"Slumdog Millionaire." "Brokeback Mountain." "Precious." What do these flicks have in common -- aside from their respective Oscar wins?
All of them -- and countless other award winners -- began their journey at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Festival reliably provides a slew of Oscar contenders, and this year was no exception. North of the border, awards fodder ("The King's Speech," "The Town," pictured left) and potential crossover hits ("Dirty Girl," "Beginners"), played over the course of the festival, with stars and directors in tow.
Below are our top nine picks for movies that garnered the most buzz. Expect to hear a lot more on these films in the months to come.
9. 'The Town'
Ben Affleck wowed critics and audiences with his directorial debut "Gone Baby Gone," and proves that film's success was no fluke with his second effort, "The Town." Ben takes center stage as Doug MacRay, a bank robber who falls for one of his hostages, jeopardizing his safety and livelihood in the process. "The Town" reveals Affleck's knack for thrilling action-- that he also manages to elicit stellar performances from his massive ensemble cast (Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively) is enough to forgive Affleck for the ill-fated "Gigli." Well, almost.
Welsh actor Craig Roberts gives one of TIFF's most memorable performances in Richard Ayoade's affecting and hilarious "Submarine." Roberts plays Oliver Tate, a whip-smart, morbid teen trying to get through high school intact. If this sounds like your average coming-of-age story, it isn't. Ayoade, a well-known comedian back in England, also penned the script. He laces his screenplay with sly observations on growing up, falling in love, and dealing with loss. "Submarine" highlights his striking visual style – further evidence that Ayoade is the real deal.
7. 'Let Me In'
When news hit the web that beloved Swedish vampire chiller "Let the Right One In" was getting an American remake just a year after its initial release, the film's many admirers – us included - were troubled, to say the least. Turns out we had no reason to worry. In director Matt Reeves' ("Cloverfield") hands, the touching story of a bullied kid who falls for the resident child vampire in his apartment complex retains the slow simmering burn of the original. The performances by the two young leads (Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz) are exceptional, and should place them at the forefront of child actors. Dakota Fanning could only hold onto that crown for so long.
Fans of "Garden State" will no doubt lap up Mike Mill's dry romantic comedy "Beginners." Starring a disheveled Ewan McGregor as Oliver, an artist in his mid-thirties who finds love after losing his father, the film navigates tricky emotional territory with a fresh vitality that should connect with young audiences. A winning Christopher Plummer appears in flashbacks as Oliver's father who came out late in life, while French beauty Melanie Laurent ("Inglourious Basterds") plays Oliver's mysterious love interest.
5. 'Rabbit Hole'
Nicole Kidman earned some of her best reviews since donning a prosthetic nose for "The Hours" for her turn in this quietly devastating drama about a family dealing with the loss of a child. With director John Cameron Mitchell ("Shortbus," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch") at the helm, no one knew quite to expect from his take on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire. What Mitchell delivers is an intimate and deeply humane study of grief. Kidman is flawless, and is matched by a strong supporting performance from Aaron Eckhart as her husband.
4. 'Dirty Girl'
Turns out there is enough room for two critically well-received teen comedies at TIFF this year. "Easy A" earned top marks at the festival ahead of its North American release. "Dirty Girl," a potty-mouthed '80s teen road trip comedy, arrived at the festival with a first time director and no distributor, but walked away as one of the note-worthy hits.
At its world premiere, the Weinstein Co. snatched the film for a hefty amount - an indication of the film's widespread appeal. Much of that appeal lies in June Temple"s ("Atonement") star-making performance as "dirty girl" Danielle.
3. '127 Hours'
Instead of going soft after winning the Best Director Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle revisits the visceral nature of his earlier efforts ("28 Days Later," "Trainspotting") in this true story of a mountain climber (James Franco) who struggles to survive after a freak accident in Utah. Since first premiering at the Telluride Film Festival, Franco's performance has been hailed as a career best for the actor, and should no doubt nab him nominations come awards season. The film also made headlines in Toronto after three people reportedly fainted at the film's first public screening, during the excruciating climax where Franco hacks off one of his own arms.
2. 'Black Swan'
Darren Aronofsky's latest had critics raving when it opened the Venice Film Festival before its Toronto bow, so anticipation was high on this one. It delivers. Aronofsky fuses the stripped-down approach he brought to "The Wrestler" with the grimness of his earlier work ("Requiem for a Dream," "Pi") in "Black Swan," a psychological thriller set within the world of the New York City ballet. The film moves at a breathless pace and culminates in a climax operatic in scope. Aronofsky's vision might be too dark to slay the awards competition, but don't let that deter you.
1. 'The King's Speech'
One of the first big films to premiere at this year's festival, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" sent critics and audiences into a tizzy, with many proclaiming it the one to beat come awards season. Oscar voters love an underdog story with a happy ending. What they also love? Period films - specifically British ones. Lucky for Hooper and his leading man Colin Firth, the film is all that and more. Firth plays a stuttering and stammering King George VI, who employs a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to find his voice and gain his country's respect.