The Toronto film festival winds up on the weekend. While no film broke out like last year’s triple whammy of “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” six showcase fellows in leading roles that could contend at the Oscars.
Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game“)
This newly crowned Emmy champ (“Sherlock: His Last Vow“) plays Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the German code known as Enigma and helped the Allies win WWII. The actor cracks the enigma that was Turing, a closeted homosexual, who is prosecuted for his sexuality in 1952 and committs suicide two years later.
Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“)
He dazzles as scientist Stephen Hawking in a turn that should be catnip for Oscar voters. In the first half of the film, the actor is all awkward charm as he woos Jane Wilde, the woman that would become his wife while the second half sees him immobilized, able to only make his thoughts known by furrowing his brow and blinking his eyes. The Academy Awards have rewarded the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”) and John Mills (“Ryan’s Daughter”) for playing people with such physical afflictions.
Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher“)
He is a revelation as the schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont who mentors Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and murders his older brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Carell’s comic persona is completely submerged into this complex character. Beyond his physical transformation, including a prominent proboscis, the actor’s stillness conveys the disturbed nature of the man.
Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner“)
For his work as the acclaimed 19th century lanscape painter J.M.W. Turner, this British veteran thespian won the Best Actor award at Cannes. This Mike Leigh film focuses on the tumultuous persoanl life of the artist who put his work before his wife, children and even mistresses.
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler“)
This one-time Oscar nominee (“Brokeback Mountain”) dropped 30 pounds and stayed out of the sun for months to play Lou Bloom, a young man living on the edge who becomes entangled in the seedy world of Los Angeles crime journalism. This dark tale by Dan Gilroy features his wife, Rene Russo, as a cutthroat news director who encourages Bloom to follow increasingly dangerous leads.
Bill Murray (“St. Vincent“)
At the center of this feel-good film, he gets both laughs and tears as Vincent de Van Nuys, a crusty curmudgeon whose heart is softened by Oliver, a 10-year-old (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) who moves in next door with his newly single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). While rookie writer/director Ted Melfi wrote the role for Jack Nicholson who worked with him on the script, it is hard to imagine anyone else doing this one as well as Murray.