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Oscar Watching: Toronto Wins in THEORY

David Dobkin’s The Judge – starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall – was the first film to, officially, make its case at the Toronto International Film Festival when it kicked off the fest last Thursday night. Well, the jury reached a guilty verdict…

Enough courtroom puns, though – what else did TIFF have in store? Telluride Film Festival hits Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game – starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley – and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild – starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern – gained further love at the fest, of course, but what about the films finally unveiling at TIFF? The world premiere of Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent was the highlight of Bill Murray Day. While the apparent crowd-pleaser scored strong notices for the whole cast – Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher – Murray seems to be the standout here, but can he break past the plethora of actor contenders to score a nod?

But the real story is James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, which passed the TIFF test by scoring raves all around – particularly for Eddie Redmayne’s physically demanding performance as scientist Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones’ emotionally bare turn as Jane Hawking, his wife. Both actors will campaign for leading bids this awards season; Redmayne and Jones are near the top of the pack in their respective categories if they aren’t already there. Don’t be surprised if Anthony McCarten and Marsh pick up bids for writing and directing, respectively; Theory could also land in the picture race. The film will also screen at the BFI London Film Festival; Imitation will open the fest.

Meanwhile, Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young – about the dynamic between a young free-spirited couple and an uptight older couple – screened to mostly strong response. As of this writing, A24 is nearing a deal to pick up the comedy for U.S. distribution. Young stars the aforementioned Watts, Ben Stiller, Amanda Seyfried, and Adam Driver – whose work in Hungry Hearts won him the Venice Film Festival’s award for best actor last weekend.

Jennifer Aniston and Kristen Wiig earned praise for their against-type work in dramedies Cake and Welcome to Me, respectively; Julianne Moore did the same for playing a professor with early Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. All three films are still looking for U.S. distributors, as of this writing. Any or all could break into what’s looking like a weak best actress race, which is more representative of an industry severely lacking in strong roles for women.

Remember, I’m only predicting films set for U.S. distribution for nominations, but my overall lists still include films that might lack U.S. distribution at the moment. And in the name of shameless self-promo, you can check out more detailed Oscar musings over at my blog, Awards and Such. Keep in mind that my predictions there and on Screen Invasion might differ, given that I will update both at different times – I’ll update my Screen Invasion picks once a week; I’ll most likely update my blog picks at different intervals.

Can Theory get a nomination for best picture?

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.