Venice 2014: Get ready for buzzworthy 'Birdman,' Andrew Garfield and Al Pacino

Venice 2014: Get ready for buzzworthy 'Birdman,' Andrew Garfield and Al Pacino

Our critic in Venice on the ones to watch

As previously reported by my HitFix colleagues, 2014’s fall festivals represent something of a battle royale for various heavyweight Oscar hopefuls. The oldest fest in the big four, venerable Venice, is up against younger US counterparts Toronto, Telluride and New York in the perennial fight to deliver a truly memorable Competition. Which films will be left standing once the critics have had their way with them? Contenders hoping to emerge victorious from La Biennale’s royal rumble include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s opening nighter "Birdman" starring Michael Keaton, David Gordon Green’s Al Pacino vehicle "Manglehorn" and Andrew Garfield vs Michael Shannon in Ramin Bahrani’s real estate showdown "99 Homes."

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<p>&quot;Ghostbusters&quot;</p>

"Ghostbusters"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Toronto fest declares Sept. 5 'Bill Murray Day'

Is this the early gear-turning of an Oscar push?

In a show of apparent elation that the festival could track down Bill Murray and slate his new film, "St. Vincent," as a showcase presentation, the Toronto Film Festival has gone all out and set aside an entire day of programming centered on the actor. Friday, Sept. 5 has officially been declared "Bill Murray Day."

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<p>&quot;The Theory of Everything&quot;</p>

"The Theory of Everything"

Credit: Focus Features

'Theory of Everything' poster keeps the focus on the Hawking romance

The theorems look to play second fiddle to the love story

I find myself wondering about James Marsh's "The Theory of Everything." I'm excited for the film on one hand, as a handling of the life of Stephen Hawking is long past due (and James Marsh is an interesting choice to bring it forth). But the geek in me wants the focus (no pun intended) on his contributions to physics and cosmology. The marketing from Focus Features, however, is making it very clear that this is a love story first and foremost. The trailer set that construct up a few weeks ago and today it's made all the more obvious as Hawking's theorems and whatnot literally play in the background of a romantic encounter with his wife Jane on the film's official poster.

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Bill Murray has been found: 'St. Vincent' is coming to the Toronto Film Festival

Bill Murray has been found: 'St. Vincent' is coming to the Toronto Film Festival

Should we take this as a good sign?

There was buzz late last month that both the Toronto International Film Festival and The Weinstein Company wanted to bring "St. Vincent," which stars Bill Murray, to the 2014 edition of the annual awards season kickoff. The problem was, reportedly, that no one could find him. Murray supposedly doesn't have a cell phone (or perhaps even E-mail?), but even though he continues to crash one party after another it looks like somebody tracked him down as TIFF announced today that "St. Vincent" is now a late addition to the festival.

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<p>&quot;Men, Women &amp; Children&quot;</p>

"Men, Women & Children"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Teaser for Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' sets moody internet-era tone

Could this touch a zeitgeist nerve this season?

The last time Paramount Pictures tried a Jason Reitman film on the awards season, it was last year's "Labor Day." I thought it was an impressive bit of stretching from the director and was happy to see a certain sect of critics find value in it. Alas, that was a minority view, as most took aim on the film and fired either at Telluride or Toronto and a misguided December release date finished it off after that. But everyone is back up to the plate this year with the Chad Kultgen adaptation "Men, Women & Children," and the first teaser trailer for the film has arrived to set the tone.

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<p>Clint Eastwood</p>

Clint Eastwood

Credit: AP Photo

Off the Carpet: Eastwood crashes the season as Telluride gears up for another edition

What can you really expect of an Eastwood late-comer these days?

It's been an interesting run of films for director Clint Eastwood in the 10 years since his "Million Dollar Baby" crashed the 2004 Oscar party and ran away with the gold. I say "interesting" because, at least in awards season terms, it's been a run particularly notable for lots of revving but nothing that ever materialized as a significant player.

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<p>Jason Reitman</p>

Jason Reitman

Credit: AP Photo

'Men, Women & Children' from director Jason Reitman sets October release date

The director's 'Labor Day' follow-up premieres at the Toronto Film Festival next month

One of the few remaining mysteries of the season has been where Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" would settle on the calendar. Would Paramount opt for a very late bow like last year's "Labor Day" after the director's traditional Toronto Film Festival premiere slot, or try for earlier in the fall? Turns out it's going to be the latter.

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'Gone Girl' and 'Birdman' top our 25 most anticipated Fall Festival Films

'Gone Girl' and 'Birdman' top our 25 most anticipated Fall Festival Films

Jennifer Aniston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Reese Witherspon ready to make some noise

After an underwhelming summer, the fall festival season is finally upon us.  And, unlike previous years, it appears the wealth of world premieres has been spread across the Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals.

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<p>&quot;Fury&quot;</p>

"Fury"

Credit: Sony Pictures

Brad Pitt to close out 2014 London Film Festival with David Ayer's 'Fury'

A prime spot two days after the US release and five days ahead of the UK release

I had a hunch when Sony slid "Fury" to a mid-October release date that they might opt for something like the closing night slot of the London Film Festival two days after the domestic release. And so it is. The Brad Pitt WWII film directed by David Ayer, which was filmed outside of London, has been slated to wrap up the fest on Oct. 19.

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<p>&quot;Jarhead&quot;</p>

"Jarhead"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch a supercut of some of cinematographer Roger Deakins' best work

'Deakins: Shadows in the Valley' captures the latter-day spirit of the artist's genius

I've spent the better part of the last few months diving into the catalog of cinematographer Roger Deakins, starting with Michael Radford's "Nineteen Eighty Four" and soaking up each and every indelible image he's given us over the last three decades. I imagine I'll write something up soon enough, as he'll surely be in the thick of things again this season with his work on Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken," but in the meantime, here's a delicious video exploration of some of his work.

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