Question: Is "Quartet" the new "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"?
Answer: Probably not. Yes, it is indeed another comedic drama about a group of British retirees starring Maggie Smith. But Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut had a pretty muted response out of Toronto. What response there was was definitely not so bad, but even so it suggested the film -- which finds Smith star alongside Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly as a group of retired opera singers -- might be a bit too minor for Oscar, especially in the shadow of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
"Quartet" is set for distribution by The Weinstein Company (who are likely going to give it a qualifying run before releasing in early 2013), so the film also faces steep competition internally from aforementioned likes of "The Master" and "Silver Linings," meaning there might not be enough Harvey-love to go around. That said, best actress is indeed a weak category, and no one should ever underestimate Dame Maggie Smith.
Question: Can Ben Affleck finally make the big category?
Answer: All but assured. Reviews for his third directorial effort -- a political drama about the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis --were fantastic out of Telluride and Toronto and its clear Affleck has made his most ambitious picture yet. While his "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" each earned strong reviews and Oscar nods for acting (Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner, respectively), "Argo" seems like a very safe bet to get Affleck his first best picture nomination, and potentially a best directing nod as well.
How the film fares when its released theatrically in October will be its next test, but for now count "Argo" in as a major Oscar contender this year.
Question: Is "Anna Karenina" another "Soloist," or more like an "Atonement"?
Answer: More like an "Atonement," but not necessary like an "Atonement." Joe Wright's Tolstoy adaptation was unanimously championed for its design (costume design and art direction are absolute locks at this point), though critics were much more mixed on the film itself. Though such was the story for Wright's "Atonement," which ended up with a best picture nod.
At this point, call it a reasonable bet for a few major nods. Keira Knightley and newcomer Alicia Vikander are among those possibilities in the actress and supporting actress categories, respectively (especially since both categories are very weak). But if the rest of the year is stronger than average, it might be tough. Though definitely not as tough as it was for people to ever consider "The Soloist" a contender.
Question: Is Kristen Wiig about to get a second Oscar nomination, but this time for acting?
Answer: No. Kristen Wiig managed a well-deserved Oscar nomination earlier this year for co-writing "Bridesmaids," the film that propelled her into the A-list and paved the way for her to leave "Saturday Night Live" and focus her career on film full-time. The first test of that trajectory came with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's "Imogene," which premiered in Toronto. The film saw Wiig star as a playwright who stages a suicide in an attempt to win back her ex (Matt Dillon), only to wind up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother (Annette Bening). Seemed like a potentially juicy premise, but reviews were generally mixed and Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions -- who jointly acquired the film -- seem likely to hold it until 2013.
Question: Is any other film without distribution about to enter the Oscar race?
Answer: Shockingly, not really. Like "Imogene," most of the plethora of films picked up out of the fall fest trio seem set for a 2013 release..
Some examples: Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Behind The Pines," Scott McGehee and David Siegel's "What Maisie Knew," Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing," Neil Jordan's "Byzantium," Mike Newell's "Great Expectations," Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" and Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" were all picked up and all generally well-received. A lot of them haven't confirmed dates one way or another (though the most Oscar-friendly of them, "Pines," is a definite 2013), so we never know... But so far nothing seems to be coming out of TIFF looking like the next "The Wrestler," "Rabbit Hole" or "A Single Man."
Check out Indiewire's latest chart of Oscar predictions here.