It’s pretty incredible how much the awards conversation can change in the six days between the Venice Film Festival kicking off and the Telluride Film Festival shutting down.
For example, last year it was during that time period that we first heard word of both “The Imitation Game” and eventual best picture winner “Birdman.” The year before, it was “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity,” the two films that would go on to lead the Oscar race (winning 10 between them, including Best Picture and Best Director). And though there’s still a lot about to transpire once Toronto kicks off Thursday (where last year we got our first taste of “The Theory of Everything” and “Still Alice,” among others), let’s just take a breather and look at what just happened.
Our colleague Anne Thompson has her own take on the events over at Thompson on Hollywood, including updates to her Oscar prediction charts. We’ve done the same with our charts, but here’s a closer look at the seven films that dominated those adjustments. They’ve got to hold on for the six long months until Oscar night, but for now, they seem like safe bets to be in the ultimate awards season conversation in one way or another.
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Ama K. Abebrese, Grace Nortey, David Dontoh and Opeyemi Fagbohungbe
Where did it screen? Both Venice and Telluride (and is heading to Toronto too).
When is it getting released in theaters? October 16 both in theaters and on Netflix
What were the reviews like? Very strong. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn called it “miles ahead of Fukunaga’s other projects in terms of breadth and thematic sophistication,” while Jessica Kiang at The Playlist said it is “surely one of the most beautiful films about ultimate ugliness ever.”
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? This is still a giant question mark. Netflix is making its first foray into awards season with “Beasts,” and the reviews — while mostly glowing — don’t exactly scream Oscar bait. “Beasts” will clearly have a lot of champions, but it’s brutal, graphically violent content may prove challenging for more traditionally-minded Oscar voters. That said, it still has a very good shot at major nominations across the board, but how reception in Toronto and — more importantly — during its unconventional release mid-October will provide more indications of how far it can go.
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll.
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Where did it screen? Both Venice and Telluride (and, like “Beasts,” is heading to Toronto too).
When is it getting released in theaters? September 18
What were the reviews like? Mixed, though almost all of them singled Johnny Depp’s potential “comeback” performance. “As a movie, ‘Black Mass’ often drowns its dramatic potential in a dreary atmosphere and grisly violence used to dubious effect,” Indiewire’s Eric Kohn said. “Depp, however, operates on another level. While his Boston accent takes some time to convince, the actor turns Bulger into a demonic presence whose ruthless antics are made all the more unsettling by his ability to get away with them.”
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? It seems pretty unlikely to be a major player across the board at this point, but Depp definitely stands a good chance at nabbing his first Oscar nomination since “Sweeney Todd.” Joel Edgerton is also being singled out among the supporting case — count him among the year’s seemingly endless best supporting actor contenders.
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Where did it screen? Venice before hitting Toronto this weekend.
When is it getting released in theaters? November 27
What were the reviews like? Mostly warm. Demetrios Matheou wrote on TOH! that it’s a “solidly made, brilliantly acted film that will tug powerfully at the heart-strings.” And while some critics thought it was a bit too conservative, most agreed that Redmayne and Vikander offered very powerful performances.
What can we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? “Too conservative” usually isn’t a problem for Oscar voters, and they’ve nominated Hooper’s last two films (“The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables”) despite neither being critical darlings. With that in mind, “The Danish Girl” is probably the most likely best picture nominee on this list, but Redmayne and Vinkander can pretty much start choosing their Oscar night outfits now.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Where did it screen? Telluride before screening in Toronto
When is it getting released in theaters? October 16
What were the reviews like? Strong, especially for the performances. Indiewire called Brie Larson “a revelation” and also singled out newcomer Jacob Tremblay and Joan Allen.
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? Anne Thompson said the film “could land best actress and supporting actor nods” for Larson and Tremblay, and we agree — along with potential nominations for Joan Allen (best supporting actress) and Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her own novel.
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams,Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup
Distributor: Open Road
Where did it screen? Venice and Telluride (with Toronto next).
When is it getting released in theaters? November 6
What were the reviews like? Mostly strong. The Playlist called it “a fluid, deeply engrossing story.” TOH! said it’s right up there with “All The President’s Men.” And while Indiewire’s Eric Kohn was a little more mixed, he sure was high on Michael Keaton’s performance.
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? It’s looking pretty solid for best picture and best original screenplay as far as things stand now, though it’s surest nomination seems to be Michael Keaton — who could ride his near-win for “Birdman” to a best supporting actor nod (and maybe win?) for “Spotlight.”
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterson
Where did it screen? Telluride (and it won’t again until its centerpiece slot in the New York Film Festival)
When is it getting released in theaters? October 9
What were the reviews like? A bit all over the place, but mostly on the positive side of things. Indiewire called it “flawed but fascinating,” while The Playlist said it was “largely breathtaking,” among many other compliments.
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet seem like very strong contenders for best actor and best supporting actress, respectively, as does Aaron Sorkin for best adapted screenplay. Best picture and best director are definitely not out of the question, but how it is perceived upon release (and if it’s a box office hit) will be much more telling in that regard.
Director: Sarah Gavron
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep
Where did it screen? Like “Steve Jobs,” it previewed at Telluride and will skip Toronto (though instead of New York, it heads to London’s BFI Film Festival).
When is it getting released in theaters? October 23
What were the reviews like? Eric Kohn said “Suffragette” is “this year’s best superhero movie that doesn’t star a bunch of guys,” though The Playlist was less kind (though they did have lovely things to say about Carey Mulligan).
What could we expect, Oscar-nomination wise? Anne Thompson wrote, “If Focus turns this into an art-house hit, Mulligan has a strong shot at earning her second Oscar nomination.” We also wouldn’t rule out best picture, best director and best original screenplay either (which, it should be noted, would be made up entirely of female nominees, the only film on this list that can say that).
Check out Indiewire’s latest chart of Oscar predictions here.
Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Contributing Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.