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How Toronto Might Shift the Oscar Race


Telluride has gotten the jump on Toronto, Oscar-wise, lately. But that doesn’t mean the same thing will repeat itself this year. Some movies that did well at Telluride this week might not have the same kind of impact in Toronto, where there are many more viewers.  It will be interesting to see if 12 Years a Slave captures the buzz, as it did in Telluride, for instance.  If Telluride can make you, Toronto can make or break you.

There is a very big movie about to land in the Oscar race that is going to tip it dramatically in a different direction.  It is embargoed until tomorrow when I and others will be posting reviews.  It’s not a film that is headed to Toronto.  But other than that movie, what other films might land with a giant splash into the tidepool the race has become so far for Best Picture? At most, the Academy will select up to nine Best Picture nominees.

From Sundance, the film that made the biggest splash:

Fruitvale Station, one of the defining films for our age, also the discovery of writer/director Ryan Coogler.
Before Midnight, the third installment of the collaboration between Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater.

From Cannes, the films that seem headed for the race were:

Nebraska – Alexander Payne’s moving and memorable story of a father and son figuring out who they are and what their lives have amounted to.

Inside Llewyn Davis – yet another brilliant work from the Coens. A tricky and intricate screenplay that involves parallel stories (everything comes in twos) and a wonderful commentary on the luck of genius and the luck of success.

All is Lost – the season’s frontrunner for Best Actor currently, Robert Redford.

From Telluride

12 Years a Slave – the biggest splash at the fest, moved everyone, instantly became a force to be reckoned with. An unflinching look at our collective, torturous past.

Gravity – unlike anything else, and the unlikely combination of an older woman’s inner journey as she’s fighting for her life in space. One of the strongest films of the year. It will dazzle audiences and probably voters. Add to that, Cuaron’s a charmer.

Labor Day – while the film’s reception at Telluride was mixed, Reitman’s growth as a director is startlingly evident. It is one of a handful of films that tugs at the heartstrings.

Hitting the public at large without finding a way in via the festival circuit —

The Butler, not only number one at this very moment, but breaks a record for African American film directors by holding the number one slot for three consecutive weeks (so far).  That is nothing to sneeze at. In many ways, the awards race now is an insular process. But when a film like this breaks through and captures the public’s attention, attention must be paid.

What might happen from Toronto?

The Fifth Estate – a potential Best Actor nomination for Benedict Cumberbatch, but could also change the Best Picture race.

August: Osage County – looking at Julia Roberts for lead and Meryl Streep for supporting.

Dallas Buyers Club – looking at potentially the Best Actor frontrunner, who will compete with Robert Redford and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

New York Film Fest

Captain Phillips – will post review tomorrow, but…
Her – Spike Jonze’s melancholy look at love that no one has yet seen

AFI Film Fest

Saving Mr. Banks – this has a lot of sight unseen buzz. That might mean something, might mean nothing.

Foxcatcher – shrouded in mystery but Bennett Miller and Oscar is 2 for 2.

Still waiting in the wings:

Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, David O. Russell’s American Hustle. These films need no introduction. Their place in line is waiting for them already. But hey, no pressure.

What seems to me like slam dunk Best Picture nominees right now:

The Butler
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

But things are about to change. How and in what direction is anyone’s guess.  But if a movie that had the buzz heading into Toronto deflates there it will be hard for it recover in the next few months.