Oscars: How the Fall Film Fests Will Shape Awards Season

THR's awards columnist sorts out which films will be screening at the annual Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, London, Savannah and AFI fests.
Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox; Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures; Carlos Somonte/NETFLIX; Twentieth Century Fox
From top left: 'The Favourite,' 'First Man,' 'Roma,' 'Widows'

A slew of announcements over the past few weeks by the major fall film festivals — Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, London, Savannah and AFI — have helped to clarify which awards hopefuls will be screening where in the coming months.

First Man (Universal), Damien Chazelle's large-scale film follow-up to La La Land, which stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, will open the 75th Venice Film Festival. This year's activities on the Lido will run Aug. 29-Sept. 8 and be governed by a jury presided over by last year's Golden Lion winner for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro — something that could work to the benefit of another film premiering there, Roma (Netflix), Alfonso Cuaron's smaller-scale, black-and-white, Spanish-language follow-up to Gravity. (Cuaron and del Toro account for two of "The Three Amigos.")

Roma is but one of six Netflix titles that will be part of this year's Biennale, a larger-than-usual presence undoubtedly attributable, at least in part, to Cannes' stubborn refusal to screen in competition Netflix titles that don't receive a theatrical release in France. The others include Paul Greengrass' 22 July, about a 2011 terrorist attack in Norway; Ethan and Joel Coen's anthology series turned anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; and The Other Side of the Wind, a film that Orson Welles started in the 1970s, which others, like producer Frank Marshall, have now seen through to completion. (Charlie Chaplin's Limelight was released 20 years after it was made, and it won an Oscar, so it seems like Welles' pic could conceivably be a contender, too.)

Netflix's principal streaming rival, Amazon, will also have a formidable presence at the fest, in the form of perennial Oscar nominee Mike Leigh's Peterloo and hometown hero Luca Guadagnino's first film since Call Me by Your Name, the horror-genre Suspiria. Other presumptive contenders premiering at Venice will include Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite, starring Oscar winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; Julian Schnabel's At Eternity's Gate (CBS Films); and Jacques Audiard's The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna), as well as two acquisition titles: documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' American Dharma, in which he sits down with Steve Bannon (as he previously did with Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld), and Sunset, Laszlo Nemes' follow-up to his Oscar winner Son of Saul.

One oddity about Venice: Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born (Warner Bros.), the fourth film version of the classic Hollywood melodrama in 81 years, which stars Cooper and Lady Gaga, will debut at the fest — out of competition. It is unclear why the pic's backers, presumably, have opted to take it out of the race there and will then skip Telluride, unlike many other Venice titles, and go directly to Toronto. But Barbra Streisand, the producer and star of the 1976 version, recently told me that she — like Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and other Cooper friends — has seen this version and "it's a lot like mine." That could indicate that it has greater commercial than critical potential.

Next up, the 45th Telluride Film Festival will run Aug. 31-Sept. 3 — Labor Day weekend, as always. Its lineup will not be confirmed by the fest until a charter plane carrying Angelenos to the Rockies takes off on Aug. 31, and its opening film, known as the Patron's Preview, will not be revealed until festivalgoers take their seats in the Chuck Jones Cinema on Sept. 1. But Venice's and Toronto's announcements have made it clear that Telluride will host the world premieres of two highly anticipated Fox Searchlight films: Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me?, in which Melissa McCarthy plays a rare dramatic part; and David Lowery's The Old Man & the Gun, which screen legend Robert Redford has said will be the last film in which he plans to appear.

Also expected to screen at the fest are Jason Reitman's The Front Runner (Sony), starring Hugh Jackman as derailed 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart; Yann Demange's White Boy Rick (Sony), starring Matthew McConaughey as the father of a young criminal; Olivier Assayas' Non-Fiction (still seeking U.S. distribution), which reunites him with his Personal Shopper star Juliette Binoche; Reversing Roe, a Netflix doc about abortion from Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg; and Galveston, an acquisition title from actress/director Melanie Laurent. It looks like the lineup will also include the North American premieres of First Man, Peterloo, Roma and three films that first bowed at Cannes: Ida Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War (Amazon), Matteo Garrone's Dogman (Magnolia) and this year's Palme d'Or winner, Hirozaku Kore-eda's Shoplifters (Magnolia).

