Lovely ‘La La Land’ Takes Top Prize at Toronto International Film Festival

Damien Chazelle's ode to young love and uncertain artists is riding a wave of acclaim that could take it to the Oscars.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

The purpose of events like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is not necessarily to build Oscar buzz, but that’s one of the reasons Hollywood looks to these events every single year, to help single out attention for the best and most awards-worthy movies, just before the autumn glut kicks in. Last year’s TIFF brought with it such high-profile contenders as Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, which ultimately won Best Actress for Brie Larson, and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, which eventually won Best Picture of the Year, and now that the 2016 festival is over it appears that we have a few more films to keep our eyes on as Oscar season begins.

Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has just won the coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award, which combined with the film’s near universal acclaim and impressive debut at the Venice Film Festival, has effectively rocketed the romantic musical to the top of everyone’s list of contenders. From the writer/director of the Oscar-winning Whiplash, the film stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as aspiring artists whose love affair hits the skids when they have to decide between pursuing their dreams or embracing practicality. It’s a crowd-pleasing, emotional and intensely romantic motion picture that is also earning accolades for Emma Stone’s performance, which may eventually lead to a Best Actress nomination (although competition in that category is unusually fierce this year).

The runners-up in the People’s Choice Awards are Queen of Katwe, a biopic about a Ugandan chess master, played by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), and Lion, another real-life story, this time about an adopted man played by Dev Patel who searches for his birth family using Google Earth. 

IFC Films

IFC Films

Also: TIFF 2016 Review | ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ Yields Disturbing Results

Outside the realm of likely Oscar contenders, TIFF also awarded its Midnight Madness top prize to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, a film about an all-star cast of characters (Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, et al) who wind up in a prolonged shootout together. Taking the runners-up prizes were the cannibalism horror-comedy Raw, about a vegetarian who cannot control her taste for meat once she gets a taste for it, and Andre Ovredal’s clever The Autopsy of Jane Doe, about a pair of pathologists (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) who discover one medical mystery after another while carving into their latest corpse.

The full list of TIFF 2016 winners are available on the festival’s official website. Check out our extensive coverage of TIFF 2016, featuring the latest movie reviews and interviews, and keep coming back to Crave as Oscar season creeps ever onward!

Top Photo: Summit Entertainment

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most CravedRapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.