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Oscars: What Films Are Looking Good Coming Out Of Venice, Telluride & TIFF?

by Oliver Lyttelton
September 12, 2013 4:36 PM
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The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby Him & Her Jessica Chastain

Being Held For 2014
Of course, the festival season always has numerous films needing a home, and it can take some time before even the buzziest film reaches theaters (nearly eighteen months separated the premieres of "Crash" and "The Hurt Locker" at TIFF and Venice respectively, and their Best Picture victories). Harvey Weinstein's certainly been doing his shopping early, picking up Mia Wasikowska vehicle "Tracks," spiritual "Once" sequel "Can A Song Save Your Life?," Jessica Chastain double-header "The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby His & Hers" and Colin Firth WWII drama "The Railway Man." We'd certainly wondered as the buys racked up if Harvey might end up sneaking one onto the 2013 slate, given that "August Osage County"— and more importantly, "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom"—were coolly received. But in a show of the support to both films, the company have revealed that all four acquisitions won't see the light of day until next year. It's always possible his mind will be changed, but with the competition already packed, it's likely to stay that way.

Another film we'd pegged as a possibility for a bump up was "Belle," Amma Assante's costume drama picked up by Fox Searchlight a few months back. The film was warmly received by those who saw it in TIFF, but with the film already slated for a "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"-aping slot in May 2014 by Fox Searchlight, it needed raves to get bumped up, and the buzz wasn't quite that electric, so it's likely to stay where it is. Still, mark star Gugu Mbatha-Raw on your possibilities list for 2015. Potentially joining her there is Jude Law, the star of another Fox Searchlight film "Dom Hemingway." Law's getting some of the best notices of his career for the British crime comedy, but again, there's no sign of the film landing in this year's race. 

Locke Tom Hardy

There are three other lead performances that have gotten great reviews, but even if they have distributors, they'll be held for next year. A24 have picked up Tom Hardy vehicle "Locke" out of Venice, and the turn's certainly awards worthy—the "Inception" star holds the screen solo throughout, and does it beautifully. But with the competition still stiff, the company will hold it for next year and try their luck again, possibly surfing the hype of Hardy's starring role in the "Mad Max" reboot (if that is in fact a real thing that exists, and not an elaborate practical joke from Warner Bros). Neither David Gordon Green's "Joe" or John Ridley's "All Is By My Side" have distribution as we go to press, but both got good notices.

Fifth Estate

Not Looking Great
Not everything that goes to the festivals can be a winner, and that's certainly been the case this year, with even a few high profile films very much out of the race. In some cases, it's simply that they're not the kind of film that voters respond to—"The Double," "Enemy","Under The Skin" and "How I Live Now" got pretty great notices on the whole, but are hardly awards-friendly, so won't hit until 2014. And for some, the story isn't done yet. Initial reactions to biopics "The Fifth Estate" and "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" were fairly tepid (though the former has its supporters, notably Deadline's Pete Hammond, and the latter's emotional subject matter feels more resonant after Mandela's recent ill-health), and the strength of the Best Actor field make Benedict Cumberbatch and Idris Elba less of the home-runs they might otherwise appear, but they're still going to be in the conversation, at least for a little while longer.

Labor Day

Similarly, Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" has its fans, but a ton of detractors too, and certainly doesn't have anywhere near the buzz that "Juno" or "Up In The Air" had at the same point in the cycle. Our gut is at this point that the film's more likely to go the way of "Young Adult," but we're holding off judgement completely at least until we start hearing how Academy screenings go down. But those are the best bets of the bottom tier at this point, along with, perhaps, "The Past," which seemed like a possibility out of Cannes, but is suffering cooler buzz these days, and seems to be a lesser cousin to "A Separation." Word may yet pick up again, but it's not looking like a serious proposition in the major categories. No one seems especially wild about "The Invisible Woman" at this point either.

Elsewhere, poisonous reviews greeted "Devil's Knot," "Therese," "Third Person" and "You Are Here," so they're all out for the count. "Parkland" was received more warmly at TIFF than in Venice, but it's still a non-starter, while Kevin Kline's had some good notices for "The Last Of Robin Hood," but not enough for it to become a contender, and few seemed to see Britflicks "Le Week-End" and "One Chance," which won't be Oscar contenders, though could figure into the BAFTAs. Finally, not on the festival circuit, but opening across the pond are Richard Curtis' "About Time" and Naomi Watts-starring biopic "Diana." The former is probably Curtis' best directorial effort, and has a Bill Nighy performance that might in theory have been a chance to award the never-nominated actor, but it's not going to get much awards traction. "Diana" is by all accounts a train wreck, and Watts should essentially be ruled out of Best Actress contention at this point, even if the performance is apparently better than the film.

