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

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist September 12, 2013 at 4:36PM

With Venice and Telluride in the rear-view mirror, and TIFF starting to wind down (we've still coverage to come, but very few films remain that haven't been screened to press), it feels like the perfect time to kick off, for real, our annual awards coverage. There's a part of you that groans, and that's fair enough -- it does feel like only yesterday that we were talking "Argo" vs. "Life of Pi" and so on, but even with five months to go until the ceremony itself, over half of the film that'll be in play have been unveiled. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Oscar campaigns have been underway for weeks, if not months.
15
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.

This article is related to: Awards, Academy Awards, Oscars, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Rush, Prisoners, Dallas Buyers Club, August: Osage County, The Fifth Estate, Captain Phillips, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Features, Feature


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