If the Venice and Telluride film festivals set the stage for this year’s Oscar season with swank red carpets and exclusive first looks at some of the fall’s top contenders, the Toronto fest is poised to gauge broader interest with its massive crowds.
Indeed, seven of the event’s last eight audience award-winners at the festival have gone on to earn best picture nominations, three of them ultimately claiming the Oscar on Hollywood’s big night.
A number of lead actress contenders are on the cards at the 41st annual event, two of them with a pair of entries: Amy Adams appears in Venice carryovers “Arrival” and “Nocturnal Animals,” while Isabelle Huppert will be seen in Cannes debuts “Elle” and “Things to Come.” Meanwhile, two Telluride premieres — “Maudie” and “Una” — bring Sally Hawkins and Rooney Mara, respectively, to the table.
Screening for the first time anywhere will be coming-of-age story “The Edge of Seventeen,” featuring Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), and legal drama “Denial,” starring Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”).
And after Cannes premieres in May, Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and Jeff Nichols’ marriage equality drama “Loving” could bolster support for budding stars Sasha Lane and Ruth Negga.
Another best actress possibility is Emma Stone, whose “La La Land” will wrap up the Venice-Telluride-Toronto trifecta with a Canadian bow. Already a charmer from Italy to Colorado, Damien Chazelle’s musical could be a strong contender for the aforementioned audience award.
Two major Oscar hopefuls that first unspooled at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will make appearances in Toronto are “The Birth of a Nation” and “Manchester by the Sea.” The former will no doubt be a lightning rod after director and star Nate Parker’s rape allegations resurfaced at the end of the summer, while “Manchester” is sure to keep Casey Affleck’s lead actor potential red hot on the heels of a Telluride career retrospective and tribute.
A quartet of movies with Oscar bait premises will be searching for distribution. Rob Reiner’s “LBJ” tells the story of America’s 36th President with Woody Harrelson in the role; Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” features Natalie Portman as former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; Terry George’s “The Promise” features Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon in a love triangle set during the Armenian Genocide of 1915; and Amma Asante’s “A United Kingdom” promises to be an across-the-pond answer to “Loving.”
Other films looking to build momentum include the Weinstein Co.’s “Lion,” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman; Disney’s “Queen of Katwe,” with David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o; and Lionsgate’s “American Pastoral,” with Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly. “Bleed for This” could keep Miles Teller’s best actor hopes alive after a Telluride bow, while Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Deepwater Horizon” will mark the first of two collaborations between the director and star this year.
Finally, opening the festival Thursday will be “The Magnificent Seven.” Antoine Fuqua’s Western remake will be looking to outscore the original, which picked up just one Oscar nomination in 1961, for Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score.
Last year’s best picture winner, “Spotlight,” shot out of Toronto and into release before weathering the long journey to the Dolby Theater. Which of the films in this year’s lineup will have the stamina to do the same?