We're off to catch our breath before NYFF kicks off, when we'll be seeing official verdicts on "Her" and "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty." But we'll be back before then, with our first Best Picture chart coming next week.

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  • Child of God | September 29, 2013 11:55 PMReply

    Scott Haze 4 Child of God with nomination 4 James Franco as Director.

    Also, hope the Oscars don't forget Franco's performance 4 Spring Breakers as in Best Supporting Actor.

  • Bill G | September 14, 2013 3:51 PMReply

    How about Brie Larson in "Short Term 12", and the film in general? Is it lacking in star power? Is Cinedigm too small to give it an Oscar push? It's definitely the best film I've seen all year, though I admit that I haven't seen most of the heavy hitters yet.

  • CrombyMouse | September 13, 2013 3:19 AMReply

    And what about Ain't Them Body Saints?

  • catherin | September 13, 2013 3:11 AMReply

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  • cirkusfolk | September 12, 2013 8:13 PMReply

    I saw the trailer for Prisoners and was immediately struck by how gorgeous it looked. So I looked up who shot it, and of course it was none other than Roger Deakins. I'll expect another nom for him this year, but not the win :(

  • Mohammed | September 12, 2013 5:47 PMReply

    If there is one film I like to see excluded it's August: Osage County. It looks terrible, has had mixed to bad reviews, and it's director is telling the press that the ending wasn't made by him or for creative choice, but 1) because test-audiences liked the current one, and 2) because Harvey demanded it. Send a message that the creative choice should be the directors and shut out August entirely.

    Also shut out American Hustle. Russel's Silver was a sh** movie that somehow went all the way entirely on the basis of Harvey. And anyone who thinks Jennifer Lawrence delivered a better performance than Riva is crazy.

  • Oh Dear | September 12, 2013 8:37 PM

    Silver Linings Playbook is pure brilliance. Riva and Lawrence were equally great.

  • Tyler | September 12, 2013 6:21 PM

    American Hustle has alot of things going for it and will certainly not be shut out. It will most likely be up for Best Picture. But you must have been watching a completely different movie than the rest of the world if you though Silver Linings sucked

  • cass | September 12, 2013 5:41 PMReply

    what are you talking about when you say the evil nature of his character will go against Fassbender? Hello Bardem in No Country, Waltz in Basterds, Ledger in Dark Knight. Tucci, Renner and Brolin were nominated; this category LOVES evil guys.

  • Daniel O'Raw | September 13, 2013 3:54 PM

    The mere thought that the evil nature of a character could stop someone winning for a great performance is ridiculous. If the Oscars think like that, then they truly are retarded, but I guess they are considering Ralph Fiennes Nazi performance not winning and them giving it to bloody Tommy Lee Jones' silly cop chasing Harrison Ford in the Fugitive.

  • Fred | September 13, 2013 12:06 PM

    I would say that at the time, Bardem was not fun evil. Perhaps taken as the kickoff of his colorful, crazy-haired villain string and of a piece with them, but the strange do still didn't make his killer much fun. Ditto Waltz: witty banter doesn't negate the horrific deeds of a Nazi or a sociopathic killing machine.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | September 12, 2013 7:02 PM

    But there's fun evil -- Bardem, Waltz, Ledger -- and brutal, irredeemable, inhuman evil. I feel like Fassbender's more in the latter category in Slave, and that's less popular when it comes to that category. Then again, Ralph Fiennes was nominated for Schindler's List, so it wouldn't be unprecedented.

  • joe | September 12, 2013 5:34 PMReply

    you will first hear it in this commnet:

    altough james gandolfini has a bigger role in enough said he absolutelly kills it in animal rescue

    his performance is hands down the second best in his carrer (number one will always be tony ) but the best in his film career and you'll hear his name among the supporting actor nominees in 2015 at the oscars

  • BOO | September 12, 2013 5:32 PMReply

    Fruitvale Station I think is still a contender for a Picture nomination. It's kind of like Beasts of the Southern Wild and the Academy gave that a lot.

  • Tyler | September 12, 2013 6:17 PM

    If Fruitvale Station gets anything I think it will only be a nod for Michael B. Jordan. And with so many potentials for best actor I believe he will be pushed out of the running. The same way Shailene Woodley was two years ago.

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