During the Toronto International Film Festival you’ll see stars sipping lattes at the Starbucks in Yorkville and dolled-up on the red carpet at Roy Thompson Hall, but my favourite way to see them is up on the big screen. Celebrity gazing is a pleasant enough festival diversion, but the star attraction is the films.
Over the last 35 years the festival has run over 10,000 movies through their projectors. Obviously not all have gone on to win awards and break office records, but the festival has a surprisingly good track record at picking and showcasing hits. Chariots of Fire, The Big Chill and The Princess Bride all took home the fest’s People’s Choice Award and recent Oscar winners from TIFF include four award winner No Country for Old Men and Capote, which earned a Best Actor Oscar for its star Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
This year as the Oscar buzz is already building for TIFF treats Black Swan (director Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to The Wrestler), Paul Giamatti’s performance in Barney’s Version and the Bruce Springsteen documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, I thought I’d look back at movies that used Toronto as a springboard for later success.
Although not technically a TIFF premiere — it was first shown at the Telluride Film Festival — director Danny Boyle credits the Toronto festival audience’s reaction to the film with saving it from a terrible fate — going direct to DVD.
Before Ray premiered at the 2004 TIFF Jamie Foxx was best known as a comedian whose credits included dressing in drag as the ugliest woman in the world, Wanda Wayne, on In Living Color who occasionally dabbled in serious films like Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. After TIFF he was a serious actor, on the path to winning a Best Actor Academy Award.
ROGER & ME
At the start of the festival 21 years ago Michael Moore was an unknown documentary filmmaker hawking a self-financed film about the economic impact GM CEO Roger Smith’s decision to close down several auto plants in Flint, Mich. By the festival’s end Moore was a media celebrity with a People’s Choice Award and a film that would go on to win ten other major awards — although no Oscar. Moore would have to wait until Bowling for Columbine — which also played at TIFF — won the 2003 statue for Best Documentary.
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