out of the gate is “First Man,” Damien Chazelle’s drama about astronaut Neil Armstrong’s journey to become the first man to set foot on the moon. Chazelle became the youngest director to win the Oscar for “La La Land,” and judging from the reviews out of Telluride and Venice, he’ll be back in the conversation again this year. Josh Rottenberg spoke to Chazelle and the film’s screenwriter, Josh Singer, about many things, including the silly controversy over the decision not to depict the moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon.

Finally, Josh sat down with the gifted director Yorgos Lanthimos and actress Emma Stone, who have thrown a few new wrinkles into the costume drama genre with “The Favourite,” which follows the power struggle between competitive cousins (Stone and Rachel Weisz) to win the favor of 18th century English monarch Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan in a scene from Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
(Matt Kennedy / Marvel Studios)

Unpopular ‘popular film’ Oscar shelved


Saying more time was needed for discussions and input, the motion picture academy eliminated the just-created popular film Oscar on Thursday.

Few seemed disappointed by the decision.

After announcing its creation earlier this month, the academy weathered an immediate backlash, with critics deriding the new award as an act of cynical pandering that creates a needless division between “popular” filmmaking and artistic achievement.

The academy never defined the parameters of the popular film category. When I recently wrote about the strategy behind what will be an extensive push for “Black Panther” in the best picture category, many academy members predicted the academy would scrap the category. Now they have — at least for this year. Josh Rottenberg spoke to academy president John Bailey and others about the decision.


KiKi Layne and Stephen James in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which premieres at Toronto.

Past Oscar favorites out in force this fall

This year’s Toronto film festival features follow-ups from a quartet of directors whose last films won either the Oscar for best picture or director.

Two years ago, it was Chazelle (“La La Land”) and Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”). In 2013, it was Cuaron (“Gravity”) and Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”). I wrote about this foursome along with a great many other past favorites who have movies in the awards season conversation this year.


The Times at TIFF

As I mentioned earlier, I’m in Toronto for the film festival, slogging through a gravy-filled river of poutine, as are Times film writers Tre’vell Anderson, Amy Kaufman, Mark Olsen and Jen Yamato, as well as Times film critic Justin Chang. Photographer Jay L. Clendenin is working 24/7 at The Times’ TIFF photo studio. You can follow all our coverage by going to our festival page, which will be updated often.


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Twitter: @glennwhipp