Fall fests set to fire the Oscar starting gun
Now that the first wave of festival announcements has hit, let's take a look at things.
Toronto came out of the gate first with a typically stuffed program. The high marks that could easily figure into the awards race include Ben Affleck's "Argo," Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski's "Cloud Atlas," Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
Meanwhile, films looking for distribution that could come out of the fest with a buyer, staring at the season, include Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," Mike Newell's "Great Expectations," Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini's "Imogene," Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" and Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder."
Then there are the usual holdovers from other fests that will look to keep some momentum going, such as Pablo Larraín's "No," Matteo Garrone's "Reality," Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" and Ben Lewin's "The Sessions."
Moving on to Venice, opening night film "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" from Mira Nair will hit Toronto after bowing on the Lido, as will "To the Wonder" and "The Company You Keep." So we'll have early word on those before they transition over to their North American premieres. Brian De Palma's "Passion" will also show up, though he hasn't had much luck with awards season in, well, ever.
The rest of the line-up seemed a bit overly curated to me, as if the fest is actively trying to dip out of the awards season spotlight it has basked in the last couple of years. That's not a bad thing, mind. A lot of these line-ups start to look like Xeroxes of one another.
All that said, the promise of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" figuring in had attendees hopeful. It was finally confirmed as a Venice premiere today. But after that, the film could easily go a less traditional route rather than continue on to Telluride/Toronto. The possibility of a Fantastic Fest bow was dampened by the release date change, though I suppose it could still come to pass. Whatever else happens, these are shots Anderson is calling himself. (UPDATE: Toronto will indeed get the film after Venice. We'll see if it ends up on the Telluride slate, too.)
The big mystery this time of year is always: What will play Telluride? The festival keeps its lineup a secret until opening day every year and gets away with scooping other fests on premieres by opting to call them "sneak previews."
A few studios have a long history of playing Telluride, Sony Pictures Classics in particular. I think we could safely assume we'll see Cannes carry-overs "Rust and Bone," "No" and/or Palme d'Or winner "Amour" from Michael Haneke there. Other than that, I'd be curious to see if Amy Berg's brilliant documentary "West of Memphis" makes the trip. With a December release up ahead, the film played Sundance and Santa Barbara in January and hasn't shown up anywhere else since.
The Weinstein Company has also used Telluride to keep wind in its sails as of late, most recently garnering more audience love with eventual Best Picture winner "The Artist." This time around, they have a much more varied slate. But nix two, as John Hillcoat's "Lawless" will have already opened in theaters and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" won't be a festival play at all as it just wrapped last week and will likely be in the editing room for a while.
That leaves "Silver Linings Playbook" (which is set for Toronto but could certainly turn up in Telluride first), Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" (which could pop up after playing Cannes in May), Dustin Hoffman's "Quartet" and "The Master." On the latter, it could be a bit of a chore to get the proper equipment in place to run Anderson's 70mm opus. But it's the perfect cinephile festival crowd for the director, so, fingers crossed.
Focus hasn't been much of a Telluride player in the past, but Laura Linney's connection with the town (she met her husband at the fest years back and is a regular attendee) could mean "Hyde Park on Hudson" makes an appearance. Or not. "Anna Karenina" would strike me as an odd inclusion; it's set for Toronto, which makes more sense.
Others I've heard thrown around as possibilities are Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children" (which will be at Toronto) and the aforementioned "Reality," but I'd keep my eye on one possibility in particular: Robert Lorenz's "Trouble with the Curve" and a Clint Eastwood tribute to launch his Best Actor hopes for the film. Just a guess.
And perhaps some of the other films set for Venice and Toronto will make the trip. I'd personally love to see "To the Wonder," of course. Malick's financier Bill Pohlad brought "The Tree of Life" to the fest in 2010 when it was still for sale and screened it for Fox Searchlight brass. Having that and "Argo" would be a good excuse to fete Ben Affleck, but the latter feels more like a Toronto-only play. Then again, who knows? That's the fun of the Telluride guessing game.
After that, there's still the New York fest, which is a bit underutilized, I feel. But the last two years, films like "The Social Network" and "Hugo" have launched exclusively there to great response. Perhaps Fox takes "Life of Pi," even in an unfinished form, to kick-start its journey? Or maybe films like Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land," Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" or Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace" manage to slip out onto the 2012 landscape, see a hole to be filled amid the "big film"-heavy slate of year-end product and take a chance in the Big Apple?
I guess we'll find out soon enough.
The 69th annual Venice Film Festival runs August 29 - September 8. Guy Lodge will be reporting from there.
The 39th annual Telluride Film Festival runs August 31 - September 3. Greg Ellwood and I will be reporting from there.
The 37th annual Toronto Film Festival runs September 6 - 16. Greg Ellwood and Drew McWeeny will be reporting from there.
And finally, the 50th annual New York Film Festival runs September 28 - October 14. I will be reporting from there.
The season is humming to life…