5 Films Featured at TIFF That Are Oscar Contenders

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While the Academy Awards may be months away, it’s never too early to start planning out which movies will be worth seeing before they hit theaters. This past weekend, there were many noteworthy films previewed at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with many unique characters and stories based in fiction and fact, from a mute, female janitor with an unconventional romance to the Prime Minister of England during World War II.

One convention that does seem to be common at TIFF 2017 is the presence of strong, rebellious women in many of the films, which is a positive change to the representation of female characters in Hollywood, existing in and of themselves rather than serving as a support for a male lead. While there were plenty of other impressive films, here’s a list of five of the best films shown at TIFF that deserve Oscar nominations.

1. Molly’s Game 

In this gutsy adaptation of a true story, which hits theaters on November 22nd, Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier who decides to run one of the world’s largest underground poker games once an accident ruins her skiing career. In his directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter who penned The Social Network and The West Wing, transforms his witty, fast-paced dialogue into visual format, imbuing into film the same kind of energy found within his screenplays, which is perfect to depict Bloom’s determined personality and intense lifestyle. Throughout the film, Sorkin provides his actors, including Idris Elba and Kevin Costner, with lengthy speeches that alone are Oscar worthy, but if that doesn’t get the Academy’s attention, Jessica Chastain’s performance surely will.

2. Darkest Hour  

Christopher Nolan’s war epic, Dunkirk, which depicts the troops being evacuated from Dunkirk beach, could easily be paired with Joe Walsh’s film, Darkest Hour, since both films show two very separate yet equally important events within World War II: the bombings that took place in Dunkirk and the decisions made by the Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, that brought them there. Darkest Hour, which will be released on November 22nd, provides a behind-the-scenes look at Winston Churchill’s struggle to maintain his power as the new Prime Minister and shows his determination to continue to battle the Nazi’s instead of appealing for a ceasefire.

However, the best part of the film is Gary Oldman’s performance. Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill presents the two sides of his person in perfect likeness, one being the murmuring, surly alcoholic, and the other the proud, skilled politician. John Lithgow just won an Emmy for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Crown, so why not keep the tradition going and give Gary Oldman the Oscar he deserves.

3. The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro, a director well-known for making genre films like Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim, has created another mystical world that resembles a fairytale in The Shape of Water. The plot follows the introverted custodian Eliza Esposito, portrayed by Sally Hawkins, who falls in love with a creature trapped within a government facility.

Zelda (Octavia Spencer), one of Eliza’s friends from work, and Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza’s neighbor, decide to help Eliza attempt to free the creature before an evil federal agent (Michael Shannon) can enact his own plans for the water creature. The fairytale elements and homage to classic cinema perfectly combine with Guillermo’s otherworldly visual style, making The Shape of Water a magical filmgoing experience. The Shape of Water will premiere in theaters on December 8th.

4. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig, who is known for her roles in Francis Ha and Mistress America, exchanges her role on screen for a more behind-the-scenes position as both the writer and director of Lady Bird. Lady Bird stands out from the thousands of coming-of-age films mostly because it’s a semi-autobiographical story based on Gerwig’s own young adulthood growing up in Sacramento, CA, giving it an air of authenticity.

The story follows Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a senior attending a Roman Catholic high school who declines to be called by her real name and would rather be referred to as Lady Bird. From angst-filled fights with her parents to falling for bad boys, Lady Bird provides a new take to an age-old story about the typical, American teenage experience. Lady Bird hits theaters on November 10th.

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Everyone seemed to agree that the number one movie at TIFF was without a doubt Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Martin McDonagh, the writer and director who brought us witty, dark comedies like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, recreates that same violent, black comedy in his third film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Frances McDormand portrays Mildred, a churlish mother out for vengeance after her daughter was brutally raped and murdered; she purchases three billboards that strongly request that the police re-open her daughter’s case. Frances McDormand will surely be up for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and even Sam Rockwell, who plays a dull-witted, racist Sheriff’s deputy, gives an emotional and complex performance. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be available to see in theaters on November 10th.

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