Toronto critics pick ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ as year’s best film

Oscar Isaac in a scene from 'Inside Llewyn Davis.'. Handout

TORONTO – Toronto film critics have named the folk music tale Inside Llewyn Davis the best film of 2013, and awarded star Oscar Isaac best actor.

The Coen brothers’ movie triumphed over two runners-up: the futuristic romance Her and the searing saga 12 Years a Slave.

The Toronto Film Critics Association named Alfonso Cuaron best director for his space thriller Gravity, while best screenplay went to Spike Jonze’s Her.

This latest best picture pick joins an already diverse slate of critics’ favourites, an annual exercise that in some years can indicate front-runners for the upcoming awards season. This year, it remains anyone’s guess.

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online and the Boston Society of Film Critics all chose the slavery epic 12 Years a Slave as best picture.

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But the New York Film Critics Circle favoured David O. Russell’s Abscam fictionalization American Hustle and the National Board of Review picked Her.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, meanwhile, shared its best picture honours between Her and the space odyssey Gravity.

Toronto critics spread the acting kudos around, naming Cate Blanchett best actress for her turn as a woman unravelling in Blue Jasmine.

Jared Leto earned best supporting actor for his turn as an HIV-positive drag queen in Dallas Buyers Club and Jennifer Lawrence was named best supporting actress for her turn as a volatile young wife in American Hustle.

The Toronto awards will be celebrated at a gala dinner Jan. 7, 2014, when the association will also announce the Rogers best Canadian film award, which carries a $100,000 purse. The runners-up will each receive $5,000.

Three finalists are in the running for that honour: Matt Johnson’s school bullying story The Dirties; Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s documentary Watermark; and Louise Archambault’s coming-of-age tale Gabrielle, which is Canada’s submission to the Oscars in the best foreign-language film category.

Johnson is already a winner of the Scotiabank Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist, which comes with a $5,000 cheque. Johnson directed, starred in and co-wrote the tale about two teens who make a movie about the bullies who torment them at school.

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Other awards went to Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises for best animated feature; Jia Zhang-ke’s stylized A Touch of Sin for best foreign-language film; and Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Neighboring Sounds for best first feature.

The BMO Allan King Documentary Award went to The Act of Killing, an examination of Indonesian death squad leaders. Director Joshua Oppenheimer will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Next month’s gala will also present the Manulife Financial Student Film Award, which carries a $5,000 prize. And as previously announced, the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour award winner is Norman Jewison who will present a filmmaker of his choice with $50,000 worth of services at Technicolor.

The Toronto Film Critics Association was established in 1997 and is comprised of Toronto-based journalists and broadcasters who specialize in film criticism and commentary.

Most major dailies, weeklies and a variety of print, electronic and web outlets are represented.

Contenders eligible for awards include films released in Canada in 2013, plus films that qualify for the upcoming Oscars and have Canadian distribution scheduled by the end of February 2014.

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