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Oscar season starts in Canada


On Feb. 22 of this year, we were treated  to an Academy Awards telecast that did not  disappoint.
However, it has been a little over six  months since the prestigious ceremony, with  Oscar
worthy films released being few and  far between. Fortunately, the discussions  surrounding the Academy Awards have  begun once again at the 37th annual Toronto  Film Festival, which kicked off on Sept. 5.  This 10
day festival is widely perceived  as the unofficial start to the Academy  Awards season; a period of time between  now and the 2014 Oscars where the best  movies of the year vie for the consideration  of the Academy at high profile film festivals  and award ceremonies.
This year, “12 Years a Slave” and  “Gravity” clearly separated themselves  as Best Motion Picture of the Year  frontrunners at the showcase, planting the  seeds for what is sure to be a heated debate.  “12 Years a Slave” is based on an  autobiography of the same name by  Solomon Northup. The harrowing true story  begins with Northup, a free man in New  York, being duped, drugged, kidnapped from  his family and sold into slavery in the South.  The depiction of Northup’s 12 horrific years  took Toronto by storm with a memorable  showing.

“This 10-day festival is widely perceived as the unofficial start to the Academy Awards season”

Guardian Film Editor Catherine Shoard  wrote, “’12 Years a Slave’ was met on Friday  evening [Sept. 6] with an overwhelming  reaction: gasps, sobs, a smattering of walkouts  at particularly brutal moments, and  finally, a prolonged standing ovation.”
The fi lm also took home the Blackberry  People’s Choice award. Four out of the  last fi ve winners of this went on to be  best picture nominees with two (2008’s  “Slumdog Millionare” and 2010’s “The  King’s Speech”) claiming the top honor.  “At a festival that has shown so many  brilliant fi lms, I cannot be more thrilled  to receive this award,” director Steve  McQueen said in a statement to the press.  “I am deeply grateful to all the people  who have worked on this film, and their  amazing work has been recognized.”  “Prisoners”, a thriller starring Hugh  Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, took third  place in the People’s Choice vote.  Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” continued to  impress at Toronto after strong showings  in the Telluride and Venice film festivals.  The visual spectacle follows two astronauts  (played by George Clooney and Sandra  Bullock) adrift in space after an accident.
“A popcorn movie of breathtaking  technical achievement and surprising  emotional warmth, ‘Gravity,’ like ‘12 Years  a Slave’ deserves to be distinguished  as a masterpiece,” Ann Hornady of The  Washington Post wrote.
“…both use image, sound, and silence  to plunge the audience into an otherwise  unattainable world, giving viewers a new  visual rhetoric for ideas and experiences  that were heretofore abstract and distant.”  “Gravity” will release in theaters on  October 4 and “12 Years a Slave” will bow in  limited fashion on Oct. 18.
With the Toronto Film Festival now in  the books, the Oscars speculation now turns  to the 51st annual New York Film Festival,  which runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 13.
The Tom Hanks thriller “Captain  Phillips” will open the festival and Ben  Stiller’s “The Secret life of Walter Mitty” will  screen on Oct. 5. Spike Jonze’s “Her” will  serve as the closer. All of these films will be  premiered to the public for the first time at  the festival.

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