Oscar Glory Beckons for Toronto Festival Premieres

Toronto fan favorite The King's Speech one of 38 TIFF titles to receive nominations Tuesday for upcoming Academy Awards.

TORONTO –   The Toronto International Film Festival continued to earn its Oscar stripes Tuesday with Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech -- the festival’s 2010 audience award winner -- leading the field into the upcoming Academy Awards with 12 nominations.

And it’s back-to-back Oscar nominations for A Single Man's Colin Firth, who returned to Toronto last September in the role of a stammering war-time monarch treated by a radical speech therapist, played by fellow Oscar nominee Geoffrey Rush.

The King’s Speech first screened in Telluride, but solidified in Toronto, which in recent years has become TIFF’s role each September in launching the awards season.

Oscar hopes for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours similarly started in Toronto with a world premiere after a sneak peek in Telluride.  

The James Franco-starring mountain drama is the follow-up by Boyle to Slumdog Millionaire, which took Toronto by storm in 2008 on its way to Oscar triumph.  

Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, which bowed in Venice, was also Oscar-baited in Toronto.

In all, TIFF organizers put the tally of movies that successfully used Toronto as an Oscar launching-pad at 38.

"Film festivals play an increasing role in finding the year's best movies," TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey said Tuesday.

"We're honored to have helped launch films like Denis Villeneuve's Incendies and look forward to doing it again this September," Bailey added.

That includes two 2009 TIFF titles, Antonella Cannarozzi’s I Am Love in the costume design competition, and Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, which made it into Oscar’s best foreign language film competition.

All five of this year’s best foreign language Oscar nominees screened in Toronto, including Biutiful, Outside the Law, In a Better World and Villeneuve’s Incendies, which earned the best Canadian feature juried prize at the festival.

Last year’s best foreign language Oscar winner, Argentinian director Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes, had its international premiere at TIFF. 

Toronto’s reputation as a convenient Oscar launching-pad each September was launched in 1981 when Chariots of Fire was named the most popular film at TIFF among film-going audiences, before going onto to become the best picture at the following Academy Awards.

Other movies in recent years to ride an awards-season wave from Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto to the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles include The Hurt Locker, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Precious, No Country for Old Men and Crash.

This year, TIFF titles that the 5,755 voting members of the Academy embraced include the Nicole Kidman-starrer Rabbit Hole, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, Richard J. Lewis’ made-in-Montreal Barney’s Version, and the Michelle Williams-starrer Blue Valentine, by director Derek Cianfrance.