Oscars: Toronto Lineup Offers Clues About Venice and Telluride (Analysis)

A first look at the fall film fest landscape.
'Black Mass,' which stars Johnny Depp (pictured), is going to Toronto, but as a "Canadian premiere" because it will screen at Venice — and probably Telluride, too — first.

The announcement of the full lineup of the Venice Film Festival (Sept. 2-12) won't come until Wednesday and the Telluride Film Festival (Sept. 4-7) never reveals its selections until the day the fest gets underway. However, this year, for the second year in a row, it's possible to work backwards from the announcement of the first batch of selections for the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 10-20)  — since it classifies its films as world, international, North American or Canadian premieres — to figure out what's heading to the Lido and the Rockies, as well.

Toronto has nabbed the world premieres of several high-profile awards hopefuls. Among them: Peter Sollett's Freeheld (Lionsgate); Ridley Scott's The Martian (20th Century Fox); Stephen Frears' The Program (still seeking U.S. distribution); Roland Emmerich's Stonewall (Roadside Attractions); Nicolas Hytner's The Lady in the Van (TriStar Pictures); Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan (still seeking U.S. distribution); Jay Roach's Trumbo (Bleecker Street); and Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next (still seeking U.S. distribution).

By designating some of its selections as a "North American premiere," Toronto has revealed a handful of films that are certainly not going to Telluride, but may be going to Venice. Among them: Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl (Focus Features); and two films by prominent Canadian filmmakers whose films almost always make their North American debuts at Toronto, Denis Villeneuve's Sicario (Lionsgate), which had its world premiere at Cannes, and Atom Egoyan's Remember. Also classified as a "North American premiere," but certainly not going to Venice, which selects only films that haven't screened elsewhere in Europe, are two Cannes prize winners, Jacques Audiard's Dheepan (Sundance Selects), which won the Palme d'Or, and Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, which won the jury prize, as well as Paolo Sorrentino's Youth (Fox Searchlight), which was controversially shut out.

By terming others as a "Canadian premiere" (as opposed to a "North American premiere"), Toronto also exposed which films are poised to stop off in Venice and/or Telluride before heading north of the border. Among them: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa (still seeking U.S. distribution); Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation (Netflix); Scott Cooper's Black Mass (Warner Bros.), already announced for an out-of-competition screening in Venice and probably going to Telluride too; John Crowley's Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight), which was previously at Sundance; Lenny Abrahamson's Room (A24); and Tom McCarthy's Spotlight (Open Road Films). One "Canadian premiere," Laszlo Nemes' Son of Saul (Sony Classics), was previously at Cannes, which means it cannot go to Venice, so it's probably headed to Telluride.

The one film that Toronto refers to as an "international premiere" (as opposed to a "world premiere"), which means it is categorically not Venice-bound, is Brian Helgeland's Legend (Universal). Per this classification, that gangster film could go to Telluride before Toronto, although it doesn't particularly feel like a Telluride sort of film.

While Toronto has several more program announcements coming, it was still telling which films it did not mention at all in its first announcement.

The New York Film Festival (Sept. 25-Oct. 11) has announced its three marquee selections — Robert Zemeckis' The Walk (Sony) as its opening night screening, Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs (Universal) as its centerpiece night screening and Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead (still seeking U.S. distribution) as its closing night screening — and in so doing referred to the first and the third as a "world premiere," but not the second. That suggests that the first stateside screening of Steve Jobs film will be in Venice and/or Telluride (Boyle's last few films premiered at the latter and he loves the place), which is the same course traversed last year by eventual best picture Oscar winner Birdman and two years ago by All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska, all of which went to Telluride, skipped Toronto and then played New York.

Also not going to Toronto, but possibly going to Telluride, is Baltasar Kormakur's Everest (Universal), which Venice announced as its opening night selection. (The last two Venice openers, Gravity and Birdman, both jetted to Telluride right after their screenings.)

Meanwhile, the distributors of several other presumptive awards contenders have yet to announce any fall film festival plans they may be plotting. Among the most interesting to keep an eye out for: Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash (Fox Searchlight); Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies (Disney); Angelina Jolie's By the Sea (Universal); Todd Haynes' Carol (The Weinstein Co.), for which Rooney Mara was awarded Cannes' best actress prize; Peter Landesman's Concussion (Columbia); Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak (Universal); Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some (Paramount); Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Co.); Marc Abraham's I Saw the Light (Sony Classics); Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.); David O. Russell's Joy (20th Century Fox); Sean Penn's The Last Face (still seeking U.S. distribution); Jeff Nichols' Midnight Special (Warner Bros.); Jodie Foster's Money Monster (TriStar); David Gordon Green's Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); Alejandro Amenabar's Regression (The Weinstein Co.); Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant (Paramount); Barry Levinson's Rock the Kasbah (Open Road Films); Gus Van Sant's The Sea of Trees (Lionsgate); Martin Scorsese's Silence (Paramount); Oliver Stone's Snowden (Open Road Films); Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Focus Features); and James Vanderbilt's Truth (Sony Classics).

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