So far the Toronto Film Festival has not mined any Oscar riches that weren’t already revealed at other festivals.
Tonight’s public screening of Working Title’s “The Theory of Everything” may change that. But so far TIFF world premieres “The Judge,” “St. Vincent,” “The Reach,” “Boychoir,” “The Drop,” “Men, Women & Children” and “While We’re Young,” while they all offer certain pleasures, are unlikely Oscar pictures. They’re indie crowdpleasers: B-movies, indie genre flicks or relationship dramas.
The one dark horse Oscar candidate is Dan Gilroy’s Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle “Nightcrawler,” which allows the pale, gaunt actor to transform himself physically into Lou Bloom, a dangerous sociopathic creep in the vein of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver.” Chasing after visceral and bloody video footage of fires, car crashes, and murder victims, Gyllenhaal’s nightcrawler is magnetic and charming, a loser who wants to be a winner and doesn’t care what he does to get there. And Bloom’s dalliance with a desperate-for-ratings TV news director (an excellent Renee Russo) displays the ugly underside of today’s local newscasts. “Lou is the coyote who looked me in the eye at night,” said Gyllenhaal at the Q & A, video below.
If Open Road can ride top-tier reviews to box office success—if “Nightcrawler” can be perceived as a breakthrough winner of a movie that is more than a genre exercise–then Gyllenhaal has a shot in a very competitive Best Actor race. He’s respected and liked. He’s been nominated once, for Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.”