Thursday, July 18, 2024

Does Kicking Off The 2024 Venice Film Festival Cement “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” As A Potential Oscar Contender?

The Venice International Film Festival recently announced which movie would kick off its annual proceedings for 2024. The 81st version of this event will begin with the world premiere of Tim Burton’s anticipated sequel, “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.” The latest Burton directorial effort is now destined to screen next to a slew of films primed for major awards season success. Does this mean “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” is also solidified as a massive player for the 97th Academy Awards? Slow your roll there, awards season geeks, and take a seat in the waiting room where Beetlejuice is trapped. Let’s explore the actual significance of this film festival premiere for “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice’s” Oscar chances.

In the last decade, a deluge of massive movies premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, including eventual Best Picture Oscar winners “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” “The Shape of Water,” and “Nomadland.” Best Director Oscar winners like “Gravity,” “La La Land,” and “Roma” also premiered at Venice along with Best Picture nominees “Dune” “Joker” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” Screening at the Venice International Film Festival can be an excellent launchpad for Academy Award darlings. The history associated with this location, not to mention it being one of the earliest festivals in the awards season calendar, works nicely in any wannabe Oscar juggernaut’s favor which is why so many films, especially in recent years, have wanted to premiere there.

However, being the opening night title of this festival is not a one-way ticket to Oscar glory. In 2012, Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist kicked off that year’s Venice International Film Festival with mixed reviews and failed to score much subsequent awards attention. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was the opening film for the following year, with that title becoming an awards magnet all season long and eventual Best Director Oscar winner. In 2014, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman was the opening night film and kicked off two consecutive years of a Venice title, going on to win Best Picture with Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” doing it again the following year. Damien Chazelle’s Best Picture-nominated “La La Land” would open the 2016 edition of the festival, but since this three-year run, the results for the Venice opener have been very hit or miss.

In 2017, the awards season hopes for Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” went down in flames after it opened that year’s Venice International Film Festival to dismal reviews. Chazelle would return to the opening night slot with “First Man” 2018, which fared better when it opened the festival the following year, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations for a Damien Chazelle feature’s awards season presence as its buzz fizzled out by the time the Academy Awards rolled around, managing only four craft nominations and a win for Best Visual Effects. 2019’s opening film was “The Truth,” an English-language directorial effort from Hirokazu Kore-eda that barely made a ripple on that year’s awards season radar.

In the 2020s, “Nomadland” may have premiered in Venice, but it wasn’t the opening night film. “Parallel Mothers” performed much better the following year, scoring Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Score. “White Noise” and “Comandante” followed, but neither made massive splashes in their respective awards seasons. Clearly, the Venice International Film Festival opening night slot is not a guaranteed path to Oscar glory. Some films can be nominated for Best Picture; some can win the coveted prize. Some can be nominated for any Oscars but miss a Best Picture nomination, while others can miss out entirely on the Academy’s big night. It can be a high-profile launchpad for movies with lots of buzz behind them, but it can also be a place where artistic flaws are impossible to hide. All the attention on your movie magnifies shortcomings in something like “Downsizing or “White Noise. The Venice International Film Festival…well, it giveth and it taketh away.It must be said that nothing else about “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice speaks to it being primed and readied for being a major Oscar player. That’s not meant as an early condemnation of the film’s quality. Instead, it reflects how Warner Bros. is releasing and marketing this title. The studio is launching Buton’s latest in the early September release date slot, a period previously occupied by the two “It movies, “Malignant, and the “Conjuring spin-offs. This is a release slot Warner Bros. employs for spooky movies with mainstream potential, which are often not considered Best Picture Oscar contenders, even if they open the Venice International Film Festival.

So why is “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice opening the Venice International Film Festival? Right now, it looks like this maneuver is similar to when big, late-May release blockbusters like “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strangers Tidesor “Solo: A Star Wars Story held splashy screenings/premieres at the Cannes Film Festival. Massive cinema gatherings usually reserved for arthouse titles can be a great way to drum up buzz for new mainstream offerings. Famous stars walk the red carpet in glitzy foreign locales, and, in an ideal scenario, screening in close proximity to so many critically acclaimed dramas can give a veneer of prestige to your blockbuster.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice aims to use the Venice International Film Festival more as a promotional launchpad than an announcement that a new Best Picture Oscar frontrunner has arrived. Does that mean this Michael Keaton star vehicle is down for the count regarding potential Academy Awards recognition? Not at all. In the technical categories this year, “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice has a good shot at securing numerous high-profile nominations, particularly in categories like Best Production Design or Best Costume Design, where Burton’s visually idiosyncratic productions have often been shoo-ins. Even the critically-maligned “Alice in Wonderland secured a pair of Oscar wins in these two categories.

The original “Beetlejuice was only nominated for one Oscar – Best Makeup, which it also won. It’s fair to say that technical nominations could be up for grabs again, especially since “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice has been emphasizing a more retro practical approach to makeup, sets, and props intended to keep it in line with the first film’s visual sensibilities. This approach not only keeps audiences enamored but could also sway Academy voters to remember past Oscar-winning VFX-extravaganzas that employed similar techniques and place it squarely in the conversation this year.

Time will tell if “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice secures the plethora of technical Oscar nominations and wins that many past Tim Burton features have grabbed. What is clear, though, is that the Venice International Film Festival opening night premiere of this blockbuster shows lots of confidence from Warner Bros., and not necessarily for the production’s Best Picture Oscar chances. Instead, it’s a promotional maneuver suggesting how the studio is confident that “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice can win over a crowd anywhere. Warner Bros. executives want this movie to be everywhere, from ritzy festivals housing awards season darlings to Hot Topic stores. You don’t need to chant his name three times to make this guy appear. “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice’s premiere backdrop cements that this lively spirit is omnipresent. 

What do you think of “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” as the opener for this year’s Venice International Film Festival? Do you think it signifies Burton’s latest will be Oscar-nominated? If so, in which categories? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s X account.

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