It’s that time of year once again. The fall film festival season is now upon us. Soon we will be exposed to an onslaught of anticipated titles that the adoring cinephile community waits with bated breath to see revealed. It’s a particularly exciting moment as anticipation is at its highest. The potential is endless, both for a confirmation of greatness as well as a crushing blow of disappointment. We are at the precipice of a major turning point that occurs every year, particularly during the awards season. The first up is the Venice International Film Festival, which is of particular personal significance for me this year as I have the great honor of attending for the first time on behalf of Next Best Picture.
As with any festival, there’s a mix of high-profile entries that many will be focused on, as well as hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. As the former goes, there’s plenty to be excited about. It’s hard not to overlook “Maestro,” Bradley Cooper’s follow-up to “A Star is Born,” which again sees him taking on multiple creative roles in front of and behind the camera. A passion project that has already allured many with its hypnotic imagery from the teaser, there’s an awful lot of intrigue in what is in store. Of particular note is the prominent billing Carey Mulligan received, indicating that this story may not solely focus on the famous historical male figure. It creates a question as to how centered her story will be and if perhaps the usual trappings of such familiar material could possibly be avoided. After the great success with his debut, coming close to nabbing Oscar glory himself, it will be interesting to see if he can capture that magic yet again and actually go the distance.
Bernstein isn’t the only real-life musical persona getting the spotlight this year. Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” will also make its premiere at the festival, most interesting coming right off of Baz Luhrman’s “Elvis” from the previous year. However, one can expect Coppola not to conform to any conventions of predictable biopic flare, which promises to give us the perspective of the woman by Elvis Presley’s side. It was a viewpoint that was appallingly absent from Luhrman’s film, and its inclusion here makes for a mindset that is appreciated. One will expect the filmmaker’s intimacy for richly drawn characters to be present here as well. Coppola herself has never received a nomination following her massive success with “Lost in Translation,” so it will be interesting to see if that brings her back into the fold.
Similar sentiments can be shared for the likes of David Fincher and Yorgos Lanthimos. These are two filmmakers whose works mainly exist outside of the typical Oscar bait one would associate with the institution. Yet, their craft and sensibilities do find their way to be appreciated all the same. Both “The Killer” and “Poor Things” have the potential to be well-regarded displays of their mastery that will be fully embraced or seen merely as spectacle to be devoured but not on any deeper level. I suspect Fincher might fall more into this camp, as the pulpy narrative could leave some at a distance. Lanthimos’s storytelling has a devoted fan base, even before he broke big in terms of AMPAS with “The Favourite.” This twist on the Frankenstein tale looks vibrant and daring, with an alluring performance from Emma Stone at the center. It is by far my most anticipated title at the festival, and I cannot wait to see the visionary world on display.
A host of other films from well-respected filmmakers are making a grand return to the cinema stage. Richard Linklater makes his live-action return with “Hit Man,” his first since 2019. It’s an odd one to figure out regarding its awards season prospects, as its premise does not immediately conjure the image of prestige. However, a noticeable festival run may signal an interesting element in store. It’s also wonderful to see Ava DuVernay’s return with “Origin.” Her filmmaking is always one with an intense appreciation of story and character, so seeing a new work from her is quite thrilling. There’s also the latest film from legendary director Michael Mann, seeing him team up with Adam Driver for “Ferrari.” No matter what the final result may be, there’s always cause to celebrate when there’s a new Michael Mann film. And of course, we cannot forget what is now the final film by William Friedkin. I was already overjoyed to hear the announcement of “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” but now the occasion is tinged with a tragic aura. It’s always sad to see one of the masters of 1970s cinema leave us, but it will be an honor to witness his last work.
However, like with any festival, the real thrill is the chance for discovery. It isn’t easy to spot the hidden gems because it is their very nature to be obscured beneath the surface until they are revealed. It is particularly here where much of the international landscape can contain such entries. Matteo Garrone’s “Io Capitano,” Agnieszka Holland’s “The Green Border,” and Tim Kröger’s “The Theory of Everything” have had rumblings of good buzz. Given the strength of their filmmakers’ previous work, it’s cause enough to be excited. That is but a mere sampling of what awaits to be found. A film festival is an opportunity to expose oneself to an entire world of cinema that has few previous opportunities to be seen, and it’s essential to take advantage of such chances.
Looking at the entire landscape as is, it’s a daunting enterprise I see before me. This will be my first time attending an international film festival outside the borders of my country. In all honesty, it will be the first time I have ever left the country for any reason. It’s an intimidating task, but what keeps my feet on the ground is the deep ocean of new experiences that await. Having the privilege to be engulfed in this rich environment, surrounded by fellow lovers of the art form, fills me with an elation that is difficult to match in many other circumstances. I await my time in Venice with great excitement for all it has to offer, and I hope you all enjoy the coverage I provide.
What are you most looking forward to seeing at the Venice International Film Festival this year? Which films will exceed expectations and which do you feel have the capacity to disappoint? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account and check out Next Best Picture’s latest Oscar predictions here.