Oscars: Venice Kicks Off the Festival Season with ‘First Man’ – Is It a Best Picture Contender?


The Venice Film Festival kicked off festivities on Wednesday with Damien Chazelle’s space film “First Man” with Ryan Gosling as famed astronaut Neil Armstrong.  The beat on the Twittersphere was very high for the movie as it received praise from critics and audiences alike.  As reported in our fall preview, much of the acclaim surrounded Golden Globe winner Claire Foy.

In the past, films like Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and last year’s winner “The Shape of Water” by Guillermo del Toro, began their journey in Italy.  Judging by past behaviors on the awards circuit, next year’s Best Picture winner will debut in the next week at either Venice or Telluride.

Does “First Man” feel like a Best Picture winner?  That’s a loaded question and depends on the rest of the race shakes out, but as we’ve seen with directors that follow their Best Director wins, Oscar tends to fall in love, and make it be known with multiple citations.  The film feels like something that could go down the road of something like “Apollo 13,” nab itself a double-digit nomination number, but perhaps only score wins in crucial tech races.  Much too early to speculate on it but it’s worth comparing.

Among the big reveals at Venice, Bradley Cooper‘s “A Star is Born” is next on the docket for festival-goers on Friday, Aug. 31 before it skips Telluride and goes to Toronto.  The film, which screened for some critics heading to the fests, has already been generating buzz for the past few weeks.  Cooper, who co-writes, directs, and stars in the third remake of the classic film, has generated talk that he could be the first person since Roberto Benigni (“Life is Beautiful”) to direct himself to an Oscar win in acting.  Cooper has been nominated three previous times in acting: “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Sniper” in lead actor and “American Hustle” in supporting.

That won’t be Cooper’s only opportunity for Oscar gold.  Cooper also co-writes many of the musical numbers and may have a supporting role in the upcoming Clint Eastwood film “The Mule,” in which Eastwood also stars in his rumored final film performance.  The film currently has no release date, but early reports suggest it may have an Oscar-qualifying run later this year.

Buzz is also building for Grammy-winner Lady Gaga, who is taking on a role made iconic by Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Janet Gaynor.  The singer/actress, who won a Golden Globe in 2016 for her role on FX’s “American Horror Story: Hotel” is said to truly deliver and will be in the thick of the Best Actress race.  She’ll have tough competition though as Glenn Close‘s work in “The Wife” has turned some heads and there are hotly anticipated works in “The Favourite” from Yorgos Lanthimos (likely Olivia Colman) and “Destroyer” from Karyn Kusama (Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman) that are going to make this a race to watch.

Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Roma” solidified itself as a film to watch based on its festival plan this year.  The only film that is going hit each of the four major festivals, the Netflix film continues to build buzz until its big reveal.

More Venice films are gearing up including “The Sisters Brothers” from Jacques Audiard, labeling itself as a very violent and dark comedy that features strong works from its lead actors Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly.  “Peterloo” from Mike Leigh will focus on the 1819 massacre in Manchester, England.  Rory Kinnear, not yet confirmed for a category although lead seems the most likely, will hope to join a very thin looking Best Actor race.

The aforementioned Cooper will lead the charge in Best Actor but Hugh Jackman‘s work in “The Front Runner” looks particularly promising as does Viggo Mortensen‘s upcoming role “Green Book.”  Mortensen however, could have votes siphoned from co-star Mahershala Ali, who very well may be campaigned alongside him.  The rest of the field includes Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate,” Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in “The Happy Prince,” and Lucas Hedges as a boy attending gay conversion therapy in Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased.”

This is just the beginning.  Strap in.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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