Oscar hopefuls emerge as Toronto hits midpoint

Tue Sep 14, 2010 5:46pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Film Festival may have yet to yield this year's "Slumdog Millionaire" hidden gem, but as it hits its midpoint, Colin Firth's stuttering king, Natalie Portman's dark ballerina and Danny Boyle's graphic survival film are stirring Oscar buzz.

In a year that has produced a dearth of critical successes, industry watchers are eyeing the fall film slate -- unveiled at the Venice, Telluride, and Toronto festivals in the past two weeks -- to provide a kick-start to the industry.

Film distributors love the Toronto festival because it tests out films in front of large public audiences, perhaps offering momentum to a film that may have slid under critics' radar at other festivals.

"I think Toronto is a great place to launch. I've launched a lot of films here over the years and some of them have gone on to be rewarded," actor Kevin Spacey, in town to promote the premiere of "Casino Jack", told Reuters.

While perhaps not under that radar, Darren Aronofsky's ballet-themed "Black Swan" has gained momentum since its initial screening in Venice, with critics in both cities predicting Oscar attention for star Natalie Portman.

Among Toronto premieres, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech", starring Colin Firth as Britain's King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, has received perhaps the most buzz.

"This movie has best picture and best actor nominations written all over it," Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog wrote. "And maybe best screenplay, best director and best supporting actor too."

Awards chatter also surrounds "127 Hours", which stars James Franco as U.S. hiker Aron Ralston, who had to take extreme measure to free himself from a boulder that pinned him while hiking in 2003.   Continued...

<p>Actress Natalie Portman listens during a news conference for the film "Black Swan" at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>