The Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone, and as a result the 2013-14 awards season is in full swing. A race that was murky a few weeks ago is now considerably more established, with a handful of sure bets (or close to it, at least) in all the major categories. Indiewire has updated its Oscar prediction charts as a result, but here’s a rundown of 10 notable developments toward the top of many of those charts:
1. “12 Years a Slave” is getting a best picture and best director nomination. Steve McQueen’s epic true story take on slavery came out of Toronto with rave reviews, the People’s Choice Award and — as a result — massive Oscar buzz. Being the frontrunner out of the gate comes with a lot of potential backlash (but it ended up working out for “Argo” in the end last year), so calling a win for “12 Years” is certainly premature. But it’s extremely hard to imagine the film and its director not getting nominated.
2. So is “Gravity.” The other film to, uh, skyrocket into the Oscar race (first at Venice, then at Telluride and finally at Toronto) was Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity.” With its mix of technological achievements and emotional weight, the space-set thrill ride is sure to be this year’s answer to “Hugo” and “Life of Pi,” with nods in the top two categories (among others) all but assured.
3. Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Sandra Bullock are joining Cate Blanchett in an already headed best actress race. If there was one thing going into the fall festivals we were sure of, it was Cate Blanchett’s best actress nod for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.” Which is still looking good, but does she ever have some new competition. Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”) came out of Toronto with reviews and buzz that bode very well for their chances. Suggesting all four are locks is a lot to say at this point in the season — Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”), Amy Adams (“American Hustle”) and Nicole Kidman (“Grace of Monaco”) are all still en route, after all — but they sure are close.
4. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey are close to locks in an even more heated best actor race. Best actor is just as if not more heated than best actress, with Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), Robert Redford (“All is Lost”), Forest Whitaker (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”), Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) offering us 5 genuine hopefuls before the fall fests even started. And now we have two more: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey seem like more-or-less sure things coming out of Toronto for their work in “12 Years” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” But with this many candidates — and even more to come than in the actress race (Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale), Toronto at least made one thing 100% certain: This is going to be quite the race.
5. “The Wind Rises” is the film to beat in the animated feature category. The abnormally weak best animated feature category finally has a full-fledge frontrunner, and it ain’t Pixar (for once): Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” got raves in Venice and Toronto, and given its the director’s alleged swan song, sentimentality is also in its favor heading into a race with very few contenders (“Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2” were big hits, but they really don’t seem to have what it takes to win this prize).
6. “Rush” will get at least 5 nominations. Ron Howard’s race car driver biopic “Rush” got almost unanimous praise out of Toronto, setting it up to be a major player in awards season (and a nice return to form for Howard after “The Dilemma”). How it fares at the box office this weekend will make it more clear just how major, but for now its safe to assume a handful of tech nominations and quite likely a best picture nod and one for Daniel Bruhl’s supporting performance.
7. “The Fifth Estate” won’t get any. Another filmmaker looking to return to awards season’s good graces after making a poorly received detour (in this case “Twilight”) was Bill Condon. But his “Fifth Estate,” the Wikileaks biopic that opened Toronto, was pretty much DOA as far as Oscar buzz goes. It would be a huge surprise at this point if it could factor into any races.
8. Lupita Nyong’o will be nominated for best supporting actress in a race that could very well feature three black nominees. Another strong contender to emerge from the buzz surrounding “12 Years a Slave” is Kenyan actress (and filmmaker in her own right) Lupita Nyong’o. Giving a harrowing performance, Nyong’o is a pretty sure thing in the supporting actress category, which could feature a record three black nominees as Oprah Winfrey (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) and Octavia Spencer (“Fruitvale Station”) are looking pretty good as well. Also of note: All three are in films from black filmmakers.
9. Nothing without distribution coming into Toronto is going to shake up this year’s race (but could factor into next year’s). A lot of major buys came out of Toronto — “The Railway Man,” “Bad Words,” “Tracks,” “Loveship Hateship,” “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Under The Skin” — but none of them are likely to shake up this year’s already crowded race. Most if not all are suggestively heading for 2014 releases, which means we could be talking about a few of them a year from now.
10. Survival will be the dominant theme among this year’s nominees. “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and arguably “Rush” are all continuing a clear trend in the awards season-headed films of 2013: Survival. It’s a theme already present in Cannes’ Oscar contender “All Is Lost” and one that will surely come again in “Captain Phillips” and “The Monuments Men.” Everyone likes an overarching theme to the season, and this will be 2013’s.
Check out Indiewire’s latest chart of Oscar predictions here.
Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.