Cannes has the Palme d'Or, Venice has the Golden Lion and Sundance has its Grand Jury Prize. In Toronto, it's up to audiences. While critics and industry pundits flood the Canadian city each year to screen nearly 400 films, so do paying audiences—and they're the ones who vote for which Toronto International Film Festival movies receive accolades. This year, TIFF audiences chose La La Land for the People's Choice Award. TIFF audiences have a pretty good batting average, granting the People's Choice to 12 Years a Slave, The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, which all took home Best Picture Oscars, as well.
La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is spectacular. I saw it twice: once with critics and once at a public screening, where the audience broke into applause at least five times throughout the movie. You can count the Oscar nominations as they float by: Gosling? Check. Stone? Check. Costumes, set design, editing, score and original song. Check, check, check, check and check.
This year saw the strongest slate of films at TIFF in years. I can't remember seeing so many quality films back-to-back-to-back and, this year, eight films earned five out of five highest in my rating system. Below are all 50-plus films I screened over 10 days in Toronto, rated. And as a tip of the toque to our neighbors to the north, I use maple leaves instead of stars.
Arrival, Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Loving, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Queen of Katwe
The Birth of a Nation, Denial, The Edge of Seventeen, Lady Macbeth, The Limehouse Golem, Maudie, Raw, The Secret Scripture, Sing, Their Finest, Toni Erdmann, Una, A United Kingdom
American Honey, Blue Jay, Colossal, The Girl with All the Gifts, A Monster Calls, Nocturnal Animals, Patterson, The Promise, Snowden, Wakefield
The Bad Batch, The Exception, The Headhunter's Calling, In Dubious Battle, King of the Dancehall, Paris Can Wait, Planetarium,