Last week we ran down our 20 Most Anticipated Films of the fall season, excluding those that only have festival berths planned and no wider releases as yet. But this week, the Venice Film Festival kicks off, initiating the first phase of the fall festival season, which runs into the tiny but mighty Telluride and the huge but also mighty Toronto International Film Festival. After that, everyone catches their breath for a couple of weeks before launching back into the fray for the New York Film Festival, which overlaps a little with the BFI London Film Festival, before AFI Fest takes us into mid-November and we all start to fret about the holidays.
So that's the rest of our 2014 mapped out, which would probably be depressing if it wasn't studded with so many mouthwatering cinematic prospects. Prior to the release of the Venice and Toronto slates, we ran down our Fall Festival Wishlist of 50, and a large number of them have found homes this season—some of them, as we predicted, at Venice. So without further ado, here are the 10 Venice titles we're most anticipating, and a roundup of the other films we'll be keeping an eye on. Check back for Venice coverage starting Wednesday.
Synopsis: An actor (Michael Keaton) best known for a superhero role tries to mount a Broadway production based on a Raymond Carver short story in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film, which we've learned has been shot (by the peerless Emmanuel Lubezki) and edited to look like one continuous take.
What You Need To Know: A little like last year, with Inarritu's compatriot Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," Venice's major coup this time comes in the form of its opening film. Never less than top-of-our-mind since January when we've compiled our most hotly anticipated titles of the year, we have to say everything we've seen from the film since has only increased our excitement. Aside from the formal daring the film displays, it also marks a most welcome pivotal lead role for the underrated Michael Keaton (I call "Keatonaissance"), playing against a stacked supporting cast including Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough. Perhaps even more crucially, it sees Inarritu, an undeniably skilled visual storyteller and hugely talented director, work in a whole new register of slightly deranged meta-comedy. It feels like it's been forever in coming, but we're very glad we've only a few days left before we can check out this major left turn from the director of "Babel," "21 Grams" and "Biutiful."
When? After a pit stop at NYFF, "Birdman" opens on October 17th.
"The Look of Silence"
Synopsis: In the follow-up to the brilliant, terrifying, Oscar-nominated documentary "The Act of Killing," director Joshua Oppenheimer tells the story of a village optometrist who, spurred into action by watching his film, tracked down and confronted the men who murdered his brother as part of the Communist "purges."
What You Need To Know: "The Act of Killing" is simply one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever made (and was this writer's number 1 film of 2013 by quite some distance), so obviously we're deeply fascinated to see what Oppenheimer delivers next. But we're also, full disclosure, probably more nervous about this screening than any other—if it's anything like his last film, we'll need several stiff drinks afterwards. However it seems to have a more intimate scope than 'Act,' and was assembled in a shorter period of time, so while we fully expect Oppenheimer's piercing intelligence to deliver something memorable, we're hoping that our own familiarity with the terrain may save us from actual hyperventilation/anxiety-induced cardiac arrest. Flippancy aside, a continued exploration of this devastating conflict and its modern-day repercussions is vital and welcome, and the fact that this journey was inspired by Oppenheimer's film, and the profession of the central figure, point to there being some of that same metatextual commentary about films and filmmaking that provided such rich depth last time.
When? No release date as yet, but it will play TIFF and NYFF.
Synopsis: Desperate to save his family home, an unemployed construction worker (Andrew Garfield) joins an unscrupulous realtor (Michael Shannon) in the dirty business of foreclosing on the disenfranchised,
What You Need To Know: Director Ramin Bahrani, hailed after a triptych of critically adored features—"Man Push Cart," "Chop Shop" and "Goodbye Solo"—as the "director of the decade" (by Roger Ebert, no less), stumbled a little for the first time with 2012's "At Any Price." But while the old-fashioned rhythms of that film, which saw Bahrani work with his highest profile cast to that date (Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron both acquitting themselves very well), may not have jibed with critics or audiences, we found a lot to like, particularly an unsentimental, clear-eyed view of how the modern economic recession affects ordinary people. And that thread will carry through to "99 Homes," which promises welcome roles for Garfield out of his Spidey suit, Michael Shannon, who is among our favorite working actors anyway, and the always excellent Laura Dern playing Garfield's widowed mother.
When? No wide release set yet; film will also play TIFF