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Pitt, Hathaway, Kinnear have Oscar buzz

The fall festivals generate Oscar buzz for hot stars, new faces and some surprising Hollywood veterans.

Summer, that season that’s mostly about Hollywood big-budget pyrotechnics, is behind us once more. Selling those hot-weather hits is all about reaching as wide an audience as possible, which is why venues like the “American Idol” finale and the annual MTV Movie Awards are so highly prized by studios out to shill their product.

As the leaves turn color, however, so do many of the movies climb the “brow” scale from low to middle and even high, which requires a completely different kind of sales pitch. That’s where the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals come into play, generating excitement and early international press for those movies that will most aggressively be gunning for Oscar attention at the beginning of next year.

“Brokeback Mountain” began its avalanche of acclaim by winning the top prize at Venice and going on to rave reviews in Toronto; last year’s “No Country for Old Men” began generating steam at the early-summer Cannes festival and never stopped.

Here’s a look at some of the performances that have already inspired critics and pundits to start throwing around the O-word. The 2008 alums of the big fall festivals are an interesting mix of performers, from celebrated megastars to performers who in recent years had been finding themselves in the whatever-happened-to column:

Actor Mickey Rourke poses for a portrait while promoting his film \"The Wrestler\" during the International Film Festival in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008.Carlo Allegri / R-ALLEGRI
Actress Anne Hathaway, star of the film \"Rachel Getting Married\", poses at the film's premiere in Beverly Hills, California September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES)Fred Prouser / X00224
epa01350586 British actress Kristin Scott Thomas arrives for the gala screening of Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's film 'Le Silence de Lorna' (Lorna's Silence) running in competition at the 61st edition of the Cannes Film Festival, 19 May 2008, in Cannes, France. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELOGuillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

Those three performances have gotten the most across-the-board raves from festival observers, but several other actors have their champions for the awards season to come:

Actor Jeff Goldblum of the film \"Adam Resurrected\" poses for a portrait during the Toronto International Film Festival, in this September 10, 2008 picture. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA)Mark Blinch / X02025

Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”: Granted, no one’s seen the entirety of the new film from David Fincher, about a man who ages in reverse from senior citizen to infant, but the 20 minutes that Fincher presented at Telluride this year was enough to start buzz about Pitt’s Oscar chances. With Pitt’s significant other Angelina Jolie getting raves of her own at the Cannes Film Festival for her lead role in Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” watch for the paparazzi to go insane if this power couple winds up arm-in-arm on the Kodak Theatre red carpet.

In this image released by Miramax Films, Sally Hawkins is shown in a scene from \"Happy-Go-Lucky.\"Simon Mein / Miramax Films
Greg Kinnear of the movie \"Flash of Genius\" poses for a photo following a interview at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press