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TIFF 2019 Report Card: Critics Rank the Best Films and Performances

322 critics voted in the survey, which diverged from the TIFF People's Choice Award for the second year in a row.

“Parasite”

Some movies launch their awards season buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival; others use it to pick up steam. On the final day of this year’s TIFF, the coveted People’s Choice Award went to Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” a week after its premiere. However, IndieWire’s annual TIFF Critics Survey of the best films and performances at the festival tells a different story, singling out a movie that has been generating acclaim for months.

Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” took the top spot for Best Narrative, marking the first time in several years that the survey winner isn’t a movie launching on the fall festival circuit. Meanwhile, Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” topped categories for Best Screenplay and Best Performance for Adam Driver. “Collective,” a Romanian documentary that has yet to secure North American distribution, topped the Best Documentary category.

The “Parasite” win is the latest achievement in the life of a movie that keeps finding more fans. The Korean auteur’s Palme d’Or winner, about a family of con artists who overtake an affluent household, also topped IndieWire’s Cannes Critics Survey earlier this year. Bong also topped the category for Best Director and surfaced in the top five for Best Screenplay.

With 322 critics and other accredited TIFF journalists from around the world voting in the survey, the outcome is the latest indication of the robust support for “Parasite” as the movie gathers steam this fall.

Already a box office hit in Korea, “Parasite” next screens at the New York Film Festival, and hits theaters in North America on October 11 via Neon. The distributor is leaning on longstanding reverence for the filmmaker and his accomplishment here is a key factor in its burgeoning awards campaign, which is built around expectations for the movie to crack major Oscar categories beyond Best International Film (though many expect it to be a shoo-in there, where no Korean film has even been nominated before).

The positioning of “Parasite” at the top of IndieWire’s critics survey — in spite of the many newer titles at this year’s TIFF — is the latest indication of the widespread support for Bong and the intricate dark comedy he has constructed. However, critics aren’t Oscar prognosticators, and their favorites don’t always portend the momentum of an awards season frontrunner.

For the second year in a row, the outcome of the survey diverged from the TIFF People’s Choice Award: Last year, when that prize went to future Best Picture winner “Green Book,” the IndieWire Critics Survey winner was “Roma.” With Cuarón eventually winning three Oscars, “Roma” was another acclaimed foreign-language title that parlayed critical support to major awards season stature, but came up short of a Best Picture win. (In 2017, the survey winner was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which also won the People’s Choice Award.)

marriage story indiewire baumbach

“Marriage Story”

Netflix

Waititi’s whimsical Nazi satire “Jojo” wasn’t entirely absent from the survey. The movie did rank in the top five best narrative features of the festival, just behind Noah Baumbach’s divorce saga “Marriage Story,” another major fall release heading to NYFF in its Centerpiece slot. The Netflix-produced drama is the only fall entry playing at all four major awards-friendly fall festivals – Venice, Telluride, TIFF, and NYFF — and its wins for Best Screenplay and Best Performance correlate with the buzz it has been receiving at each of its festival stops to date. The other finalists in the Best Performance category speak to the range of performances that generated buzz at TIFF this year, from Joaquin Phoenix’s deranged super villain in “Joker” to Jennifer Lopez as a scheming stripper in “Hustlers.”

As usual, the movies at the top of each category only tell part of the story. Other major TIFF titles that received significant support include Rian Johnson’s playful whodunit “Knives Out” and Trey Shults’ operatic family drama “Waves.”

None of the categories, however, speak to the specificity of this survey more than Best Documentary. That’s where “Collective,” director Alexander Nanau’s look at the role of several journalists in exposing a health-care conspiracy, nabbed the top spot. The movie premiered in Venice and found many supporters at TIFF but continues to search for distribution, which makes it an unlikely awards contender in a crowded field of non-fiction entries. Nevertheless, “Collective” is exactly the sort of festival discovery that critics love to champion, and it landed a spot on IndieWire’s Memo to Distributors feature out of this year’s festival. In the survey, the movie came in just ahead of “Varda By Agnes,” the compendium of masterclasses that marks the final directing credit from the late French New Wave legend Agnes Varda, and National Geographic’s Syrian war thriller “The Cave,” which opened the TIFF Docs section.

Check out the full list of top films from each category below.

BEST NARRATIVE FILM

Based on a ranked Top 3.

1. “Parasite” (10% of overall vote and 17% of first-place votes)

2. “Marriage Story” (9% of overall vote and 13% of first-place votes)

3. “Jojo Rabbit” (6% of overall vote and 8% of first-place votes)

4. “Knives Out” (6% of overall votes and 6% of first-place votes)

5. “Joker” (5% of overall votes and 5% of first-place votes)

These Top 5 alone account for 36% of all overall votes and 49% of first-place votes with all other narrative films in the lineup accounting for the remainder.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM

Based on a Ranked Top 3.

1. “Collective” (5% of overall vote and 12% of first-place votes)

2. “Varda by Agnes” (5% of overall votes and 8% of first-place votes)

3. “The Cave” (4% of overall votes and 8% of first-place votes)

4. “The Kingmaker” (4% of overall votes and 7% of first-place votes)

5. “Western Stars” (4% of overall votes and 5% of first-place votes)

BEST DIRECTED FILM (NARRATIVE OR FEATURE)

A single vote was cast for this section – percentages indicate the amount of the overall total vote each film received.

1. “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho (15.72%)

2. “Joker,” Todd Phillips (7.23%)

3. “Waves,” Trey Edward Shults (6.92%)

4. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Marielle Heller (6.6%)

5. “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach (6.29%)

BEST SCREENPLAY

A single vote was cast for this section – percentages indicate the amount of the overall total vote each film received.

1. “Marriage Story” (20.57%)

2. “Knives Out” (14.87%)

3. “Parasite” (9.81%)

4. “Jojo Rabbit” (8.86%)

5. “The Two Popes” (4.11%)

BEST PERFORMANCE

Based on write-in votes.

1. Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

2. Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

3. Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems”

4. Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”

5. Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

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