Peter Farrelly’s Green Book is the winner of this year’s sometimes Oscar-predictive Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Last year’s winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri went on to be nominated for Best Picture and won two acting awards, but the ultimate Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Shape Of Water did not even make TIFF’s list of the top three audience favorites.
This year’s first runner up is Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk which Annapurna will release on November 30 and was warmly received at its TIFF World Premiere last Sunday. Second runner up is Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma which Netflix will debut in December and which recently won the Golden Lion top prize at Venice and is expected to be a major awards player this season.
The trophy is considered a bellwether of sorts for the awards season race even if it is selected by festival moviegoers who vote online following a screening. The festival assures they double check the legitimacy of each vote, and that it came from a ticket holder so as to prevent gaming the system. In theory no stuffing of the ballot box is allowed according to TIFF.
Green Book was clearly an audience favorite immediately from its World Premiere on Tuesday where it received three standing ovations at its Elgin Theatre screening and elicited Oscar talk for the film and its stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
Universal will release the film on November 21 (it was originally planned to be a release from their specialty division Focus Features) , and it perhaps is emerging as the studio’s strongest Oscar bet this year. They also have Damien Chazelle’s First Man which has played strongly on the fest circuit this year as well but didn’t figure in the top three TIFF voter getters.
Green Book tells the true story of an emerging friendship between a black world class classical pianist Don Shirley, and his white driver NY bouncer Tony Lip as they drive through the deep south on a concert tour and form a bond in a region where the racial divide was alive and well in the 1960’s.
Past People’s Choice winners include eventual Best Picture champs 2013’s 12 Years A Slave (the last Oscar winner TIFF matched) , The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and American Beauty. As far back as 1981, the award signaled a soon-to-be major Oscar upset with Chariots Of Fire.
Winners that went on to make the list of Best Picture Oscar nominees include 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, La La Land, Room, The Imitation Game, Silver Linings Playbook, Precious, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful, Shine, Places In The Heart and The Big Chill. But the top audience prize doesn’t always go to Oscar hopefuls, as evidenced by such titles as Where Do We Go Now?, Bella, Eastern Promises, Zatoichi and The Hanging Garden.