The 42nd Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up this last weekend and it left us, for the first time in years, without a true Oscar frontrunner. Or has it? If the past 8 years have showed us anything, it’s that the Best Picture winner is usually seen by now and between Venice, Telluride and TIFF it’s safe to say we’ve probably seen our next Best Picture winner.
Historically, the TIFF People’s Choice winner has given us a lot to work with. Between winners and runners-up we can look to recent history and stats and what they might tell us about their Oscar fate.
Nabbing the big prize, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri shocked many Oscar watchers but perhaps to a less extent the festival goers who saw firsthand how beloved this crowd pleaser was. I, Tonya was the runner-up and Call Me By Your Name came in third. Big Oscar films, most notably The Shape of Water and Darkest Hour weren’t cited.
This firmly positions Three Billboards in the Oscar race, and while the film – outside of a sure-fire nomination for McDormand’s tremendous performance – was underestimated by some even after the Venice Film Festival screenplay win, it’s looking like a much bigger Oscar player now. But from a statistic standpoint, how much does this TIFF win tell us?
There is a huge asterisk in this list and that’s 2011’s Where Do We Go Now. The Lebanese film was a complete shock win here and since TIFF had had a three-year run of People’s Choice winners becoming Oscar favorites, there are plenty of conspiracy theories and rumors about voting changes to keep movies like Where Do We Go Now from ever winning again. In many examples below, the existence of Where Do We Go Now on this list keeps the TIFF-to-Oscar playbook from being a perfect match. This year TIFF made another voting change, much to people’s chagrin, that involved being able to vote even if you didn’t have proof of seeing the movie (previously you needed to scan your ticket).
To recap, here are the past winners and runners-up since 2008:
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire (More Than a Game and The Stoning of Soraya M.)
2009 – Precious (Mao’s Last Dancer and Micmacs)
2010 – The King’s Speech (The First Grader)
2011 – Where Do We Go Now (Starbuck and A Separation)
2012 – Silver Linings Playbook (Argo and Zaytoun)
2013 – 12 Years a Slave (Philomena and Prisoners)
2014 – The Imitation Game (Learning to Drive and St. Vincent)
2015 – Room (Angry Indian Goddesses and Spotlight)
2016 – La La Land (Lion and Queen of Katwe)
2017 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (I, Tonya and Call Me By Your Name)
Let’s look at 5 interesting stat findings that make this win a bigger deal than a Golden Lion win or a runner-up mention at TIFF – and not just for McDormand but in all top Oscar categories:
- 7 of the 8 winners scored Best Director nominations (3 of them won)
Perhaps the most surprising stat is this – with the exception of Lebanese film Where Do We Go Now, ALL other winners scored a Best Director nomination at the Oscars with no exception. 2015’s Room’s Best Director nom was the most surprising and unexpected. No one, or very few, were expecting Lenny Abrahamson to make the final 5 – is Martin McDonagh next? Stats say he’s definitely in contention.
- 7 of the 8 winners scored one or more acting nominations
All Oscar contenders that won the award in the last 9 years scored one or more acting nominations, except for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire which was seen as an ensemble film (and ended up winning the SAG Ensemble Award). While 7 of the 8 past winners scored 1 or more acting noms, 6 out of 8 scored more than one (2 for La La Land, 2 for The Imitation Game, 3 for 12 Years a Slave, 4 for Silver Linings Playbook, 3 for The King’s Speech, 2 for Precious). Three Billboards is expected to follow this with 2 acting noms for McDormand and Saw Rockwell.
- 7 of the 8 winners scored scored Best Picture nominations
All but one of the People’s Choice winners in the past 8 years scored a nomination for Best Picture. Perhaps the most vulnerable of them was again after a PGA snub but the film rebounded with the Academy and scored several above-the-line nominations including Best Picture. This bodes very well for Three Billboards’ Oscar chances. If it fails to land a nod, and that’s unlikely now, it will be the first contender (outside of Where Do We Go Now) to win the People’s Choice Award and not to score a BP nom.
- 3 of the 8 winners actually won Best Picture
It may be early to assess whether Three Billboards can actually win Best Picture – but stats tell us that it may not be out of the question. Of the past 8 winners, 3 of them went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars: Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The King’s Speech (2010) and 12 Years a Slave (2012) while La La Land (2016) was widely expected to be the slam-dunk BP winner last year. While the 8-film sample isn’t a statistically commanding sample for Three Billboards, it at least shows that if it does pull a win, it wouldn’t be that shocking.
- 7 of the 8 previous winners won at least one of the top 8 Oscars
And here’s the most promising stat for Three Billboards. 7 of 8 previous winners of the People’s Choice Award did end up winning at least one of the top 8 Oscars (BP, Director, Screenplay, Acting). Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech swept, 12 Years a Slave won Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actress, La La Land won Director, Room won actress, Silver Linings Playbook won Actress and Precious won Screenplay. So Three Billboards is bound for a win or two – and our bets right now are on Screenplay (almost a sure thing) with Actress and perhaps even Supporting Actor as plausible wins too.
Now, let’s look at the list of runners-up from above because we find some curious details. In five of those years we have found two Best Picture nominees (Philomena and Lion), a Foreign Language Film winner (A Separation) and two Best Picture winners (Argo and Spotlight). The rest didn’t factor into the Oscar race in any way. But this is the first year in a decade that all three films are legitimate contenders in the Oscar race in multiple categories. But, because it wouldn’t be a fun Oscar race without a bunch of caveats and ‘but wait’ thoughts, try this on: seven of the last eight Best Picture Oscar winners played Telluride. Three Billboards, I, Tonya and Call Me By Your Name did not. As Oscar predictors we’re now left scrambling a bit, and that’s a good thing. When there’s seemingly little movement from September to February for Best Picture, commentary can get a little stagnant. But now we have a real race, with no frontrunner and with festival history already made and some that might get broken.
Buckle up, it’s just the beginning.