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“Room” wins the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival

room brie larson
During the afternoon yesterday, the Toronto International Film Festival gave out its prestigious Audience Award, often considered a harbinger for the Academy Awards. The winner at TIFF this year? Well, in a bit of an upset, it was none other than Room, the Lenny Abrahamson directed film that stars Brie Larson in a role that’s generated some major Oscar buzz. The inside word had big time award player Spotlight as the odds on favorite for the prize, but Room is what wound up taking it. As such, this is now a contender worth paying even more attention to than we were already. It’s a player, no doubt about it…

For those who aren’t aware of this one, Room is an adaptation of the beloved novel by Emma Donoghue, who also penned the screenplay. It centers on a mother named Ma (played by Larson) and her young son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who are trapped in a confined space for a half decade. Ma knows of the outside world, obviously, but this room is all that Jack knows, so when an escape from captivity is achieved, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Their one room prison was home, a terrifying transition must now be made. The aforementioned Abrahamson directs Donoghue’s script, with the cast aside from Larson and Tremblay including Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and more. It was always going to be an indie awards contender, but now that it has this prize, it’s an Oscar hopeful in a big way for sure.

Speaking of this award, here’s the complete history of the People’s Choice Award at TIFF:

1978 – Girlfriends
1979 – Best Boy
1980 – Bad Timing
1981 – Chariots of Fire
1982 – Tempest
1983 – The Big Chill
1984 – Places in the Heart
1985 – The Official Story (La historia oficial)
1986 – The Decline of the American Empire (Le déclin de l’empire américain)
1987 – The Princess Bride
1988 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios)
1989 – Roger & Me
1990 – Cyrano de Bergerac
1991 – The Fisher King
1992 – Strictly Ballroom
1993 – The Snapper
1994 – Priest
1995 – Antonia
1996 – Shine
1997 – The Hanging Garden
1998 – Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella)
1999 – American Beauty
2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo Ho Cang Long)
2001 – Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain)
2002 – Whale Rider
2003 – Zatōichi
2004 – Hotel Rwanda
2005 – Tsotsi
2006 – Bella
2007 – Eastern Promises
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire
2009 – Precious
2010 – The King’s Speech
2011 – Where Do We Go Now? (وهلّأ لوين؟)
2012 – Silver Linings Playbook
2013 – 12 Years a Slave
2014 – The Imitation Game
2015 – Room

As you can see above, the award was initially a mixed bag, Oscar wise, but occasionally hit on a big player. Over the past decade or so though, it’s become a good forecaster of a Best Picture nominee/winner. In fact, in the last seven years, only once was the film given the prize to not nominated in Picture, with three of them even taking the top prize from the Academy. As such, Room now seems like a legitimate contender for a nomination in the big category, as opposed to potentially a long shot previously.

Now, how does Room shape up now, awards wise? In short, it’s going to get across the board consideration, at least for the moment. Nods in Best Picture, Best Director (for Abrahamson), Best Actor (for Tremblay), Best Actress (for Larson), Best Supporting Actor (for Macy or possibly Tremblay). Best Supporting Actress (for Allen), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Donoghue), and potentially something like Best Film Editing or Best Original Score aren’t beyond reason. It originally seemed like Larson or bust in Actress, but Picture and Adapted Screenplay are now much deeper in the conversation than before. A trio of noms in the fields of Picture, Actress (for Larson) and Adapted Screenplay (for Donoghue) could potentially be in the cards.

There will be much more to say about Room in the next few weeks, as I’ll be seeing it in about a week, but for now, just consider it a major contender. Larson especially is on the verge of truly breaking out, so this film could be the moment for her. You could even make the case that she might be in play to win Best Actress if things break right for her. We’ll see what happens there, but this is even more of a must see movie than it already was. Sit tight, since this is just the first word on a flick that will be given more than just this first moment in the sun…

Here are all of the prize winners from the Toronto Film Festival this year:

People’s Choice Award: “Room,” directed by Lenny Abrahamson
*First Runner Up: Angry Indian Goddesses*
*Second Runner Up: Spotlight*

People’s Choice Award For Documentary:
 “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” directed by Evgeny Afineevsky

People’s Choice Award For Midnight Madness: “Hardcore,” directed by Ilya Naishuller

Best Canadian Feature Film:
 “Closet Monster,” directed by Stephen Dunn

Special Citation, Canadian Feature Film: “My Internship in Canada,” directed by Phillippe Falardeau

Best Canadian First Feature Film: “Sleeping Giant,” directed Andrew Cividino

Prizes of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Special Presentations Section:
 “Desierto,” directed by Jonas Cuaron

Prizes of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Discovery Section:
 “Eva Nova,” directed by Marko Skop

Discovery Programme Filmmakers Award: “Black,” directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

NETPAC Award For Best Asian Film: “The Whispering Star,” directed by Sion Sono

Best International Short Film: “Maman(s),” directed by Maimouna Doucoure

Best Canadian Short Film: “Overpass,” directed by Patrice Laliberte

Platform Prize: “Hurt,” directed by Alan Zweig

room brie larson
Stay tuned for much more on Room this season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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