Thu, 12 Sep 2013 11:45:00 GMT | By Reuters

'12 Years' leads strong performances at Toronto film fest

Toronto International Film Festival critics wowed by Steve McQueen's latest film '12 Years a Slave', starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender

Steve McQueen, Michael Fassbender (© Reuters)

Toronto: Judging by some early reviews, Steve McQueen's '12 Years a Slave' will sweep the Oscars, Golden Globes and perhaps even win an honorary Olympic medal, but the film is one of just many that has impressed critics at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

And while films that generate Oscar buzz in September often fade by the time the awards are given out in February, Toronto-screened movies like '12 Years', 'Gravity', 'Dallas Buyers Club' and 'August: Osage County' look like solid bets for awards consideration.

Toronto, along with recently wrapped festivals in Venice and Telluride, Colorado, traditionally launches movie awards season and industry pros gather here to build buzz for their films.

Some of the big titles usually disappoint, such as the unwieldy 'Cloud Atlas' last year.

But judging by the critical reception at the midpoint of this year's festival, the competition for both awards and box office success over the next few months could be tight.

"I would say it's been very good overall," said Pete Hammond, columnist for website Deadline Hollywood.

Critics have been nearly falling over each other to praise '12 Years a Slave', based on an 1853 memoir of a free black man sold into slavery.

Adam B. Vary of Buzzfeed called it "the most emotionally powerful film I have seen in a decade" and predicted multiple Academy Award wins, while Kyle Buchanan, reviewer at New York Magazine's platform, suggested the academy "notify the engraver."

The Guardian's Paul MacInnes was more circumspect, resisting award predictions, but giving the film five stars out of five and calling it "not just a great film but a necessary one."

Hammond said the movie was one of many that stood out not just for the finished product, but for its performances, including lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in the role of a slave owner.

But he said the level of hype the film is receiving can end up hampering both its box office success and Oscar hopes.

"It's a small film that needs to find an audience and I think if you go in thinking it's 'Citizen Kane' or some great classic already, it may hurt it," he said.

If the film does lose momentum, however, there appear to be plenty of others to take its place.

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