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Toronto: Should There Be (Gasp!) 20 Best Picture Nominees This Year?

At least 11 titles are already in the running, with more possibilities yet to open

When the Academy expanded the best-pic race to include up to 10 contenders, some purists balked. But 2013 is proving the wisdom of that move. In fact, there’s so many promising titles that even more then 10 would probably all still be respectable choices — though of course that would make the Oscarcast way, way too long.

The Toronto Film Festival, running Sept. 5-15, underlined the kudos buzz for some films that had wowed audiences at Sundance, Cannes, Venice and Telluride. And in the past few days, it added some titles of its own.

At this point, it looks like the best picture race could include “12 Years a Slave,” “August: Osage County,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Gravity,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,”  “Philomena,”  “Prisoners” and “Rush.”

That’s 11 films right there. And that doesn’t include the dark horses, which are inevitable — and plentiful. That list could include any of the following: “42,” “All is Lost,” “Blue Jasmine,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Invisible Woman,” “Kill Your Darlings,” “Labor Day,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and “Nebraska.”

A few years ago, some voters groaned that they were having a hard time finding even five films they liked, much less 10. But any of the films listed above would be totally at home on a best-picture list.

Some of these films have generated overwhelmingly positive reactions. Others got more mixed reception. But a film doesn’t need across-the-board love; it just needs a group of passionate supporters. Look at “Crash”: That film split people, but its advocates were ardent enough to give it an Oscar.

Plus there are some very hot possibilities in animated features, foreign-language films and documentaries, which are definitely best-pic eligible. The docu race in particular is shaping up with some great contenders, and that’s a category that hasn’t made it into Oscar’s Top 10 list yet.

And these are just a fraction of films. There are a lot of films from indies this year that are worth remembering (Cinedigm’s “Short Term 12,” “Mud” and several others)

As they say on the TV ads but wait, there’s more!

Among the many titles set to open by the end of the year:  Sony’s “American Hustle,” Fox’s “The Counselor,” Sony Classics’ “Foxcatcher,” WB’s “Her,” the MGM-WB-New Line “The Hobbit,” Universal’s “Lone Survivor,” Sony’s “The Monuments Men,” Relativity’s “Out of the Furnace,” Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” Fox’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and Paramount’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Even if only half of those are good, that still means the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the PGA might want to consider expanding the best-picture race to 20 slots.

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