Ready or not, the awards season is about to begin. Every year, Oscar season kicks off with the series of film festivals in late August and early September. It’s at these festivals—Telluride, Toronto, and Venice—that a hefty number of the year’s Oscar hopefuls debut and begin what they hope will be long and prosperous campaigns. Four out of the last five Best Picture winners screened at both Telluride and Toronto, and as the festivals are about to start later this week, now felt like a good time to preview the block of awards hopefuls that will be screening since the odds are pretty good that this year’s Best Picture winner will have debuted by mid-September.
Hit the jump for the Fall Film Festival Preview 2014 edition of Oscar Beat.
One of the year’s biggest awards contenders actually had its first screening way back at Cannes in May, but is also poised to play at both Telluride and Toronto: Bennett Miller’s dark drama Foxcatcher, which finds Steve Carell playing a mentally unstable millionaire who goes on a deep and dark descent in his secluded compound. Reviews out of Cannes were ecstatic and the film is poised to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in a couple of weeks, and though Telluride keeps its lineup secret until the day the festival begins, many believe it will show up there as well. Miller’s previous two features, Capote and Moneyball, both nabbed Best Picture nods with the former also landing Miller a Best Director nomination, so expectations are high for this one.
Another potential heavy hitter is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s black comedy Birdman, which just had its world premiere at Venice and could also pop up at Telluride before closing out the New York Film Festival in October. Reviews out of Venice were ecstatic, praising Michael Keaton‘s lead performance and the film overall, which is apparently a major departure for Iñárritu. Moreover, the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has earned high marks, as he and Iñárritu crafted the film to look like it’s one long, unbroken take. Whether the film will be too “weird” or esoteric for the Academy remains to be seen, but reviewers out of Venice seem confident the pic will land multiple nods come Oscar time.
There are also a few other films that remain question marks with regards to their Oscar hopeful status. Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Valle helms the drama Wild with Reese Witherspoon in the lead role and it will debut at Telluride before screening at TIFF. There’s also Jason Reitman’s dark-looking drama Men, Women & Children, which features an ensemble cast that includes Adam Sandler and The Fault in Our Stars breakout star Ansel Elgort. Men, Women & Children feels like an incredibly morose departure for the Up in the Air filmmaker and it will make its world premiere at TIFF.
Somewhat surprisingly, Sandler actually finds himself appearing in two potential awards contenders with a leading role in The Cobbler, the new film from The Visitor and The Station Agent writer/director Tom McCarthy. Sandler plays a man who finds he has the ability to literally step into someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective. The film will debut at TIFF where all eyes will be on whether Sandler can make another successful step into dramatic territory.
There is also a pair of intellectual-leaning biopics that could be in the awards race: the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game and the Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything. Benedict Cumberbatch leads the former for The Weinstein Company as Imitation Game tells the story of the mathematician who cracked the Nazi code during World War II, becoming responsible for bringing the war to an end. He was later tried and prosecuted by the British government for being a homosexual. As for The Theory of Everything, the picture sees Eddie Redmayne taking on the role of Hawking and follows his struggle with a debilitating motor neuron disorder while he’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. Both films will play at TIFF, but The Imitation Game is expected to pop up at Telluride first.
On the smaller side of things, there’s also Jon Stewart’s highly anticipated directorial debut Rosewater to look forward to, as well as Ramin Bahrani’s drama 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon. Both of these films are playing Telluride and TIFF, and one imagines the character-focused dramas could garner attention in the acting categories if the performances are up to snuff. As for documentaries, we also have Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing “sequel” The Look of Silence, which will play both Venice and TIFF.
Of course there’s also David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which are slated to have their world premieres a little later in the season at the New York Film Festival. It’s unclear if either is an awards contender per se, but Fincher has certainly received a fair amount of (very deserved) Oscar love for his last few films, so Gone Girl will likely be in the mix for some technical categories at the least. Anderson’s last film, The Master, proved to be a bit too dense for the Academy but managed to secure recognition for its performances, so Inherent Vice is a bit of a question mark as well. If the rumblings about Inherent Vice are true, I could see it taking the same path as The Master and landing a couple of acting nominations. Regardless, it’s wise never to count out Fincher or PTA.
I’ll be at TIFF this year doing awards coverage, and I’ll be logging regular Oscar Beat entries here on the site as I finally get a chance to see some of the aforementioned films. Of course the films themselves are what really matters, but it will be fun to see which Oscar contenders emerge out of the Fall Film Festival season, and I hope you’ll join me these next six months as I explore the ups and downs of the 2015 race right here in Oscar Beat.
Venice Film Festival: August 27th – September 6th.
Telluride Film Festival: August 29th – September 1st.
Toronto International Film Festival: September 4th – September 14th.
New York Film Festival: September 26th – October 12th.