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).