Toronto Film Fest 2019: Plenty of Oscar-Stuff Movies

Toronto Film Fest is viewed as a launching pad for awards season hopefuls.  After all, the 1999 Best Picture winner American Beauty, and last year’s winner Green Book, had world premiered at Canada’s premier event.

In between those two, there were many others. Paul Haggis’ Crash premiered at Toronto in 2004 (without a distributor), and went on to win the 2005 Best Picture winner in 2005!

This year’s edition features several titles that are potential Oscar stuff.

“Ford v. Ferrari,” a drama about a team of designers driven to develop a new racing car that stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale.

“The Goldfinch,” the big-screen version of Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel.

“Just Mercy,” a court room drama with Michael B. Jordan.

“The Two Popes,” a look at the relationship between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis that features Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as the church leaders.

All these movies have the kind of pedigree that could resonate with both Academy voters and film critics.

These films comprise a range of genres, encompassing everything from comic book adaptations to inspirational human stories. But Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director and co-head, said that many of the films seem to have been made in response to the tumultuous political debates roiling the United States and other parts of the world.

“In a fractious social moment, a lot of these stories are about characters looking for empathy or ways to connect.  These films don’t directly address what’s happening, but there seems to be a recognition that we are living in difficult times.”

The 2019 festival unfolds at a time of major change in the movie business. Box office returns are down, with pronounced declines in the financial performance of the indie movie sector. Toronto may have been created out of a love for the communal experience of watching a movie unspool in a darkened theater, but many of the artistically ambitious movies it celebrates aren’t being greenlit by major studios. Instead, they’re finding a home on streaming platforms.

Studios such as Sony Picture and Warner may premiere “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” or “The Goldfinch” at Toronto, but they’re now vying for space and attention with a movie like “The Laundromat,” a Soderbergh movie, starring Meryl Streep, which will primarily be seen by Netflix subscribers at their homes.