Venice Film Festival Unveils Starry Lineup Packed With Oscar Hopefuls

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The Venice Film Festival announced the lineup for its 79th edition Tuesday, unveiling a star-studded and high-profile list of movies. Awards Insider’s David Canfield and Rebecca Ford dive into this year’s list, dissecting some of the most promising offerings and predicting which Lido world premieres might end up as Oscar contenders.

Rebecca Ford: Nothing screams the start of awards season like the unveiling of the Venice Film Festival lineup—and I would describe this year’s list as pretty dazzling. It has me very excited for the awards season to come.

We have a lot to get into, David, but I want to start by just noting that Venice will debut films from several directors we haven’t heard from in a while. Most notably, Todd Field is bringing his first film in 15 years. He had such a phenomenal start to his directing career with In The Bedroom and Little Children, but it’s been crickets since then. We saw a quick look at Tár yesterday with an intense teaser featuring Cate Blanchett, so it’s no surprise to see it on the lineup today. Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Andrew Dominik also finally have news films to show, along with a few other filmmakers we’ve been longing to see again. So where should we begin? What stood out to you about the lineup and do you feel it’s as promising as I do?

David Canfield: It’s an extremely exciting group of films, the kind that gets you in the fall spirit in just the way you’d hoped. There’s a ton to get into, including a few under-the-radar titles that may prove unexpected hits of the festival, but for me—at least in awards terms—Netflix has two of the most anticipated on this year’s roster in new films from Iñárritu and Noah Baumbach. The former is reportedly a return to comedy for the Mexican filmmaker, which may bode very well considering Venice is where Birdman got its start before a very long, successful Oscar campaign. Ditto Baumbach for Marriage Story, which went on to win Laura Dern the acting Oscar. He’s back with White Noise, an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel that will likely mark his biggest swing yet in the director’s chair. I can’t wait.

Speaking of Dern, she’s on this lineup too: opposite Hugh Jackman in Florian Zeller’s The Son. The director’s last movie, The Father, won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar and earned Olivia Colman a nom. Too soon to happen again? Probably not—his theatrical style is made for great actors to show their stuff. You mentioned Blanchett—and also, erm Dominik—but what other performances are you expecting to really pop in this program?

Ford: I think it could be time for a Jackman Oscar campaign (he’s only been nominated once for Les Misérables), and I do think Zeller’s work could make that happen for him. There are plenty of other potential leading actor performances that seem like they could pop as well, like Adam Driver reteaming with Baumbach as a professor who is deeply affected by an “airborne toxic event.” Speaking of reunions, Luca Guadagnino is back with Timothée Chalamet for Bones and All. Chalamet earned his first Academy Award nomination for his breakout role in Call Me by Your Name, so I assume this film—it’s a cannibal romance—could bring him some heat. I’m also curious to see Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonagh’s latest. You just did a first look at that film that got me really excited for that. I’d like to see Farrell as part of that conversation, as well as costar Brendan Gleeson.

There’s also potential for a major Brendan Fraser moment due to The Whale, the Darren Aronofsky film in which he plays a 600-pound grieving man. What do you think about a Fraser-aissance, David, and what other performances are you looking forward to?

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Canfield: Yes: the buzz on Fraser’s performance here has been loud for a very long time, so for better or worse, expectations are locked in very high on that one. We’ve probably waited long enough to discuss Blonde, Dominik’s reportedly NC-17 Marilyn Monroe biopic starring Ana de Armas. We know this movie is going to be divisive. We know that for all of the noise around it—and ever since seemingly unfounded rumors that it was not accepted to last year’s Venice, it has been loud and relentless—a splashy festival launch with a Netflix campaign behind it is not to be underestimated. And we know de Armas can act! I’m incredibly curious about what the film and her work in it will bring, and unlike a lot of those aforementioned films, I have no expectations whatsoever—a nice thing to feel.

I’m also a huge Todd Field fan, so Tár is high on my list. The Eternal Daughter from Joanna Hogg—a tremendous filmmaker making the shift from Sundance to the Lido this time around—likely has a strong Tilda Swinton performance at its center, even if the movie proves not to be quite to Academy tastes. And then on the more blockbuster end of the spectrum, if we look out of competition, there’s Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling from Warner Bros., starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh. What’s your read on this one?

Ford: My read is that it’ll be very splashy to have Styles posing for photos on a boat as he arrives in Venice. I’m sure it’ll be one of the buzziest premieres, but I think it remains to be seen if it’s a true awards film. We’ve had a couple bigger blockbusters (Dune, Joker) which had really benefited in their awards runs from a premiere at Venice, but we don’t have that so far in the lineup this year. So it’s possible that a more commercial movie like Don’t Worry Darling could benefit from this Venice boost, especially from a talented director like Wilde.

Don’t Worry Darling is by far the biggest film premiering out of competition, but there’s also Paul Schrader’s Master Gardener, a thriller starring Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver. The Card Counter played at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, and while it received a warm critical reaction, the film ended up not making it into the awards conversation. So maybe this one will be a bigger hit for Schrader, who will also be honored at the festival with the Lifetime Golden Lion.

Why don’t we wrap this up by each picking one film as our most anticipated among this embarrassment of riches? I’ll let, or make, you go first!

Canfield: Oh man, that’s a brutal assignment!

Listeners of Little Gold Men know that out of Venice and Telluride, we predicted the folks who’d go on to win the best director (Jane Campion) and actor (Will Smith) Oscars six-plus months out—so obviously, the search for awards season tea leaves will be top of mind over here. In that vein, I have to say I’m looking at White Noise. Baumbach is one of my favorite filmmakers, and my guess is his stuff has been too intimate, too “small-scale,” and perhaps too prickly to go all the way with Academy voters in the past. This movie marks an epic change of pace for him, in a fashion that could certainly go wrong—the novel is infamously unadaptable—but that could also mark a kind of career achievement. And on a personal level, I’m just excited to see what he does with it. That’s why we’re in this business anyway, right?

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Ford: I’m right there with you about Baumbach, but I think I’ll pick Zeller’s The Son. I thought The Father had such an interesting and unusual awards campaign for a relatively small film, and let’s not forget it got six nominations and two wins. Zeller is able to get intense performances from his actors, and I’m hopeful that he takes Jackman there. And since this is, like The Father, an adaptation of his own work, I have very high hopes.

For those looking to analyze every little tidbit of this announcement as we wait with bated breath for the festival to kick off on August 31, the full lineup for Competition and Out of Competition films is below.

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