While the glitterati over at Cannes still hold that theirs is the most important film festival on the planet, everyone, at least everyone in Hollywood (and really, when it comes to movies, who else matters?) knows that Toronto is the stuff of which gold-plated dreams are made.
Held midway between last year's and next year's Academy Awards, it's become the unofficial launching pad to Oscar glory. You want a little gold man for your mantle? Then debut your movie at TIFF.
Last year saw 19 TIFF premieres go on to earn 49 nominations and take home nine statuettes. Three years before, eventual best picture Crash wowed audiences with its ensemble L.A. meltdown. That same year, comedian Jamie Foxx showed off his serious acting chops in Ray, which won him an Oscar, beating out Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda, which also bowed here. Sideways uncorked in T.O. and went on to pick up five nominations and one win for adapted screenplay.
The list of TIFF talents who've stepped up to the Oscar podium goes back to 1981's Chariots Of Fire, which earned seven nominations and took home four awards, including best picture and one for the seminal (and now comedically overused) Vangelis score.
Fast forward to 1990 and Jeremy Irons is given his fortune - a best-actor award - for Reversal Of Fortune. Then there's The Crying Game, where not revealing the film's big twist became part of its promo-tional campaign en route to box office and Oscar gold. A year later, in 1993, The Piano tuned up in Toronto before taking home three awards out of eight nominations.
Nic Cage proved he could really act with his Oscarwinning turn in Leaving Las Vegas. After which he promptly began proving it was just a fluke with Con Air and Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
Shine shone in 1996 with a win for best actor Geoffrey Rush, while a year later the fest heralded new auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, who somehow managed to make porn classy (and proved both Mark Wahlberg and Burt Reynolds could act) with triple nominee Boogie Nights. That year also marked Atom Egoyan's zenith as a filmmaker with The Sweet Hereafter, which earned him Oscar nominations for best director and adapted screenplay.
Of course, the tipping point for TIFF, the one that made it clear to everyone that the march to the Oscars begins here, was 1999.
American Beauty led the charge with eight nominations and five wins, including best picture, director (Sam Mendes), actor (Kevin Spacey) and screenplay (Alan Ball). Boys Don't Cry elevated Hilary Swank from former Karate Kid to A-list actor when she took home best actress, and Michael Caine got a third-act career boost with a supporting award for The Cider House Rules, which was also nominated in six other categories. Woody Allen's Sweet And Lowdown earned acting nominations for Sean Penn and Samantha Morton, and The Hurricane gave Denzel Washington a taste of Oscars to come with a best-actor nomination.
So what will TIFF 2008 lead to six months down the road? Get your scorecards ready, cuz the race to the Academy Awards begins... NOW !