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TIFF 2018 Finale. Jury of One: Nathaniel

OKAY WRAPPING UP TIFF NOW. Unless you are on an actual jury at a festival, you see a different set of films than everyone else attending (with a handful of crossovers) so I couldn't corral votes with my festival roomies (Nick, Joe, and Chris -- instead we did a podcast). So I thought it might be fun to share my favorites from the festival in 'nominee' Oscar style. These are not, of course, Oscar predictions or even Film Bitch ballots because not all of the films are guaranteed eligibility this year and we've had 8 months of good movies before these and we'll have 3 months of hopefully good movies afterwards that they'll have to compete with. But here's the achievements within traditional awards categories that thrilled me most at TIFF during that 29 film screening marathon.

They're listed in alpha order (by film) except the actors (by name) and links go to our festival reviews if we managed one -- a few more reviews are half written but we need to wrap up TIFF so expect more on A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, Border, and more soon as they'll be in theaters within the next few weeks.


"Roma" is rich with endless details and emotional punch

Runners up: Cold War (Poland)

Lots more after the jump including best performances, best visuals, best dogs (yes, really), best original songs and more...


Bradley Cooper not only proves great behind the camera he directs his own best performance!

Runner up: Museo - Alonso Ruiz Palacios


Maggie Gyllenhaal, complex as usual in "The Kindergarten Teacher"

  • Viola Davis as "Veronica Rawlings," an underestimated woman, in Widows 
  • Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as "Halla/Asa," an activist, in Woman at War
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as "Mrs. Spinelli," a teacher/poetry fanatic, in The Kindergarten Teacher
  • Nicole Kidman as "Detective Erin Bell," a haunted wreck, in Destroyer
  • Carey Mulligan as "Jeanette Brinson," an abandoned wife, in Wildlife

I'm still trying to decide if Natalie Portman was great or terrible in Vox Lux. It's one or the other. And a close call. And Yalitza Aparicio is a beautiful vessel in Roma but Alfonso Cuarón steals every scene if you know what I mean; it's a directorial feat through and through.  


Chalamet's performance is the only reason to see "Beautiful Boy"

  • Timothée Chalamet as "Nick Sheff," an eldest son and drug addict, in Beautiful Boy
  • Bradley Cooper as "Jackson Maine," an alcoholic rock star, in A Star is Born
  • Chao Deng as "Commander/Jing," a military hero and his imposter in Shadow
  • Ryan Gosling as "Neil Armstrong," a brave astronaut, in First Man
  • Victor Polser as "Lara," a determined ballerina, in Girl


Nicole and Russell are great together in "Boy Erased"

  • Graciela Borges as "Esmeralda," a wealthy judgemental matriarch, in The Quietude
  • Elizabeth Debicki as "Alice," a reluctant call girl, in Widows 
  • Claire Foy as "Janet Armstrong," a formidable wife, in First Man
  • Nicole Kidman as "Nancy Eammons," a religious mother, in Boy Erased
  • Regina King as "Sharon Rivers," a concerned mother, in If Beale Street Could Talk


Victor Polser and Arieh Worthalter as daughter and father in Belgium's Oscar entry "Girl"

  • Russell Crowe as "Marshall Eammons," a preacher, in Boy Erased
  • Colman Domingo as "Joseph Rivers," a resourceful father, in If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Sam Elliott as "Bobby," a rock star's brother/handler, in A Star is Born
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as "Jerry Brinson," a prideful ex husband, in Wildlife
  • Arieh Worthalter as "Mathias," a supportive father, in Girl 

Runner up: Rupert Penry-Jones as "Sir Harold Nicholson," a queer diplomat, in Vita & Virginia 


young lovers in Fig Tree


Lovers in a cafe in "Transit"


(Honestly I would not be surprised if these five are the exact Oscar list come January - extremely formidable cinematography contenders in films the guilds will probably like)


Runner up: Cold War - Ola Staszko


quite possibly my favorite scene in Cold War


the museum heist in "Museo" is an A+ sequence

  • Cold War - Jaroslaw Kaminski
  • First Man - Tom Cross
  • Museo - Yibran Asuad 
  • A Star is Born - Jay Cassidy
  • Widows - Joe Walker

