TIFF 2013: Charting promise, potential pitfalls of contenders

TIFF 2013: Charting promise, potential pitfalls of contenders
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock at the Venice Film Festival premiere of "Gravity." (Ettore Ferrari / EPA)

To find an Oscar best picture winner that didn’t play at the Toronto International Film Festival, you have to go back to 2006 and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.” (The last three winners — “Argo,” “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech” — also screened at Telluride just before their Toronto appearances, which should have the filmmakers behind the already acclaimed historical drama “12 Years a Slave” feeling pretty good right about now as it heads from its Telluride triumph to Toronto this week.)

In addition to "12 Years," high-profile movies playing at Toronto include Alfonso Cuaron's harrowing space survival tale, "Gravity"; the Nelson Mandela biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"; and two other fact-based stories: "The Fifth Estate," a look at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; and "Dallas Buyers Club," the true story of Ron Woodroof, the homophobic hellraiser who started a medication smuggling ring after being diagnosed as HIV positive.

Also on tap: the grim child abduction crime-thriller "Prisoners"; Jason Reitman's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel, "Labor Day"; and Tracy Letts' own adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "August: Osage County." (The latter title stars two lead actress Oscar winners, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.)

How might these eight festival films fare? We put together a chart to examine the Academy Awards promise and potential pitfalls of these prominent contenders. We're thinking "best-case" for each and every one because that's just the kind of glass-is-half-full gang we are here at the Gold Standard.