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The Toronto Film Festival has crowded the Oscar field in a big way

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If there’s one thing you can count on from the Toronto International Film Festival each and every single year, it’s that the fest is going to launch a ton of major Academy Award contenders. This year, that was no exception, as the race really has begun to take its initial shape in the wake of certain Toronto debuts. Much like with the recent Telluride Film Festival and Venice Film Festival, as well as the upcoming New York Film Festival, each major movie premiere changes the race a bit. It’s still early, but with the exception of the two major mysteries still to be revealed at NYFF in Gone Girl/Inherent Vice and titles that won’t really be making festival bows like Fury, Interstellar, Into the Woods, and Unbroken, we know who the players are. It’s just which flicks will be able to sustain buzz and begin winning precursor awards.

With Toronto still going strong, I wanted to look at how some of the players there turned out and how those titles are shaping the race in new ways. Among the many titles playing and/or having premieres of some sort at TIFF, we have Black and White from Mike Binder, The Cobbler from Thomas McCarthy, The Drop from Michaël R. Roskam, The Equalizer from Antoine Fuqua, The Good Lie from Philippe Falardeau, The Humbling from Barry Levinson, The Judge from David Dobkin, Love & Mercy from Bill Pohlad, Men Women & Children from Jason Reitman, Miss Julie from Liv Ullmann, Nightcrawler from Dan Gilroy, Pawn Sacrifice from Ed Zwick, St. Vincent from Theodore Melfi, The Theory of Everything from James Marsh, This Is Where I Leave You from Shawn Levy, Top Five from Chris Rock, Tusk from Kevin Smith, and While We’re Young from Noah Baumbach. Throw in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher making a stop up North as well as previously established contenders like Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild all continuing their solid buzz building and you have just about everything that’s in contention so far.

First up, let’s knock out the films we don’t really have to worry about in the awards season anymore due to mixed/poor reviews. It seems like Black and White, The Cobbler, The Good Lie, The Humbling, The Judge, Miss Julie, and This Is Where I Leave You are pretty much buried, unless Robert Duvall gets himself a Best Supporting Actor nomination for just showing up in The Judge. Next, there’s the titles that apparently are pretty good, but don’t look to be Oscar players. That would be The Drop (which I’ve seen and liked), The Equalizer, Top Five, Tusk (which I see tomorrow, actually), and While We’re Young. With those movies basically safe to discount for the most part, we can look at the flicks we’ll have to consider for the rest of the season.

The group of titles that seem to be coming out of Toronto with the wind at their sails are Love & Mercy, Men Women & Children, Nightcrawler, Pawn Sacrifice, St. Vincent, and The Theory of Everything. I’ve written about Reitman’s film already, so I’ll sit tight on that one a bit (especially since it’s coming out next month as well), but those other five seem to have some buzz now. Love & Mercy’s is on the smaller side and without a distributor, while Pawn Sacrifice also lacks distribution right now, so I’m not sure what will become of those two, but the other ones are very much in play.

Nightcrawler looks to be a Best Actor vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal for the most part, with Best Picture an outside possibility, as well as Best Director and/or Best Original Screenplay for Gilroy. It’s got a Network-y vibe which certainly can play to the Academy, though I wonder if it’ll wind up being too cool for school in the end. Regardless, it’s established itself as a player, so that’s worth taking note of.

St. Vincent seems to be striking a cord in a number of ways. Though it seems a bit of a long shot to crack the Best Picture lineup, Bill Murray is definitely now in the hunt for a Best Actor nod in that crowded field. Melissa McCarthy could also be in play for a Best Supporting Actress nom here, so this seems like an acting contender as much as anything else right now.

The Theory of Everything is another film I’ve talked a bit about before, but considering how enthusiastic the reviews were, I had to bring it up again. I’d say no other debut went as well at Toronto, with both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne receiving absolute raves. Not only could they be well on their way to acting nominations (Best Actor for Redmayne and either Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress for Jones), some of my colleagues have already speculated that one or both could turn into frontrunners. That makes me think it could slip into the Best Picture field, but time will tell in that regard.

Over the next few months, we’ll see how those contenders do, but with Gone Girl and Inherent Vice the next Oscar hopefuls to be revealed when NYFF gets underway this month, it’s truly an exciting time!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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