Jason Reitman's fifth feature film debuted to some strong reviews at the Telluride Film Festival, but the family drama was overshadowed by "12 Years A Slave," "Gravity" and even "Prisoners." Paramount still has plenty of time to turn "Labor Day" into a major awards contender -- the film isn't set for release until December -- but a good showing in Toronto could go a long way toward making Reitman's Oscar hopeful stand out among high profile year-end releases like "American Hustle," "Saving Mr. Banks" and "The Monuments Men."
Critics in Venice and Telluride have already pulled muscles praising Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," as did James Cameron. The Warner Bros. release might be one wave of huzzahs away from being a locked-in Best Picture contender.
"12 Years A Slave"
Steve McQueen's film, another Telluride debut, got through its first wave of festival reviews unscathed. If everything follows according to that path in Toronto (and then again in New York one month later), expect any and all early Oscar buzz to reverberate around the Fox Searchlight release.
"The Invisible Woman"
Sony Pictures Classics
Because Sony Pictures Classics needs another Oscar contender in a year when the studio already has "Before Midnight," "Blue Jasmine" and "Foxcatcher" on its plate, here's Ralph Fiennes' "The Invisible Woman." Early praise out of Telluride was focused on Felicity Jones' lead role, with at least one major critic already placing her in the thick of the Best Actress race. That category is crowded this year, so if Jones is going to end up alongside the likes of Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench and Sandra Bullock, she'll need some effusive reviews out of Toronto to stand a chance.
"Dallas Buyers Club"
If Jones needs a Toronto boost, then so does Matthew McConaughey. The 2012 comeback star certainly looks the part of a future Oscar nominee in the trailer for "Dallas Buyers Club," but the Best Actor category is overflowing with big names like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Redford, Bruce Dern, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Like "Prisoners," Ron Howard's "Rush" is a studio release that doesn't appear, at first glance, to be an Oscar movie. Yet the thrilling Formula 1 drama has some great names involved behind the camera (Peter Morgan wrote the script, Anthony Dod Mantle is cinematographer), and one transformative performance from Daniel Bruhl in front. (Those looking for the next Christoph Waltz should stop now.) If TIFF audiences fall in love, this has all the makings of a dark horse Best Picture contender.
"The Fifth Estate"
DreamWorks is set to release "The Fifth Estate" on Oct. 18, giving the studio a good amount of time to get the word out about its Julian Assange drama. Benedict Cumberbatch and "Rush" breakout star Daniel Bruhl are the leads here, which opens up TIFF on Thursday night.
"Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom"
The Weinstein Company has a surfeit of Best Actor candidates already thanks to the strong performances from Michael B. Jordan and Forest Whitaker, but Idris Elba's portrayal of Nelson Mandela could top both -- or it better, judging by the packed Best Actor field.
Judi Dench might earn her seventh Oscar nomination for "Philomena," but it's Dench's co-star, Steve Coogan, who could make hay in Toronto as a veteran actor who gets carried into a supporting nomination by matching his lauded co-star at each turn. (Think: Ethan Hawke in "Training Day.")
"August: Osage County"
"August: Osage County" is Toronto's potential big fish: a star-studded Weinstein Company release with past winners and nominees littered throughout its cast (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard), and a Pulitzer Prize-winning pedigree (Tracy Letts adapted his own play for the screen). Which doesn't mean there isn't room for some early season awards growth. To wit: Right now, everyone assumes "August: Osage County" is going to be a significant contender for multiple Oscars, but no one knows for sure. (Even Streep's category -- Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress -- is a mystery.) Expect that to change after the film's world premiere on Sept. 9.