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How TIFF 2013 Will Shape the Oscar Season

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Click on over to my 2014 Oscar Predictions page to see everything I’m forecasting in the major categories.

The storm that was TIFF 2013 has passed, and the Oscar forecast now looks at least a little clearer. What’s most apparent at this point is that Best Actor is loaded, Best Picture has plenty of legit threats (but very few to win), and the rest of the major categories are full of question marks.

I’ve picked out ten films from the 2013 TIFF lineup whose Oscar chances are better defined in the wake of the festival, running down what seems likely, what doesn’t seem likely, and what its narrative might be throughout the 2014 Oscar season.

August: Osage County
Coming into the festival, the biggest potential Oscar play to premiere at TIFF was, arguably, this John Wells-directed adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning play. The film features a stellar cast—Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale—and coming out of the festival, most agree multiple acting nominations might be in the cards for the film. Streep and Roberts seem like the surest bets that this stage, but category confusion exists, and I’m not sure where either woman will ultimately land. As far as Best Picture goes, I’ve removed the film from my predictions, but I certainly don’t think it’s out of the running.

Dallas Buyers Club
Those too quick to name Chiwetel Ejiofor the 2014 Best Actor winner ought to be kicking themselves after something we all expected—Matthew McConaughey doing career-defining work in Dallas Buyers Club—turned out to be reality. Throw in the strong notices for Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), and others—which isn’t even getting to the unseen, would-be contenders in Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Christian Bale (American Hustle), and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)—and we have a straight-up dogfight on our hands.

Rush
Ron Howard’s latest wasn’t unanimously praised (despite what Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe), but it sounds like it’s still in the hunt for a Best Picture nomination. Daniel Bruhl has a solid Best Supporting Actor shot, and as far as craft nominations go, the film will clean up.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
I hadn’t been expecting a ton from this film, and most reports from TIFF confirm my suspicions—it’s a by-the-numbers biopic. But both Idris Elba and Naomie Harris earned a lot of praise for their portrayals of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, respectively. Best Actor is an impossible category this year, so I can’t imagine Elba cracks the lineup. Harris? She could contend, but I suspect the film’s tepid response will keep her off the list of Best Supporting Actress nominees.

The Fifth Estate
Once upon a time, I thought Bill Condon’s return to serious moviemaking could be a big-time Oscar sleeper. You won’t see it anywhere near my predictions (nor anyone else’s, I suspect), as the film underwhelmed hard at TIFF’s opening night gala. To be fair, it has its tepid supporters, but its detractors are much more vocal (and creative) in their criticism. Benedict Cumberbatch, I suppose, could still be viewed as a long-shot Best Actor contender; most agree he’s the best thing about the film. But that category is loaded, so I can’t imagine anything happens for this film, Oscar-wise. It’s this year’s Hitchcock.

Can a Song Save Your Life?
The Weinstein Co. paid a lot of money for director John Carney’s Once follow-up, and I think that in another year (ahem, 2014, ahem), it could contend in a few categories (Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor). Harvey could also set the film up for a commercially successful run in the spring or summer of 2014. Whatever the case, I suspect the film will be a great investment for Weinstein, if not an Oscar contender this fall.

The Armstrong Lie, The Unknown Known
Two Best Documentary Feature contenders that premiered in Venice and continued to build a case for a nomination in Toronto. Of the two, I think The Armstrong Lie (Alex Gibney’s latest) is the stronger candidate, but Errol Morris won an Oscar for a film (The Fog of War) that shares a lot, at least superficially, to his new Donald Rumsfeld doc. But some are calling this film hard to watch because Morris lets Rumsfeld wriggle his way out of some sticky lines of questioning. So I’m not sold on its chances yet. We’ll see.

12 Years a Slave, Gravity
Still chugging along. Best Picture, Best Director, acting nominations, a near clean sweep of the craft categories—these are two STRONG Oscar films.

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