Pete Hammond‘s rundown of the Toronto Film Festival highlights isn’t too far off the mark. Apart, that is, from his mystifying admiration for Rahmin Bahrani‘s 99 Homes (which I vivisected in a 9.2. post-Telluride review) and his too-kindly assessment of Jennifer Aniston‘s chances of getting into the Best Actress derby with her performance in Cake. Everyone agrees that James Marsh‘s The Theory of Everything achieved the biggest Best Picture splash, and that Eddie Redmayne‘s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is a lock for Best Actor accolades. (I’m not as certain about Felicity Jones for Best Actress but it’s entirely possible.) Julianne Moore‘s Still Alice performance (i.e., first-stage Alzheimers) seemed to generate a fair amount of Best Actress talk toward the festival’s end, but I didn’t want to see it and I still don’t — I’m going to have to force myself. Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game won the Grolsch People’s Choice Winner for favorite TIFF film, but then the rave responses out of Telluride told us it would be a hit with Joe and Jane Popcorn types. So far the preferred Best Picture choice among hipper, more cultivated types is Birdman, of course.

Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler was probably the boldest and most darkly entertaining film I saw up there — jazzed and malicious and single-mindedly manic. The most raucous and ecstatic audience response I witnessed during TIFF was the one for Damian Szifron‘s Wild Tales — people were giggling, floating. My biggest small-picture, performance-driven high came from Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy, the Brian Wilson biopic, but Roadside wants to open it sometime in 2015. Ditto Noah Baumbach‘s amusing, wittily-observed While We’re Young — i.e., getting the heave-ho into next spring or summer or whenever. Chris Rock‘s Top Five, apparently drawn from his own psychology and mis-adventures, is easily the finest film he’s ever directed or written but his depiction of the behavior of a N.Y. Times critic-columnist (played by Rosario Dawson) is flat-out ludicrous. Antoine Fucqua‘s The Equalizer starts out well enough but devolves into a logic-defying bullet festival. I lasted through an hour of Shawn Levy‘s This is Where I Leave You, and it felt as if all the philosophical insights and platitudes were sitting on my chest like a Japanese Sumo wrestler. St. Vincent‘s Bill Murray might come away with some Best Actor propulsion, but I don’t think the movie provides enough of a springboard — it’s just a nice film. The Drop is an agreeably atmospheric noir and a sturdy second cousin of The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Children was a wipe-out. I didn’t think David Dobkin‘s The Judge was that bad — it’s a tolerable if predictable sit, although it seems to go on for too long. I found Oren Moverman‘s Time Out Of Mind compassionate look at homelessness but bordering on reckless in its refusal to deliver even a semblance of a story.