By Matt Neglia
As promised, after our last post recapping the premiere of “The Old Man & The Gun” at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival, we are back to give you a quick rundown of all of the major premieres from the film festival which has been home to a number of Oscar films over the years. This year looks to be no different as some contenders landed strongly, while others did not fare as well. So which films are still in the awards race after this Labor Day weekend?
“The Old Man & The Gun”
David Lowery’s follow up to “A Ghost Story,” stars Robert Redford in his final on-screen performance as an aging bank robber, Forrest Tucker, who has escaped from jail multiple times and comes across an unsuspecting woman (played by Sissy Spacek) who helps him to reflect back on his life. Casey Affleck, re-teams with Lowery to play the cop on Tucker’s trail. The film opened up to a respectable response for all aspects of production but the story was focused on Redford, a screen legend who supposedly receives the perfect send-off with “The Old Man And The Gun.” When asked after the film’s screening whether or not the now 82-year-old actor was truly done with acting, instead of giving us a firm answer, he gave us the ol’ “never say never” response. This was indeed confusing for many of us as his entire Best Actor campaign has been built around the idea that this is his final acting performance and that the Academy has never rewarded him with an acting Oscar. While I would not write this off completely in Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay as of yet, it will be interesting to see how the campaign for this one evolves throughout the season.
Damien Chazelle continues to astound and awe us with his technical brilliance and a firm grasp on storytelling. His previous two films (“Whiplash” and “La La Land”) each received their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins and it looks like Chazelle has yet another winner on his hands. As far as across the board contenders go, “First Man” received the sort of acclaim that filmmakers only dream of. The direction, performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, the technical aspects, the score, all of them received notices in an enthusiastic way. It also helps(?) that there was a controversy which launched right as the film premiered at both Venice and at Telluride revolving around the moment where Neil Armstrong plants the American flag on the moon, being excluded from the film altogether. Several reports have come out which have debunked this accusation, claiming that the American flag is indeed in the film. Such an unjust attack from politicians and their followers should only push those who already love “First Man” to defend it even more now. One thing is for sure though, all systems are a go for Chazelle and “First Man” this Oscar season.
Yorgos Lanthimos may have made his most accessible film yet but the word coming out of both Venice and Telluride is that it is still very much a Yorgos Lanthimos film. Filled with bizarre and dark yet hilarious humor, “The Favourite” has been said to be the Oscar-nominated director’s first widely acclaimed film. The production design, costumes, and screenplay all received mentions from those who saw the film at first Venice, and then at Telluride. However, it was the performances most of us were concerned about as we still don’t know how Fox Searchlight intends to campaign, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz. Are they all Supporting? Are one lead and the other two supporting? If someone is going lead, then who? Receiving the best reviews of her career, it would appear that the smart move would be to place Olivia Colman in lead for Best Actress while leaving the other two in Supporting. A few sources have suggested this might be the route which Fox Searchlight takes. We probably won’t know for sure though until the film screens again at the New York Film Festival.
Alfonso Cuaron is incapable of making a terrible movie. Instead, he tends to release a new movie which gets hailed by critics as the best work of his career. After receiving two Oscar for Film Editing and Directing on “Gravity,” along with the film receiving an additional five more Academy Awards, Cuaron had a pretty big hill to climb if he was going to eclipse his last masterpiece. The word suggests that he might have done just that. “Roma” is said to be gorgeous, moving, heartfelt and an astoundingly intimate story from a gifted filmmaker who not only directed the film but wrote it, edited it and shot it as the cinematographer as well. With Netflix backing the film for distribution, it’s very likely that it will not only become the streaming studio’s first Best Picture nomination but it will also become the first film since “Amour” to receive a nomination for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. Smart money says that Alfonso Cuaron will probably walk away with another Oscar for his latest masterwork. The only question now, is which one? Also watch out for newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, who received incredible raves for her debut performance. She could be a dark horse for the Best Actress category should “Roma” be embraced across every branch of the Academy.
