Stars and Oscar Contenders Heading to the Toronto Film Festival This Year

There’s a whole lot of drama coming to the Toronto International Film Festival. The event, which will take place this September, has developed a reputation as an Oscar buzz-generator, giving an early boost to past films like 12 Years a Slave, Silver Linings Playbook and Slumdog Millionaire. It’s not surprise then that the the initial 2014 line-up (announced this morning) is filled with Academy-pleasing fare: A-list biopics, meaty dramas, and plenty of career re-inventions. Kate Winslet, Robert Downey Jr., Channing Tatum, Anna Kendrick, Denzel Washington, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Reese Witherspoon are among the many stars likely to make an appearance on the red carpet this fall. Here are some of the most exciting films on the docket.

Foxcatcher — Steve Carell and Channing Tatum explore new terrain in this psychological drama, for which Bennett Miller won the best director award at Cannes. It’s based on the true story of Olympic wrestlers Mark (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), whose relationship with their wealthy sponsor (Carell) threatens to destroy them both.

The Equalizer – Denzel Washington stars in this adaptation of the ‘80s TV drama, about a man who seeks to atone for his violent past by helping strangers in need. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), the film will have its world premiere at Toronto.

Black and White — A hot-button drama about racial tensions in a custody battle, this may be Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer’s bid to re-enter the Oscar race. Costner plays a widowed grandfather who is raising his bi-racial granddaughter; Spencer plays the girl’s grandmother, who decides to fight for custody.

Maps to the Stars — Director David Cronenberg’s searing satire of celebrity culture stars Julianne Moore as a washed-up actress seeking a comeback, Robert Pattinson as a limo driver who wants to be a screenwriter, and Carrie Fisher as herself.

This Is Where I Leave You — A high-wattage ensemble — including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda and Rose Byrne — anchors this comedy-drama about four grown siblings coping with their father’s death.

Wild – Reese Witherspoon produced and stars in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. This is one of two Witherspoon projects debuting at Toronto, the other being her Sudanese-refugee drama The Good Lie.

Cake — Jennifer Aniston re-embraces her dramatic side in this dark, quirky film about a chronic pain sufferer who becomes obsessed with investigating her friend’s suicide.

Whiplash — A young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) has his life changed  by a ruthless teacher (J.K. Simmons) in this drama, which arrives high on good buzz from Sundance and Cannes.

The Last Five Years — Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan star as a couple re-living their relationship through song in this adaptation of the beloved off-Broadway musical.

Rosewater — This film tells the true story of a journalist (Gael García Bernal) imprisoned by the Iranian government after an appearance on The Daily Show. The man behind the film has first-hand knowledge of the events: Jon Stewart, making his directorial debut.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics