Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What the Telluride Festival Told Us About Oscar Front Runners

Scene from Suffragette
This past weekend was the Telluride Film Festival. While it doesn't have the immediate ring as that of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) or Cannes, it has come to be its own predictor of the Oscar season ahead. As we enter the season, it's time to start looking at all of the possibilities out there and guessing just where everything will fall. If the news out of Telluride is any indication, we may be in for a hefty, exciting season full of returning favorites and a few new faces that may just well steal the show. The following is a quick rundown of the various films that have Oscar potential and what we have learned from the general buzz that has come from the festival.

CAROL: The film directed by Todd Haynes has slowly become one of the big potential contenders thanks to growing buzz. With actress Rooney Mara doing a presentation before the film, she explains that while her role is quiet, she feels that extroversion is overvalued. She had previously won the actress award at Cannes for this role. Still, many think that this is two time winner Cate Blanchett's chance to snatch a nomination. Otherwise, there's a lot to contend for Haynes' direction and production of the picture. Some, such as critic David Ehrlich, are even calling it the best film of the decade. Seeing as the film is set to be released by Harvey Weinstein of all people, I am sure that its campaign will help it become more of a household name by the time of its November release.

ROOM: While not widely considered a front runner in any capacity, Room is from director Lenny Abrahamson, who did last year's rather enjoyable Frank. Following Brie Larson as a woman who helps a boy sheltered from the world. It has gotten rave reviews, many even calling it one of Larson's best roles. Considering that it will be released by A24, who previously released A Most Violent Year, there's some hope that this will be the underdog film that gets into the big races. Otherwise, look out for this film which many are calling a fascinating study of parenting. There is potential for the buzz around this film to grow and get Larson (who already has been continually impressing me since her role in United States of Tara) some Oscar attention.

STEVE JOBS: While the film had a rocky turn towards getting made, it has finally premiered to the sound of enthusiasm by most critics. While some made accusations regarding the ending, this looks to be one of director Danny Boyle's best films, at least since his Best Picture-nominated 127 Hours. Among the major conversation points is Michael Fassbender - who stars as Steve Jobs and has quickly become one of the front runners for the season with his charismatic performance. With Boyle calling this one of the most difficult films of his career, one can presume that he will be back around with a series of nominations. There's also talk about potential supporting consideration from Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet, though everyone is more focused on Fassbender at this point.

BLACK MASS: It's quite easy to make fun of Johnny Depp nowadays. He's had a string of flops, most recently with Mortdecai. However, his turn as Whitey Bulger has caught audience's attention with many considering this to be a challenging and different role for him. From the looks of the trailer, it is haunting and possible that this is the career jump start that he has needed for some time. Alongside Depp is Joel Edgerton - who manages to provide a menace to his role and has garnered consideration for a potential acting nomination as well. Both actors have received almost the same level of praise so far from the film.

SPOTLIGHT: The film follows the uncovering of the Catholic Church sex scandal with a cast that includes Birdman actor Michael Keaton. While the reviews have been more divisive than any other film on this list, it has been praised for being a strong look at journalism. With some comparing director Tom McCarthy's style to that of All the President's Men, it promises to be a disciplined look into the scandal. However, there isn't much conversation on if Keaton will be quick to return to the nomination circle, with more of the criticisms being focused more on the craft than the performances.

BEASTS OF NO NATION: Awhile back, I referenced that director Cary Fukunaga's latest starring Idris Elba was getting an Oscars push despite premiering on Netflix very soon. I also intended to write about the trailers, but I didn't find much that I enjoyed about them. The reviews have expressed similar complaints. While this is being considered one of Elba's best, the film is too dark and depressing as a look into child soldiers from West Africa. It may end up being really good, but I wouldn't put too much stock in its Oscars chances.

SUFFRAGETTE: While I have very bad averages with predicting the winner (I did presume Foxcatcher would win), this is the film that I have considered this year to be the front runner. While it looks like the race will be far more richer and exciting than I had presumed, this film about equal rights looks to have some steam in it. There's probably going to be a big push for Carey Mulligan based on the praise that she has received for her performance. However, the reaction hasn't nearly been as unanimous as one could predict. Many consider it a well intentioned movie that is also maybe a little too light on its subject matter. I'm expecting this to be more dominant in the acting fields than in a strong Best Picture front runner.

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