This year’s Toronto International Film Festival has concluded, providing yet another slew of impressive showings and awards season favourites. From Martin McDonagh’s virtuosic black dramedy The Banshees of Inisherin, to Daniel Radcliffe’s fittingly oddball yet surprisingly human portrayal of a comedy icon in Weird:The Al Yankovic Story, Brendan Fraser’s reportedly Oscar-worthy powerhouse performance in Darren Oronofsky’s The Whale, and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, the much anticipated sequel to the puzzlebox-in-film-form that is Knives Out, fans had much to chew on. However, no film impressed audiences more than legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s The Fablemans, which took home the festival’s top prize of the People’s Choice Award.
The award is coveted because, for the past ten years in particular, it has been one of the earliest indicators during the awards season as to which films will at least land a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The last film to win the award and receive no Academy Awards nominations was 2011’s Where Do We Go Now?, a Lebanese film that oddly failed to so much as land a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, though the previous four winners had at least landed a Best Picture nod, with 2010’s The King’s Speech actually taking home the award. Given that Spielberg is an Oscar darling, not to mention the intense acclaim The Fabelmans is receiving, the film is practically a shoe-in for a Best Picture nomination at the very least, not to mention likely landing nominations for its acting, writing, cinematography and score by the inimitable John Williams. It is admittedly too early in the season to call, but things are certainly trending that way.
Surprisingly enough, this is Spielberg’s first People’s Choice Award from TIFF, which has been around since 1978, two years after the festival’s inception. Yet his work has clearly struck an emotional chord with audiences, as this appears to be Spielberg’s most personal work to date, which is really saying something when you consider his body of work (spanning fifty years) includes Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg has largely been a director first and a producer second, with writing generally falling by the wayside, as his last writing credit is 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (which he also directed) and prior to that he had only written Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist (the latter of which was directed by the late Tobe Hooper), while receiving story credits for 1973’s Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies, his feature film debut The Sugarland Express, and ’80’s classic The Goonies.
In the case of The Fableman’s, it’s a semi-autobiographical feature that is as much of an ode to his love of cinema from a very early age as it is a love letter to his family, having dedicated the film to his parents in particular. Spielberg has co-written the film with longtime collaborator Tony Kushner, who has previously written Munich, Lincoln, and last year’s West Side Story, while it stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, Seth Rogen and Canadian-American up-and-comer Gabriel LaBelle in the lead role, all of whom have drawn considerable acclaim for their performances.
The Fabelmans will see a limited release in the U.S. on November 11th before its wide release on November 23rd.