There are any number of hopefuls in this year's TIFF lineup, but some films have better chances than others of breaking through. A positive response — enthusiastic crowds, strong early reviews — can boost a film's awards trajectory. A negative response can mean a failure to launch.
What movies might be this year's beneficiaries? Here's a look at the promise of some of the high-profile titles playing at the festival.
'The Theory of Everything'
Premise: Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (
Pedigree: Director James Marsh directed the Oscar-winning documentary "
Best case: Redmayne shoots to the top of the lead actor field with costar Jones finally earning mainstream acclaim.
Worst case: Critics spend more effort debunking the film's veracity (the couple's marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce) than they do praising its quality.
'The Imitation Game'
Premise: Brilliant, asocial mathematician Alan Turing (
Pedigree: Period, Anglo-centric movie from the
Best case: Crowd-pleaser cheered by audiences; critics respond to film's measured handling of Turing's personal story of being a closeted gay man.
Worst case: More "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" than "The King's Speech" with star Cumberbatch generating buzz but the movie failing to catch on.
Premise: Cranky old-timer (
Pedigree: Murray has just one Oscar nomination ("Lost in Translation") to show for a career filled with iconic performances. Can you say "overdue"?
Best case: Movie's third-act emotional roundhouse connects, leaving audiences awash in tears and Murray accepting accolades.
Worst case: Reviews aren't much better than the last time Murray took a movie to Toronto (
Premise: Troubled woman (
Best case: All right, all right, all right! Witherspoon becomes a regular on the awards-season dinner circuit, as does
Worst case: Witherspoon is seen as too old and not entirely convincing in flashback scenes highlighting character's drug-addicted past.
'Men, Women & Children'
Premise: Men, women and, yes, children deal with Internet angst in this dramedy about the high-tech ways people relate (or fail to) these days.
Pedigree: Co-writer and director
Best case: Movie hailed as Reitman's return to form after last year's Toronto misfire
Worst case: Online reaction toxic. Worst. Movie. Ever.
'Black and White'
Premise: A custody battle between an attorney (
Pedigree: Costner and Spencer both have Oscars; director
Best case: Strong reviews propel Lionsgate to finalize distribution deal and get behind an awards-season push for the film and its actors.
Worst case: Movie's handling of race will bear extra scrutiny in wake of Ferguson, Mo., events. Can it handle that weight?
Premise: Jaded L.A. lawyer (
Pedigree: Downey and Duvall have eight Oscar nominations between them, with Duvall winning 20 years ago for "Tender Mercies."
Best case: Critics welcome Downey as a prodigal son returning from the Comic-Con stratosphere to high-end drama. He and Duvall join the Oscar conversation.
Worst case: Too Grisham-y to be taken seriously. When's that next "Avengers" movie, again?