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Rob Edelman: Oscar Buzz

These days, it seems that all the Academy Award-caliber films and heralded performances are showcased at the early fall film festivals. For example, let’s talk about actors and Oscars. Here are but a few performers who emerged from the Toronto Film Festival bathed in Best Actor and Best Actress buzz-- if, that is, their films are released in 2014: Julianne Moore, for STILL ALICE; Reese Witherspoon, for WILD; Benedict Cumberbatch, for THE IMITATION GAME; Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING; Bill Murray, for ST. VINCENT; Timothy Spall, for MR. TURNER; Al Pacino, for MANGLEHORN; Jake Gyllenhaal, for NIGHTCRAWLER; Jennifer Aniston-- yes, that Jennifer Aniston-- for CAKE; and Steve Carell-- yes, that Steve Carell-- for FOXCATCHER. Even though it did not play Toronto, Michael Keaton, who like Bruce Dern last year is this year’s comeback kid, may be in the running for BIRDMAN.

At this point in time, none of this is breaking news. Nor is the observation that, just as last year, there are so many deservedly touted performances by male stars, some of whom will find themselves caught in a numbers crunch when it comes to selecting the five Best Actor finalists. There also is no time to begin to cite the range of supporting performers who shined in Toronto.

But not all the year’s top performances and films had their North American or international premieres in Toronto, Telluride, or Venice. Last year, for example, Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE opened theatrically at the end of July, over a month prior to the start of the fall festival season. BLUE JASMINE was one of the year’s best films. It was without doubt the most substantial film Woody Allen has made in years: far more so than MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT, this year’s summer release, which is a slight, tired trifle. Plus, in a year filled with sterling performances by female actors, CateBlanchett, the BLUE JASMINE star, beat out Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, and Meryl Streep to walk off with the Best Actress Oscar.

There is a BLUE JASMINE equivalent that came to movie theaters pre-Toronto/Venice/Telluride. It is Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD, a keenly-observed and much-talked-about instant classic. Not only is BOYHOOD worth noting for its decade-long shooting schedule, during which the young actors in the cast start out as children and grow to high school and college-age while the central adult characters also change physically as they evolve emotionally. BOYHOOD is, at its core, so captivating because it offers an incisive look at the plights of ordinary people: individuals whose everyday lives may be startlingly similar to those of countless audience members.

For sure, plenty of outstanding films came to the fore in Toronto, Venice, and Telluride. Some feature the actors who will win Oscar nominations. Others are like the fact-based ROSEWATER, a powerful film that features a scenario and theme that are right out of today’s headlines: What journalists must endure while searching for truth and the plight of one in particular, an Iranian correspondent who is accused of espionage and imprisoned. ROSEWATER is directed and scripted by Jon Stewart-- yes, that Jon Stewart.

But the point here is that, while quite a few of the year’s top films and performances were featured in Toronto and elsewhere, not all of them played these festivals. Not all of them have yet to open theatrically. Last year, the film in question was BLUE JASMINE. This year, it is BOYHOOD. 

Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.


The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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