Last night two big Oscar contenders premeired at the Toronto International Film Festival, which has become such fertile ground for aspiring Oscar films and performances. Two films that, at the moment, look like they might be outside the Best Picture race, may be in play though in several other categories, in this case particularly Best Actor. Neither film as a whole is getting the praise that say Gravity or 12 Years a Slave have been getting from critics, but their lead performers are getting plenty of praise.
First there is Matthew McConaughey, who I have been predicting for a while now to get in, as the HIV positive man who sets up an illegal club to get the expensive drugs. McConaughey has been on an upward trend last year and garnered a lot of Oscar buzz for his role in Magic Mike. This year, he is already on the radar for Mud, and I think that he will earn at least his first (potentially first two) Oscar nomination of his career. This category is tight with Forest Whitaker, Robert Redford, Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejifor, Michael B. Jordan, and now McConaughey and Elba already in the race, and not even including names like Dicaprio for Wolf of Wall Street and Christian Bale for American Hustle. But he has the kind of showy performance, and now the momentum after his revived career success to get in, at least according to the initial impressions of the film. Also on the list is Jared Leto, who apprently is fantastic as a transsexual charater.
Peter Debruge sums up the critical take really well in his review in Variety, writing:
"Any doubt that still exists in audiences’ minds as to Matthew McConaughey’s talents as an actor are permanently put to rest by “Dallas Buyers Club,” in which the 6-foot Texan star shed 38 pounds to play Ron Woodruff, the unlikely mastermind behind a scheme to circumvent the FDA by delivering unapproved treatments to AIDS patients during the late ’80s. But McConaughey’s is not the only performance of note in this riveting and surprisingly relatable true story, which co-stars Jared Leto as his transsexual accomplice. Rave reviews for both actors should draw mainstream auds to one of the year’s most vital and deserving indie efforts."
The other major contender to appear last night is Idris Elba, along with his co-star Naomie Harris, who are both getting good reviews for their performances. Critics have not been as kind to the film as a whole, although the consensus seems to be that it gets better as it goes along. Either way, with Weinstein behind it, the film really only needs enough solid reviews to gain Oscar traction, and I am pretty sure it is going to accomplish that.
David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter writes:
"While Elba’s gifts have been tapped in his television work on The Wire and Luther, few if any films have showcased the British actor’s range quite so expansively as Mandela. From an early scene with him in training as an amateur boxer he shows a rangy physicality, an absolute ease in his body that enhances his magnetism. That dynamic presence feeds the warmth as well as the authority and dignity of the man. He’s also uncannily like the real Mandela in his voice and accent work."
So far this festival season has not disappointed and we still have some big films coming up including August: Osage County whose cast has Oscar written all over it. As always, we'll have to wait and see...