Three of Oscar season’s biggest titles made their debuts in Venice this week and the reviews so far have been pretty stellar. Sometimes a Venice launch of a highly anticipated film ends up with a decidedly muted response (like The Danish Girl last year) but not this year. These three Oscar hopefuls, which includes an Amy Adams 1-2 punch, are finding tanto amore on the Lido.
Here is a handful of glowing responses to La La Land, Arrival and Nocturnal Animals.
LA LA LAND
Just as Gladiator dusted off the sword and sandal epic, so La La Land reinvents the Hollywood movie musical for a new age. It’s an oft-stated theory that the original musicals burst onto the scene during the depression, giving some much needed colour and joy to life. In our current world of terrorism and Trumpian insanity, we can do with some of that Technicolor escapism and it doesn’t come much better than this.
La La Land is both a love letter to a confounding and magical city and an ode to the idea of the might-have-been romance, in all its piercing sweetness. It’s a movie with the potential to make lovers of us all. All we have to do is fall into its arms.
Stone is simply a joy as the eternally aspiring actress it’s hard to believe is being passed over. Emotionally alive and able to shift gears on a dime, Stone is all the more convincing in this context as she has the kind of looks that would have been appealing in any era, particularly the 1930s and 1950s.
These confrontations, captured with brooding, low-key dazzle by the brilliant cinematographer Bradford Young, are the best and creepiest scenes Villeneuve has yet shot, which fans of his earlier work will know is really saying something.
The slow build to the grand reveal is the most impressive aspect of “Arrival,” because most films that ask Big Questions flake out at supplying an answer.
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is so integral to the images that it may as well be their heartbeat—it’s spooky and sonorous, a spectral hum.
The scenes involving Tony and Bobby have the flavorful feel of gritty Western crime but also, in Gyllenhaal’s raw performance, the scalding pain of revenge that barely serves as a Band-Aid to wounds that can never heal. Shannon’s typically idiosyncratic spin on a small-town Texas archetype is no less riveting.
The performances here are consistently superb, from Adams and Gyllenhaal (playing two very different roles) to Michael Shannon (as a Texas lawman), Laura Linney (getting an unforgettable scene as Susan’s mother, a monstrous Manhattan society matron) and Karl Glusman (“Love,” “The Neon Demon”) as one of the kidnappers. The real standout is Taylor-Johnson, so effectively creepy as the ringleader of the novel’s miscreants. He’s been an effective enough superhero in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and the “Kick-Ass” films — and thoroughly vapid in “Godzilla” — but his unsettlingly charismatic turn here heralds a career turning point.
The “real world” moves back and forth in time, with Adams convincingly pulling off an eager twentysomething and her jaded shell twenty years later. Gyllenhaal has the somewhat sadder part, playing a man who loses everything not once but twice, and the reliable actor nails it in both registers.