Commence hyperventilation, scarily intense Benedict Cumberbatch super-fans: His biopic The Imitation Game has won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, making it a near-certainty that he (and the movie) will have a presence during awards season. Cumberbatch’s performance as Alan Turing, the British code-breaker who helped turn the tide against the Nazis in World War II, joins a shortlist of actors in TIFF prestige pictures who seem likely to get Oscar nominations. (Other possibles: Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory Of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, and the men of Foxcatcher.) It brings some clarity to a race that’s much murkier than last year, when 12 Years A Slave (which took People’s Choice at TIFF) and Gravity emerged as clear competitors for year-end glory. But is The Imitation Game any good? Our own Mike D’Angelo shrugs his shoulders:
“Cumberbatch does impeccably precise work, as usual; there’s nobody better at the moment for any role that demands a slightly alien quality. Nonetheless, it’s a bit dispiriting to see one of the greatest minds of the 20th century reduced to bringing donuts to work in an awkward attempt to ingratiate himself. Like most historical biopics, The Imitation Game consistently aims for the lowest common prestige denominator, with [screenwriter Graham] Moore favoring hackneyed screenwriting devices like having multiple characters repeat some dopey aphorism.”
As for the other awards, Isabel Coixet’s Learning To Drive and Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent, respectively, were the People’s Choice award runners-up, though the three Dissolve critics at TIFF missed them both, having been warned off St. Vincent and having a general allergy to Coixet’s work. (Not to say TIFF audiences are wrong about either, only that they’re likely wrong about both.) People’s Choice awards were also handed out in the Midnight Madness and Documentary sections, with the vampire parody What We Do In The Shadows winning the former (runner-up: Kevin Smith’s Tusk) and Beats Of The Antonov winning the latter. (Runner-up: Do I Sound Gay?)
A complete list of winners, including Canadian features, shorts, and the FIPRESCI jury prizes, can be found here.