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At the Toronto International Film Festival, summer turns to fall, and movies turn to the concerns of the day

Ryan Gosling in “First Man.” (Daniel McFadden/AP)
Ann Hornaday September 13 at 2:03 PM

The nearly half-million people who attend the Toronto International Film Festival every year have come to rely on a few eternal verities. They will arrive in summer but depart in the fall, at least meteorologically. The escalator at the Scotiabank theater, an important hub venue, will be out of commission at least once. And by the time the 10-day festival wraps, they will have seen a handful of movies that are all but guaranteed to dominate the Oscar-oriented awards season that TIFF helps launch every September.

This year saw no exceptions to any of those rules, including and perhaps especially the latter. With the wind at their backs from glitzy premieres at festivals in Venice and Telluride, such crowd-pleasers as “A Star Is Born” and “First Man” continued their promising trajectories. The first film, yet another remake of one of Hollywood’s most durable showbiz myths about fame, self-destruction sacrifice and survival, marks the debut of Lady Gaga in a role that makes the most of her vocal range, as well an assured outing from Bradley Cooper as both co-star and first-time director.

Ryan Gosling’s turn in “First Man,” about Neil Armstrong’s historic 1969 NASA mission to the moon, is both stirring and stoic, with Gosling’s blue eyes doing most of the emotional work as the taciturn astronaut gazes into space and an earthbound world that often seems just as alien.

Although it doesn’t feature any name-brand stars, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,”

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