Make way for the Oscar frontrunners. Running November 7-14, AFI FEST 2013 kicks off tonight with a strong slate of awards contenders and critically acclaimed films. Though some tickets are harder to snag than others, it's a free festival in the center of Hollywood that invites you to catch up on the major films out of Cannes, Telluride, TIFF, Venice and NYFF. Here's the full schedule. Select trailers after the jump.
On the docket are world premieres of Peter Berg's buzzed-about war thriller "Lone Survivor" and Christian Bale starrer "Out of the Furnace," Scott Cooper's followup to "Crazy Heart." AFI will also tribute director David O. Russell with selections from the eagerly anticipated December release "American Hustle." Though it has only test-screened so far, "Hustle" has ranked high among awards pundits all year.
Coming down the festival pike from Cannes and Toronto are Alexander Payne's black-and-white love letter to the Midwest, "Nebraska," and the Coens' fest-closing period film "Inside Llewyn Davis" (our Cannes review and interview with star Oscar Isaac). Both are best picture contenders, and Bruce Dern is a sure bet best actor nom for his performance as an ailing father "Nebraska." "Her," "Philomena," "August: Osage County" (review and roundup) and the North American premiere of fest opener "Saving Mr. Banks," which played well in London, will also screen. Other awards hopefuls include Nelson Mandela biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (our NOFF review), NYFF crowdpleaser "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Invisible Woman" directed by Ralph Fiennes. (Click through for our reviews and coverage.)
AFI FEST will also play 15 of the record 76 foreign Oscar frontrunners, from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's warmly received "The Past" to "The Great Beauty," "Heli" and "Borgman" out of Cannes, as well as Australia's "The Rocket" and must-sees "Gloria" from Chile and Romanian neorealist drama "Child's Pose."
Other highlights include Ari Folman's live-action/animated hybrid "The Congress" starring Robin Wright, Bernardo Bertolucci's 1988 Oscar champ "The Last Emperor" in 3D and an assorted offering of international films and breakout American indies. Guest artistic director and French New Wave goddess Agnes Varda has also curated a series of some of her favorite films, from John Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence" to Scorsese's cult treasure "After Hours."
Check back on our Oscar predictions after the festival.