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« Showbiz History: Sophia's Proxy Wedding, Emma's "Easy A" | Main | TIFF Review: "Gloria Bell" »

TIFF Delivers an Oscar bound-surprise with "Green Book" 

by Nathaniel R

Go figure. The winner of TIFF's "Grolsch's People's Choice Award" is a film that literally none of my TIFF airbnb troupe (Joe Reid, Chris Feil, Nick Davis and I) saw during our 10 day stretch in Ontario. Green Book by Peter Farrelly (yes, of Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary fame) took TIFF's most coveted prize. (the runners up were Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk and Alfonso Cuarón's Roma). So we'll have to add it to the Best Picture chart when we update this week (we're looking at probably Wednesday night for across the board updates to reflect all the festival madness).

In the entire 40 year history of this prize, stretching From Girlfriends (1978) through Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), 16 of the winners went on to Best Picture nods at the Oscars. The 40 winners also include 7 future Best Picture winners, 6 future Best Foreign Language Film winners, and 2 future Best Documentary Feature winners. The Oscar correlation is getting stronger all the time, too...

In the past 10 years only 1 of the winners (the Lebanese musical Where Do We Go Now? a surprise snub at the Oscars in the foreign film category at the time) was not Best Picture nominated. So a 90% recent track record is pretty good news for this film. The People's Choice winners that failed to grab Best Picture nods have mostly been foreign films and Canadian films and many of those outliers went on to Oscar nominations in other categories, including Best Foreign Language Film. In short, this particular prize is a great Oscar bellwether. Green Book may well turn out to the be the surprise of the season since no one was talking about this movie a couple of weeks ago. 

Green Book is about the friendship of an Italian-American chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) and the African-American classical pianist (Mahersha Ali) he drives around for a tour in the American south in the 1960s. People are already (perhaps superficially) comparing it to Driving Miss Daisy, with the white/black roles reversed. Universal Pictures had a Best Picture nominee last season with the crowd-pleaser Get Out but hasn't won the top prize since A Beautiful Mind (2001). They'll release this road trip drama on November 21st in US cinemas, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend box office. We hope Universal has the cajones to campaign both Viggo and Mahershala as Best Lead Actor since this is obviously a two hander and no one pretends two lead films don't have two leads unless they share a gender. If they do commit category fraud we're assuming they'll place Mahershala as lead, ignoring that Viggo has top billing, since it's a true story and Ali's character is the character with a claim to fame.

Complete List of Prize Winners

The Man Who Feels No Pain is an action comedy from India.

People's ChoiceGreen Book (Peter Farrely). Runners up: If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, US), and Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico)
People's Choice Midnight Madness: The Man Who Feels No Pain (Vasan Bala, India). Runners up: Halloween (David Gordon Green, US), and Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson, US)
People's Choice Documentary Feature: Free Solo (E Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin). Runners up: This Changes Everything (Tom Donahue) and The Biggest Little Farm (John Chester)

In truth I'm a bit surprised that Roma and If Beale Street... were the runners up since they're both very painterly slow burns and I thought something more mainstream-exciting like Widows or A Star is Born might factor in. 

BrotherhoodThis Magnificent Cake!the boyfriend/girlfriend of "Fuck You"

Best Canadian Short Brotherhood (Meryam Joobeur, Tunisia/Canada). Honorable Mention: Fauve (Jérémy Comte, Canada)
Best Short The Field (d. Sandhya Suri, India/France/UK). Honorable mentions: Fuck You (Anette Sudor, Sweden), This Magnificent Cake! (Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels)

TIFF is an Oscar-qualifying festival so we might see some of those titles in the short film Oscar races. It would be hilarious to see Fuck You make an Oscar longlist because it's about a Swedish girl who steals a strap-on to challenge her boyfriend to expand his sexual boundaries (!!!). I'm also intrigued by This Magnificent Cake! which is a surreal Belgian animated short about European colonialism.

Roads in February is a Spanish language Canadian co-production

Best Canadian First Feature Roads in February (Katherine Jerkovic, Canada/Uruguay)
Best Canadian Feature The Fireflies are Gone (Sébastien Pilote, Canada)

Jamie Bell stars in Skin

FIPRESCI JURY (International Federation of Film Critics)
Discovery Program: Float Like a Butterfly (Vamerl Winters, Ireland). Honorable Mention: Twin Flower (Laura Luchetti, Italy)
Special Presentations: Skin (Guy Nattiv, US). Honorable Mention: A Faithful Man (Louis Garrel, France)

A Faithful Man is playing at NYFF in a couple of week. Skin, stars Jamie Bell as a skinhead, raised in a white supremacist home (Vera Farmiga is said to be "unrecognizable" as his mother) trying to leave his hateful past behind by a painful procedure to remove his tattoos. Danielle MacDonald (from PattiCake$) plays his new girlfriend who has already left her fascist past behind.  It was picked up by A24 (with their DirectTV partnership) for distribution in 2019.

