Venice and Telluride: What We’ve Learned So Far


Click on over to my 2014 Oscar Predictions page to see everything I’m forecasting in the major categories.

We’re mere days into the fall movie season, and already the Oscar landscape has changed significantly. I’ve updated my Oscar predictions today, and I will continue to on a weekly basis—every Wednesday—until the season ends.

I will have my first weekly Wednesday post discussing my 2014 Oscar predictions this week, but before that, I’m sharing a brief commentary today on the few films that have premiered at Venice and/or Telluride so far and what, if any, Oscar trends or implications have emerged.

We begin with a biggie…

As if there was any doubt. Director Alfonso Cuaron simply floored audiences at both Venice and Telluride. Aside from actually watching the films myself, waking up to a tweet from Guy Lodge giving the film an A will likely go down as one of the highlights of my fall movie season—seriously. The film’s white-knuckle tension, its jaw-dropping visuals, and Sandra Bullock’s knockout performance are all getting singled out in what I’ve already called my most-anticipated movie of 2013.

Prisoners is damn good.
Speaking of white-knuckle tension, any film getting compared to Zodiac and Se7en will turn some heads, and in Telluride, that film was Prisoners. The Roger Deakins-lensed thriller was directed by Incendies helmer Denis Villeneuve and stars Hugh Jackman (never better, according to most reviews) as a father searching for his daughter—one of two kidnapped by, well, someone. We don’t need to wait long to see if the deafening buzz is earned; Prisoners opens September 20.

Damn good, wowza don’t equal Oscar nominations.
As good as Gravity and Prisoners seem to be, I’m not drastically altering my Oscar predictions to accommodate them. The only change I’ve made (as far as these two films are concerned) is to Best Actress, where Sandra Bullock sneaks in. Gravity, of course, is going to be a huge player with the craft awards—Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography, etc. Best Picture/Best Director? If some had their way, sure. I haven’t been confident, and nothing I’ve read since the film’s premiere has made me think otherwise. The only thing that could change my mind is a shockingly big box office haul.

And I’d been so tempted to drop Prisoners into my predictions all summer long. It was the film Warner Brothers had been banking its hopes on, I’d read a number of times. And while a few have come out of the gate legitimizing the studio’s faith in the film (as far as awards go), I think my reluctance to list it among my predicted ten will go rewarded. I’m more bullish on Hugh Jackman’s Best Actor chances, but that category is so loaded. He’s a solid sixth at this stage of the game.

12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor are contendas.
It seems Steve McQueen of all folks has brought the year’s first slam dunk Oscar movie. 12 Years a Slave is getting reviews you simply don’t read for brand new films, with comparisons to Gone with the Wind making me feel really good about my preliminary predictions (which featured across-the-board love for McQueen’s third feature). Of course, only a fool would assume any category was all sewn up on September 1, but Chiwetel Ejiofor has put Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and all the other actors in the loaded Best Actor conversation on blast. Michael Fassbender is looking great for Best Supporting Actor. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o seems like a fairly solid bet for Best Supporting Actress. And McQueen and his film shoot to the top of my Best Director/Best Picture predictions respectively. Yes, it’s a reactionary move, but this is where we are in the race. Better the devil you know, right?

So is Judi Dench.
In the “exactly the kind of movie you expected it to be” category, Stephen Frears’ Philomena pleased many a Lido-goer this weekend, with Judi Dench’s lead performance earning the lion’s share of the praise toward the film. As far as my awards predictions go, I’m not sure how she escaped my Oscar consciousness until now, but needless to say, she joined Sandra Bullock in my updated Best Actress lineup. And with The Weinstein Co. behind her, I think she could pull out a win.

And maybe Labor Day.
Jason Reitman’s latest pleased almost everyone who took it in at Telluride last Thursday night. The feeling I took away from reading reviews? That it’s a great film, but one that could easily get lost in the end-of-year shuffle. I’m not sure a Christmas Day limited release is the best course for a film with a late-August world premiere. But I could be wrong. Nevertheless, with two new additions to my Best Actress lineup, two actresses needed to be cut. One of the two was Winslet, and Best Actress was the only major category in which I’d been projecting love for Labor Day.

No category confusion for Bruce Dern…
…at least in his mind. “If I go supporting, I’m a whore,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Well, there you go.

Miyazaki is retiring.
Talk about burying the lede. I’m more an admirer than a lover of Miyazaki’s animation, but if he remains true to his word, The Wind Rises will be his last film. That, I’m sure, will lend an air of melancholy to the film, which sounds like it could be your Best Animated Feature winner (and might have been even without Miyazaki’s surprise announcement).

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