While the 2019 Academy Awards is not until 24 February—and who knows whether the world will have been burned to ashes by then—movie festival is in full swing with Venice about to end and Toronto about to begin.
The oldest film festival in the world—and one of the big three alongside Cannes and Berlin - Venice is a near-two week glamorous affair which tends to spotlight the films that go on to do well at the Oscars. Last year it foreshadowed the Academy Awards with the grand prize going to The Shape Of Water, the Guillermo del Toro film which went on to win 'Best Picture' in March.
TIFF is more eccentric festival which includes a 'Midnight Madness' selection of gory and arthouse productions screened in the middle of the night which usually prove too avant-garde to make it as far as the Oscars. However, the winners of TIFF's coveted People's Choice Award in the last three years have been Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, La La Land and Room—all films that went on to dominate the Oscars categories six months later.
It is at these festivals that the films that go on to be the big critical hits of the year can usually be spotted. They will be hoping to start an early momentum to carry them through awards season.
In other words, here are the films you'll be debating the chances of picking up the big gongs come February 2019.
All eyes are on Damien Chazelle's next project after the catalogue of Oscars wins and nominations for his last two projects, La La Land and Whiplash. Ryan Gosling plays history's most famous astronaut in the story of NASA's mission to land a man on the moon and Armstrong's life between 1961 and 1969. Claire Foy is cast as Armstrong's wife Janet Shearon, while Corey Stoll (House Of Cards) and Kyle Chandler (Manchester By The Sea) will play Buzz Aldrin and Deke Slayton.
According to Variety, who saw a teaser at CinemaCon in April this year, there's one "particularly stirring scene" which "finds Armstrong answering his worried children’s questions about whether or not he will make it back home". They report that "It’s an insular performance, one that could put Gosling in the awards hunt."
As well as showing at Toronto later this month, First Man opened Venice Film Festival this weekend - the same spot occupied by La La Land and previous Oscar hits Gravity and Birdman.
Reviews from Venice have been strong with The Hollywood Reporter describing it as a "sober, contemplative picture" with "emotional involvement, visceral tension and, yes, even suspense, in addition to stunning technical craft". The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw called it "visually ravishing" film full of "certainty and verve".
Chronicling meth addiction and recovery, Beautiful Boy is told through the eyes of David (Steve Carell), a father who watches his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet) as he struggles with the drug.
The pair recently earned 'Best Actor' Oscar nominations for their performances in Call Me By Your Name and Foxcatcher respectively and the trailer promises some heart-wrenching moments. If you've seen Call Me By Your Name you'll know from the closing minutes that Chalamet can bring the goods when it comes to raw emotion.
Beautiful Boy comes from Brad Pitt's Plan B studio who have had a string of Oscar successes including 12 Years a Slave, The Big Short and Moonlight. All eyes will be on TIFF this weekend, where Beautiful Boy will have its world premiere as one of their Gala Presentations.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Another Plan B production, this time from Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins (why change an (award) winning formula?). A love story set in 1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from a James Baldwin novel of the same name. In the film Trish (Kiki Layne) fights to free her falsely accused husband (Stephan James) from prison before the birth of their child.
In one particularly picturesque scene Jenkins has revealed, "Stephan James is sculpting to Baldwin’s words" and you can hear "a saxophone underground and the rumble of New York City." If Beale Street Could Talk will show at TIFF this week as a Special Presentation, the same release given to successes from last year including Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project and I, Tonya.
A period drama with Olivia Colman as mad Queen Anne and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as the ladies of the court who compete for her attention and try to manipulate her, The Favourite already sounds like, well, a favourite going into awards season.
It comes from Yorgos Lanthimos, the director who bought us The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, though fans fearing anything bizarre and high concept as those two may be relieved to hear it's a more conventional film, and one with plenty of humour. Could this be a chance for Colman, arguably Britain's most gifted actress, to finally catch some buzz in Hollywood?
