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Toronto Film Festival’s 13 Top Oscar Hopefuls

Must-see movies include performances by Tom Hanks, Antonio Banderas and Meryl Streep

The prestigious 2019 Toronto International Film Festival has concluded, launching this season’s major competitors for Oscars and other top awards. Here are the 13 movies that stood out from the pack, and the dates when you can expect to see them in a theater near you.

Toronto International Film Festival Trailers

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Judy

(Director Rupert Goold) Renée Zellweger sings her heart out as the legendary Judy Garland in a series of sold-out London concerts in 1968 — the year before she died. She received not one, but two standing ovations on premiere night — and the audience only stopped applauding when Garland made them stop. An Oscar winner for 2003's Cold Mountain, Zellweger will almost certainly get her fourth nomination for this musical biopic. Sept. 27

The Laundromat

(Director Steven Soderbergh) Meryl Streep, 70, dons wigs and padding to play an average but stubborn housewife who stumbles across a global conspiracy after her husband (James Cromwell, 79) perishes in a horrible boating accident. With Gary Oldman, 61, and Antonio Banderas, 59, addressing the camera as the well-fed faces of international corporate fraud, the jaunty but uneven comedy may earn Streep a best actress nod, but it will go down in the books as Soderbergh lite. Sept. 27

Joker

(Director Todd Phillips) Hangover director Phillips teams with tortured artist Joaquin Phoenix (who turns 45 in October) for the Hamlet of Marvel villain origin stories. Phoenix's fourth Oscar nomination is inevitable for the role of Arthur Fleck, aka Joker, an abused Gotham clown who embraces chaos when he just can't get no love or respect — or psychiatric meds. Robert De Niro, 76, plays local talk-show host Murray Franklin in a plotline bound to recall Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (which also starred De Niro). Oct. 4

Pain and Glory

(Director Pedro Almodóvar) Reunited and it feels so good! Oscar winner Almodóvar (Talk to Her), 69, casts his muse Antonio Banderas, 59, as his alter ego, Salvador Mallo, a film director beset by back pain, migraines and addiction as he reaches career heights. This is the kind of mature musing, about taking one's measure, that is so rare in Hollywood. Banderas reaches new heights and won the best actor award at Cannes for the part. Penélope Cruz appears and appeals in flashbacks as the supportive mother who set the sensitive boy on the path to both pain and glory. Oct. 4

Jojo Rabbit

(Director Taika Waititi) This bold, ridiculous and controversial comedy, in the tradition of Springtime for Hitler, beat the Oscar-buzzed runners-up Marriage Story and Bong Joon-ho's Parasite to win the Toronto festival's Grolsch People's Choice Award. Fatherless Berlin boy Jojo (the delightfully expressive Roman Griffin Davis) is in constant conversation with his imaginary friend Adolf (a devilishly appealing Waititi, who writes, directs and costars). Beloved by his stylish, mysterious mother (Scarlett Johansson in a free-spirited dance of a performance better than her role in Marriage Story), Jojo finds his humanity as bombs burst in air along with the führer's genocidal dreams. Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, 50, lays down a brilliantly zany and sweet supporting performance as the perpetually demoted Capt. Klenzendorf. Oct. 18

Dolemite Is My Name

(Director Craig Brewer) Comeback king Eddie Murphy, 58, brings down the house — and courts an Oscar — in this funky biopic about the Ed Wood of blaxploitation, Rudy Ray Moore, best known for his character Dolemite in three films. With its danceable soundtrack, corny jokes, killer cast (Wesley Snipes, 57, Chris Rock, 54, Keegan-Michael Key, 48, Snoop Dogg, 47) and paunchy underdog hero who works in an L.A. record shop while dreaming of glory, this movie is as American as shrimp ‘n’ grits. The sexy songstress Lady Reed (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who Moore discovers in a backwater juke joint after she decks her cheating husband, gives Murphy his best foil in a groovy, entertaining film. Oct. 25

Motherless Brooklyn

(Director Edward Norton) It's like Chinatown, only set in 1950s New York, where a detective with Tourette's syndrome (Edward Norton, 50) yelps, twitches and hunts the killer of his beloved boss (Bruce Willis, 64), encountering along the way a chilling Robert Moses-like developer (Alec Baldwin, 61), a disgraced, haunted engineer (Willem Dafoe, 64), some cool Harlem jazz clubs and a sinister conspiracy whose tentacles are everywhere. Nov. 1


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The Report

(Director Scott Z. Burns) Burns (who also penned The Informant! and The Laundromat), 57, wrote and directed this All the President's Men-like whistle-blower drama. The fact-based story follows Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver), who's investigating the CIA's post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. Fascinating, if a little chalky, with Driver doing the pouty hangdog serious thing. But the scene stealer is a revelatory Annette Bening, 61, as shrewd, complicated political animal Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein. Nov. 15

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

(Director Marielle Heller) Can you say “best supporting actor?” Tom Hanks, 63, dons the red cardigan of TV's Mister Rogers and brings him to vivid life. Rogers becomes the father confessor to a messed-up magazine journo (The Americans’ Matthew Rhys), who finds the meaning of life in Rogers’ backyard. Based on writer Tom Junod's 1998 Esquire profile of Rogers, with Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) at the helm, this is a feel-good movie rich with wisdom, compassion and common sense. Nov. 22

The Two Popes

(Director Fernando Meirelles) In a fact-based film that imagines private conversations, Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins, 80) and his successor Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce, 72) — a conservative and a reformer — meet to discuss the future of the Catholic Church. Wise, uplifting and sharply written and directed by The Constant Gardener's Meirelles, 63, the film navigates difficult issues of sexuality, materialism, pedophilia and the soul of the church as the men dodge and weave in their cassocks. Expect Oscar nominations for Pryce and Hopkins, plus for best picture, screenplay, costumes, production design and score. Nov. 27

Marriage Story

(Director Noah Baumbach) Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha), 50, mines his divorce from Los Angeleno Jennifer Jason Leigh, 57, in the story of New Yorkers Adam Driver (Martin Scorsese called him “the greatest actor of his generation") and Scarlett Johansson. It's an ugly-cry-and-laugh dramedy whose scenes from a marriage include a fight over the husband's $625,000 MacArthur “Genius Award.” Grownups hog the supporting roles: Laura Dern, 52, Ray Liotta, 64, and Alan Alda, 83, as divorce attorneys, and a scene-stealing Julie Haggerty, 64, as the mother of the former bride. Dec. 6

The Personal History of David Copperfield

(Director Armando Iannucci) A jolly, glorious, humane reinvention of Dickens by Iannucci, 55 (Veep, In the Loop). Dev Patel stars as the posh son, cast off by his evil stepfather, who encounters Tilda Swinton, 58, Hugh Laurie, 60, Peter Capaldi, 61, Gwendoline Christie and Ben Wishaw in London. The picaresque plot meanders, but when it finally lands, it achieves a contagious euphoria. TBA 2020

Lina From Lima

(Director María Paz González) This indie gem about a Peruvian housekeeper (Emilia Ossandon) working in Chile to send money back to her son is the counterpoint to last year's Roma. She struggles for identity in a prosperous society where she's all but invisible. It's a fantasy musical, with Ossandon breaking into eye-popping, extravagant, brilliantly costumed numbers that reflect her rich fantasy life. A star is born. TBA

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