OSCARS: What Telluride and Venice Provided to the Oscar Race

Battle of the Sexes | Steve Carell | Emma Stone

The Telluride Film Festival is officially behind us and believe it or not, the Oscar season is underway.  It wasn’t just Telluride that launched Oscar hopefuls as the Venice Film Festival also weighed in with their own high-profile kickstarts.

One of the most surprising films to leap into the Best Picture race is “Battle of the Sexes” from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton.  Starring recently crowned Best Actress winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”), the talk has already swirled around the notion of her becoming the next Tom Hanks and winning back-to-back trophies.  The film will also screen at the Toronto International Film Festival later this week and will look to capitalize on that momentum.

With a timely tale surrounding female empowerment and equality, the film perfectly taps into the moment.  The film is a serious threat in not only Best Picture but directors Faris and Dayton could be the first directing duo to win since Joel Coen & Ethan Coen nabbed their own prizes for “No Country for Old Men” in 2007.

Confirmed by someone close to the awards campaign, Steve Carell has been said to campaign in Lead Actor for his portrayal as tennis champion Bobby Riggs.  With not as much screen time as his co-star Stone, he fits a better narrative for a Supporting Actor bid if you ask me.

The film may also find love in categories like Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling.  It could even prove some strength by sneaking into one or both of the sound categories.

It wasn’t the only film to show strength at Telluride.  Guillermo del Toro wowed the crowds of Colorado with “The Shape of Water” with Sally Hawkins.  Another Fox Searchlight Pictures hopeful, the film could go down the road set forth by other technical marvels such as “Life of Pi” and “Gravity,” nabbing several key noms and wins.  The film could also find love in other major categories like Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, and perhaps Supporting Actor for either Michael Shannon and/or Richard Jenkins.

A24 was happy to see their investment of Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” pay off with strong notices.  Many calling it their favorite film of the festival, the word grew for its star Saoirse Ronan, also terrific in the animated gem “Loving Vincent,” another feature screened.  The hopes for the film seem to sit on an Original Screenplay run but we’re open to many more surprises.

Scott Cooper’s “Hostiles” opened to strong notices as well.  Still seeking distribution, star Christian Bale racked up his own praise while many called it Cooper’s best work yet.

Also getting career-best notices, Angelina Jolie’s third directorial feature “First They Killed My Father” had many on their feet.  If the film is selected by Cambodia for its Foreign Language selection, we may have a strong contender in our midst.  Based on reactions, we could be in store for a Cinematography nomination from Oscar-winner Anthony Dod Mantle.

The love for Todd Haynes is always prevalent with critics but the buzz for Amazon Studios’ “Wonderstruck” seem to have people a bit muted.  It may end up being one of those films to lay dormant during the season despite love from critics and audiences.

The two biggest debuts, “Darkest Hour” from Joe Wright” and “Downsizing” from Alexander Payne both showed two different sides of the race.

In the case of Wright’s film, it would seem the Best Actor race is all but locked up now for Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman.  Keeping in mind that it’s September, and we have plenty more films to witness, a “locked up” nomination feels apt to predict.  He could also bring in co-stars Ben Mendelsohn and Kristin Scott Thomas for the ride.

In the case of “Downsizing,” the Venice crowd loved it with some declaring the end of the Original Screenplay race.  Co-stars Hong Chau and Christoph Waltz also walked away with plenty of praise for their performances.  When the mountains of Telluride weighed in, there seemed to be much more hesitation.  With many praising its unique premise, the film doesn’t seem to land accordingly.  It’s also may have a hill to climb for racial stereotypes as declared by our own Mark Johnson on this week’s episode of Circuit Breaker.

George Clooney’s “Suburbicon” also debuted at Venice to the “poor man’s Coens Brothers” comparisons while “mother!” from Darren Aronofsky is as divisive as we suspected.

The theory surrounding Annette Bening being our next Julianne Moore with her work in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” seems to have been thwarted.  The film received mixed notices with more positive vibes going for her co-star Jamie Bell.

So where are we now?  Nowhere.  It’s still September.  Awards season fans seem more eager than ever to declare a “winner.”

Let’s enjoy the ride everyone. Plenty of more things to watch for.

You can find the newest Oscar Predictions in the sidebar and newly revamped individual pages by clicking on the links.

Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments below.



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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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