The Venice Film Festival is in a unique position to capture the first blush of a film that might ultimately do well during Oscar season. This was true of Gravity and it was true of Birdman. The next stop after Venice is Telluride, which is its own kind of launch pad that doesn’t necessarily need Venice, but once a film is highly praised in Venice the feeling is often contagious. What is it about Venice and Telluride that lends itself to this kind of impact? Timing. It’s all about timing.
As the summer comes to an anti-climactic close, it becomes more and more clear every year that the kinds of films critics are best suited to write about, the ones that keep them employed, the ones the adults will pay to see, are usually only let out of the gate in the fall season. By that point, there are hundreds of fingers waiting to hit the keypad. There is too much coverage for not enough material so being relatively “first” on the scene is crucial. This is as true of Venice and Telluride as it is of the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review (no, I do not distinguish between them anymore).
Right around now, critics and bloggers are preparing for these two festivals and waiting to be enthralled. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. We have no idea what kind of a year this will be, because so many of the films that are most anticipated aren’t making the festival rounds at all. The pattern has followed the same steps in the last few years — high anticipation builds for the Big Oscar Movies that are shown in October, November and sometimes December, while the movies seen at Telluride hover in the background and are mostly taken for granted (The Artist, The King’s Speech, Argo, Birdman). Last year the Oscar predictors were placing high on their lists films like Unbroken, Into the Woods and two that would make it in — American Sniper and Selma. Little attention is paid to possibilities seen at Telluride because there are so many big movies still waiting to be seen.
And yet, as we keep repeating here at AwardsDaily, the win always comes down to the girl next door — the familiar and reliable underdog that never felt like the frontrunner. The psychology of the voting consensus is as maddening in the Oscar race as it is in political elections. The moment you become a threat, forces work actively to take you down. It’s good but it’s not THAT good. Really, that’s the film that’s supposed to win Best Picture? I can guarantee you that both Birdman and Argo would have suffered that same fate if they were the predicted winners heading into the voting season. A few people (Kris Tapley) disagree with me on this — they think the movie is the movie is the movie. I think it’s a matter of perception; where our expectations lie determines how we perceive a film. Last year, what really was the “little movie that could” and the “scrappy underdog,” Boyhood, was morphed into the mean ol’ frontrunner because it won so many critics awards. It might not have won Best Picture anyway but its formidable status in the race made it a punching bag.
Of course, none of this makes any difference if you’re holding onto a film like Slumdog Millionaire. It came into Telluride with the lowest possible expectations — rumors of it being released “straight to video” persisted. Once it hit big it never took a tumble, not even when the “poverty porn” accusations blew up, not even when the scandal involving the poor stars of the films took hold. Nothing was going to take that movie down.
Here we are once again facing the Venice Film Fest and the Telluride Film Fest colliding during Labor Day weekend. Jeff Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere made a short list of movies he expects to see on the list:
Steve Jobs, Suffragette, Black Mass, Spotlight, Son of Saul, Beasts of No Nation, Carol, Amazing Grace, Marguerite, CharlieKaufman‘s Anomalisa (probably), He Named Me Malala (maybe), Room, Hitchcock/Truffaut.
And our good pal Michael Patterson also put in his latest predictions:
What’s playing Venice that might be that seat-rocking out-of-body experience that sends the critics into a tailspin? In competition there is Cary Fukanaga’s Beasts of No Nation. It could launch big and then hit Telluride shortly thereafter generating that one-two punch we’re looking for. Out of competition Everest and Black Mass. Ditto. Although Everest was screened recently by critics thus it can’t have that first flush of the season when viewers see something no one else has yet seen, which only adds to the intensified landing.
45 Years is currently being hyped by Anne Thompson and others who’ve seen it. Charlotte Rampling has some great early buzz. Do you see any potential Best Picture winners on this list?
We don’t yet know the Telluride lineup and it might not even include Beasts of No Nation, though Everest and Black Mass both seem likely. It will be a curious thing to see if Netflix can break into the game of Oscar. The Academy is ruled mostly by the five families with the sole recent exception of The Hurt Locker. Best Picture is usually Best Bread and Butter Picture existing within the confines of the Hollywood structure. Either way, as we sit perched on the edge of the free fall we wait with eager anticipation.
AwardsDaily rolls into Telluride on the 3rd of September. Watch for diaries, photos, periscoping, twitter and more.