Yes, if first reactions are anything to go by. It showed at New York Film Festival, with NYFF director Kent Jones describing it as, “an historical epic; a visual feast; a wild, wild ride; a formidable display of the art of acting ... And … it’s a blast.”
The Guardian's post Venice review raved about Colman's performance and describes the film "rousingly nasty, bleary, hungover punch-up". The Hollywood Reporter were equally praising of its "sumptuous visuals and delectable wit" adding that it "offers a balanced triumvirate of formidable female leads rich in surprising character shadings."
Steve McQueen's first venture since his 'Best Picture' winning 12 Years a Slave, Widows is adapted from a Lynda La Plante television series about a group of women who conspire together after being left in debt when their husbands are killed in a robbery.
The hugely talented cast includes Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, and to name a few. Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author Gillian Flynn has co-written the script and the trailer promises a full-throttle escapade with plenty of talking points.
The British director's film will have its world premiere at TIFF this weekend where audiences will see if the auteur can pull of an action-packed heist film. We imagine the answer is yes.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy trades her comedy stripes for a more serious role in the true story of Lee Israel, an author who falls on hard times and turns to forging the letters of celebrities and prominent writers.
Encouraged by eccentric new friend Jack, played with typical gusto by Richard E. Grant, her forgeries take on a life of their own. McCarthy looks strikingly different in the trailer and this transformation, as well as her showing she can hold her own in drama, could well impress audiences and judges.
The tale of Lee Israel played at Telluride Film Festival this weekend and will also be shown at TIFF later this month. IndieWire called it McCarthy's best performance to date, pointing out "her rambunctious chemistry with Grant". Variety similarly notes that they, "make a fabulous duo, a pair of outsiders hilariously passing judgment on polite society" and calls the film, "unexpectedly profound".
A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper's directorial debut sees him also write, produce and act alongside Lady Gaga. A Star Is Born follows a musician (Cooper) who helps a young singer and actress (Gaga) find fame while his own career collapses into alcoholism and hopelessness.
While track 'The Shallows', written by Gaga and Mark Ronson, already looks like a good bet for 'Best Song', reactions suggest it will be gunning for much grander plaudits.
Despite the cinema it showed in at Venice this weekend being struck by lightning and a 15 minute interruption, A Star Is Born received an eight minute standing ovation from audiences. It has received many four and five star reviews including one from Peter Bradshaw in which he calls Gaga's performance "mesmerising" and calls the film, "outrageously watchable and colossally enjoyable".
A black detective in Colorado infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and rises to the top of it in this latest venture from Spike Lee. Based on Ron Stallworth's book Black Klansman, the film stars Denzel Washington's son John David Washington as the lead detective and Adam Driver as a Jewish undercover police officer.
BlacKkKlansman received an eight minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival this year with audience members reportedly spontaneously bursting into applause during the film (only at Cannes...). Lee's searing anti-Trump tirade at the festival and dedication to Charlottesville victim Heather Hayer has only added to the film's sense of timeliness and won it potential votes with the Hollywood liberal set. It's also sitting pretty on very enviable 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with Zoe Kazan adapting the screenplay from American writer Richard Ford's novel of the same name. Through the eyes of their son we see a marriage fall apart when a couple, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) move to Montana and she falls for another man.
After playing at Cannes, Mulligan's performance has been raved over with Guardianfilm critic Peter Bradshaw described it as a "one of the best roles and best performances of her career". The film is also gorgeous to behold thanks to cinematographer Diego Garcia and Jake Gyllenhaal's performance of a man strangled by his own failings makes it one which will certainly provoke discussions.
There's no guarantee a 'method acting' body transformation will guarantee you an award, but it never hurts. Christian Bale has duly piled on the pounds for his role as the former second in command to , Dick Cheney.
Backseat, directed by comedy veteran Adam McKay, also stars , and in a biopic charting Cheney's ascent to become 'the most powerful Vice President in history'. Details of the film are being kept under wraps until it's US release in December but cinema circles are speculating that Adams could finallytake home an Oscar for her role as Cheney's wife, Lynne, for which she's also undergone a body transformation.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.