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Toronto: World Premieres Launch Oscar Talk for Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Murphy and Michael B. Jordan

The Toronto Film Festival is once again buzzing with Oscar talk. While many of this awards season’s contenders had already screened at Venice and/or Telluride, TIFF featured several world premieres that added to this year’s race to the Dolby Theater on Feb. 9.

Jennifer Lopez has been a frequent presenter at the Oscars, but she could be heading into the 2020 Academy Awards as a first-time nominee. She’s getting the best reviews of her career for her work as Ramona, a longtime stripper who hatches a scheme to scam Wall Street types out of their money.

Lopez could be this year’s Lady Gaga, but STX has its work cut out to get to voters watch “Hustlers” and understand that the movie isn’t just another “Striptease” or “Showgirls.”

Lopez would likely be put up for supporting so she wouldn’t have to compete for lead against contenders like Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story) and Meryl Streep (“Laundromat”).

Writer-director Lorene Scafaria could also garner nominations, especially after being lauded with comparisons to Martin Scorsese.

“Just Mercy”
Michael B. Jordan’s work as social justice attorney Bryan Stevenson could land him his first Oscar nomination. Jamie Foxx as a death row inmate seeking exoneration after spending six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit is a stronger contender for supporting actor, as is Rob Morgan, who plays a fellow prisoner sentenced to death.

“Dolemite Is My Name
Not only does the Netflix biopic of 1970s comedian Rudy Ray Moore mark Eddie Murphy’s return to the big screen, but it could garner him his second nomination 13 years after he was up for supporting actor for “Dreamgirls.” Wesley Snipes could also get in there for his portrayal of actor and director D’urville Martin.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
It’s no surprise that Tom Hanks’s portrayal of legendary children’s television host Fred Rogers could land him his sixth Oscar nomination. He already has two statuettes at home, but the last time he was nominated was 19 years ago for “Cast Away.”

“Jojo Rabbit”
Taika Waititi’s comedy about Hitler and Nazi Germany may sound risky for these politically correct times, but the audience at the world premiere screening on Sunday night ate it all up and then some. Laughter boomed throughout the Princess of Wales Theater. However, it’s hard to tell if that excitement will translate to awards recognition. Mixed reviews don’t help either.

“Bad Education”
Beloved Oscar host Hugh Jackman didn’t appear at TIFF, but he sure got a lot of attention for his starring role in crime drama “Bad Education.” However, the film is still looking for U.S. distribution.

John Conroy’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel was one of the most anticipated films at the festival. While interest was high, enthusiasm seemed to fizzle as the days went on. Word of mouth could kill its chances of becoming a bona fide contender.

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