The Third Wife. Will we see this become Vietnam's Oscar entry NEXT season?

NETPAC JURY (Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema)
World Cinema AND Discovery Program: The Third Wife (Ash Mayfair, Vietnam). Honorable Mention: The Crossing (Bai Xue, China)

The Third Wife is a debut feature from female writer/director Ash Mayfair and takes place in the rural Vietnam of the 19th century.

"Fig Tree" is a beauty

Best Female Director Aäläm-Wärque Davidian for Fig Tree (Israel/Ethiopia). Honorable Mention: Camilla Strøm Henriksen for Phoenix (Norway)

We already reviewed Fig Tree in brief here. It was an Ophir nominee for Best Picture in Israel this season. I'm not at all sure how the Norwegian film Phoenix escaped my radar entirely because I always try to see Scandinavian films at festivals. That said TIFF screens hundreds of films so it's easy to make an error in your planning.

Cities of Last Things

Platform Prize Wi Ding Ho for Cities of Last Things (Taiwan / China). Honorable Mention: Emir Baigazin for The River (Kazakhstan)

This is a relatively new prize focused on emerging directors and the jury was heavyweights this year: Mira Nair, Béla Tarr, and Lee Chang-dong. I am now kicking myself because I had Cities of Last Things on my schedule but skipped it at the last minute due to festival fatigue and its topic: told in reverse chronological order it begins with a suicide and then charts how the man got there and I just wasn't up for that that night. I did however see The River which is gorgeous and unusual and really lingers. You should definitely see it if it ever crosses your path. I hope it will be Kazakshtan's Oscar submission either this year or next depending on its release schedule so that it can grab a slightly higher profile.

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Reader Comments (43)

I can't believe none of you guys saw it! I've just seen the poster and everything about it screams OSCAR to me (plus the two hotties).

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'm sick of all the TIFF noise. It's not about movies, it's all about Instagram.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaya

It doesn't mean much at this point, but GoldDerby has Viggo categorized as lead and Mahershala as supporting. Is the movie told from Viggo's perspective?

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Daya -- i dont understand the comment. How is TIFF about instagram?

Suzanne -- hmmm. i dont know because i haven't seen it yet.

September 16, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Most of the awards pundits are predicting Ali in supporting and Viggo in lead. Usually when one actor is a person of color and the other is white, the white actor gets lead and the actor of color gets sidelined to supporting (eg Pulp Fiction, Scerets and Lies). I would love to see Universal be bold and place them both as leads but it's doubtful.

As for the lead actor category is there really much competition? Gosling might be too muted, Dafoe is in a film that might be too arthouse for the Academy's taste and Redford hasn't had much luck in the past. So who else besides Cooper and maybe Hawke?

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

Festival season has become insufferable what with all the instant reviews on Twitter. It’s like nobody even stops to think about movies anymore — except for Nathaniel and Nick. Do you think it’ll ever get any better?

I’m honestly thankful for movies like Green Book surprising so that it can keep those on Twitter who love to wrap up the Oscar race in August on their toes.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Ha, a passing reference to this movie in Entertainment Weekly's fall movie preview issue caught my eye, but I never imagined it would gain this kind of profile.

Two hotties indeed...though I still have trouble forgiving Viggo for his anti-Hillary stance in 2016...

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

an anti-hillary stance in 2016 made all the sense in the world and still does.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

I guess Green Book will be this year's Hidden Figures.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Was Viggo a Trump supporter? He seemed to agree with Streep's golden globe anti trump speech.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark

@Mark, he was a Bernie-or-Buster who voted for Jill Stein

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMJS

Viggo was a Jill Stein/Bernie supporter.

I do think Viggo looks borderline cartoonish in this trailer, but he wouldn't be the first borderline cartoonish Best Actor nominee. Ali is likely great, though.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I saw Green Book at at TIFF. I kept hearing it mentioned as people's favorite (generally by an older crowd, which immediately made me think of Oscar voters). I was very skeptical, thinking it looked like cloying Oscar bait, but some middle-aged American women who seemed to have good taste convinced me to go see it...

