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Silly irreverent "JoJo Rabbit" wins TIFF's People's Choice Award. Is Oscar next?

by Nathaniel R

The Grolsch People's Choice Awards at TIFF has always been a strong omen for good Oscar fortunes.  Last year Green Book was a surprise winner (it wasn't even on most Best Picture prediction charts before the screenings started, it's sudden popularity in the Oscar race came via festival debut with little pre-release buzz). This year's winner is less of a shock to the Oscar system (TFE has at least been predicting it in multiple categories since the April Foolish predictions). The winner for 2019 is Taiki Waititi's "anti-hate satire" JoJo Rabbit about a young boy and his imaginary friend "Adolf Hitler".  Noah Baumbach's moving and surprisingly funny Marriage Story and Bong Joon-Ho's brilliant Parasite, which both played to packed satisfied houses, were the runners-up. Both of those pictures are also gunning for Best Picture citations come Oscar time, though obviously Parasite has a steeper hill to climb to get there given its subtitles as Oscar's hesitancy in embracing Asian cinema. Most of the people I spoke with in Canada were actually predicting that Parasite would take the win as TIFF had to keep adding screenings. But JoJo Rabbit it is...

Though the folks at Fox Searchlight are surely celebrating JoJo Rabbit's win the road to Oscar will be much more difficult...

Thomas McKenzie co-stars as the Jewish girl hiding in a little Nazi's attack in "JoJo Rabbit"

Not only is the film a comedy but it's a very goofy satire and one with a tricky tone at that, encompassing both very broad physical comedy and dark dramatic beats in its World War II story. Despite the familiar "awards friendly" subject matter not a single Best Picture winner in history is remotely as (intentionally) silly. 

The following bit of stats is amended from what we wrote last year when Green Book was the surprise winner...

In the entire 41 year history of this prize, stretching From Girlfriends (1978) through Green Book (2018), 17 of the winners went on to Best Picture nominations at the Oscars. The 41 winners also include 8 future Best Picture winners, 6 future Best Foreign Language Film winners, and 2 future Best Documentary Feature winners.

The Oscar correlation is getting stronger. In the past 12 years only 1 of the winners (the Lebanese musical Where Do We Go Now? a surprise snub in the foreign film category at the Oscars that year) was not Best Picture nominated and 4 of the 12 won Best Picture. A 33% sign that you'll win the Best Picture Oscar is pretty damn good.

Before we unleash our own "awards" portion of our TIFF experience and a couple more review posts as wrap-ups, I would like to draw your attention, briefly, to the six best films I personally screened at TIFF that didn't get written up here (oops). It's a good time to share it as my six favourites actually include all three People's Choice citations (no Green Book problems this year).



Scarlett Johansson is wonderful and Adam Driver delivers career best work in "Marriage Story"


  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighorbhood (Marielle Heller) -humane, creative, lovely
  • JoJo Rabbit (Taiki Waititi) - somehow it works
  • Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) - a complete stunner from start to finish
  • Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) - wistful, smart, gorgeous
  • Parasite (Bong Joon-ho) - perfectly constructed, wildly entertaining
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Sciamma) - ingenious and provocative

The write-ups on these six terrific movies are delayed due to a complex yet boring mix of fatigue, intimidation, internet outtages, time crunch, sickness, and the knowledge that we'll have plentiful opportunities to talk about ALL of these pictures very soon. We will probably have a great excuse to keep talking about them all the way through Oscar season. The only "if" in this equation is really Portrait of a Lady on Fire (review half-written!) as we don't know yet know if France will submit it as their representative film in the Best International Feature competition but the rest of the titles are good for at least one nomination and probably more.

Thoughts? Are you looking forward to JoJo Rabbit?

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Reader Comments (32)

Jojo Rabbit looks cloying and awful. I’m dreading this season already!

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I’m most looking forward to your take on Judy 😂

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

The trailer for JoJo Rabbit looked so bad and ridiculous, I had no intention of watching it. But after this win and your love for it, I think I'll have to give it a chance.

I've been an admirer of Bong Joon-ho's work for quite some time, and it would be nice to see him get more global recognition with some serious play come awards season; here's hoping this is the year for him and South Korea at the Oscar's.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Of your six favorites, I'm looking forward to all but JoJo Rabbit.

One question, since you've seen Marriage Story--does Driver's performance of Being Alive indicate that he's a strong enough vocalist to carry an entirely sung movie? The news about Leos Carax's Annette is that it's basically dialogue-free. I know one of my friend's is a very strong musical film/theater fan who has been really disappointed by most recent offerings, including La La Land, and wondered if Driver and Cotillard really had the chops for something like this.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I'm willing to bet money that JoJo Rabbit will walk away with 0-3 noms and none in BP. It's too damn weird, Taika still isn't a commodity and making light of Hitler is still frowned upon. I'm not even sure I'm gonna watch it because the only Hitler I like is Chaplin or Tarantino style shot 50 times in the face.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

I'm very happy that my three favorite films I saw this year at TIFF (with the caveat that I saw Pain and Glory before TIFF and would certainly be up there if I had seen it at TIFF) were cited by the Grolsch...

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Damn it must be good to be Scar-Jo 3:16 to be in not just 2 festival favorites but also in the highest grossing film of all-time. Now she needs to show everyone she is the real ROCKA ROLLA!!!!!!

