Obsession with the Oscar race isn't always healthy for film lovers, but it's a fact of life in the entertainment industry, and with the Toronto International Film Festival coming to an end, awards chatter is growing louder. Here, based on critic and pundit assessments out of Toronto, the Venice International Film Festival, and the Telluride Film Festival is our judgment of where the race stands right now.
What's in: If anything became clear in Toronto and Telluride it's that 12 Years a Slave is likely to be (and deservedly so) in contention for the top prize come March. Kyle Buchanan at Vulture predicted that it will win best picture, Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly wrote that nominations are "a certainty," and after having seen the movie we can attest that it's a challenging and complicated film, one worthy of far more important discussions than its Oscar chances. Perhaps because of the effusive response to the film, 12 Years a Slave also seems primed for a probably undeserving backlash. (See: Mark Harris' piece in Grantland.) The Sandra Bullock stranded in space drama Gravity also seems all but a lock,with euphoric reception out of the festivals. If the Academy doesn't shy away from sci-fi Alfonso Cuarón's apparent masterpiece should get the attention it by all accounts deserves. We'd caution you not to forget about raves for the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis out of Cannes either.
What's out: It looks like August: Osage County, which received only mixed reviews, won't make it into the big race, says The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg. It's probably best for Harvey Weinstein to focus on the acting categories for this one.
What no one's seen: There are a number of question marks on people's lists of possible best picture nominees. Those, notably, include Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, David O. Russell's American Hustle, and Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Who's in: Once again, we have to bring up 12 Years a Slave, because it's all but certain that Chiwetel Ejiofor will get a nomination for a performance that's both powerful and subtle. He's doing Oscar caliber work without screaming Oscar. Another actor primed to get a nod? Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, for which he physically transformed himself, losing nearly 50 pounds. His take on a heterosexual man afflicted with AIDS was highly praised in Toronto. Oscar watchers like Buchanan and Feinberg are also sounding alarms for Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, who may get recognition following a long hiatus.
Who's out: No one has crashed and burned quite yet.
Who no one's seen: Turns from Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, Joaquin Phoenix in Her, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Christian Bale in American Hustle have yet to be evaluated.
Who's in: Right now this one is for the veterans. Cate Blanchett's been a lock for Blue Jasmine for almost two months already. Added to the mix following Venice, Telluride and Toronto? Sandra Bullock for her lost-in-space performance in Gravity, Judi Dench for Philomena, and Meryl, duh, for August: Osage County.
Who's out: It seems that The Weinstein Company is going to be running Julia Roberts in the supporting actress category for August: Osage County. So that won't happen.
Who no one's seen: Amy Adams in American Hustle is a big one, as is Emma Thompson doing P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.