TIFF Tribute Awards Boost Oscar Contenders, from Kate Winslet to Chloe Zhao

Toronto has always helped to launch Oscar contenders and 2020 is no exception.
FILE - Writer-director Chloe Zhao poses for a portrait during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 22, 2018. Zhao's "Nomadland," starring by Frances McDormand will be featured at the 77th edition of the Venice festival. Films directed by women make up 44% of the competition slate. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)
Writer-director Chloe Zhao.
Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

As this year’s strange fall festival season rolls out, with far-flung media covering local and virtual screenings in Venice and Toronto, several awards contenders are emerging, and four, Kate Winslet (Neon’s “Ammonite”), Sir Anthony Hopkins (Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father”), Golden Lion award-winner Chloé Zhao (Searchlight’s “Nomadland”) and composer Terence Blanchard (Amazon Studios’ “One Night in Miami”), will be front and center at TIFF’s second annual Tribute Awards fundraiser. Last year, TIFF’s first Awards Gala honored such eventual Oscar winners as Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“The Joker”).

This year’s tributees assembled for a press conference Tuesday morning ahead of the awards, which will be aired on CTV in Canada at at 8PM ET/PT, on demand on Crave, and streaming internationally via Variety.com at 8:30PM ET/ 5:30PM PT.

Connecting to the TIFF Talk conference from their homes, from California (Zhao and Hopkins) and New Orleans (Blanchard) to London (Winslet), the honorees said they appreciated the lockdown time spent with their families. Winslet and Blanchard (winner of the TIFF Variety Artisan Award) were glad their kids could finally return to school. And 82-year-old Hopkins was beating the virus with Rachmaninoff, he said. “I play piano four hours a day. It keeps my brain active.”

Everyone was missing the communal festival experience, being able to “literally crash into people in hotel lobbies,” said Winslet, “and the excitement of running into people you admire. Anthony, I’ve been watching you since I was a baby and wish we were in the same space and could hug and connect. It’s sad not to get that bit of TIFF. It is about closeness, and connecting to people through their films and artistry…even on this strange platform, it’s important to keep connecting and sharing like this.”

Both Winslet and Hopkins embraced performing in intimate and rewarding low-budget films, they said. Acting in period relationship drama “Ammonite” opposite Saoirse Ronan “terrified” Winslet: “I was given the opportunity to play someone I thought, ‘I’m not sure I can do.'”

Kate Winslet in "Ammonite"
Kate Winslet in “Ammonite”Neon

Even though Florian Zeller’s play-to-film “The Father” is “intense and disturbing,” said Hopkins, “it was free and easy with Olivia. I enjoyed it.”

Instead of being in Venice to accept her Golden Lion, TIFF Ebert Director Award-winner Zhao attended the Friday night Telluride drive-in in Pasadena with star Frances McDormand for “Nomadland” (December 4, Searchlight). Zhao edited both “Nomadland” and her upcoming 2021 Marvel film “Eternals” at the same time, she said: “It was stressful, but it was a blessing. When one isn’t going great, emotionally I think the other one is going to work. It was a nice balance, editing both films, it was informative for both, sometimes I learn something on one and take it to the other. It was a fruitful experience.”

Also a Golden Lion winner was Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”), who is accepting the TIFF Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media Tuesday night before closing the festival September 19 with her first TV series, “A Suitable Boy.” After debuting “Monsoon Wedding” in Venice in 2001, Nair and her team repaired to a local hotel “and got on tables and put on the soundtrack and had the best party of Venice,” she said. “Festivals are like magnets. We are diseased with cinema, we are wonderfully sick people who need to know there is an audience.”

The winner of the TIFF Emerging Talent Award, Tracey Deer, thanked TIFF’s studio and filmmaker labs for helping her to develop her first film “Beans,” a ten-year personal journey.

Canadian musician Shawn Mendes will perform as part of the pre-recorded Awards broadcast, which is hosted by ETALK’s Chloe Wilde and Tyrone Edwards. Presenters include Hopkins’ “The Father” costar Olivia Colman, “One Night in Miami” director Regina King, “Da 5 Bloods” star Delroy Lindo, Ava DuVernay, Colin Farrell, Jodie Foster, Tabu, and more.

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