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On the heels of the 78th Venice Film Festival and 48th Telluride Film Festival, which both got going during the long Labor Day weekend, the awards race heads north of the border for the 46th Toronto International Film Festival, with the field of Oscar contenders beginning to come into focus.
At Venice, which is ongoing, Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers premiered in competition and received rave reviews, especially for its leading lady, Penélope Cruz. Out of competition debuts on the Lido included Denis Villeneuve’s big-budget Dune, which seems likeliest to register in below-the-line categories; and Last Night in Soho, with Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie bringing to life a script by Edgar Wright and Kristy Wilson-Cairns that could contend. Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated The Last Duel, co-written by and co-starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, will screen Friday.
Meanwhile, Telluride held the first-any-where screenings of Reinaldo Marcus Green’s crowd-pleaser King Richard, the story of Venus and Serena Williams’ dad, who is played by Will Smith in a performance that many believe could bring the Fresh Prince his first Oscar; Belfast, a black-and-white period piece, which has been described as “Kenneth Branagh’s Roma” and could garner similar across-the-board recognition; Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon, another black-and-white pic, this one starring Joaquin Phoenix and 10-year-old newcomer Woody Norman as uncle and nephew; Joe Wright’s Cyrano, a musical vehicle for Peter Dinklage, who is attracting buzz; and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s follow-up to their Oscar-winning Free Solo, the Thai cave-rescue doc The Rescue.
Both fests, meanwhile, screened Paolo Sorrentino’s autobiographical The Hand of God, which will probably be Italy’s submission for the best international feature competition; Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, featuring powerhouse performances by Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley as the same character at different stages of motherhood; The Power of the Dog, which Jane Campion regards as a bookend to her 1993 Oscar winner The Piano; Pablo Larraín’s “fable from a true tragedy” Spencer, in which Kristen Stewart channels Princess Diana and seems bound for an Oscar nom, at least; and Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter.
Toronto will host most of the aforementioned films, plus the world premieres of Stephen Chbosky’s Dear Evan Hansen, an adaptation of Broadway’s biggest hit since Hamilton, on opening night. Another adaptation of a Tony winner to keep an eye on is Stephen Karam’s The Humans. Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye is said to feature a magnificent performance by Jessica Chastain as the title character. Other possible contenders include Barry Levinson’s The Survivor and Zhang Yimou’s One Second, which could possibly be China’s entry in the international Oscar category.
Toronto will also bring back several Sundance titles, including Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animation/doc-hybrid hopeful Flee. And several award winners in Cannes could get awards attention stateside, including, Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane; Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero, a co-winner of the Grand Prize; Annette, an unusual musical for which Leos Carax won best director (and could contend in music categories); and Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, in which lead actor Simon Rex and supporting actress Suzanna Son are standouts. Screenplay possibilities include Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. And Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground will be a contender in the doc category.
Post-Toronto, the race will move on to New York with a number of films from awards season heavy hitters, such as Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth and perhaps Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick … Boom! The London Film Fest will play host to Jeymes Samuel’s The Harder They Fall starring Idris Elba, which could be a contender. It remains to be seen where the first screenings will be of Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, House of Gucci from Ridley Scott (again), George Clooney’s The Tender Bar and whatever Paul Thomas Anderson ends up calling his latest film.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Sept. 10 daily issue at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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