And I was totally won over. The film is hysterical from beginning to end. Think 1960s Joey Tribbiani driving around James Baldwin. It's Peter Farrelly so he knows good comedic pacing. Viggo's character in particular relies on stereotypes (which is the negative critique I've heard), but in a loving way and the film in general wears its heart on its sleeve. You can imagine the story arc, but there are plot points along the way that you will not see coming. And most of all, it's educational without being polarizing. Liberals will appreciate the film's message. Conservatives won't feel talked down to. I loved it, going home with such a smile on my face. I imagine my family members who support Trump will also love it... and maybe just maybe, they'll open their minds a little.

It is going to be huge. Think The Help but bigger (because it's about men, it's a tighter comedy, it's coming out in the holidays and has some ties to the Christmas holiday, the "bridging a divided nation" thinkpieces will write themselves, etc.). It will have major legs and I will not be surprised if it outgrosses A Star is Born or First Man. People in my audience were liking it that much.

Viggo is the lead, no doubt. Mahershala is also lead in my eyes, though I hear rumors of a supporting campaign. That's a shame because this is a Thelma & Louise-style duo (where maybe there's a little more Louise, but it's mostly both of them), not to mention the terrible optics of demoting the black actor to supporting. I expect it to be nominated for Picture, Lead Actor (Viggo), Lead or Supporting Actor (depending on where they put Ali), and Original Screenplay. I would not be surprised to see it get Director or coattail nominations in Production Design or Costumes. And I wonder if that Best Actor award trophy that everyone has given to Bradley Cooper might be destined to Viggo Mortensen instead.

(As an aside, the other films that older TIFF goers kept mentioning were Capernaum and Never Look Away, which I expect to do well in Foreign Language.)

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I have nothing against Viggo mortenson getting nominated and possibly winning.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I looked at Gold Derby last week and saw that Green Book was on a few lists for expert's top 10s. Anne Thompson, Sasha Stone, and Jeff Wells were all predicting it last week. Now, for anyone that has updated today, it is on every list.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commentershawshank

I also saw it at TIFF, and yes, the audience was eating it up. It's a crowdpleaser, through and through, and while it does remind me of The Help and Hidden Figures, I get the sense that this could be marketed more as a comedy (which lands beautifully). While I do think it's a two-lead movie, Mahershala Ali makes the most sense to submit to Supporting of the two, since he is the character that doesn't really come so much into focus until the last act, while most of what we see focuses on Viggo's character. I think the fact that it's a film about a friendship first and about racial issues second, it feels less heavy-handed than The Help and Hidden Figures do at times. I wouldn't be mad if Viggo Mortensen won the Oscar for this (I re-watched Captain Fantastic a few night ago as well, man is he good!!!), but we'll see how the season pans out (it's only September, people)...

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I think they will both go Lead. The "black actor demoted to Supporting" trope needs to end.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Almost a waste of a group going to a festival and all four missing a film with these two leads. Shame!

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoona

Honestly, not surprised to see "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK" as the runner-up. It is said Layne and James got a long standing ovation alongside Jenkins after the credits rolled out...
About "GREEN BOOK" - a big couple of reviews made clear it could be a People's Choice winner so I had it included in my Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ali) and Best Original Screenplay predictions at GoldDerby, I must confess.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I swear, get outside of the people's choice award and it's just so much more interesting. So happy for THE RIVER as the organisation I work for helped develop it through funding grants. I also work with NETPAC so must do some research on THE THIRD WIFE.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

George-I have to agree with you here, though this is the first year where Twitter TIFF coverage felt overdone.. Nathaniel & Nick aside, it felt less like people were celebrating movies and more just focused on Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. And I adore Oscar, so it takes a lot for me to get to the point where it feels a bit much. Present company excluded, few people seemed to have opinions that were divergent from each other, as well.

I am excited to see, therefore, a title come out of nowhere to win the big prize-it’s better that we don’t declare all of the major races “over” before literally anyone outside of Toronto gets to see the pictures.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Dooona -- TIFF literally has over 200 movies and many of them have stars ;) I thought "oh, a comedy opening in November? I can wait" and then the first screening happened and people were like "OMG!"

