La La Land  has won the sometimes Oscar predictive Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the 41st Annual Toronto International Film Festival. Even though this is simply an audience award, with mostly Canadian moviegoers expressing their votes by dropping ticket stubs in a box at screenings, the honor has taken on significance during the awards season, especially here at the start when every contender is looking for any advantage. Last year’s winner, Room, was given a tremendous boost by its victory and went on to a Best Picture nomination and a Best Actress win for Brie Larson.

pete hammond badge

First runner up today was Lion, and second was Queen Of Katwe. Definitely a favorite to win this prize, La La Land  had hugely successful screenings at Venice, Telluride and Toronto. The Damien Chazelle musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling  is already considered one of the front runners in this year’s Oscar race, and today’s win will certainly be looked at as a nice boost for it.

Past TIFF People’s Choice winners include eventual Best Picture champs 12 Years A Slave, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty. As far back as 1981, the TIFF choice signaled a soon-to-be major Oscar upset with Chariots Of Fire.  

TIFF logo 2
Toronto International Film Festival

TIFF winners that went on to make the list of Best Picture Oscar nominees including Room are The Imitation Game,  Silver Linings Playbook,  Precious, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,  Life Is Beautiful, Shine, Places In The Heart and The Big Chill. But the top TIFF audience prize doesn’t always go to Oscar hopefuls, as evidenced by such titles as Where Do We Go Now?, Bella, Eastern Promises, Zatoichi and The Hanging Garden.

This has been a particularly bountiful year for potential awards contenders at TIFF, with including La La Land, Moonlight, American Pastoral, Sing, The Birth Of A Nation, Jackie, The Red Turtle, Hidden Figures, Arrival, Toni Erdmann, Elle, The Eagle Huntress,  Manchester By The Sea, Loving, Nocturnal Animals, Neruda, Queen Of Katwe, Denial, Snowden, Lion, Christine, Bleed For This, among many others in the Foreign, Documentary and Animated categories.

In fact, the fest ended strongly with closing night film The Edge Of Seventeen, which received excellent reviews and could propel itself into the awards arena after its November 18 opening.

There also were numerous movies not currently dated for 2016 that drew lots of talk: Norman, Una, Wakefield, Maudie, LBJ, The Secret Scripture, Tramps, Strange Weather, The Promise and Burn Your Maps, to name a few in a festival that included 296 feature films. Burn Your Maps co-starred 10-year-old Jacob Tremblay, back for his second TIFF after last year’s People’s Choice winner Room. He’s a regular veteran now and his latest received an enthusiastic audience reception at its TIFF premiere Thursday, from all reports.

Along with the Venice Film Festival awards results, today’s ceremony is just the starting point of a very competitive, very loooooong awards season still to come.

This morning’s ceremony was emceed by Fest honchos Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling. Here’s the list of other awards handed out:

Dropbox Discovery Programme Filmmakers Award:  Jeffrey

Short Cuts Awards (for short films – Canadian):  Mutants

Short Cuts Awards Best Short Film: Imago

City Of Toronto Award Best First Canadian Feature: Old Stone

Canada Goose Best Canadian Feature: Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves

Fipresci Jury Prize, Discovery Section: Kati Kati

Special Presentation Section: I Am Not Madame Bovary

Network For Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Award: In Between

Toronto  Platform Prize: Jackie

Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award: Free Fire

Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award: I Am Not Your Negro