With the last gasp of the Toronto International Film Festival now upon us (it officially closes Sunday,) the Oscar race has become further defined, particularly with input from Venice and Telluride. Until that fall fest trifecta, only IFC’s summer phenomenon Boyhood and perhaps Sony Pictures Classics’ Foxcatcher  could realistically be thought to be in serious contention for Best Picture consideration. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has been mentioned in some quarters, but that movie came out in March, and when was the last time a March release made the list of Best Picture nominees?

But with these early fall fests, Hollywood has trotted out at least three additional films that seem like sure shots to add to the list: Focus Features’ Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything, with certain lead actor and actress bids for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones; The Weinstein Company’s very fine The Imitation Game, which also promises to put Benedict Cumberbatch (playing troubled genius Alan Turing) in the hunt for lead actor and his co-star Keira Knightley a near-certainty in the Supporting Actress contest; and Fox Searchlight’s Birdman, which started this all off by opening Venice and then slaying Telluride. Although it skipped Toronto in favor of a later berth closing the New York Film Festival, this very New York movie is likely to be a favorite of the actors and directors branches, and they can push it into Best Picture contention. Michael Keaton’s tricky performance should land him a first-ever Oscar nom for lead actor, and in support there’s a good chance for Edward Norton and Emma Stone, both exemplary….

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