The Bold Voice of J&K

The Toronto Film Festival will again play host to scores of Oscar hopefuls

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With today’s announcement that David Dobkin’s film The Judge will open the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, I figured that it was a good time to talk about the TIFF lineup. That Robert Downey Jr. vehicle will seek to become an awards player, and it’s not alone. Each year, scores of titles descend on Toronto in order to distinguish themselves to Academy members and various precursor voters everywhere. The festival has a solid history of producing Oscar nominees, though the big time competition this year from the New York Film Festival will certainly shine a light on just how essential a stop this fest still is. For now though, it’s a big one, and well worth a bit of discussion.

As mentioned above, the opening film is The Judge, which could be a Best Actor player for Downey Jr. or perhaps even a Best Picture contender if it’s better than expected. It’s definitely one of the most anticipated flicks starting up their run at the festival, along with the closing selection, which is Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Along with those two, the highest profile titles include Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, & Children, Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything. Each of these is considered a major awards hopeful to one degree or another, so it’ll be their first test of viability. Strong reactions set it off on a path to potential Oscar glory, while mixed to poor reactions could sent it straight down the drain into oblivion.

Other big debuts at the fest will be Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Mike Binder’s Black and White, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Equalizer, Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice, Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go, Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, as well as other works like The Drop and The Imitation Game, all of whom have some level of awards hope to them. Most won’t take on that kind of narrative, but at least one or two will, so it becomes almost a game trying to figure out which ones it will be ahead of time.

The other titles of note are Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher of course, along with David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, and Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. All of those wowed at the Cannes Film Festival (with Whiplash also blowing folks away at the Sundance Film Festival at the start of 2014), so they’ll seek to continue the high praise in advance of their fall/winter openings. I have a hunch that the praise will continue for each one of them, leading to heavy awards discussion.

Basically, we’ve got almost all of our festival season laying out in front of us now. Once the full NYFF lineup is revealed, we’ll more or less know which Oscar contenders are going the festival route and which ones aren’t. That doesn’t mean that one choice is better than the other, since both are calculated risks for sure, but it does sort of give you a hint about what studios could be thinking. We’re still very much in the educated guessing phase of the awards season, but once these festivals really ramp up and folks like myself at NYFF see David Fincher’s Gone or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, more will be known, just like the TIFF crowd will know more once they see any of this multitude of titles. Exciting times are ahead

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