Toronto’s Oscar Rematches: Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuarón, Damien Chazelle & Barry Jenkins Compete Again


History seems to be repeating itself this year as awards season launches at Toronto with two sets of directors facing off yet again, their projects colliding just as their Oscar bound films did the last time they faced off. Of course they say there is no real competition in art, but these remarkably similar trajectories are fun to watch this weekend as four Oscar winning helmers return to the scene.

Steve McQueen vs. Alfonso Cuarón

It’s been five years since the last feature films from Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuarón. Their 2013 Oscar matchup brought both directors awards season glory, even as a bittersweet decision split the top Oscars for the talented pair. Cuarón’s intimate space epic Gravity charged him to a Best Director Oscar, but it was McQueen who took the stage for Best Picture when 12 Years a Slave was announced the winner.


Both were first-time director nominees then, and now they have a chance of facing off again with two TIFF movies that should be on every festival-goer’s must-see list. Can McQueen’s switch from arthouse to studio picture with Widows (in Gala Presentations) be the ticket to putting him back in the ring with Cuarón, who switches from studio picture to arthouse with the very personal black-and-white Mexican drama Roma (Special Presentations)? Will history repeat itself, reverse itself, or result in a wash with both shut out this time?

Damien Chazelle vs. Barry Jenkins

It was only two seasons ago that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins brought their Oscar hopefuls to TIFF and started a major frontrunner rivalry. They also endured the split decision when the Oscars were finally handed out, with Chazelle’s La La Land winning six Academy Awards including Best Director, while Jenkins’ Moonlight took Best Picture. Indeed, the latter victory also marked the biggest gaffe in Oscar history, when a mishandled envelope resulted in a momentary—but quickly corrected—declaration in La La Land’s favor.


This time, Chazelle goes to space with First Man (Gala Presentations), his story about Neil Armstrong’s journey to become the first person ever to step foot on the moon. Meanwhile, Jenkins is offering up If Beale Street Could Talk, which gets its world premiere in Special Presentations, and adapts James Baldwin’s poignant novel of the same name. So what happens this time in the bittersweet saga of Chazelle and Jenkins? Will they both be back in the race for Oscar, and, if so, will the Academy get the winner right on the first try this time? Toronto holds the first clues.

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