Toronto: Who got an Oscar bounce and who didn’t?

TORONTO – The most star-friendly of the three awards season kickoff festivals, Toronto has been a buzz boon to many Oscar players over the years. “Brokeback Mountain,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “Precious” and “Up in the Air” all found themselves recipients of Canadian love.  However, like all festivals, Toronto giveth and Toronto taketh away.  And in the world of award season buzz there are just as many casualties as winners from the 2011 edition of the festival.

Michael Fassbender, “Shame”

Category: best actor
Buzz: It’s starting to break down to a 60/40 adore or ‘don’t get it’ reaction (less polarizing than Telluride or Venice, but make no mistake Fassbender is a prime candidate for a best actor nomination.  NC-17 rating or not.

Gerard Butler, “Machine Gun Preacher”
Category: best actor
Buzz: Don’t judge the man, don’t judge the actor, but how about the screenwriter and director? Butler was positioned as a dark horse best actor candidate, but “Preacher” is so badly made it’s unlikely he’ll even get HFPA consideration.

Robert Forester, “The Descendants”

Category: best supporting actor
Buzz: The big surprise since “The Descendants” festival debut is the continuing mention of Forster from media and moviegoers alike.  The veteran actor only has a few scenes in Alexander Payne’s latest, but Fox Searchlight might have a stealth best supporting actor candidate on its hands.

Michelle Yeoh, “The Lady”
Category: best actress
Buzz: Besides her co-star David Thewlis, Yeoh is the only one to come out unscathed from Luc Besson’s biopic.  Whether upstart distributor Coen MediaGroup can fashion a best actress nomination for her remains to be seen.

David Thewlis, “The Lady”

Category: best actor
Buzz: Many praised Thewlis’ performance as the real life husband of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi, but the movie’s overall reception won’t help his cause.  

Madonna, “W.E”

Category: best director, best original screenplay
Buzz: The pop icon received less harsh reviews than the obviously out to get her critics in Venice, but it’s going to take years before she’s given any real respect as a cinematic “auteur.”  Oh, and she’s lucky that whole little volunteers debacle didn’t blow up in the States like it did in the Canadian pres.s

Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Ides of March”
Category: best supporting actor
Buzz: Like Albert Brooks in “Drive,” Hoffman looks like a player in the supporting race for his standout turn as a presidential campaign strategist in George Clooney’s latest directorial effort.

“The Ides of March” (movie)

Category: best picture
Buzz: A solid start for George Clooney’s new political drama/thriller (take your pick).  Should be respected across the board, but Sony is going to have to campaign hard to land the 5% votes they need for a best picture nod.  Definitely possible though.

Abbie Cornish, “W.E”
Category: best actress
Buzz: The Weinstein Company had hopes of making Cornish a best actress player for her role in Madonna’s new drama, but had they actually seen the film yet? Cornish is the worst performance of the bunch.

“A Dangerous Method” (movie)

Category: best picture
Buzz: This cannot be what Sony Classics was expecting.  The reception for native son David Cronenberg was positive in person, but the constrained period drama has few fans in the media which is an ominous sign when guild screenings begin.  Viggo Mortensen still has his fans, but many are split on Knightley’s performance and Fassbender will be pitching “Shame.”  

Albert Brooks, “Drive”
Category: best supporting actor
Buzz: Even those who aren’t in love with Nicholas Winding Refn’s thriller are into Brook’s great turn as a shady businessman with a dark side.  Brooks now looks like he’ll be in the race for a nod for the long run.

Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Category: best actor
Buzz: Bennett Miller’s refashioning of the Steven Soderbergh project found more favorable reviews than expected with Pitt receiving praise for his portrayal of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.  If “Moneyball” is a hit, Pitt could turn into a stealth best actor candidate.

Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillan, “Moneyball”
Category: best adapted screenplay
Buzz: Beyond Pitt, Sorkin and Zaillan received the most kudos for transforming a non-fiction book into a compelling script.  The former Oscar winners are definitely in the hunt for another screenplay nod.

“Corionalus” (movie)
Category: best picture
Buzz: Even with Gerard Butler and Ralph Fiennes in attendance and solid reviews, Fiennes directorial debut got lost in the non-stop stream of Toronto premieres.  The first public screening of the picture since its Berlin debut, The Weinstein Company is going to have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to get attention for this fine Shakespeare tale.

Vanessa Redgrave, “Corionalus,” “Anonymous”
Category: best supporting actress
Buzz: Unable to attend because of rehearsals for the London stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” Redgrave could have given both “Anonymous” and “Coriolanus” a prestige boost.  Her performances are the best part of both films, but she needs to find time in the states over the next few months for any chance at a seventh Oscar nomination.

Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter,” “Corionalus”
Category: best actress and best supporting actress
Buzz: Chastain has had three movies debut since May with a fourth on the way with “Take Shelter” later this month.  She was a constant figure at almost every Toronto party this pundit attended (even for other films) and it is getting close to award season and festival overload.  Her publicist would be smart to have her go radio silent for October before hitting the circuit again in November.

Ryan Gosling, “Drive,” “The Ides of March”
Category: best actor
Buzz:  It may be the year of Ryan Gosling (along with Fassbender or Chastain), but the general consensus is that he won’t crack the best actor race for either of his two leading roles.  Supporting for “Crazy, Stupid, Love”?  Possible, but it feels a bit more Golden Globe.

“Butter” (movie)
Category: best picture – comedy or musical
Buzz: Strangely getting more positive notices out of Telluride than Toronto, this comedy was never a best picture player but will be receiving an Oscar qualifying run sometime this fall so it can play the Golden Globes game.  That shouldn’t be too hard to land, but the TIFF reception should be a warning about eventual mainstream reviews.

For year round entertainment commentary follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter