Venice Film Fes­ti­val sets the stage for awards sea­son

Variety - - Contents -

ith Uni­ver­sal’s “First Man” set for an Aug. 29 open­ing-night bow at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val, this year’s awards sea­son is ready for liftoff. The 75th an­nual Bi­en­nale will kick off months of fes­ti­val pre­mieres after stu­dios and film­mak­ers spent the sum­mer jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion, ze­ro­ing in on the right strat­egy for launch­ing their Os­car hope­fuls.

Films such as “Grav­ity,” “bird­man,” “spot­light” and “La La Land” be­gan their jour­neys in Venice, as did last year’s best pic­ture vic­tor, “The Shape of Wa­ter.” This year, the Lido will again host an early look at much of the sea­son’s land­scape. Chief among the world pre­mieres might be Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga, the third re­make of Wil­liam A. Well­man’s 1937 clas­sic. Cu­ri­ously, though, the film will not be screen­ing in com­pe­ti­tion. And Warner Bros. has opted out of a pres­ence for the pic at the Colorado-staged Tel­luride Film Fes­ti­val over Labor Day week­end, aim­ing its sec­ond dip in­stead at Toronto.

Al­fonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” one of three Net­flix com­pe­ti­tion ti­tles in Venice, could draw the most hosan­nas. A ne­o­re­al­ist, blackand-white ren­der­ing of the film­maker’s 1970s child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up in Mex­ico City, it’s one of the year’s most an­tic­i­pated play­ers. Ob­servers will be keen to see how Cuarón fol­lows up 2013’s “Grav­ity,” which net­ted seven Os­cars in­clud­ing best di­rec­tor.

The Coen broth­ers’ darkly comedic west­ern “The Bal­lad of Buster Scruggs,” also from Net­flix, will no doubt be a cu­rios­ity, given that it was ini­tially an­nounced as a tele­vi­sion se­ries that ul­ti­mately took the form of an an­thol­ogy film. Yet in terms of awards launches, the Coens are hit-and­miss with fes­ti­vals. “Burn After Read­ing” un­spooled in Venice 10 years ago, while “In­side Llewyn Davis” tran­si­tioned from Cannes to Tel­luride, but nei­ther made much of an Os­car dent. Best pic­ture win­ner “No Coun­try for Old Men,” how­ever, bowed in Cannes be­fore screen­ing at the Toronto and New York fests.

Other Venice films to keep an eye on in­clude “At Eter­nity’s Gate,” with Willem Dafoe as Vin­cent Van Gogh; “Peter­loo,” cen­tered on the 1819 mas­sacre in Manch­ester, Eng­land, over par­lia­men­tary reform; an­other west­ern, “The Sis­ters Broth­ers,” fea­tur­ing one of John C. Reilly’s finest per­for­mances; “The Favourite,” a pe­riod piece star­ring Olivia Col­man, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; and “22 July,” about the 2011 Nor­way ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Just as Venice gets un­der way, Tel­luride will rev its en­gines in the Rocky Moun­tains for a four- day sprint. Pro­gram­mers tra­di­tion­ally keep the lineup se­cret un­til the eve of the fest, but as usual, an­nounce­ment lan­guage as­so­ci­ated with films play­ing at other fes­ti­vals sug­gests they’ll pre­miere in Tel­luride.

Three will come from Fox Search­light: “The Favourite,”“the Old Man & the Gun” with Robert Red­ford, and Lee Is­rael biopic “Can You Ever For­give Me?” with Melissa Mccarthy. Other ex­pected bows in­clude “The Front Run­ner,” with Hugh Jack­man as Gary Hart dur­ing the politi­cian’s failed 1988 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion bid; “De­stroyer,” fea­tur­ing a heav­ily buzzed lead per­for­mance from Ni­cole Kid­man; and “Boy Erased,” also star­ring Kid­man, with Lu­cas Hedges as a young man forced into gay con­ver­sion ther­apy.

Tel­luride has be­come a cru­cial stop on the tour. The mo­tion pic­ture Academy throws an an­nual party there, and count­less Os­car vot­ers flood the event. Mean­while, nine of the last 10 best pic­ture win­ners have screened there, five of them world pre­mieres — note­wor­thy for a fes­ti­val that has room for roughly only 30 ti­tles.

Many of th­ese and more will drop at the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val, still a sig­nif­i­cant launch pad with a huge lineup. Un­ex­pect­edly, Barry Jenk­ins will de­but his “Moon­light” fol­low-up, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” in Toronto rather than Tel­luride, where he is a fa­vored son after years of short-films pro­gram­ming. That might be a strate­gic de­ci­sion, to re­duce the pres­sure and avoid screen­ing ex­clu­sively to the awards- chat­ter­ing class (ahem).

Toronto world pre­mieres will oth­er­wise in­clude “Beau­ti­ful Boy” with Steve Carell and Ti­mothée Cha­la­met, based on a pair of mem­oirs chron­i­cling a family cop­ing with ad­dic­tion; “Green Book,” star­ring Viggo Mortensen and Ma­her­shala Ali in what prom­ises to be the feel-good race-relations drama of the sea­son; and “Wid­ows,” a com­mer­cial play from Fox with Vi­ola Davis front and cen­ter.

Fi­nally, there’s New York, which not long ago was es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a vi­able pre­miere plat­form for se­ri­ous best pic­ture con­tenders like “Life of Pi,”“cap­tain Phillips” and “Her.” But re­cent se­lec­tions, like “The Se­cret Life of Wal­ter Mitty,”“the Walk” and “Won­der Wheel,” have veered off course. This year, the event’s three prime slots — open­ing (“The Favourite”), cen­ter­piece (“Roma”) and clos­ing (“At Eter­nity’s Gate”) — went to films that will have al­ready been seen and as­sessed else­where by the time they get to Man­hat­tan.

At some point, the dust will set­tle and the sea­son’s cream will rise, as it al­ways does. So take a deep breath. This is the quiet be­fore the storm.

Aus­pi­cious Start Guillermo del Toro (from right), Sally Hawkins, Oc­tavia Spencer, Richard Jenk­ins and Alexan­dre De­s­plat hit the red car­pet for the “Shape of Wa­ter” pre­miere at last year’s Venice Film Fes­ti­val. Two of the past three best pic­ture Os­car win­ners de­buted in Venice.

Nine of the last 10 best pic­ture win­ners have screened in Tel­luride, five of them world pre­mieres.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.