Toronto 2012: How TIFF Audience Award for 'Silver Linings' Impacts Oscar Race (Analysis)

Silver Linings Playbook - film still - Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper
Courtesy of Weinstein Co.

TORONTO -- Like it or not, we may be in for another Harvey Weinstein-dominated awards season. David O. Russell's drama Silver Linings Playbook, one of seven Weinstein Co. films at the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival -- the other six being Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, Dustin Hoffman's Quartet, Wayne Blair's The Sapphires, Paul Andrew Williams's Song for Marion, Luis Prieto's Pusher, and Nicolas Lopez's Aftershock -- was just announced as the winner of the 2012 TIFF Blackberry People's Choice Award. (The studio's awards slate also includes Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s The Intouchables, John Hillcoat’s Lawless, Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, and Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming Django Unchained.)

The audience award, which is the festival's highest honor and is determined by festivalgoers, has been one of the better harbingers of Oscar success since it was first presented in 1978. Almost all of its 34 previous winners went on to garner attention from the Academy. Collectively, they have accounted for 105 Oscar nominations, including 10 for best picture and nine for best foreign language film. 39 of those nominations resulted in Oscar wins, including four for best picture (Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King's Speech). This has helped to cement TIFF’s reputation as one of the first important stops on the awards trail, along with the Telluride Film Festival that precedes it by a week.

Silver Linings was thought to be a serious contender for the audience award ever since it premiered at the fest two Saturday nights ago. It was one of only a small handful of films to receive a standing ovation this year -- festivalgoers here give them out far less easily than their counterparts at Cannes or Venice -- with the others being Juan Antonio Bayona's The Impossible; Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer's Cloud Atlas; Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair; Ben Lewin's The Sessions; and Wayne Blair's The Sapphires.

Russell's follow-up to The Fighter is a dramedy set in the present. Adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel, it revolves around a depressed high school teacher (Bradley Cooper) who, after being institutionalized for four years, is released into the care of his parents (Oscar winner Robert De Niro and Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver). While attempting to woo back his ex-wife (Brea Bee), he becomes romantically entangled with a neighbor who has problems of her own (Oscar nominee and current "It" girl Jennifer Lawrence). Julia Stiles also stars as Lawrence's sister.

Based on the buzz out of Toronto, it seems likely that the film will be a serious contender for Oscar nominations in the following categeories: best picture, best director (Russell), best actor (Cooper), best actress (Lawrence), best supporting actor (De Niro), best supporting actress (Weaver), and best adapted screenplay (Russell).

Here’s a look back at all of TIFF’s audience award winners and how they went on to fare at the Oscars:

  • Girlfriend (1978)none
  • Best Boy (1979) — documentary WON
  • Bad Timing (1980)none
  • Chariots of Fire (1981) — picture WON, director, supporting actor, original screenplay WON, film editing, original score WON, costume design WON
  • Tempest (1982)none
  • The Big Chill (1983) — picture, supporting actress, original screenplay
  • Places in the Heart (1984) — picture, director, actress WON, supporting actor, supporting actress, original screenplay WON, costume design
  • The Official Story (1985) — original screenplay, foreign language film WON
  • Le Declin de l’empire Americain (1986) — foreign language film
  • The Princess Bride (1987) — original song
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) — foreign language film
  • Roger and Me (1989)none
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) — actor, foreign language film, art direction-set direction, costume design WON, makeup
  • The Fisher King (1991) — actor, supporting actress WON, original screenplay, art direction-set direction, original score
  • Strictly Ballroom (1992)none
  • The Snapper (1993)none
  • Priest (1994)none
  • Antonia (1995) — foreign language film WON
  • Shine (1996) — picture, director, actor WON, supporting actor, original screenplay, film editing, original score
  • The Hanging Garden (1997)none
  • Life Is Beautiful (1998) — picture, director, actor WON, original screenplay, foreign language film WON, film editing, original score WON
  • American Beauty (1999) — picture WON, director WON, actor WON, actress, original screenplay WON, cinematography WON, film editing, original score
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) — picture, director, adapted screenplay, foreign language film WON, art direction-set direction WON, cinematography WON, costume design, film editing, original score WON, original song
  • Amelie (2001) — original screenplay, foreign language film, cinematography, art direction-set direction, sound mixing
  • Whale Rider (2002) — actress
  • Zatoichi (2003)none
  • Hotel Rwanda (2004) — actor, supporting actress, original screenplay
  • Tsotsi (2005) — foreign language film WON
  • Bella (2006)none
  • Eastern Promises (2007) — actor
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008) — picture WON, director WON, adapted screenplay WON, cinematography WON, film editing WON, original score WON, original song WON, original song, sound editing, sound mixing WON
  • Precious (2009) — picture, director, actress, supporting actress WON, adapted screenplay WON, film editing
  • The King's Speech (2010)picture WON, director WON, actor WON, supporting actor, supporting actress, original screenplay WON, art direction, cinematography, costume design, film editing, original score, sound mixing
  • Where Do We Go Now? (2011)none