Last year, 12 Years a Slave clinched the Academy Award for Best Picture at the Toronto Film Festival. Well, that’s not actually true. In fact, you could argue that the Best Picture winner almost lost the statue at the festival. Steve McQueen’s harrowing instant classic was so instantly and universally anointed in Toronto that seeds were planted for an inevitable backlash to flower in the six months before the Oscar winner was finally announced. Ultimately, 12 Years‘ biggest Oscar competition came from another Toronto film, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Though both films premiered at Telluride and Venice, respectively, the awards race took shape only after the Oscar Industrial Complex took note of them in Toronto.
While other festivals have challenged Toronto’s preeminence in recent years, it’s still the most high-profile showcase to launch an aggressive Oscar campaign. It’s no accident that the last seven Best Picture winners played up north. This year, there are more than 300 films from more than 60 countries playing at the festival. Though many of them are in search of distribution (like last year’s Begin Again and Bad Words), the hunt for hardware officially begins today and runs through Sept. 14.
If you’re on the ground in Toronto for the next 11 days, here are a handful of choice selections to make your viewing decisions easier. And for those of you at your home computer, this list is a mix of films with Oscar buzz, films we’re excited to see because of actors we love, and a few still-under-the-radar curios that people just might be talking about in the next few months. And of course, since tomorrow is officially Bill Murray Day at the festival, everybody dance. READ FULL STORY