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Toronto's top 10 Oscar contenders

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I’m headed up north tomorrow for the Toronto International Film Festival, which usually manages to clarify the awards season a bit. Though many of this year’s potential big guns (How Do You Know, True Grit, Love and Other Drugs, The Fighter, The Social Network) are skipping the festival, there are still a bunch of possible nominees screening. Now that I’ve seen 20 of the Toronto entries (a couple of which I’m not allowed to say), here are my top 10 films to look out for.

The King’s Speech The true story of King George VI (Colin Firth) and his struggle to overcome an embarrassing stutter, the Weinstein Co.’s delightful and ultimately moving drama (directed by John Adams‘ Tom Hooper) is a showcase for Firth, who will easily become a back-to-back Best Actor nominee. I expect the movie to snag a Best Picture slot as well.

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman’s collaboration received raves out of Venice last week. Portman seems like the best bet to challenge The Kids Are All Right‘s Annette Bening for Best Actress.

Hereafter This one’s a mystery, and I’ve been guilty of overhyping Clint Eastwood dramas sight unseen in the past. But any movie that earns comparisons to Babel (and costars Matt Damon to boot) piques my interest.

Rabbit Hole I’m hearing good things about Nicole Kidman’s performance as a grieving mother in John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of the 2007 play. The role won Cynthia Nixon a Tony so it clearly has potential. As of now the film has no distributor, but it seems like one of the hottest acquisition properties of the festival.

Blue Valentine It’s been four months since I saw this movie in Cannes and I still can’t shake it. Finally more critics and pundits will get to see the recut version (which is shorter than what showed at Sundance). If there’s any justice, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams will each earn their second career nods.

Another Year I’m also curious to see what North American audiences think of Mike Leigh’s latest look at everyday Londoners, particularly Lesley Manville’s arresting performance as an oft-drunk receptionist. She’s another reason why the Best Actress race seems especially crowded this year.

127 Hours Conversely, there’s not too much to talk about in the Best Actor category so far. But since James Franco’s dominating performance (directed by Danny Boyle) was very well received at Telluride, he could score his first nomination after certainly coming close for Milk.

The Town Ben Affleck’s testosterone-heavy bank heist drama is rightly being compared to The Departed and it delivers in every department: acting, writing, and directing. It’s coming out awfully early in the fall (Sept. 17) but has the necessary early reviews to earn a spot in the conversation. If it does some business, it could last.

Biutiful Perhaps Cannes’ most polarizing film, it still features an undeniably strong performance by Javier Bardem, who’s clearly an Academy favorite. It’s dark as hell, but I’d never count him out.

Waiting for “Superman” The already hot documentary race will get a jolt when Davis Guggenheim’s emotional look at a bunch of low-income students navigating the charter-school lottery system plays its second major festival. It’s a must see whether you have kids or not.

I’ll have festival updates throughout the next week, so check back here, or follow me on Twitter (@davekarger).