With Telluride just finishing, Venice still underway, and Toronto starting tomorrow, we are smack in the middle of the fall festival kickoff of awards season once again. Here we go…
Venice started it off with the world premieres of Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (whose director and stars Adam Driver and Laura Dern quickly made it over to the mountains of Colorado soon after – you can peg this film and all of its stars for nominations and, I think, wins for Driver and Dern) and Todd Philip’s Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix as the most iconic DC Comics villain of all time, but with a twist. James Gray’s Ad Astra, starring Brad Pitt, also had its kick off on the Lido as did Timothée Chalamet in David Michôd’s The King and Kristen Stewart in Seberg from Benedict Andrews. Those last two titles, from Netflix and Amazon, respectively, played out of competition. Then there’s the indomitable Meryl Streep, looking for her 22nd Oscar nomination, this time for Steven Soderbergh’s wacky crime comedy/drama The Laundromat, which my Venice critic Robert Ruggio called “a missed opportunity.” There’s a wealth of Oscar potential in those titles, from below the line techs (costumes, production design, score) to top-tier categories like Best Actor for Phoenix and Pitt and Best Supporting Actress for Streep.
Telluride came in strong just as Venice was flagging down its first water taxis with major world premieres and Cannes starters to give us some big Oscar insights. James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari is a rip-roaring buddy-car drama that is going to be noticed by audiences and voters. Between its second to none sound design and editing, sharp script and pitch perfect performances, what’s not to love? It’s one of the few Fox films that it seems Disney is leaving alone (Ad Astra too) in hopes of securing a healthy fall box office and a shelf of accolades. Then came Judy, which absolutely cements Renée Zellweger as a top Best Actress contender. In a heartbreakingly good performance, Zellweger charmed audiences on and off screen at the fest and dug in deep about why she left Hollywood and why she’s back. She seems fresh, relaxed and happy, adjectives that you’d have been hard pressed to use about the Oscar winner a decade ago. This time, she’s in it to win it.
Waves, the third film from Trey Edward Shults, to me, is a masterpiece. An emotional saga of intimacy, love and forgiveness with a killer cast of young actors led by Kelvin Harrison Jr, Taylor Russell and Alexa Demie with great assists by Sterling K. Brown and Lucas Hedges. The Two Popes, from Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles, brought a My Dinner with Andre quality to his very talky but richly-texted min-bio of two dueling titans of the Catholic church, written by Anthony McCarten. Who, by the way, has written the roles for three of the last five Best Actor winners. I’m looking at you, Jonathan Pryce.
Motherless Brooklyn, the passion project from Oscar nominee Edward Norton (who directed, adapted, produced and starred in) came with mostly mixed reviews. Some were all in for the film and especially Norton’s performance, some felt is a drab noir tale that didn’t need to be told. Uncut Gems, from the Safdie Brothers and starring Adam Sandler was a divisive film but its fans were passionate. Director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), who has the charm and likability of Guillermo del Toro, talked about the film at the Neon party, saying it was the best of the festival. Speaking of Parasite, I found no better film at the festival than his family dramedy and after the breakthroughs of Roma and Cold War last season, we’re looking at the next non-English language film – and director – to do it this year.
The Aeronauts, starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, soared in as a rousing and crowd pleasing true life adventure story that could find a berth at the Oscars. With Amazon’s new awards season release strategy (in theaters first then on Prime Video just two weeks later), the streamer is going for a Netflix style approach after how that behemoth found success with Roma last year. But, wouldn’t you know it – just after Amazon announced this new strategy, Netflix announced its updated version, which keeps some of its titles in theaters for three weeks to a month. Sneaky devils.
The Toronto International Film Festival starts tomorrow, September 5, and it will bring us a huge batch of either contenders or pretenders. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Jojo Rabbit, Harriet, Dolemite Is My Name and Just Mercy are just some of the wealth of titles that will world premiere at TIFF and give us a great picture of the awards race. Plus, after last year, where the TIFF People’s Choice winner and eventual Best Picture Oscar winner (Green Book) started here and didn’t play Telluride (after nearly a decade of a perfect record), we’ll all be paying close attention to what wins at TIFF this year.
But let’s get to what you really want to see: Oscar predictions. I’m presenting an updated look at the top 8 categories based on reviews and receptions from Venice and Telluride for September 4. Official September predictions will drop the week after TIFF ends, September 16-20.
1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar – 11/22) TIFF world premiere
2. Marriage Story (Netflix – 11/6, theatrical / 12/6, streaming) Venice world premiere/Telluride/TIFF/NYFF
3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia – 7/26) Cannes
4. The Irishman (Netflix – 11/1 theatrical / 11/27 streaming) NYFF world premiere
5. The Farewell (A24 – 7/12) Sundance
6. Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight – 10/18) TIFF world premiere
7. Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox – 11/15) Telluride world premiere/TIFF
8. Parasite (Neon – 10/11) Cannes world premiere/Telluride/TIFF
9. Little Women (Sony – 12/25)
10. Just Mercy (Warner Bros – 12/25) TIFF world premiere
1. Martin Scorsese – The Irishman (Netflix)
2. Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar)
3. Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story (Netflix)
4. Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
5. Bong Joon-ho – Parasite (Neon)
1. Cynthia Erivo – Harriet (Focus Features)
2. Renée Zellweger – Judy (Roadside Attractions)
3. Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story (Netflix)
4. Awkwafina – The Farewell (A24)
5. Saoirse Ronan – Little Women (Sony)
1. Adam Driver – Marriage Story (Netflix)
2. Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
3. Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes (Netflix)
4. Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory (Sony Classics)
5. Joaquin Phoenix – Joker (Warner Bros)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Laura Dern – Marriage Story (Netflix)
2. Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
3. Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell (A24)
4. Margot Robbie – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
5. Meryl Streep – The Laundromat (Netflix)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar)
2. Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
3. Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
4. Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes (Netflix)
5. Jamie Foxx – Just Mercy (Warner Bros)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar)
2. Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
3. The Irishman (Netflix)
4. Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
5. Joker (Warner Bros)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. Marriage Story (Netflix)
2. The Farewell (A24)
3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony)
4. Parasite (Neon)
5. The Two Popes (Netflix)