The Toronto Film Festival is still five days away from closing up shop, but a lot of the industry headed home this morning after almost every major premiere screened before today, making it safe to declare the 2014 festival perhaps the least likely to succeed — Oscar-wise — in some time. That’s not to say there weren’t a bunch of breakout films. It’s just that a lot of them, from Kevin Smith’s “Tusk” to Chris Rock’s “Top Five,” are not (and were never intended to be) destined for the awards race.
For the past seven years, every Best Picture Oscar winner has screened in Toronto. “No Country For Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave” all made an appearance at the festival known for kicking off the awards race. It seems this year might end that winning streak. We’ve updated our Oscar prediction charts and would wager at this point four films that screened in Toronto have good shots at Best Picture nominations: “Foxcatcher,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Mr. Turner” and “The Imitation Game.” “Wild” has an outside shot of making it five.
The only one of those films that seems like it has the potential to actually win is Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” though that sounds like a bit of a tall order. It’s a fantastic film that critics have and will continue to adore, but it’s not the type of film that typically wins Hollywood’s biggest prize. And even if it did, it’s hardly a film Toronto can “own.” Its world premiere was in Cannes four months ago.
It’s interesting to note that of those films mentioned, only the Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” actually made its worldwide debut in Toronto. The festival’s much-discussed request for films to not screen elsewhere if they wanted a cushy first weekend slot doesn’t seem to have paid off much. If “Theory” makes the cut (which is no sure thing at this point), it will give Toronto the same number of world premieres that went on to Best Picture nominations as it had in the past three years: One. “Moneyball,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Dallas Buyers Club” were the only Best Picture nominees in those years to not screen in Venice or Telluride before heading to TIFF. And the last time a Best Picture winner made its world premiere in Toronto was way back in 2005 with “Crash.”
This begs the question: What will win Best Picture this year? It’s kind of exciting we don’t seem to have any idea. Last year, folks were very quick to (rightly) proclaim “12 Years a Slave” as the one to beat. “Argo” had a similar narrative the year before. This year, it’s quite likely we haven’t seen the film that will win Best Picture yet — which is perhaps unfair to the say regarding the likes of “Birdman,” “Foxcatcher” and “Boyhood,” all of which are genuine threats. But it probably benefits them and the many films with sight unseen potential still to come (look at them all) to have the pressure of that status bestowed upon them so early in the season. And it benefits us Oscar-watchers to have some major question marks in the race as long as possible — especially after the last few years were generally so predictable.