Does Its TIFF Win Really Guarantee an Academy Award Nod for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’?

By  · Published on September 17th, 2012

In a word – no. Over the weekend, the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up and, like the end of all good things, the festival closed out with the bestowing of awards to various films. Winners included Artifact, Seven Psychopaths, Laurence Anyways, Keep a Modest Head, Antiviral, Blackbird, Call Girl, In the House, and the big winner – David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. The Bradley Cooper– and Jennifer Lawrence-starring film won the BlackBerry People’s Choice Award, which is generally considered to be TIFF’s most important award and an indication of a film’s chances at a Best Picture nomination come Oscar time.

As Wikipedia tells it, “Given that the festival lacks a jury and is non-competitive, regular awards handed out at other festivals for categories such as ‘Best Actress’ or ‘Best Film’ do not exist at the Toronto International Film Festival. The major prize, the People’s Choice Award, is given to a feature-length film with the highest ratings as voted by the festival-going populace.”

Plenty of stories on the film’s win have noted that this all but guarantees that Silver Linings will end up with Oscar nominations, particularly a Best Picture nod. And why is that? Over the past five years, two People’s Choice winners have gone on to win Best Picture (The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire) and one film picked up a nomination in the same category (Precious). Good odds, right? Well, maybe not so much.

While the past five years at TIFF have matched up nicely with the Academy, looking back at the entirety of the People’s Choice Awards paints a different picture. For instance, did you know that, of 34 winners, 12 weren’t nominated for any Oscars? Or that, despite the fact that TIFF has turned out two Best Picture winners over just three years, that only four have won over the entirety of the festival? These are facts, people, and they’re worth thinking about.

Of course, buzzing about what films could be nominated for prizes come awards time is a bit boring (and is the wheelhouse of plenty of other writers and sites), but what is not boring is unpacking just how influential the People’s Choice Award has proven to be. Which is to say, certainly influential over the past five years, but definitely less influential over the past three decades. TIFF has given the prize since 1978 (the festival was founded in 1976), and winning the prize hasn’t always meant instant success. In fact, more films haven’t picked up any nominations than have earned a Best Picture nomination.

Take a look:

Won Best Picture: (4) The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty, Chariots of Fire

Nominated for Best Picture: (5) Precious, Life Is Beautiful, Shine, Places in the Heart, The Big Chill

Won Best Foreign Language Film: (6) Tsotsi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful, Antonia, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Official Story

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film: (2) Cyrano de Bergerac, The Decline of the American Empire

Won Best Documentary Feature: (1) Best Boy

Other Wins*: (10) The King’s Speech, Precious, Slumdog Millionaire, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, American Beauty, Life Is Beautiful, Shine, The Fisher King, Places in the Heart, Chariots of Fire

Other Nominations*: (16) The King’s Speech, Precious, Slumdog Millionaire, Eastern Promises, Hotel Rwanda, Whale Rider, Amelie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, American Beauty, Life Is Beautiful, Shine, The Fisher King, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Official Story, Places in the Heart, Chariots of Fire

No Nominations: (12) Where Do We Go Now? (selected to represent Lebanon in BFLF category, but was not nominated), Bella, Zatoichi, The Hanging Garden, Priest, The Snapper (made-for-television), Strictly Ballroom, Roger & Me, The Princess Bride, Tempest, Bad Timing, Girlfriends

*other wins and nominations for categories not including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film

Will Silver Linings Playbook add to the slim pile of Best Picture winners who are also People’s Choice Award winners? We only have six more months to debate it but, until then, let’s all remember to take “guarantees” with a grain of salt.

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