<p>Nicole Kidman in &quot;Grace of Monaco.&quot;</p>

Nicole Kidman in "Grace of Monaco."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Nicole Kidman opens the princess diaries in international 'Grace of Monaco' teaser

Will the Weinsteins' biopic attract the Academy's attention?

Well, it's safe to say we can already strike one of this year's princess biopics from the list of Oscar contenders, with Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Diana," starring Naomi Watts, having been unveiled the week before last to across-the-board critical derision in the UK, where it opens on Friday. I have yet to see it myself, but have been assured even by more temperate colleagues that its chances of recovery are hovering around nil. I guess we now know why it skipped Toronto.

But can Watts' compatriot (and best pal) Nicole Kidman fare any better with her take on an iconic 20th-century royal? 

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<p>Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in &quot;12 Years a Slave.&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Roundup: Putting the brakes on '12 Years a Slave'

Also: Is the film made to engender white guilt?

The Toronto Film Festival always showers Oscar buzz on a critical and audience favorite, but I can't remember the last time a film was quite so aggressively elevated to frontrunner status as "12 Years a Slave" -- which had many rational critics and pundits going so far as to declare the Best Picture race over before it's begun. So just wait a minute, says Mark Harris: "It's a long road to the Oscars, and even if '12 Years a Slave' ends up crossing the finish line first, no movie makes it from September to February without hitting some speed bumps — other movies, backlash, op-ed page harrumphing, hype fatigue." "Argo" stealthily weathered those obstacles after emerging as the ordained frontrunner at Toronto last year; will "Slave" do the same? [Grantland

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<p>Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen at the TIFF premiere of &quot;12 Years A&nbsp;Slave&quot;&nbsp;last week.</p>

Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen at the TIFF premiere of "12 Years A Slave" last week.

Credit: AP Photo

'12 Years a Slave' wins the 2013 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Award

'Silver Linings Playbook' won in 2012

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" took another step on the long road to Oscar by winning the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award. The critically acclaimed adaptation of Solomon Northup's harrowing true story received a standing ovation after both its Telluride Film Festival and Toronto premieres and was long seen as the frontrunner for this year's honor. The win should immediately assist Fox Searchlight, who produced and is distributing the picture, in convincing moviegoers and Academy members who might be concerned with the brutality depicted in the film to actually go see it.

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Best and Worst of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

Best and Worst of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

What shined north of the border this year?

Overall, this year's edition of the Toronto International Film Festival delivered a very strong slate of films. While some major titles such as Cannes players "All is Lost," "Nebraska" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" skipped a repeat at the traditional awards season-friendly event, TIFF could still claim the debuts of "Dallas Buyers Club," "August: Osage County" and quickly-picked-up acquisitions "Can A Song Save Your Life?" and "Bad Words," among others. There were reports that festival organizers were annoyed (like their Venice peers) that films such as "Prisoners," "Gravity" and "12 Years A Slave" all screened at Telluride first, but that didn't diminish the love from the Toronto audiences who saw them. In fact, those films were the talk of the festival even days after their Toronto premieres.

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<p>Waad Mohammed in &quot;Wadjda.&quot;</p>

Waad Mohammed in "Wadjda."

Credit: Sony Classics

Saudi Arabia makes history with 'Wadjda' in foreign Oscar race, Dutch enter 'Borgman'

Looks like the race might have a new frontrunner

The other day, I described the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar as being wide open. That’s still true, but I wonder if at least one nomination slot might now be emphatically spoken for. For in submitting Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” to the Academy, Saudi Arabia – despite never having taken part in the process before – have alighted on both a film and an accompanying narrative that voters could well find irresistible.

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<p>Woody&nbsp;Allen makes his one and only appearance at the Oscars in&nbsp;March of 2002.</p>

Woody Allen makes his one and only appearance at the Oscars in March of 2002.

Credit: AP Photo

Woody Allen to receive HFPA's Cecil B. DeMille Award

Woody Allen to receive HFPA's Cecil B. DeMille Award

Woody Allen never does awards shows. When he popped up at the Oscars in 2002 in the wake of 9/11, it was a huge surprise, and a welcome one. He eschews this kind of stuff and has never been in attendance to accept any of the four Oscars or two Golden Globes he's received throughout his career.

So it's a little bit of a surprise that he's been bestowed -- however deservedly -- with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award. After all, the organization would surely like him to be on hand to actually accept the lifetime achievement honor. It would be a little strange for a big fete without the guy in the wings to accept and give a speech, etc. Nevertheless, whether he shows up or not, it's an inarguable tip of the hat.

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Jake Gyllenhaal compares the 'Prisoners' cast to playing on the Yankees

Jake Gyllenhaal compares the 'Prisoners' cast to playing on the Yankees

Obviously not this season's team

TORONTO - Like everyone, actors make good choices and bad choices in their career. At this moment, Jake Gyllenhaal is working on a string of great choices. Since the back-to-back 2010 misfires "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Love & Other Drugs," he has starred in the well-respected box office hit "Source Code," earned critical acclaim for the surprise success "End of Watch" and should have one of the biggest hits of his career when the ensemble thriller "Prisoners" opens later this month. Plus, he recently took a major creative chance with "Enemy," an experimental drama he shot with his director Denis Villeneuve before they collaborated on "Prisoners." Both "Enemy" and "Prisoners" debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where the Oscar nominee sat down to talk, mostly, about the latter.

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<p>Scarlett Johansson in&nbsp;&quot;Don&nbsp;Jon&quot;</p>

Scarlett Johansson in "Don Jon"

Credit: Relativity Media

On the resurgence of Scarlett Johansson

Between 'Don Jon' and 'Under the Skin,' the star is partying like it's 2003

Fun fact: it's 10 years ago to the day that Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" went on limited release in Los Angeles, mere days after doing the Venice-Telluride-Toronto stretch that was a rarer feat for prestige films then than it is now. In some respects, it does feel that long since we first laid eyes on Coppola's woozy Tokyo kinda-love story, which is not to say it doesn't hold up rather beautifully. The director's three subsequent films, albeit variations on a consistent theme, exhibit an arc of wearied, cooled maturity, while indie film festivals are still awash with atmospheric imitators that may or may not know the source of Coppola's own cribbing. 

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<p>Julia Roberts at a press conference for &quot;August:&nbsp;Osage County&quot;&nbsp;at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.</p>

Julia Roberts at a press conference for "August: Osage County" at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Contender Countdown: It's already hard out there for a best picture player

New Feature: Rank the top 10 best picture contenders as you see them

It's going to be one of those years, a season where so much is at stake that the back-biting begins very, very early. In fact, too early. We saw signs of these behind-the-scenes shenanigans last season when "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Les Misérables" lost their legit Best Picture-contending statuses in pressure-filled PR takedowns. It's only September and competing consultants and publicists already appear to be trying to influence the media to do their bidding. A few disparaging quotes heard across Toronto…

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<p>Ray&nbsp;Dolby was 80</p>

Ray Dolby was 80

Credit: Dolby Laboratories

Tech Support: Oscar-winning sound pioneer Ray Dolby leaves behind a rich legacy

The audio legend passed away today at the age of 80

Those entering the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 at the 86th annual Academy Awards will pass under the marquee named after a man who changed the art and science of movies, a man whose thumbprint is on the very form itself, a man who passed away earlier today at the age of 80.

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