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Scar-Jo 3:16

I don't understand this reference can you explain,maybe it's modern internet speak that hasn't caught on in the UK,Scarlett would certainly be helped in BA for MS if this hits.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I'm guessing JOJO RABBIT works, considering how many people SAY it works, but I kind of wish it DIDN'T work. It seems a malady of our PoMo era that everything's good for a laff, and all you have to do to be taken seriously as a profound thinker is tackle some "big" issue--in whatever way you want, as long as you're stylish enough. I'll still never forgive the Academy for giving Roberto Bagnini best actor for the horrible LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL when Ian McKellen and Nick Nolte were RIGHT there on the ballot for career-best work. That particular heartwarming Holocaust film winning Best Foreign Language Film against CENTRAL STATION and CHILDREN OF HEAVEN is only a bit less outrageous. But again, who know? somehow, against all odds, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS turned out to be a defensible piece of popular cinema.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniella Isaacs

Scar-Jo 3:16, "God so loved the world that he sent us Scarlet Johansson."

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniella Isaacs

Can Scarlett Johansson, having a great day today, capitalize this momentum to an Oscar win? She’s having a great year and that worked for Stone and Lawrence, although Johansson (who’s the kind of star we all know will win someday) has always been more underrated

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

I loved the idea of JOJO RABBIT when it was announced, but I wasn't sold on it by its trailer. But enough people I follow have seen it and really liked it... so, I guess it's just a bad trailer.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Scarlett Johansson is having a great year so far! Let's call 2019 "the scarlett year".
Do you think she can get 2 Oscar noms? One for Best Supporting Actress (JOJO RABBIT) and one for Best Actress for MARRIAGE STORY (lots of Oscar buzz for her here)?

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I didn’t catch Jojo or Parasite but I did love Marriage Story. I voted for Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Given the trailers, I'm fearful that Jojo Rabbit will be too derivative of Wes Anderson. I've loved Wes since Rushmore, and I will be so disappointed if someone wins an Oscar for appropriating the style and tone of his films before he does. The trailer may not represent the film - but even those photos look like they could be from Grand Budapest or Moonrise Kingdom.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Jojo Rabbit, Ford v. Ferrari... what is happening?!!

Let's talk the important stuff. Are we getting a best actress race where Scarlett wins all the critics awards but ends up losing to Renée after she gets the Globe, the SAG and the Bafta?

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

can't wait for PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE.

also looking forward to PARASITE and PAIN AND GLORY.

(and, of course, TFE's coverage of these titles)

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

I’m at another Canadian film festival and saw Parasite and Portrait this weekend. Glad to hear you liked them as well Nathaniel. And hope you get better soon.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

But Daniela why would god send us someone occasionally decent, but usually meh, if he loved us? Is God dead or just a sadist? When Scarlet wins her Oscar for her role as The Giving Tree I may change my mind, but until then you just made me an atheist.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnna oup

Peggy Sue, that would be fantastic!!

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLorna

Slumdog millonaire , the King's speech , green book .... please Toronto ' s people choice stink a little more than the Academy awards .

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJavier

I worry that people around here seem to have already made up their mind about Jojo Rabbit and will choose to dislike it no matter what. I personally found the critical divide kind of odd because, as Nathaniel says, it somehow works, even when we recognize that these elements probably shouldn't go together. Yes, making something so silly surrounding WWII will rub certain people the wrong way, while others may expect it to be more of a satire than it ultimately is, but I think it works quite well if you think of it as a fable that is very clearly being narrated by someone in the present. I remember I left the theater smiling (and it was a 9:00 am screening, it takes a lot for a film to captivate me that early in the morning).

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I am curious about "Jojo Rabbit".
Most of all I was impressed by a comment from a British critic who said the film reminded him of "Hope and Glory". Since Hope and Glory is one of my favourite films set during the second world war, I think this may be the key to its success with audiences. So, I'm keeping an open mind.

I have been to TIFF several times and that audience award speaks volumes. I would never ignore a film that was a hit with so many film goers. (who can be very fickle)

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Scarlett Johansson nominated to an Oscar means a very week year in acting.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Stanwick

...and also Johansson as favorite means Zellwegger puts one hand on the golden trophy.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Stanwick

I'm not saying I AGREE, Anna oup, but that's what the scripture says.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniella Isaacs

I suspect JOJO winds up with nothing on Oscar noms morning.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

Jojo Rabbit is giving me "Life is Beautiful" vibes, which is not a point in its favor. But the hubby likes Taika Waititi, so I expect we'll end up seeing it.

I would be more excited for both Parasite and Marriage Story if the previous movies I've seen by both Bong Joon-Ho and Noah Baumbach hadn't left me cold. (Although I haven't seen "Mother," which I've heard is BJH's best.)

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Lee

So happy for Waititi, he is a genius.

And so happy you finally got to see Pain & Glory which is thankfully falling under the radar thanks to Parasite's buzz... I expect things to change once that the film is released in the USA in October, right on time to be fresh on Film Critics awards voting time. While I think Parasite has half-locked a Picture, Original Screenplay and International Film noms... I do not think it is going beyond that. In exchange, I still think P&G might be in really good position to grab noms at International, Actor, Original, Score at the very least, and probably Cinematography, Director and even Picture aren't that far away in actual chances.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJesus

Parasite is guaranteed an International Film nomination. If those lunkheads on the International Film Committee don't choose it, Parasite will be saved by the executive panel. How it fares once it's nominated is anyone's guess.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Oops, I meant Parasite was guaranteed a spot on the preliminary list of 10 finalists.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

I really want to see JoJo Rabbit. The only way I could be interested in a holocaust movie is if it's a satire comedy.

September 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

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