Award winners at TIFF 2012 set the stage for the Oscars

While last year’s Toronto International Film Festival award winners didn’t go on to make much of a splash post festival, the powers that be proudly pointed out their contribution to the success of film winners in the past before each screening this year – with a pre-roll playing before each film that highlighted the success previous winners such as Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and American Beauty all went on to receive.

This year, the People’s Choice Award returned to highlighting celebrity-filled films when the award went to Silver Linings Playbook. Runners-up were Ben Affleck’s Argo and Eran Riklis’s Zaytoun.

Silver Linings Playbook stars Bradley Cooper as a depressed teacher recently released from a psychiatric hospital into his parents’ care who quickly becomes involved with a young widow played by Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence has received the lion’s share of critical praise for her role in the film.

Festival director Cameron Bailey accidentally spoiled the announcement of the winner on Sunday at the awards brunch by tweeting congratulations to the film’s director, David O. Russell, before the awards ceremony began. He noted his mistake when presenting it, saying, “I’d like to announce, or re-announce, the winner of the Blackberry People’s Choice award.”

The film drew standing ovations during its public screenings, and Russell’s recent success with The Fighter along with the win at TIFF puts him in good standing come Oscar time.

Another film that had its North American premiere at TIFF, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, is also likely to score many nominations from the Academy.

TIFF audience award winners have gone on to earn 105 nominations since the award’s inception in 1978, 10 of which have been for best picture.

Many feel this year’s win was not a surprise, with the biggest films having already debuted in Venice the week before.

The voting process also changed this year, causing confusion for many movie-goers. In previous years, the People’s Choice Award had been sponsored by Cadillac, and at the end of each screening volunteers would hound you with a piece of paper asking you to vote – and allowing you to give the film a score of 1 through 5.

This year there were no separate ballots or voting scale – if you liked the film, you dropped your ticket onto the box in what can only be seen as an effort to save paper. The flawed system left many regular TIFF goers confused, and it wasn’t until at least halfway through the festival that it became clear how to vote.

There was also an even lesser known way to make your choice known if you prefer to save your hard ticket, as some fanatics do. You could go on the website and enter your ticket stub number for the film you wanted to win, and vote that way.

We can only hope the festival will learn from this year and make the process more transparent from the beginning for next year’s festival.

The other big People’s Choice winners were Artifact for Best Documentary, and Seven Psychopaths for Midnight Madness.

Seven Psychopaths premiered with a premium screening – premium screenings are incredibly rare for Midnight Madness – and the rush line to get in was one of the longest I’ve seen in TIFF history. All the stars were in attendance for In Bruges, director Martin McDonagh’s tale of a movie inside a movie.

The documentary winner, Artifact, was not a surprise as producer and subject Jared Leto asked everyone to vote at both screenings (and clarifying exactly how to vote), emphasising the importance of a documentary winning this prize in order to get distribution. The film also had a strong Twitter campaign — in which they personally asked everyone who tweeted about the film to vote for it — and achieved Wordwide Trending Topic status on the social media site. It was the only film this year with a noticable voting campaign, and their efforts paid off.

The true story of Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars’ battle against their record label EMI, told beautifully while juxtaposed against their making of the aptly titled album This Is War, shows the average person exactly how hard it is for musicians – even ones with their level of commercial success – to make any money once signed to a major label.

Documenting the legal battle after their label decided to sue them for 30 million dollars, the film shows how myopic the music industry is, as corporate heads refuse to change their ways of doing business despite existing within an industry that has been forever changed over the past decade.

Other winners included beloved French Canadian director Xaviar Dolan for his tale of a relationship complicated by gender issues, Lawrence Anyways, receiving the City of Toronto and Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature.

Best First Canadian Feature gave us an unlikely occurrence with a tie between Brandon Cronenberg’s disturbing look at celebrity obsession with Antiviral and Jason Buxton’s tragic look at a small town wrongfully accusing an introverted teenager of plotting a school massacre in Blackbird.

Best Special Presentation film went to Francois Ozon’s Dans la maison, while Call Girl won the Discovery prize, and Best Short Film went to Keep A Modest Head.

Sources: TIFF, Yahoo, BlogTO

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TIFF 2012 underway
Stars attending TIFF 2012
First wave of TIFF 2012 films revealed