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Toronto and the Oscars: This Year’s Winning Combination?

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The Oscar’s race has been a strange thing since the pandemic interrupted business as usual. However, 2022 has been the first year where we’ve genuinely seen something we can call a ‘return to normal’. And, at least if the impact of the offerings at the Toronto International Film Festival this year are anything to go by, we may also be seeing a return to solid contenders from ‘classic’ Hollywood institutions, rather than the streamer-heavy lineups of the last few years. Brandon Blake, entertainment lawyer at Blake & Wang P.A, looks more closely. 

A Return to Old School Awards Cycles?

In a way, this echoes a trend we’ve seen across the industry this year. Who can ignore Top Gun: Maverick and Paramount’s re-entry into the top echelons of movie demand, for example? With the widened 10-film slate for Best Picture, this roaring juggernaut has at least a solid shot at securing a nomination, and it’s definitely the movie this year that proved old-school theatrical ‘events’ are still alive and kicking. We may even see Tom Cruise squeak in for his first director nomination. 

But it’s far from the only classic Hollywood contender in the lineup, even from Paramount itself. The Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF as it is affectionately known, brought us the unveiling of Paramount’s Babylon, a much more arty (and slightly insane) look at Hollywood’s transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’. Nor was this the only ‘traditional’ Oscar-bait we saw take attention at the world-renowned festival, either.

The TIFF has been gunning for greater industry and press presence than we’ve seen in recent years, and this year it has paid off in spades. Finally we see a return to the packed theaters and genuine audience reactions that have always helped drive festival buzz. Traditionally key for any successful Oscar campaign, paired up with the Oscars’ rollbacks on eligibility criteria to a more familiar model, it may be a sign that the pandemic era is finally behind us.

The Return of Studio Movies

Additionally, the hot movies of this TIFF cycle all seem to have come from studio movies, and definitely represent something of a kickback against the unconventional contenders we’ve seen from streamers like Netflix over recent years. However, despite their recent woes and shift in focus, Netflix too has a strong Oscar contender in the lineup- Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Well received despite running a little longer than is strictly called for, it is still a notably different offering from their previous Oscar contenders.

This will also be the last year (we assume) that United Artists/MGM has a solo presence at both TIFF and the Oscars, with its recent catalog acquisition by Amazon. Women Talking, its current favored Oscar bait, is being pushed hard, and we’ll next see it at the New York Film Festival. 

Overall, TIFF brought us a vibrant and pulsing festival that seems to herald the return to old-school Oscar contenders and a more traditional studio slate, albeit tweaked for the changes we’ve seen in the wider industry of late. One thing is for certain, however- the 2022/23 Oscar season is looking like an interesting one. As always, we’ll be here to keep you in the loop.

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