As we head into the second half of this godforsaken year, the Oscar season has officially kicked off. Yes, this is still painfully early and it’s kind of exhausting to constantly talk about who’s going to win an award that won’t be announced for another 8 months, but alas, this is the way things go.
The Festival season is a great indicator of what will come to dominate the coming months. Toronto, home of one of the favoured fests, revealed their lineup last week, with some major hitters on the slate, but many of those films will make their official worldwide premiere at Venice, which announced its own lineup today.
In its 74th year, the Venice Film Festival will include favourites like Darren Aronofsky, George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro and Alexander Payne in competition for the Golden Lion, one of the festival scene’s biggest prizes (imagine the Palme D’Or, but a more effective paperweight).
Aronofksy’s mother! is one of the most intriguing films of the season, as no details have been released about it beyond a rather fabulous poster: That means no stills, no promotional materials, and barely a synopsis beyond a vague description of, ‘A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.’ The poster suggests something far stranger than that plot may imply, so this is one to look out for. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Another exciting inclusion to the lineup is Downsizing, the first foray into sci-fi for Oscar favourite Alexander Payne (he’s directed 5 films, and been nominated for 4 of them, winning for Sideways). This is another film we’ve yet to see anything of, unless you were lucky enough to see the preview at Cinemacon, but the premise of a world where people can have themselves shrunk down to the size of a cracker in order to save on resources sounds very much up Payne’s alley. Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Christoph Waltz will star.
Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water - a.k.a. the film where Sally Hawkins will probably fuck a fishman - will premiere too, as will the latest directorial effort of George Clooney, Suburbicon, a crime comedy about a home invasion gone wrong, written by the Coen Brothers.
Outside of the competition, the festival will screen a whole host of premieres, from Netflix’s drama Our Souls at Night (starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda), to Stephen Frears’s Victoria & Abdul, where Judi Dench will don the garb of Queen Victoria once again, to Loving Pablo, yet another Pablo Escobar film but this one featuring Spain’s hottest husband and wife team, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.
New to this year, and a possible game-changer for the frequently traditional festival scene, Venice is launching a VR competition, with 22 films in its lineup, including work by Laurie Anderson. John Landis will preside that jury.
Once again, this is a festival notable for its lack of women directors in competition. If you thought Cannes was lacking by only having three this year, Venice didn’t even bother with that and only have one (Vivian Qu with Angels Wear White). This is especially glaring given that one of the festival scene’s most anticipated films - Lucrecia Martel’s Zama - will make its world premiere out of competition. Festival director Alberto Barbera, when asked about this, said, ‘We did it to have journalists talking and trying to guess why we did it.’ I must admit, I’ve never heard ‘We did it for the LOLs’ used as an excuse for something like this.
The 74th Venice International Film Festival kicks off on 30th August, with the main jury headed by Annette Bening. You can click here for the full lineup, or check out the competition entries below.
Human Flow: Ai Weiwei
Mother!: Darren Aronofsky
Suburbicon: George Clooney
The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro
L’insulte: Ziad Doueiri
La Villa: Robert Guediguian
Lean on Pete: Andrew Haigh
Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno: Abdellatif Kechiche
The Third Murder: Koreeda Hirokazu
Jusqu’a la Garde: Xavier Legrand
Ammore e Malavita: Manetti Brothers
Foxtrot: Samuel Maoz
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Martin McDonagh
Hannah: Andrea Pallaoro
Downsizing: Alexander Payne
Angels Wear White: Vivian Qu
Una Famiglia: Sebastiano Riso
First Reformed: Paul Schrader
Sweet Country: Warwick Thornton
The Leisure Seeker: Paolo Virzi
Ex Libris - The New York Public Library: Frederick Wiseman