While it may seem somewhat muted with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strikes ongoing, the official kick-off to awards season is now underway.
The Venice Film Festival is now in day one, while the Telluride Film Festival will begin screening films in the next couple of hours. These two festivals are home to the World Premiere of several award season hopefuls like Netflix’s Maestro, Focus Features’ The Holdovers, Neon’s Ferrari, Amazon Studios’ Saltburn, Searchlight Pictures’ Poor Things, and A24’s Pricilla, just to name a few. These new titles will duke it out against the already released Oppenheimer, Barbie, Air, Blackberry, Past Lives, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, as well as previously premiered festival titles that include The Killers of the Flower Moon and The Zone of Interest.
However, even though all of these films have a chance to take home the gold, there is still a lot more competition on the way. The Toronto International Film Festival, which starts on September 7, will showcase the premieres of Dumb Money, The Boy and the Heron, Next Goal Wins, and Pain Hustlers. It’s hard to say if any of these titles, with the exception of The Boy and the Heron, which I predict will be getting one of the five slots for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, will have a shot of becoming a major award season contender. There are also other upcoming releases that can’t be ignored, like Wonka, The Color Purple, Napoleon, Wish, The Book of Clarence, and The Boys in the Boat.
Also, let’s not forget to mention that there are always some unexpected surprises. With so many titles premiering over the next several weeks, I expect at least two to three surprises that end up begin part of the awards conversation. There are so many movies to consider that it will be incredibly interesting to see how things actually play out in the upcoming months.
As of right now, I do believe it’s anyone’s game. I do think that at this moment, Oppenheimer is the Best Picture front-runner, but that could change. Currently, there is no Everything Everywhere All At Once, and I can say confidently that all cards are still on the table. There are definitely some “locks” in certain categories. Oppenheimer will be nominated for Best Picture, as will Robert Downey Jr. for Best Supporting Actor. I feel very confident in saying those. Below-the-line categories will be filled with nominations for Barbie and Oppenheimer, but none of them winning has been set in stone as of yet.
While some were saddened that other highly anticipated award season titles were recently moved out of 2023 due to the strikes, I think moving Dune Part II and Challengers was a wise decision, given the fierce competition. Dune would have had to go head to head with Barbie and Oppenheimer in the crafts categories and even though the first film received many awards, I feel like Barbie and Oppenheimer being in direct competition would have lessened Dune’s wins overall.
I will be at the Telluride Film Festival for the next five days, seeing some of the upcoming award season hopefuls. While the lineup isn’t as wowing as I hoped, I am very excited to see a handful of films playing at the festival.
My top five must-sees at Telluride are:
I saw Promising Young Woman at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2020. The film, which marked Emerald Fennell’s feature film debut, was my favorite film, not only of the festival but of the year. It was a thought-provoking antihero story that tackled difficult themes that so few in our society like to discuss. Fennell’s approach to the subject matter of rape and suicide was incredibly ballsy. I am still shocked to this day that the film didn’t win more Oscars because it deserved more. In terms of Saltburn, I am trying to go into the premiere, knowing as little about it as possible. Sure, I watched the trailer and saw the posters, but I didn’t do a deep dive. I am hopeful that this will become a major awards player and sees nominations for Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Director and Production Design.
Saltburn premieres tonight, Thursday, August 31, at the Palm Theater.
I will be the first to admit that Downsizing was a massive letdown. I remember seeing that film at an early test screening and being so wildly disappointed with it. When it was screened at the patron screening at Telluride, I was tempted to walk out but sat through it to see the final cut. It was better than the initial test screening cut, but still not great. Now, six years later, Alexander Payne returns with The Holdovers, a film that sold me just on the reteaming of Payne and Paul Giamatti alone. Sideways is one of my favorite films, and the reteaming of these two minds makes me very excited. The Holdovers also feels like somewhat of a throwback film, one that will be driven by characters and story. I tend to be a sucker for those kind of films, which is why I am crossing my fingers for this to become an awards player. I am hoping to see this one get into Picture, Actor, and Screenplay.
The Holdovers premieres tonight, Thursday, August 31, at the Werner Herzog Theatre.
Colman Domingo is such a remarkable talent, and seeing him take center stage is something that I have been yearning to see for quite some time. Even though I haven’t liked every project that Domingo has been a part of, I can honestly say that he is usually the standout in everything he has been in thus far. I am excited to see Domingo transform into Bayard Rustin as I believe it will be a performance that is multi-faceted and be one of the most talked about of the year. While there have been a lot of films centered around civil rights activists over the past several years, I think with Colman and George C. Wolfe teaming up, I can see this begin something that stands out. For right now, I am only going to predict Actor, but I wouldn’t totally rule out Picture either.
Rustin premieres tonight, Thursday, August 31, at the Galaxy Theatre.
Yorgos Lanthimos, as a filmmaker, is somewhat of an acquired taste. His movies are very weird and usually feature at least one or two scenes that generally make audiences squeal in their seats. The Greek filmmaker makes films that are creative and bizarre, but I always appreciate those who dare to be different. His last feature film, The Favourite, which premiered at Telluride, went on to be a major awards contender and led to Olivia Colman taking home the Best Actress prize at the Oscars. In Poor Things, Emma Stone takes center stage and stars alongside Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Mark Ruffalo, and Ramy Youssef. The film, which looks and feels like a modern-day take on Frankenstein, is sure to be a surreal experience but one that is likely to get people talking. I can see Poor Things potentially landing a Picture, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Hair & Makeup, and Production Design nominations.
Poor Things will premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Friday, September 1, before it comes to Telluride on Saturday, September 2, at the Werner Herzog Theatre.
All of Us Strangers
It is a shame that Normal People was released during the pandemic because that show should have been the Paul Mescal career launcher. The chemistry between him and Daisy Edgar Jones was next level, and the raw, unfiltered emotion that you felt between the two of them was simply beautiful. However, it was last year’s little movie that could, Aftersun, which turned Mescal into one of the hottest up-and-coming actors working today. All of Us Strangers is based on a novel with a very interesting premise that deals with love and loss. I don’t know how far this one will go in terms of awards, but I can see it maybe popping up in the conversation at Gotham, Spirit Awards, and maybe even, BAFTA.
All of Us Strangers premieres tonight, Thursday, August 31, at the Chuck Jones Cinema.