A week after being the talk of Telluride, "12 Years a Slave" had its official world premiere at the Toronto film festival on Friday and confirmed its status as a leading Oscar contender for Best Picture as well as 10 other categories.
TIFF has screened the last six top Oscar winners -- including Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) -- and that streak could continue with Steve McQueen's biopic based on the extraordinary life of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), born a free man in New York but kidnapped in the nation's capital in 1841 and sold into slavery. Both director and actor are all but certain to pick up their first Oscar nominations.
Brad Pitt, one of the producers of the picture which opens Oct. 18, has a small role as one of Northup's benefactors. While he is unlikely to reap an acting bid, he would be part of the team awarded the Oscar if the picture takes the top prize. That would give him one statue to Angie's two -- she won supporting actress in 1999 for "Girl, Interrupted" and is to be feted at November's Governors Awards with the Hersholt honorary Oscar.
Michael Fassbender, who reunites with McQueen for a third time, almost steals the picture as a cruel plantation owner. The director and actor first worked together in 2008 on "Hunger," the story of IRA martyr Bobby Sands. Their second collaboration -- "Shame," a raw tale about a sex addict -- won Fassbender a slew of critics prizes in 2011 but was snubbed at the Oscars. He is already in second place on our Best Supporting Actor chart.
Expect newcomer Lupita Nyongo to rise up the ranks of Supporting Actress for her pivotal part as a slave whose suffering becomes the focal point of the film.
Also likely to be first-time Oscar nominees are:
scripter John Ridley ("Red Tails") for adapting Northup's autobiography;
cinematographer Sean Bobbit who also lensed McQueen's first two films;
cutter Joe Walker who likewise edited the director's first two features;
and production designer Adam Stockhausen ("Moonrise Kingdom") for recreating the look of the antebellum South;
Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer ("The Lion King") is likely to reap his 10th bid while five-time contender Patricia Norris is poised to pick up her first nomination since 1989 ("Sunset") for her period cosutmes.
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Last year, "Argo" became the 15th Best Picture Oscar winner that told a true story. The others were: "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962); "A Man for All Seasons" (1966); "Patton" (1970); "Chariots of Fire" (1981); "Gandhi" (1982), "Amadeus" (1984); "Out of Africa" (1985); "The Last Emperor" (1987); "Schindler's List" (1993); "Braveheart" (1995); "A Beautiful Mind" (2001); and "The King's Speech" (2010).
For the 2013 Oscar race, one of the strongest contenders is "American Hustle." The story is set in the late 1970s and early 1980s during the FBI sting operation known as Abscam. Previous Academy Award nominee David O. Russell directed and co-wrote the film, which stars past Oscar winners Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence plus Oscar nominees Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner.
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