September 17, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

All you had to do was watch the trailer to know it was going to be big with audiences / Oscar. It's the ultimate "Fine, I'll see it!" trailer lolol.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

All I could filter after all these exciting news: Hurray for "probably" Wednesday night updates ;)

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Green Book looks so bad I couldn't even stomach watching the entire trailer.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I think the TIFF coverage has been has been more muted on this blog,AwardsDaily kept updates going too.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Some people are saying that Mahershala could be Christopher Waltz and winning a second time in difference of two years in supporting actor. If this happen I will belong than glad.

Second Oscar and first Emmy in one year? Go Mahershala, go!

And, about "Viggo winning the Oscar that everyone thinks Bradley Cooper deserves", I let you all with this:

LOTR: The Two Towers
LOTR: Return of the King
A History of Violence
Eastern Promisses
The Road
Captain Fantastic

You know what is this? All the nominations and oscars that Viggo deserves a LONG TIME!

About Cooper: good looking actor who try harder. From the DiCaprio-Damon same "family".

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

I also went to TIFF, saw 29 films, and didn't see Green Book

"My Curtain Calls"

I didn't really see anything great, unless the first half of Climax counts (and how) - but the second half was rather repetitive. My 5 favorites were Cold War, Ash Is the Purest White, Climax, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Burning. 5 worst: Greta, Black 47, Red Joan, Kursk, Tito and the Birds.Sorry if these seem too obscure, but I deliberately avoided the Oscar-bait films that will be in the theaters in the coming months.

Since I tried to see as many Foreign Film submissions as possible, my provisional Top 5 so far is I Am Not a Witch (non-TIFF), Burning, Graves with No Names, Rosa, Capernaeum

Anders Danielsen Lie. Discuss

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

A second Oscar for Mahershala? Against Sam Elliott, Richard E. Grant, and even Timothee? No.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

What's the point of watching 29 films in one weekend? What are you going to do with your life for the rest of year?

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue.

That's 29 films in 10 days. Certainly hectic enough

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Viggo didn't support Hillary because he lives in Europe and he reads.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaya

Daya -

I hope Viggo is proud of helping put Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. But then again, he's "living overseas" and doesn't have to live with the consequences.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Ken S - Cold War was my favorite of the festival too! I worry about its foreign language chances since it's just a little subtler than Capernaum and Never Look Away.

Birds of Passage was also a fave. I found it much easier to watch than its predecessor Embrace of the Serpent.

And Anders Danielsen Lie was probably the most notable thing about 22 July. He's always excellent.

Peggy Sue - "What are you going to do with your life for the rest of year?" I'm going to watch any combination of the other 200 notable films that come out this year.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Ken -- Tweet that and then RT Amber Tamblyn and then got to a Starbucks to indulge yourself for being such a fighter.

Evan -- You're going to wank and order chinese food

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDaya

Daya -


September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

What happened to the other Farrelly brother?

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Looks like a popular pick with a lot of nods. Could probably ride to an acting win but not sure Viggo can overtake Bradley.

Still, the movie's gonna suffer once more POC critics and writers get to see it.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

"A second Oscar for Mahershala? Against Sam Elliott, Richard E. Grant, and even Timothee?"


Y E S!

that's all.

p.s.: Tom Holland >>>> Lucas Hedges >>> Timothee Chalamet

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

"Driving Mr. Daisy, in reverse." You know that's how it was pitched. And, since it leans on the comedy side, it also plays white supremacy for laughs.

The fact that the film coopts the Negro Motorist Green Book — a directory used by Black Americans traveling in the south to avoid cities/locations where they could be lynched — and symbolically assigns that life-saving designation to a white man is peak white savior syndrome. No wonder it was a hit at TIFF and will most likely continue to be when it is released. And if Ali is demoted to supporting actor ... that will be the racist icing on the cake.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

NewMoonSon, did you see it? Because it definitely doesn’t portray the white character as a savior. It also doesn’t play white supremacy for laughs.

How about we see the film before getting indignant?

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan


How about this: Do not tell me how I should receive an image that is, on face value, offensive and insulting. My comments were not about the FILM but its PACKAGING.

"Indignant"? You're funny.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

Had I seen the trailer, I would have skipped GREEN BOOK, too. Based on the trailer, assuming it's an accurate reflection of the film, this is the kind of production that gets a lot of nominations, but doesn't win Best Picture. (HIDDEN FIGURES didn't win, THE HELP didn't win.) The Academy's membership is now too sophisticated to vote for this kind of take-grandma-to-the-movies stuff. It's not 1989 anymore.

September 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDan H

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