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This article is more than 2 year old.

44th Toronto International Film Festival: Early contenders light up the Oscar race

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The Toronto film festival, which opened with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a documentary on the iconic Canadian rock band that played with Bob Dylan in the 60s, has heralded the Oscar season.

44th Toronto International Film Festival: Early contenders light up the Oscar race
From a hot air balloonist to a joker and justice seekers to automotive engineers, there is a long line of early contenders for the Oscar awards at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival that began on Thursday.
The Toronto film festival, which opened with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a documentary on the iconic Canadian rock band that played with Bob Dylan in the 60s, has heralded the Oscar season. The early favourites include The Aeronauts, about a 19th-century scientist and hot-air balloonist making altitudinal and meteorological history in London, American actor Joaquin Phoenix as the Batman villain in Joker, Michael B. Jordan as a Harvard-educated lawyer defending the wrongly condemned in Just Mercy, and Matt Damon and Christian Bale as automobile engineers in the high-speed biographical drama Ford v Ferrari.
The Aeronauts by British director Tom Harper returns The Theory of Everything co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones trying to create history. Redmayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar as cosmologist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2014) is a meteorologist while Jones, who won a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the same movie, is a hot air balloon pilot hoping to beat a French record in altitude.
American actor Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead role in Joker set in 1981 Gotham City.
Phoenix is tipped to win a Best Actor Oscar nod for Joker, which though set in 1981 Gotham City is not an adaptation of the D C Comics canon. Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) ekes out a living as a clown, performing for tourists and children as he dreams of fame as a stand-up comedian like his hero, talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). Written-directed by American filmmaker Tod Phillips of the Hangover trilogy, Joker is touted as an unsettling portrait of the Batman villain.
Just Mercy tells the true story of a Harvard lawyer defending a black man wrongly sentenced to death in 1989.
Just Mercy tells the true story of lawyer Jordan defending Jamie Foxx, a black man wrongly sentenced to death in 1989 America after being arrested for killing a white woman. Adapted from the book of the same title by Bryan Stevenson, played by Jordan, Just Mercy is a strong contender for the Best Picture nomination and acting honours in December.
Ford v Ferrari stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale in the high-speed biographical drama.
In Ford v Ferrari, Logan director James Mangold brings alive the story of real-life superheroes Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, who commandeered the resources of the mighty Ford Motor Company in the 1960s to go head-to-head with the gods of Italian auto racing. Damon plays Shelby while Bale acts as Miles in the high-speed drama.
Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi world premieres his new movie, Jojo Rabbit, in Toronto. The New Zealand filmmaker brings a comic satire about a young German boy who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his home and consults with his imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi. Jojo Rabbit comes down fiercely on anti-semitism to reflect on the rising trends of fascism in the world today.
The other Oscar favourites include American director Noah Baumbach's divorce drama Marriage Story starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, crime thriller Uncut Gems about a charismatic New York jeweller played by Adam Sandler, and Judy, which has Oscar winner Renée Zellweger as iconic actor Judy Garland during the last year of her life.
Widely considered as the barometer of Oscar success, the Toronto festival has thrown up hot picks for the golden statuette with astonishing regularity. The TIFF's Grolsch People's Choice Award, voted by a discerning Toronto audience, is an almost certain indicator of the Best Picture Oscar.
American actor Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie in Marjane Satrapi's Radioactive.
Green Book, which picked up the Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards in February this year, was TIFF's People's Choice Award winner five months before. So were The King's Speech (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2015). In 2009, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire went on to win the Best Picture Oscar after being crowned the people's choice in Toronto.
While the Cannes festival, which is held in May, sets the tempo for the awards season, it gains momentum in Toronto. Though Venice festival picks like Gravity and The Shape of Water have won the Oscars, North American festivals like the Telluride and Toronto closer home to the Hollywood, the venue of the Academy Awards, have regularly set the ball rolling for the industry's top honours.
Tom Hanks is a children's television host in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.
Other Toronto world premieres in the running for the Oscars include A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood by American director Marielle Heller starring Tom Hanks as a children's television host, and Radioactive, Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi's new film based on American artist and writer Lauren Redniss’s award-winning graphic novel about two-time Nobel Prize–winning scientist Marie Curie. Satrapi co-directed Persepolis (2007), the Oscar-nominated feature based on her graphic novel of the same title, which premiered in Cannes. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) plays Marie Curie.
Faizal Khan curated India’s first football films festival with artist Riyas Komu at the 2011 International Film Festival of India, Goa. He was the curator of a football films programme in the Artists Cinema section of the second Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2014.
Read his columns here.
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