“The Front Runner”
In one of the biggest twists of this year’s still infant awards season so far, Jason Reitman’s ironically titled “The Front Runner” is no longer the front-runner for several key categories. Before its premiere at Telluride, many were suggesting that his latest film could not only build on the good notices he received earlier this year for “Tully” and bring him back for another Oscar nomination, but they were also looking at the film’s politically timed story and an overdue star in the lead role with Hugh Jackman, all as reasons why this had the makings for a Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay winner. The trailer was released just before the film premiered and then many were suggesting that the film’s stars, J.K. Simmons, Vera Farmiga, could also contend along with Jackman. Not so fast. “The Front Runner” is said to not be as engaging as we might have hoped and word has started to pick up that the film’s message in how it views the press could be used to hurt the film’s chances with Academy voters. Hugh Jackman is still said to be great in the lead role and maybe that will be enough for him to at least still receive a nomination but any ideas of “The Front Runner” being a predicted winner are now diminished unless if the film’s next stop at Toronto somehow turns this perception around.
The one film which premiered at Telluride and we all still can’t figure out where it will fit into this year’s awards season race (if you have your own predictions, feel free to leave us a comment telling us) is “Boy Erased.” Joel Edgerton’s heart-wrenching dive into gay conversion therapy is said to have a terrific ensemble with Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and even Edgerton himself, all receiving notices for their dramatic portrayals. However, the film’s message was said to be confusing for some, while others found it to be a sincere tearjerker. “Boy Erased” will be heading to Toronto in a few days and I do believe that with a larger sample size, we’ll be able to figure out if Joel Edgerton’s film is indeed a Best Picture contender or not, along in other categories such as Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Or will it only receive a lone nomination for Best Original Song? No one still knows but this will be one to still keep an eye on to see how it all plays out as more see it.
Karyn Kusama’s follow up to “The Invitation” was met with disappointing reactions to the film itself but the real story was Nicole Kidman and the incredible transformation the actress took to play a dark, edgy, tough as nails cop that is rarely seen portrayed on screen by women. With a career resurgence as of late with her Best Supporting Actress nomination from 2016’s “Lion,” followed up the next year by her Emmy Award-winning role in “Big Little Lies” and now with “Destroyer,” not only could Nicole Kidman receive her next Best Actress nomination, but she could be in it to win her second Academy Award. Winning a second is indeed rare and usually has to be done with a performance that matches or eclipses the work which you did prior to win the first award. If any of the reviews out of Telluride are any indication, it is that Kidman’s performance is indeed good enough for her to receive a second win. A nomination feels all but assured. The only question is how the rest of the film around her will hold up to keep her chances for a win alive.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
While Karyn Kusama’s film was met with a tepid response (outside of Kidman) and started to create a sinking feeling in all of our stomachs at the idea of another all-male Best Director lineup this year, something truly surprising happened right afterward. Marielle Heller’s film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard Grant, premiered to an overwhelmingly positive reception with many citing the screenplay by Nicole Holofcener, Heller’s direction, and the performances by Melissa McCarthy and Richard Grant. The film’s trailer debuted back in the spring from Fox Searchlight (just like they did last year with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) but we were unsure if such an early look at the film was suggesting confidence or desperation on their part. It turns out it was the former, as “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is said to be a film which will play very well with audiences and could give Melissa McCarthy her first Best Actress nomination in the lead category…maybe even a win. A beloved actress for her comedic chops both on screen and on television with her appearances on Saturday Night Live, McCarthy’s dramatic departure from her usual work could be too hard to ignore. It’s almost too perfect to imagine that with this film McCarthy was practically asking us “Can you ever forgive me for The Happytime Murders?” The answer looks like it’s a resounding yes McCarthy. Yes indeed.
Which of these films are you most looking forward to after their showings at Telluride? Do you think any of them will play better at the Toronto Film Festival? Be sure to check out our Oscar Predictions pages for some of our thoughts on key categories post Telluride. We now look towards the Toronto Film Festival on September 6th where Steve McQueen’s “Widows,” Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Jonah Hill’s “Mid90s,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Green Book” and others all make their premieres. Also be sure to follow our own Beatrice Loayza who will be attending TIFF this year on behalf of NBP.
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture