Earlier this week, Toronto stole all the spotlight with the announcement of its first batch of typically starry, Oscar-caliber titles. But we knew from the telling listings of “North American premiere” or “Canadian premiere” that many of the biggest names would probably first make a trip to the Lido.
Indeed, as confirmed by organizers today, the likes of Alexander Payne, George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro, Darren Aronofsky, Stephen Frears, Martin McDonagh will all be riding those fancy vaporettos to premiere their latest works at the world’s oldest film festival.
One has to wonder why is it that many studios and filmmakers reserve the admittedly vain but nonetheless coveted “world premiere” of their prized award season offerings for Venice. It’s not like Oscar-friendly movies have been winning the Golden Lion left and right over the years.
In fact, winners of the Best Picture Oscar and the Leone d’Oro have never aligned from my preliminary research. You have to go back to 2008 to find a Venice champ that was a real Oscar player (THE WRESTLER) and three years before that, where BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN kicked off a season of trophies that should have ended with the most deserved Best Picture win… (no, we don’t want to go there).
In the last ten years, two eventual Best Picture winners have been in the Venice competition lineup (SPOTLIGHT screened out of competition) and both were unceremoniously snubbed by the jury: THE HURT LOCKER and BIRDMAN.
So why not cut the expenses and just go to Canada, where your films would be celebrated by a huge public audience and not be subject to the scrutiny and whims of festival juries?
There’s probably some measure of vanity involved. It’s one thing to be embraced by the masses (we’re talking in relative terms here, of course – where SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE are considered blockbusters) and quite something else to be presented in the home of Fellini and Antonioni, against a backdrop of true old-fashioned glamour.
In any case, here we are. In just over a month we’ll get our first taste of many expected Oscar heavy-hitters. Not to mention highly anticipated new films by the Clooneys of arthouse cinema the world over: the Martel, the Haigh, the Kore-eda, the effing Kechiche!
So yeah, BLADE RUNNER and PHANTOM THREAD were probably never meant to be. But until we get to feast our eyes on those beauties, there’s plenty to get excited about.
The 74th Venice Film Festival runs Aug. 30 – September 9. We’ll be there to bring back the buzz on these films as they premiere.