I’m not going to ruminate on reviews too much, but what Scott Feinberg says about The Fabelmans is worth highlighting, vis a vis the potential to win the audience award and from thence, onward to Oscar:
The Fabelmans, meanwhile, the first film that Spielberg has ever premiered at TIFF, blew the roof off of the venue. I’ve personally witnessed a number of explosive standing ovations at this festival — most recently following the world premiere of Green Book (2018), and prior to that following the premieres of 127 Hours (2010), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Juno (2007) — and this one was as enthusiastic as any, cut short after two minutes only by Spielberg’s gesture to Cameron Bailey to proceed with the Q&A.
The film, which Spielberg co-wrote with his frequent collaborator Tony Kushner, is certainly the master’s most personal outing yet. Sweet, smart and decidedly funny, it paints a portrait of Spielberg’s childhood and young adulthood — being raised by two very different parents, falling in love with moviemaking, facing anti-Semitism, breaking into the business, etc. — that is almost entirely faithful to the historical record. (A few things that Spielberg deep-divers may want to check out: a 1999 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, a 2011 Cowboys & Aliens interview, a 2012 60 Minutes segment, the 2017 HBO documentary Spielberg and my own 2015 Awards Chatter podcast interview with him.)
Something of a cross between Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, only better, it features standout performances from young Gabriel LaBelle as Steven ‘Stevie’ Spielberg, or, rather, Sam ‘Sammie’ Fabelman; Michelle Williams as his mother; Paul Dano as his father; Seth Rogen as his “uncle”; and Judd Hirsch as his great-uncle. During a post-screening Q&A, Spielberg said, “This film is, for me, a way of bringing my mom and dad back, and it also brought my sisters closer to me than I ever thought possible. And, for that alone, it was worth making.” (Spielberg’s sisters were in the audience.)
I can see a world in which each of the aforementioned performers is Oscar-nominated (Hirsch would set a record for longest gap between noms, with a second coming 42 years after his first, for Ordinary People), but I cannot see a world in which Williams is not nominated. The performance by the actress, to whom Spielberg first reached out after being blown away by her all-time performance in 2010’s Blue Valentine, would be impressive even if one knew nothing about Spielberg’s actual mother, Leah Adler. But for anyone who ever met Ms Adler — as I did on several occasions at The Milky Way, the kosher restaurant she ran in West L.A. — it is eerie how much Williams nailed her distinct look and joie de vivre. And I think that when all is said and done, Williams, who attended Saturday’s premiere despite being nearly nine months pregnant, may finally take home an Oscar.
Did you catch that last part? The money shot? Michelle Williams? Interesting. Possible. It would be her first Oscar, and she’d have to beat Cate Blanchett, Olivia Colman and especially Michelle Yeoh, our current frontrunner.
Just based on nothing but a headline here, a tweet there – the films that seem to have popped a bit would be The Fablemans, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and The Woman King.