On 8.13 I riffed on a relatively new fall-festival phenomenon — “the Oscar-contending, Telluride-only, Toronto-blowoff movie.” This referred to three Telluride Film Festival headliners — J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost, Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis and Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska — having bailed on Toronto, possibly because their producers felt that the Toronto clusterfuck factor (i.e., so many films, so little time) meant that their films might get overlooked in the shuffle. I wondered if this indicated a significant shift in thinking among award-season strategists. Is Toronto losing some of its lustre to the Venice, Telluride and New York Film Festivals, which happen right before and after Toronto?
Today Variety reviewer and Motion Picture Blog editor/essayist Joe Leydon, a longtime Toronto Film Festival veteran, shared some thoughts along these lines:
“Considering how many Toronto-bound films are premiering this year at Venice and Telluride, I wonder how long it will be before someone suggests that TIFF go back to calling itself the ‘Festival of Festivals,'” Leydon wrote. “Not that there would be anything wrong with that, you understand.
“This is only idle speculation on my part. I am not claiming to be privy to any inside info because I am not. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember back when TIFF more or less happy to be known as the ‘Festival of Festivals’ because it was willing to be known as the fest that cherry-picked the lineups of other fests, even while it programmed a fair share of world premieres.
“But I would argue things began to change around 1990. Remember back when the Montreal World Festival (which I actually used to cover for Variety) was considered an important festival? Remember when Montreal and Toronto began to duke it out for world premieres? Well, we know how that turned out, right? And ever since, it seems to me — and, again, this is based entirely on my experiences of attending nearly every TIFF since 1982, but not being in any way an insider — that TIFF has wanted to establish itself as the official start of the fall movie season.
“Venice, on the other hand, has always been a rival in terms of getting first dibs on some movies. And for at least the past three years, or so it appears to me, Telluride has been trying to steal some of Toronto’s thunder. I can’t help but think the folks at Toronto aren’t very happy about that.
“I emphasize again that this is nothing more — but, on the other hand, nothing less — than the view from someone in the bleachers. Yes, I have been attending TIFF almost every year since 1982, and I consider it not only my favorite film festival in the whole wide world, but also the most important film festival in North America. (Years ago, when my editors at the Houston Post asked me to choose between Cannes or Toronto because our travel budget had been cut, I didn’t hesitate for a heartbeat to pick Toronto.) On the other hand: I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I have no bone to pick with Telluride (which I have attended only once) or Venice (which I have never attended). And my comments reflect my own views, not those of Variety editors or anyone else.
“On the other hand: After reading so much this week about Gravity, Prisoners, 12 Years a Slave, Parkland and other likely Oscar contenders that will be screened at Toronto this year, I can’t help thinking that the TIFF people will be having some long and serious conversations in the not-so-distant future about how strict they’re going to be in the future about what constitutes a ‘world premiere.'”