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Oscars 2012: Where We Stand Now

With the Toronto International Film Festival coming to a close this past weekend, the fall movie season is officially in full gear. What's so interesting about this time of year is how quickly the wind changes, so to speak. Around Labor Day, it appears as if there are 40 films or more that could be potential Oscar contenders. A few short weeks later, however, and the field dwindles down significantly. At this point in the season, it might not be clear what films are on top, but we know some of the films we'll be talking about come February, and we definitely can say which ones will likely die a quiet box office death. Taking a cue from the stock market, here are some of the major fall films and whether we're buying or selling their Oscar chances:

The Artist: Buy
Make no mistake: The Artist will be in the discussion all season long. The silent ode to old Hollywood has all the makings of an Academy favorite (Okay, except for words). That being said, one has to wonder if the buzz peaked too early. It was the favorite to take home the top prize at TIFF, but the award instead went to a little-known Lebanese film—Where Do We Go Now?

A Dangerous Method: Sell
David Cronenberg's latest got a chilly reception in both Venice and Telluride before screening above the border, and even though Cronenberg is Toronto's favorite son (his Eastern Promises won top prize there in 2007), no one seems to love his latest. Keira Knightley has some received some positive notices, but that's about it.

The Descendants: Buy
Alexander Payne last appeared at Toronto in 2004 with Sideways. The film went on to earn five Oscar nominations (and one win for Best Adapted Screenplay). This film, starring George Clooney, is probably the surest bet for a Best Picture nomination so far this year. Everyone loves it, with many calling it Payne's best film.

The Ides of March: Sell
This one is definitely still in the running for a Best Picture nomination, and it should also perform pretty well as far as box office goes. But many were pegging it as a front-runner before the season began, and I think it's safe to call its chances of winning the top Oscar prize dead.

Moneyball: Buy
This weekend will be very important for Moneyball's Oscar chances. It's the kind of movie that will need box office help if it wants to find itself in the big race. But the reviews will be there. Everyone loves Brad Pitt's performance as a baseball general manager who tries to build a World Series-winning team on a budget. Expect a Best Actor nomination for him. And though a Best Picture nomination isn't a guarantee, it's definitely a possibility.

Shame: Buy
This film has no chance at a Best Picture nomination. None whatsoever. It's a (supposedly very graphic) character study about a man with a serious sex addiction. But buzz for lead actor Michael Fassbender is so strong, one can't help but think he could pull an Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream and earn a nomination for a film that would otherwise be totally ignored by Oscar voters for being too risque. 

War Horse, J. Edgar, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and others: Buy, buy, buy
The biggest winners coming out of Toronto, oddly enough, are the potential Oscar films that didn't bother coming! What the victory of Where Do We Go Now? means is that no Oscar film really wowed audiences the way films like The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, and American Beauty did in years past. No idea if these films will actually live up to the hype, but if one does, it just might be the Best Picture frontrunner by default.


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