TIFF preview: Is Best Picture Oscar winner among these films?

Oscar pundits are packing the theaters at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), in search of the next Best Picture champ. They are mindful that eight of the last nine winners of the top Academy Award unspooled here (the exception was 2014’s “Birdman”).

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The festival opened on Thursday with the world premiere of Antoine Fuqua‘s remake of “The Magnificent Seven.” This redo of the classic 1961 Western reunites the helmer with “Training Day” co-stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Washington won his second Oscar for that 2001 cop drama while Hawke reaped his only bid for acting.

Other films set to debut include a slew based on true stories, which are catnip to Oscar voters, a la last year’s champ “Spotlight,” a film that began its march to the Dolby here in Toronto. Among those docudramas hoping to repeat its success are Peter Berg’s “Deepwater Horizon,” a chronicle of the worst-ever oil rig disaster that reunites him with “Lone Survivor” star Mark WahlbergGarth Davis’ “Lion,” with Dev Patel as a man who uses Google Earth to find his way back home two decades after being separated from his family; and Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a riveting portrayal of the notorious whistleblower Edward Snowden

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Among those films already seen elsewhere is Kenneth Longergan‘s “Manchester by the Sea,” an intense domestic drama that was a smash at Sundance and leads our early Oscar predictions for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Casey Affleck), Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges) and Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams).

Also making headlines at Sundance was Nate Parker‘s “The Birth of a Nation,” which recounts a pivotal moment in American history — the 1831 slave uprising led by Nat Turner — and was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $17 million. In recent weeks, the film has been overshadowed by reports detailing Parker’s 1999 acquittal for rape. Reaction at Friday’s back-to-back public screenings will be telling as to its awards prospects.

Jeff Nichols‘ “Loving,” started building buzz at Cannes for the touching performances of Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in a 1967 Supreme Court that overturned state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

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Damien Chazelle‘s “La La Land,” a modern day musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, won over audiences at both the Venice and Telluride filmfests as did Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age story that features strong supporting performances by Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali.

Five-time Oscar also-ran Amy Adams headlines both Denis Villeneuve‘s “Arrival,” a sci-fi epic that played well at both Venice and Telluride, and Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals,” a sensation at Venice that is a showcase for Adams and one-time Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal.

Isabelle Huppert, who has reaped a record 13 Cesar bids in her native France, could earn her first Oscar bid for Paul Veerhoven‘s “Elle,” a psychological thriller that wowed in Cannes. This Gallic icon also headlines two other fest entries, the drama “Things to Come” and the romance “Souvenir.”

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