By Steve Greene | Indiewire September 17, 2013 at 10:13AM
After a week of grabbing much of the festival headlines from the last two weeks, the two films that seem poised to continue making waves for the rest of 2013 got another big boost from critics. "12 Years a Slave" and “Gravity" both received top marks in multiple categories of our end of festival poll of the best films and performances out of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Thirty-five critics from our Criticwire Network who were at this year’s TIFF were asked to single out a few of their favorites in nine different categories. The aforementioned pair of films finished first and second in the Best Narrative Feature category, with Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuarón the clear top picks in the Best Director tally.
The festival’s People’s Choice winner “12 Years a Slave" also proved to be a popular acting showcase. Chiwetel Ejiofor topped the Best Lead Performance category handily, while Lupita Nyong'o and frequent McQueen collaborator Michael Fassbender took two of the top three slots in the Best Supporting Performance totals. Cuarón’s “Gravity,” which enjoyed a high volume of adulation at Venice and Telluride before landing in Canada, appeared on over a third of the ballots in the Best Scene category.
Sandra Bullock’s role as one of the astronauts trapped aboard the doomed vessel "Gravity" and Matthew McConaughey's turn as a man diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980s in Jean-Marc Vallée’s "Dallas Buyers Club" rounded out the top three behind Ejiofor. Although the overall film wasn't quite the hit that its cast's pedigree seemed to command, "August: Osage County" did clock in high on the Best Ensemble list, with six actors singled out on ballots for their individual work (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis).
The experimental "Manakamana," which follows a series of cable car rides to and from the titular temple in the Nepal Valley, finished in the top Documentary Feature spot. (Our Eric Kohn saw the film at Locarno and called it the “must-see cinematic experience of the year.”) Following close behind was "Tim’s Vermeer," Penn and Teller's look at the illustration technique of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.
With the daunting number of features that play at the festival, critics have no chance of seeing everything that TIFF has to offer. "Dallas Buyers Club," featuring Best Supporting Performance runner-up Jared Leto, led our Most Anticipated After Toronto tally of noteworthy films that some critics missed. Second on the list is "Under the Skin," another film that -- like "Gravity" and Tsai Ming-liang's "Stray Dogs" -- built up intercontinental intrigue at both Venice and TIFF. For the alien-undercover-in-Scotland tale, Jonathan Glazer and Scarlett Johansson both picked up multiple votes for their work behind and in front of the camera, respectively.
Results in a few of these categories feature some previous festival favorites. Leading all vote-getters in the Best First Feature category is Ramon Zürcher’s “The Strange Little Cat,” a film that mesmerized more than a few critics who took part in our Berlin poll back in February. Cannes' runaway top Lead Performance, Adèle Exarchopoulos in "Blue is the Warmest Color," also cracked the top 5 here.
For a continuously updated list of grades and reviews from all of our Criticwire Network members, keep an eye on the Criticwire homepage.