Oscar Watch: Toronto Film Festival so far

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Image Credit: Claire Folger

The Toronto International Film Festival is barely 48 hours old and already several awards-baiting films have premiered. Here’s a rundown of the possible Oscar chances of the entries that have already unspooled.

Argo Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort, a nail-biting hostage drama, seems to be the consensus choice for the most awards-friendly film of the festival so far. It’s exciting, well-paced, features an impressive cast, and, best of all, it’s a true story. I could see nominations for Best Picture, director, screenplay, editing, and supporting actor for scene-stealing costars Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston.

The Master The latest Paul Thomas Anderson epic was surely one of the most anticipated films to show here. It’s impeccably shot and features two knockout performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both men seem like great-bet nominees to me, particularly if Hoffman is campaigned as supporting actor. (It’s a big, juicy role and could feasibly go either way.) Amy Adams, as always, is fantastic — though she may lack a money scene, she still makes enough of an impact to have a shot at her fourth nomination. I fear the movie overall may just be too unorthodox to be a true Best Picture contender.

The Place Beyond The Pines The reunion of Blue Valentine star Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance, perhaps the most mysterious entry of the first weekend, turned out to be a riveting crime drama in three fairly distinct acts. This is the kind of movie that one should know nothing about before seeing. For reasons I won’t get into, Gosling, who’s terrific as a motorbike-riding bank robber, will probably contend in the supporting category, while Bradley Cooper (playing a hero cop) is likely the film’s lead-actor candidate. With the right reviews, the film could be an outside shot for a picture nod. We’ll see if the movie’s eventual buyer decides to release it this year. I hope they do.

Anna Karenina Joe Wright’s extremely risky Tolstoy adaptation features bold directorial choices that could turn off some voters. But if the Academy finds his unique retelling of the classic novel more interesting than a typical costume drama (which it is), it could be a contender. Regardless, it’s an instant frontrunner in the costume and design categories, and score as well. From the cast, Keira Knightley has a great shot for her second Best Actress nomination, while I’d love to see Jude Law recognized for his layered supporting role as the cuckolded husband Karenin, but the role may be a bit too muted.

On the Road┬áDirector Walter Salles’ Jack Kerouac adaptation premiered at Cannes to mixed reaction. It’s been retooled a bit for Toronto and features some gorgeous scenery and a breakout performance by Garrett Hedlund as hedonist Dean Moriarty. But I have a hard time believing the Academy will go for a film about a bunch of bed-hopping, booze-swilling hitchhikers.

Imogene On the heels of Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig returns with a peculiar comedy about a wannabe playwright who fakes her own suicide attempt and is forced to move in with her crazy Jersey shore mom. Annette Bening has several wonderful moments as the kooky mother but probably not quite enough screen time to score a supporting nod. And the film may not be comedic enough for serious Golden Globe consideration.

Rust and Bone One of Cannes’ most popular films was this Marion Cotillard drama where she plays a whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident at work. The former Best Actress winner is certainly a contender again for her fierce, glamour-free performance…as long as enough people see the movie.

Looper This year’s opening-night film is a wildly inventive sci-fi thriller with strong character elements. It’s likely too much of a genre film to merit serious awards consideration, but if it’s a box-office hit, it could have a shot at a screenplay nomination (like Memento landed a decade ago) for filmmaker Rian Johnson.

Dave on Twitter: @davekarger

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