The Unexpected: Premium TIFF Premieres Entice and Surprise 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri wins top audience prize

It was all smiles at TIFF 2017: Willem Dafoe (top left), Frances McDormand (center), George Clooney (top right), Angelina Jolie (lower left), Brie Larson (lower right).


It was all smiles at TIFF 2017: Willem Dafoe (top left), Frances McDormand (center), George Clooney (top right), Angelina Jolie (lower left), Brie Larson (lower right).

No one fired a starter gun at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival—although there was an abundance of gunplay on the big screen—but the race to Oscar gold has begun, and more than a few competitors are already in the passing lane.

Let's face it: Films this year were dismal, and with rare exceptions (Get Out, Dunkirk) 2017 has been on life support. However, with the strongest slate of films in recent memory, TIFF 2017 injected a surge of prize-worthy plasma. The coming months will bring a host of contenders to a cinema near us.

The most coveted prize at TIFF is not bestowed by a jury or panel: It's awarded by the audience. Paying members of the public (attendance topped 4.7 million this year) choose the one film that stands out from the rest, and the People's Choice Award this year went toThree Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (I couldn't agree more). Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) and starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards is a force of nature that takes on nothing less than the American penchant for violence, the elusive nature of justice and the grace often found in the unlikeliest of people and places.

I screened 50-plus films at TIFF this year (don't try this at home—I'm a professional, and I'm exhausted), most of which are ranked to the right in alphabetical order on a scale of 1 to 5 maple leaves. The cream of the crop get five leaves, the next best get four leaves and so on.

See you at the cinema!

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Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour; A Fantastic Woman; The Florida Project; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri; Victoria and Abdul

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Battle of the Sexes; Breathe; The Children Act; The Current War; The Death of Stalin; Downsizing; Ex Libris; I, Tonya; I Love You, Daddy; Lady Bird; Molly’s Game; Revenge

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55 Steps; Bodied; The Disaster Artist; C’est La Vie; Chappaquiddick; Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Journey’s End; Manhunt; Mark Felt; Mary Shelley; Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; The Square; Unicorn Store; The Upside

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The Cured; Disobedience; First They Killed My Father; Hostiles; In the Fade; Lean on Pete; mother!; On Chesil Beach; Roman J. Israel, Esq.; Stronger; Suburbicon; Woman Walks Ahead

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Borg, McEnroe; Kings; Loving Pablo; The Mountain Between Us; Papillon; Three Christs

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