Lady Gaga, left, and Bradley Cooper speak at a news conference for "A Star Is Born" at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. "A Star Is Born" is one of the festival's crowd favorites. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

TORONTO — The sounds of ap­plause are noth­ing new at the Toronto International Film Festival, but a few post-screen­ing re­sponses this week at the annu­al Sep­tem­ber rite be­came down­right e­lec­tric. When cred­its rolled, audi­ences jumped to their feet at vol­umes that would make you think old King Clan­cy had been re­sur­rect­ed and stopped in next door for some Timbits.

Toronto is the start of the film business award season — the movie stop responsible for all other movie stops happening between now and the ultimate movie stop, the Academy Awards, at the end of February. The films that play at Toronto tend to do well with awards voters, in part, because the festival’s audiences are a good way to gauge what Os­car voters, Hollywood guilds and critics groups will think. If movies do well here, they usually earn resources from studios that campaign award contenders.

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiography about growing up in 1970s Mexico under the care of a few very devoted nannies, is one of the festival’s breakouts. A black-and-white movie told in quiet vignettes, it has a kind of hypnotic aus­ter­i­ty, not a get-on-your-feet-and-cheer celebrity.

It was the exception — maybe the only one among the top contenders. The Toronto movies expected to receive awards attention come in the category of what you’d call crowd-pleas­ers, which makes for a very interesting wrinkle in a debate currently swirling around the Os­cars.

This list of contenders — it’s a quartet, really — include “A Star Is Born,” in which Bradley Cooper directs and stars in a movie opposite Lady Gaga. It’s a retelling of a timeless tale with showmanship with scenes from live music festivals. “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in/I’ll never meet the ground / We’re far from the shallow now,” Gaga, as Ally, sings in a tune she wrote with Mark Ron­son that is sure to get moviegoers clutching their hearts, as the film did at the Toronto premiere. “It’s about the power of believing in someone and what that can do for the human spirit,” Cooper told reporters of his film’s theme.

“First Man,” directed by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) and starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, is about Neil Armstrong and his walk on the moon. Made with an eye toward detail and texture, “First Man” exhilarated Toronto audiences with its vicarious experience of space exploration. “Whether it’s animal sounds in launches, or not having green screen where you easily could and most people would, Damien did everything in his power to leave no stone unturned and make this as real as possible,” Gos­ling told the audience after one screening.

“The Hate U Give” is George Till­man Jr.’s take on the Angie Thomas bestseller about a teenage girl whose friend is killed by a police officer in a racially motivated shooting. Despite the seriousness of the subject, the movie is an appealing teen “dra­me­dy” with a breakout performance by Amandla Stenberg. Stenberg’s best-known credit? The hit “Hun­ger Games” series.

“Green Book” is an interracial buddy dra­me­dy starring Mahershala Ali as a classical pianist and Vig­go Mor­ten­sen as a Bronx tough guy. The two take a road trip in the South in 1962. “This is a story basically about seemingly very different people that end up learning to understand each other whether they wanted to or not,” Mor­ten­sen said at the premiere. The premiere generated a two-minute standing ovation after much laughter and tears. Focus groups have given it off-the-chart scores.

Lest you think “Green Book” is not an awards movie, just let director Peter Far­rel­ly clarify. “I believe these are two of the best actors in a movie this year,” he said. Yes, that Peter Far­rel­ly, the force behind such popular comedies as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumb­er.” He got on board the acclaimed script and convinced backers he was the right man for the job; he even landed the modern-Hollywood rarity of final cut.

This summer, the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences announced, then deferred, a separate Oscar category for “popular” movie. TV ratings for the Academy Awards have collapsed, and the earnings for best-picture nominees are rarely at blockbuster level. The academy’s thinking was that a popular Oscar category would save the telecast. (The discussion among the academy’s board of governors was to not use the word “popular” because of divisiveness it might cause. It ma­te­ri­al­ized in the announcement though, to the surprise of some board members.)

The pos­si­bil­i­ty of the award generated all sorts of backlash. Pundits decried how the Oscars’ standards of quality are being adjusted to whatever makes the most money.

It’s a reasonable concern. The biggest reason the i­de­a seems faulty is it suggests there’s a distinction between what’s good and what people see. All but two of last season’s best-picture nominees were seen in theaters by at least five million people, and Americans are watching movies on more platforms these days.

It’s not that consumers have a disdain for work like “Lady Bird” or “The Shape of Water.” There’s a different culprit: the marketing budgets of companies re­leas­ing the films. Rather than worry about adjusting Os­car categories to movies people see, wouldn’t it be better to focus on getting more people to see Os­car-nominated movies?

This quar­tet of Toronto films could help. There’s been a lot of talk that 2018′s big­gest the­at­ri­cal hit, “Black Pan­ther,” should be nomi­nated for best pic­ture, and it should (be­cause it de­serves to be nomi­nated, not be­cause it made a ga­zil­lion dol­lars). What this quar­tet of Toronto break­outs sug­gests is that audi­ences are will­ing to love award-worthy movies. (All the films, in­ci­den­tal­ly, come from ma­jor stu­dios, some of which have re­turned, cau­tious­ly, to pro­duc­ing fare for grown-ups. That should help with their mar­ket­ing). What it shows is that the dis­tinc­tion be­tween good and popu­lar doesn’t ex­ist, not in the way the a­cad­e­my sees it. You just need the right movies, and the right com­panies behind them, to make good films popu­lar.

“Why do we have to pan­der down? Why can’t we make a movie for young people that’s also so­phis­ti­cat­ed?” "Hate” di­rec­tor Till­man said when asked by The Washington Post a­bout his mov­ie. His com­ment was spe­cif­i­cal­ly a­bout young-a­dult films but could be ex­trapo­lat­ed to work for all ages. Till­man knows some­thing a­bout crowd-pleas­ing: He pro­duced the hit fran­chise “Bar­ber­shop.”

The truth is there have been signs the Os­cars are trend­ing to­ward the popu­lar. Only twice this dec­ade have there been two best-pic­ture nomi­nees that broke the $175 million mark do­mes­ti­cal­ly. They both came in the past three years.

Whether we end up there a­gain is dif­fi­cult to know at this stage. Toronto sug­gests we could. When it comes to get­ting people to see Os­car movies, you don’t need to con­coct all kinds of new cate­go­ries. You just need Peter Far­rel­ly and Lady Gaga.