Unlike its major international brethren Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and Berlin, the Toronto International Film Festival is noncompetitive—meaning there’s no jury that hands out prizes. This makes some degree of sense: As the “festival of festivals,” TIFF privileges sheer comprehensiveness over curation, the programmers offering a wide selection of eclectic fare instead of films easily pitted against each other. And so the awards the festival does hand out are voted on by the ticket-buying public. Not surprisingly, this results in the honoring of a lot of crowd-pleasers.
Case in point: Audiences of the festival (which ended yesterday) just bestowed its biggest prize, the People’s Choice Award, on the perfectly middle-of-the-road Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the British cryptologist. From an awards-season perspective, that shoots both the film and Cumberbatch—who is quite good, even if he’s basically doing a kinder, gentler variation on Sherlock—to the top of the buzz list. People’s Choice winners tend to do very well in the subsequent Oscar race; Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and 12 Years A Slave all claimed the honor en route to their Best Picture victories.
The runner ups were St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray as a rascal who takes a little kid under his wing; and the schmaltzy-looking Learning To Drive, in which Manhattan writer Patricia Clarkson takes driving lessons from troubled Sikh instructor Ben Kingsley, finding “the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel.” Meanwhile, some of the fest’s truly remarkable films—like Phoenix, for example—earned no love from the hoi polloi.
Surveying the 10-film Midnight Madness slate, audiences threw their support behind the horror-comedy What We Do In The Shadows, a modern-day vampire story featuring Flight Of The Conchords star Jemaine Clement. This writer hasn’t seen the film yet, but remains skeptical that it’s better than two other titles in the lineup, Adam Wingard’s extremely entertaining The Guest and the scary-as-shit It Follows. (Both are certainly superior to Kevin Smith’s Tusk, which took the Bronze.)
Head over to Indiewire for a full list of TIFF winners.