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Ordinarily, if a film festival announced its lineup and I found I'd already seen over 60 of the selections, I'd probably strike it from the to-do list. But it's a testament to the strength and breadth of this year's London Film Festival programme, which was announced this morning, that I'm still excited to dive into it. The LFF remains one of the world's great cherry-picking festivals: only 22 of the 234 features screening over the 12-day fest are world premieres, but it's a comprehensive catch-up of highlights from Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin and Sundance, to name just its biggest suppliers. For any UK readers getting itchy over our Venice, Telluride and upcoming Toronto coverage, this should be your first port of call.
The most high-profile attractions, of course, are the Gala screenings: it's here where you'll find Cannes Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color," with the Coens' "Inside Llewyn Davis" (my review), Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" (my review), Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" (my review) and Alain Guiraudie's steamy gay thriller "Stranger by the Lake" (a particularly bold pick for the LFF's top tier; my review) making the journey from the Croisette.
Venice hits "Gravity" (my review), "Philomena" (my review) and "Night Moves" have all been granted Gala slots, as well as recent Telluride premieres "12 Years a Slave" (Greg's review), "Labor Day" (Greg's review) and "The Invisible Woman" (Greg's review), all on the way to Toronto. The Gala pick that most surprises and tickles me is Lukas Moodysson's delightful teen-punk comedy "We Are the Best!," a welcome return to form for the Swedish auteur and one of the undersung highlights of the Venice fest so far. (I reviewed it for Variety here.) Previously announced, of course, were festival opener "Captain Phillips" and closing film "Saving Mr. Banks."
Of course, much of the best stuff at the festival lies further down the list, but I'll be here all day if I go about listing all the potential highlights, from sure-to-be-hot tickets like Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin" (Greg's review) to buried gems like Andrew Dosunmu's "Mother of George" (a personal Sundance highlight). Best to peruse the vast list for yourself.
Meanwhile, the festival also announced the slate of nominees for its four juried awards, which include some very interesting selections indeed. The Best Film award, inaugurated four years ago, initially took heat from critics for plucking its shortlist principally from the fest's highest-profile selections, but this year's selection digs pretty deep.
Obviously, some have been plucked from major festivals: Venice provides "Under the Skin," John Curran's lovely "Tracks" (my review), Xavier Dolan's career-best thriller "Tom at the Farm" and Peter Landesman's iffy JFK drama "Parkland" (my review), while Cannes contributes Hirokazu Kore-eda's crowd-pleasing Jury Prize winner "Like Father, Like Son" and Clio Barnard's devastating "The Selfish Giant." But there are enough less obvious nominees, like Catherine Breillat's Isabelle Huppert-starring "Abuse of Weakness" (premiering at Toronto) and Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" (hopefully a rebound after last year's anticlimactic comeback "The Woman in the Fifth") to make the contest and genuinely interesting one. (The winner will be following in the footsteps of previous Best Film champs "A Prophet," "How I Ended This Summer," "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Rust and Bone.")
The LFF's longest-standing prize, the Sutherland Award for Best Debut Feature, went to "Beasts of the Southern Wild" last year, but there's nothing quite that obvious in this year's shortlist, which ranges from the Daniel Radcliffe-starring Sundance hit "Kill Your Darlings" to Cannes Camera d'Or winner "Ilo Ilo," recently named Singapore's Oscar submission. (Incidentally, I'll be catching up with that submissions process soon.)
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary was won by Alex Gibney last year for "Mea Maxima Culpa." Lo and behold, Gibney's back in the mix for "The Armstrong Lie," which I discussed earlier today. Another Venice title in the running is veteran docmaker Frederick Wiseman's four-hour college study "At Berkeley," which I simply haven't been able to squeeze in at Venice, but look forward to catching up with in the more relaxed LFF environment. Finally, the aforementioned Best Film nominee "The Selfish Giant" has a leg up in the contest for Best British Newcomer, with both its extraordinary young leads in the running.
Full list of award nominees on the next page, while the whole lineup is available here. The 57th BFI London Film Festival runs from October 9 to 20.
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