Telluride and Venice launch a new set of Oscar contenders

The first wave of fall film festivals have gotten underway, with the Telluride Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival offering up a number of buzz worthy titles. Some potential Academy Award contenders have screened at both fests, while some were exclusive to only one. Still others have played at one and then will wait to play later on this month at either the New York Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival. Today, we’ll go over a few high profile movies and see what the general consensus so far has been. Suffice to say, the Oscar race has been evolving greatly over the past few days. Read on for more.

Keep in mind, there’s still some still to be revealed titles, outside of the aforementioned festivals. NYFF will unveil Last Flag Flying and Wonder Wheel, while TIFF will be the launching pad for Chappaquiddick, I Love You, Daddy, Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House, Molly’s Game, Stronger, and more. They’re all X factors right now to one degree or another. In part, there’s an upcoming focus on them because they’re the unseen contenders. That always adds a bit of mystery. Today though, the focus is on what has screened so far at Telluride and Venice over the past week…

First up are the films that really helped themselves out. These are the ones that most benefited from going the festival route. They include Battle of the Sexes, Brawl In Cell Block 99, Darkest Hour, First Reformed, First They Killed My Father, Hostiles, Lady Bird, Our Souls at Night, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Not all of these will strike the fancy of the Academy, and in fact, most probably won’t, but they represent well liked festival titles that are leaving Venice and/or Telluride with more buzz than they entered with. What happens with Oscar is still to be determined, of course.

Next we have the ones that fell a bit flat, at least in terms of Oscar viability. Those flicks mainly consist of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (strong reviews but not enough to get Annette Bening her win, so a downgrade overall), Lean on Pete (good reviews but nothing to suggest it’ll be the player some thought it could have been), Suburbicon (mixed reviews probably shoots this one in the foot) Victoria & Abdul (been there, done that feeling), Wonderstruck (still missing any raves, including at the Cannes Film Festival), and Woodshock (the closest thing to a panned title so far). Nothing was outright savaged, and these actually were well enough liked, but their awards chances took a hit. Don’t cross them off for nominations, but wins may be out of reach.

Then, there’s the more divisive titles. Unexpectedly, that includes Downsizing, which went from some raves at Venice to a more muted response at Telluride, as well as mother!. Now, it’s hard to know what will happen with these flicks, but they’re sitting in a pretty precarious place. They could each be embrace or snubbed by Oscar, depending on who you talk to. Both will need to build from where they are, but neither is out of the race yet. Downsizing has the better chance, but mother! has more of the must see buzz. Consider each an X factor still, at least for now.

Overall, the early festival season has been one of mostly high praise. I don’t know that we had the ultimate Best Picture winner debut at Telluride like is often the case, but there certainly are some options in Battle of the Sexes, Darkest Hour, and The Shape of Water. They’ll likely compete with Dunkirk and other still to be released titles for the top honor, and that seems like a solid season. The precursors will start sorting it out in a few months, but we’re not there yet. Sit tight for more on the festival debuts as the year progresses. 2017 could wind up finishing on a real high note…

Stay tuned to see how the rest of the fall festival season turns out!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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