Runner up: Woman at War   -David Alexander Corno



Sweden's Oscar submission "Border" has Oscar-worthy makeup effects





  • "Always Remember Us This Way" - A Star is Born  (Lady Gaga)
  • "I'll Never Love Again" - A Star is Born  (Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga)
  • "Look What I Found" - A Star is Born (Lady Gaga) 
  • "Maybe It's Time" - A Star is Born  (Bradley Cooper)
  • "Shallow" - A Star is Born  (Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga)

I'm a little obsessed, what can I say? I wish the Oscar rules didn't prohibit more than 2 song nominees from a single film because one suspects that all the other contenders will pale in comparison. Certainly the songs in "Vox Lux" pale  (and I love Sia so I'm not just being a Star is Born 'stan).  



Since I know you love the Film Bitch Awards here are a handful more 'extra' honors from the TIFF films screened for kicks.



  • Simon Russell Beale, a fine art dealer, in Museo
  • Brian Tyree Henry, an ex con and old friend, in  If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Jon Michael Hill, an opportunistic reverend, in Widows
  • Bradley Whitford, a sleazy lawyer, in  Destroyer



  • Jeanne Balibar, a poet, in Cold War
  • Leticia Brédice, an exotic dancer, in Museo
  • unknown, a 'travel agent' of sorts, in Fig Tree





There were so many good boys onscreen adding so much to their movies we had to recognize them

  • "Borass," high jumping family dog with FOMO issues - Roma
  • "Charley," beloved muppet-like child of rock stars - A Star is Born
  • "???," dog who wasn't invited to Christmas - That Time of Year
  • "???" pampered toy dog of Veronica (I forget her name but Viola does say it in the movie. The dog steals two totally key scenes!) - Widows
  • "Woman," a well trained farm dog and accomplice- Woman at War


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Reader Comments (34)

I LOVE this format of handling what you loved at the festival! Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Nat did you not see or didn't you like The Favourite,I hope your using the word Stan ironically,it's a really irritating word based on a horror of a rap song.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Of course, of particular note - no Gaga in Actress. Love that Kidman and Mulligan are there - hope they make the final list! Excited that Cooper made Actor - you've really made me want to see this performance. Surprised that Gosling is there - I know you appreciate understated but maybe there are enough "big" moments to warrant this from anyone's point of view?? Love that Kidman made Supporting too. Again, a little surprised about Foy - is the role really that meaty? And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Gyllenhaal is in your Sup Actor. Gosh I hope he gets nominated again soon! I just want people to think of him in that way. Thanks again!

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I LOVE this write-up. Nominations/filmbitchAward write-ups like this are really your niche; best place on the web for this by far and I really appreciate the thought you put into these (vs. just nominating your favorite film in every category). Also gets me revved up to see some of these.

also, i'm intrigued by your Portman comment. I'd like to see/read your thoughts after you see the film a second time, so please share when you do!

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

Nat can you share just a few thoughts on Best Actress and Supporting,are the women you liked likely to be in the conversations.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I did here portman was a divisive performance aren't those the ones who grow with time as to how bad or good people perceive them,i'd also like to say this is a gr8 way of running down your faves.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Kiki Layne has a sex scene with Sebastian Stan in Beale Street?

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

@markgordonuk - The Favourite played Venice and Telluride, not Toronto. It is the opening night film at the New York Film Festival, so I imagine he'll get to see it then. Can't wait for it.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

CASH - lol. MY BAD. i had just typed his name in the previous list and i guess the word "sex" triggered a freudian slip.

Mark - currently updating the best supporting actress chart.

September 21, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Gr8 praying for Regina to win.She's just as good as Viola.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Simon Russell Beale always steals every scene he does in every project he is in. His name on credits almost always assures I will watch it.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

Bradley cast his own dog in A Star is Born!

