TIFF 2018: We Hand Out the Awards You Won’t See at the Oscars

As always, the selection of films at TIFF runs the gamut—from A-lister-packed films like Widows to low-budget indies like Firecrackers; from quiet, reflective sci-fi films like High Life to soaring romances like A Star is Born. That range is what makes TIFF such an exciting festival for film buffs and critics alike, but this year, there did seem to be a bit of a theme: Pretty Damn Dark. Seriously, it’s been an emotionally draining festival, what with young kids OD-ing, people dying (so much dying), and institutional racism ruining people’s lives. But you know what this also means: Oscar Bait. We’ve already done our round-up of the films getting the most awards buzz, but there’s plenty else we felt deserved, um, a different kind of recognition. Here, our favourite moments from the festival that won’t snag an Oscar but did earn some accolades in our book.

So-Good-You-Wished-It-Was-Real Chemistry

The Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper lovefest is one we hope never ends. And we’re not just talking about those hand-in-hand red carpet photo-ops. (Though we’ll definitely take more of those too.) After receiving her second standing ovation of the night for A Star is Born—in which people were brought to their feet mid Q&A solely in recognition of her incredible acting talent—Gaga was left speechless and moved to tears. And even then, in her moment in the spotlight, she talked about Cooper. “I am spoiled,” she said, “I watched [Cooper] work tirelessly on this film, giving it everything. You never stopped.”

To which Cooper said: “I can’t imagine having the courage to do this without her. I knew she was going to give all of herself to me and become the actress she wanted to be, and I would give all myself to her and be the musician Jackson had to be.” I know, we’re crying too.

Most NSFW Scene of the Festival

Not to give too much away—though there’s no way to verbally paint an accurate picture of this highly visual and confounding scene anyhow—but there’s a bit in Claire Denis’ High Life in which Juliette Binoche enters a ‘Fuck Box’ and well, proceeds to help it live up to its name. There’s waist-length hair flying about, pulleys and ropes, and a silver dildo. Need I say more?

Most Jaw-Dropping Visuals

Nope, I’m not talking about First Man, though the claustrophobic camerawork of the film was exceptional. I’m talking about Free Solo, an awe-inducing documentary about Alex Honnold, the first man to scale the 3000ft El Capitan cliff in Yosemite National Park without any safety equipment. Yep, with just his fingers and toes, and a little sack full of chalk to help with his grip. The film’s team of cinematographers and directors are expert climbers themselves, and the sweeping shots of Yosemite, bird’s-eye view of Honnold’s ascent, and close-ups of his intricate movements (that at any moment could send him plummeting to his death) are truly a sight to behold.

Most Unexpected Celebrity Guest

This one was close. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau showed up at Patria for the First Man post-premiere party, where he shook hands with fellow Internet boyfriend, Ryan Gosling. Iconic? Yes. Strange? Also yes. But having a government official show up to a TIFF party is not nearly as strange as having Paris Hilton show up to a TIFF party. Hilton, Queen of selfies, hotel chains and the 2000s, arrived at Soho House for The Death and Life of John F. Donovan post-premiere party, a film that her Ken doll-esque fiance, Chris Zylka, makes a brief appearance in.

Most Batshit Wild True Story

There are several moments—in fact the entire film is a series of these moments—where you find yourself thinking: this shit is NUTS. It’s unbelievable. It’s surreal. It’s absurd. And you have to keep reminding yourself that it’s all true. Based on the story of a writer, played by Laura Dern, who writes a best-selling series of novels under a pseudonym and then enlists her boyfriend’s sister, played by Kristen Stewart, to play the role of that fictional writer in real life, it’s a wild ride: there are bad accents, bad wigs and hard-to-believe turns of events. Except, again: it’s ALL TRUE.

The Big-Hearted Heartthrob

First off, Timothée Chalamet should take home all heartthrob-related awards, from now until eternity. When the Oscar-nominee stepped onto the red carpet for Beautiful Boy, he spent nearly 30 minutes posing for selfies with screaming fans, and entertaining weird requests like signing a burger and a peach. (The latter, of course, in reference to his infamous Call Me By Your Namescene.) Here’s a guy who doesn’t seem to hate the spotlight, and who graciously shows his Chalamaniacs all the love and attention they so desperately desire.

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Most Badass Female Cast

We are conditioned to expect heist movies—or any gritty crime movies, really—to have men at the centre. Which is why this film, directed by Steve McQueen and co-written by McQueen and one Ms Gillian Flynn, is such a breath of fresh air, despite its dark subject matter. Viola Davis is the fierce commander of this ship, which Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez hesitantly climb aboard. It’s rare enough to see a film in which women commit “bad” acts but rarer still to see one in which the women’s guilt, shame or redeeming qualities aren’t needlessly played up. Only complaint? Carrie Coon is criminally (ha) under-used.

Best On-Screen Lewks

There’s some amazing costume design driving some of this year’s best films: Colette’s Belle Epoque-era Parisian flair—especially powerful because it helps underscore Keira Knightley’s character’s own evolution and self-acceptance; the 1990s grunge of Jonah Hill’s Mid90s; If Beale Street Could Talk’s saturated 1970s outfits; and Natalie Portman’s wild, sequinned get-ups in Vox Lux. But Mahershala Ali steals the damn show. In Green Book, he gives us a masterclass in style: from impeccably fitted tuxedos to casual plaid suits to a dramatic gold-embroidered kaftan draped in gold chains. Like I said, lewks.

Photography via IMDB

Most Huggable Hound

A tie between the miniature goldendoodle Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper bring home in A Star is Born—which I have convinced myself is Cooper’s pet IRL—and Ponce, the scruffy mutt that’s dog-napped from Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts in Ben is Back.

Makes-You-Wish-it-Was-Still-the-90s Soundtrack

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, had the best—and most nostalgic—soundtrack of the festival. Sadly, the song list isn’t yet available anywhere on the Internet. But here’s what I can tell you: it features Seal and Morrissey, and was composed by the same duo of dudes behind the music in The Social Network and Gone Girl. One Twitter user went so far as to say that the film “literally might have the single greatest soundtrack of any movie ever.” It’s a bold claim, and I can confirm Mid90s lives up to the hype.

Most Stressful Experience

Hotel Mumbai is 125 minutes long, and those are 125 incredibly stressful minutes. Based on the horrific 2008 terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai, the film fills viewers with dread right from the opening sequence: when the half-dozen terrorists arrive on the shores of Mumbai and immediately begin setting their plan into motion. For the next two hours, aside from the sounds of gunfire, explosions and screams on screen, the theatre was about as silent as during a screening of A Quiet Place. People were literally sitting on the edge of their seats, hands over mouths, shoulders stiff with tension. In other words: this film does its job of depicting a harrowing, terrifying ordeal exceptionally well.

Photography via IMDB

Most Gender-Balanced TIFF Yet

TIFF’s programming team has long been dedicated to creating a more gender-balanced festival, and this year it hit its highest mark yet, with 36 percent of its 2018 slate of films directed by women. The festival’s artistic director, Cameron Bailey, also signed a gender parity protocol during the Share Her Journey rally on opening weekend. This year’s festival also boasted a huge line-up of films with women at the center: from Nicole Kidman in Destroyer and Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? (both films directed by women) to Natalie Portman in Vox Lux and Julianne Moore in Gloria Bell. Canadian films Mouthpiece and Firecrackers also come from all-women teams, with two female protagonists in each, as well as female directors and cinematographers.