It feels like only yesterday that 2017 Golden Lion winner “The Shape of Water” began its awards campaign, but another edition of the increasingly important Venice Film Festival is fast approaching. As the first stop on the fall festival circuit, the past decade has seen Venice leveraging its prime slot on the calendar to be a coveted launching pad for major Oscar contenders. Indeed, the road to Oscar glory truly begins here, as evidenced by the success of past Venice premieres such as “La La Land“, “Spotlight” and “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)“, just to name a few.
As the Lido prepares to welcome this year’s crop of A-listers and rising stars, here are 10 of the hottest titles to look out for when the 75th annual festival gets underway from August 29 to September 8.
THE NETFLIX QUARTET
One of the biggest talking points this summer was the highly publicized row between the Cannes Film Festival and Netflix. With the former refusing to budge on their strict guidelines regarding theatrical distribution, Netflix withdrew all of its films from consideration for Cannes screenings. Now, it’s evident that Cannes’ loss is Venice’s gain, as the streaming giant will unspool four of the year’s most highly anticipated films for the lucky patrons of this Italian festival. Leading the quartet is the latest from Alfonso Cuarón called “ROMA,” which promises a sublime mix of intimately personal and epic based on the first footage released. Shot in black and white, the film is inspired by Cuarón’s childhood experiences during the turbulent 1970s in Mexico City.
Netflix will also be showcasing work from another pair of Oscar-winning directors, as the Coen brothers unveil “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” starring Brendan Gleeson, and Liam Neeson, with Tim Blake Nelson as the titular character. Originally announced as a TV series, this anthology western will screen as a single feature film.
Further adding to this enviable slate of modern masters is Paul Greengrass with “22 July.” Based on the aftermath of a harrowing set of terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011, this film will surely stir up some debate.
Finally, a rare posthumous work from a cinema legend will play Out of Competition in the form of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of Wind.” Assembled from footage shot between 1970 and 1976, cinephiles will relish the chance the see this Hollywood satire starring such icons as John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich.
While Netflix hedges their bets on established auteurs, the next generation of Hollywood filmmakers will also hope to make their mark. Among them is Oscar winner Damien Chazelle, who returns to the Lido two years after the rapturously received “La La Land” with the true story of “First Man.” The film sees Chazelle reuniting with Ryan Gosling, who plays astronaut Neil Armstrong as he prepares to become the first man to walk on the Moon. Thanks to Chazelle’s proven pedigree, many awards pundits already have their eye on this drama, which also features Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife, Janet.
Also returning to Venice is Brady Corbet, who won Best Debut Film and Best Director out of the Horizons section for 2015’s “The Childhood of a Leader.” This time he steps up to the Golden Lion competition with “Vox Lux“, as he directs Natalie Portman in the intriguing role of a woman who unexpectedly rises to pop stardom. Portman will have to shine brightly to steal the spotlight from a real-life pop star, however, as Lady Gaga takes on a classic lead role in “A Star is Born.” The film marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper, who will also act opposite Gaga as a fading musician who helps her find fame.
The Venice Film Festival has always been a welcome place for buzzy films from European directors and this year is no exception. Indeed, filmmakers like Italy’s Luca Guadagnino and Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos are already grabbing headlines with their latest English-language projects set in Europe. The former will bring his “Suspiria” remake to the festival, while Lanthimos will unveil “The Favourite,” his latest original creation starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman.
Meanwhile, Hungarian hotshot László Nemes will stick with his native language as he launches his anticipated follow up to 2015’s “Son of Saul.” His sophomore feature is titled “Sunset” and centers on a headstrong woman in pre-World War I Budapest. With strong reviews, this period drama could definitely be one to watch in the foreign language Oscar race.