There is supposed to be a great cat in Melissa McCarthy's movie, too.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Simon Russell Beale should already be in the conversation for his brilliant work in Deat of Stalin.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Nathaniel, I felt the same way about Portman in Jackie.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

For someone not especially enamored with Beale Street you definitely have a lot to praise them for.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

So Gaga wouldn't crack your top...six? seven?...from TIFF? And neither would McCarthy? Gonna be an interesting season on this blog. 🤣

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Love your mentions of Arieh Worthalter and Colman Domingo in supporting Actor - both great and among the year’s best (along with Steven Yeun for Burning).

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDuncan Dykes

Did you see Can you ever forgive me?

also I’m so interested in your thoughts inn Cold War! A beautiful, beautiful film undone by that ending. Everything was so subtle until that point when it felt the need to hit you over the head with the point of the movie - I’ve never felt so let down at an ending!

Melodramatic I know, but it was similar to the Kindergarten Teacher’s ending - I got it( it was powerful but it didn’t quite need to spell it out like that. I understood what each film was trying to say without the endings.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I didn't know you saw Girl! Hope we get to hear sometime what you thought of it. I suspect it will be very polarizing because of a certain scene. It was definitely a mixed bag for me, but I agree re: Polster and Worthalter.

I'm also properly obsessed with Cold War, especially all the musical scenes and one very special shot at a party.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Morgan, if you want to see a movie undone by its ending, look no further than Girl. A good, modest, well-observed movie is completely ruined by its trashy, unnecessarily melodramatic and unbelievable last five minutes.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Hours ago - I obviously meant "understated" not "understand".

I agree with markgordonuk - can't wait to hear what you have to say about The Favourite, Nate.

And I also agree with huh - you do these sorts of things best! (I'm guess I'm in an agreeable mood.)

But...sorry markgordonuk - I have to disagree with you about Regina and Viola. Viola has a presence and emotional availability on screen that I don't think is matched by anyone - not even the goddess Meryl (who's emotional availability is another tool in her tool box not something she just exudes like Ms. Davis).

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

Hayden -- i didn't see CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME at TIFF because I had a screening of it scheduled in NYC for the day after I got back. Loved it. Melissa McCarthy would definitely be in this top five above if i had seen it, as would the movie in the top ten.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I feel like this year's awards season could be a bloodbath, in the (mostly) good embarrassment-of-riches way.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Duncan -- i JUST saw Burning yesterday. Wow, Steven Yeun was amazing.

September 21, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R


September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Hmmm, no gaga mention at the Actress cat?? I wonder wat Nat thot o her perf?? Hehe

The Favourite has skipped TIFF, tt's y it was not in consideration. I'm sure Nat wld've incl one or all three actresses, had he seen it at TIFF 😁

Trivia: Deng Chao n Sun Li r married couple in real life. Sun is the famous breakout star of Empresses o the Palace which took the whole Asia by storm!

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Nathaniel, please rethink by all that is Gaga--she's gotta get in. Xox

September 22, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I don't know about the other four movies, but Roma will not be nominated for Cinematography. (Maybe Shadow will take its place.)
Soderbergh wasn't nominated for cinematography, Joel & Ethan Coen weren't nominated for editing. It seems Cuarón will have to settle with nominations as producer, director, writer and in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Perhaps he will be nominated for Editing (he was a nominee for Children of Tomorrow).

September 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYonatan

And he won Best Editing for Gravity.

September 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYonatan

No such dilemma for me regarding Natalie Portman. She's GREAT in Vox Lux. It's a broad performance for sure, but she nails it (thenagain, it appears I liked that movie way more than you did, and think Raffey Cassidy is someone we should be keeping a closer eye on)...

September 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Richter Scale -- the weird thing is that I LOVE Raffey Cassidy (have included her in Film bitch awards before and thing she's definitely one of the best teenage ctors out there) but wasnt sold on her in Vox Lux at all.

September 22, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Cash -- my fear in years with "embarrassment of riches" is that sometimes that's the years where the Academy really really goes generic as if all the mediocrity rises to the top when there's too much great stuff splitting the more sophisticated voters. It definitely happened in 1999 with the BEST PICTURE category. And we see it happen in acting races pretty frequently i think.

September 22, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Since ABC is so desperate for young viewers who hate sitting through Best Editing, Production Design, etc, but love popcorn & popular movies only, they’d probably campaign themselves for Gaga...

September 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

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