One Telluride surprise: If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna), the first post-Moonlight film from Barry Jenkins, who has been closely associated with Telluride for years (as a part of its student program, then as a venue host and even now as a shorts programmer), is skipping the fest and having its world premiere at Toronto.

The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival will begin three days after Telluride ends and will run Sept. 6-16. The announcement of its opening night title has been delayed, but that's not a big concern for awards watchers, as Toronto generally saves its higher-quality films for the days that follow. This year, the fest's huge lineup will include the world premieres of If Beale Street Could Talk, a Harlem-set love story adapted from the James Baldwin novel of the same, as well as two highly anticipated Amazon titles: The Broken Circle Breakdown Oscar nominee Felix van Groeningen's Beautiful Boy, a story about addiction starring Oscar nominees Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, and This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman's Life Itself, which sounds somewhat like a film version of his NBC hit, chronicling different eras in the life of a family.

Other TIFF world premieres will include Steve McQueen's first movie since 12 Years a Slave won the best picture Oscar, the genre film Widows (Fox), which stars Oscar winner Viola Davis; Peter Hedges' Ben Is Back (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions), which pairs his son, Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges, and Oscar winner Julia Roberts; Nicole Holofcener's The Land of Steady Habits (Netflix), a Ben Mendelsohn vehicle; George Tillman, Jr.'s crime drama The Hate U Give (Fox); Al Hicks' Quincy (Netflix), a doc about legendary record producer Quincy Jones that is comprised entirely of found-footage, Senna-style; and several high-profile acquisition titles: Claire Denis' English-language feature debut High Life; Anthony Maras' Hotel Mumbai, which had been caught up in The Weinstein Co.'s bankruptcy proceedings; Emilio Estevez's The Public; Trevor Nunn's Red Joan; and Michael Winterbottom's The Wedding Guest.

Toronto will also follow other fests in screening the aforementioned Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Cold War, Dogman, First Man, The Front Runner, Non-Fiction, Shoplifters, The Sisters Brothers, A Star Is Born, Sunset and White Boy Rick — plus, via Sundance, Wash Westmoreland's Colette (30West/Bleecker Street), and via Sundance and Cannes, Paul Dano's Wildlife (IFC Films); Capernaum (Sony Classics), from Nadine Labaki, director of TIFF's 2011 audience award winner Where Do We Go Now?;  Everybody Knows (Focus Features), from the director of two of the last seven winners of the best foreign-language film Oscar, Asghar Farhadi; and Zhang Yimou's Shadow (still seeking U.S. distribution).

The LA Film Festival is moving from June into the heart of Oscar season for the first time, with its 24th edition set to run Sept. 20-28 — although no high-profile contenders have yet been announced as part of the fest's lineup. Across the country, meanwhile, in and around Lincoln Center on New York's Upper West Side, the 56th New York Film Festival is set to run Sept. 28-Oct. 14. Its opening night is the Big Apple's biggest film-related event of the year, and this year it will showcase The Favourite. In recent years, many NYFF openers have gone on to great success on the awards trail (e.g. About Schmidt; Mystic River; Good Night, and Good Luck; The Queen; The Social Network; Life of Pi; and Captain Phillips) — but there have also been a few duds (e.g. Carnage, The Walk and, just last year, Last Flag Flying). Only one of the fest's other two marquee nights — centerpiece and closing night — has been announced, with Roma slotted for the centerpiece.

Towards the end of the NYFF, on Oct. 10, the 62nd BFI London Film Festival will get underway across the pond with the first screening of Widows outside of America; the event will run through Oct. 21. The 21st Savannah Film Festival, one of the rising stars of the film fest circuit, will run Oct. 27-Nov. 3, and would be a logical enough launching pad for Bryan Singer's Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (Fox), starring Rami Malek as the late singer, which opens nationwide Nov. 2, although no official plans have been announced yet. As the moderator of the fest's annual Docs to Watch Panel, I can tell you that the wheels are already in motion to determine which 10 doc contenders will be part of that gathering this year.

Then, from Nov. 8-15, comes the 32nd AFI Fest, which is being overseen for the first time by Michael Lumpkin, who has run AFI Docs in Washington for the past four years and now assumes the West Coast responsibilities previously held by Jacqueline Lyanga, as well. Expect a heavier-than-usual doc presence at AFI Fest, and at least one world premiere of an awards hopeful that wasn't quite ready for an earlier fest — perhaps Mimi Leder's On the Basis of Sex (Focus Features), which stars Oscar nominee Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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