a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

So what’s the Oscar Buzz at TIFF? All the world really wants to know is this. Who’s on top at TIFF? TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, as it’s come to be abbreviated world-wide, is without a doubt the single most important launch pad for Oscar hopefuls and wannabes. Much emerged. Top of the list going in was “The Danish Girl” and coming out it was Eddie Redmayne’s trans-gender pioneer Lili Elbe by a mile. It could also be up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes(for sure), Best Adapted Screenplay(it’s a true story) and the very strong likelihood that Alicia Vikander as Lili’s staunch, strong spouse, Gerde, may land not just in the Supporting Actress race(where she would have a VERY strong chance of winning) and also, Vikander may end up as Lead Actress.

Like her counterpart in “The Theory of Everything” Felicity Jones, who was also playing a similar part. Redmayne’s staunch, strong wife. And some years Jones may have been put in Supporting, but not last year. Swedish actress Vikander who is quickly becoming this year’s IT girl, may very well end up in lead, for her tremendous turn as Gerde, the audience’s surrogate. We see “The Danish Girl” through Gerde’s loving but dismayed eyes, as her husband turns from a man to a woman.

Less sure a front-runner was Johnny Depp in “Black Mass” as the frightening true-life gangster Whitey Bulger. For some reason, Depp was rumored to be cancelling interviews and press events left right and center. I heard that he was hitting the bottle quite strongly. I hope that’s not the case. I never heard before that he was an alcoholic.  But alienating those who might have potentially helped Depp get a nomination for this less- than-par gangster film.

He may doing a “Monique” and blowing off the dog and pony show run-up to the Oscars, something that rival Redmaybe excels at. And Depp may be saying “Screw all this folderol and just vote for me based on my performance.” It may land him a nomination anyway.

On the Best Actress side of things I saw two very good films with two outstanding lead performances by women. Both such strong contenders that they will not be overlooked come nomination time. There was the luscious, dewey-eyed, now all grown-up Irish beauty Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn”. She is a young Irish lass who moves to America in the 1950s to find a better life for herself. And she does. But then a family tragedy drags her back to Ireland and into a Will She Stay or Will She Go dilemma. Her heart being caught between the love of a super-cute, super-hunky Italian kid (Emory Cohen) and the more traditionally suitable, wealthy. Irish man Domnall Gleeson. It’s a film in a minor key with soap opera bubbles all over it. But it’s well done. Tremendously Army of OscarsEddie Liliold-fashioned and super-sentimental, “Brooklyn” may just be the Academy’s Cup of Irish Tea come awards’ time.

Also there’s the ever-present, redoubtable octogenarian Dame Maggie Smith giving yet another career-best performance as a bag lady(!) who takes up residence in author Alan Bennett’s front drive-way in “Lady in a Van.” Dame Maggie played this role for nine months at the National Theater in London, to great acclaim, and under the same director Nicolas Hytner. Stats like those and a performance for the ages, are things the Academy is likely to take strong note of. And Dame Maggie is swinging from the rafters with his one. As dirty and smelly and ornery  as  her real-life character Mary Shepherd is meant to be, you love her any way. I really can’t wait to see this rather joyous  take on the homeless AGAIN. I liked it that much..

But it’s “The Danish Girl” that really was the masterpiece out of all those discussed.  Oh, and I here Sony Pictures Classics is going to run the OTHER Masterpiece I saw, holocaust drama, “The Son of Saul” for Best Picture, and the Academy might just go for it. A Hungarian film of tremendous power, it’s an amazing piece of filmmaking. But more about “The Son of Saul” later.

Isn’t this enough Oscar news for one morning?

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