Fall film festivals kick off awards season without actors — yet?

The Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals will feature plenty of award contenders, but the red carpets won’t have much star power

And now we see what awards season looks like without actors or writers.

Fall festivals have arrived, bringing with them a deluge of potentially award-winning films starring Bradley Cooper, Annette Bening, Carey Mulligan, Emma Stone, Adam Driver and Michael Fassbender. And most of those actors are staying home, as SAG-AFTRA rules prohibit them from promoting films during the guild strike.

So instead of rousing the excitement of their main contenders by filling the red carpets with stars, the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals will have to make do with directors, producers and quiet talent. It will be an unprecedented look for festivals, which are still struggling to navigate their way past the COVID years in which they had to either cut crowds or go entirely virtual.

And that’s a lukewarm kick-off for the awards chances of Bradley Cooper’s ‘Maestro’, Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’, Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’, Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘Poor Things’, ‘Next Goal Wins by Taika Waititi, Sofia. “Priscilla” by Coppola, “Saltburn” by Emerald Fennell, “The Killer” by David Fincher and many more.

Still, we have a lot to learn about the state of awards season at the Venice International Film Festival (August 30-September 9), the Telluride Film Festival (August 31-September 3), and the International Film Festival of Toronto (September). .7 – 17).

First, a caveat: In three of the past four years, we haven’t needed the fall festivals to show us the Best Picture winner. In 2019, “Parasite” had already screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, winning the Palme d’Or and announcing that it was a formidable contender. In 2021, “CODA” premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won audience and jury awards; streaming began on Apple TV+ in mid-August, two weeks before the festivals. And last year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, hit theaters later in the same months, and was old news by the time Venice, Telluride and Toronto arrived.

Granted, few people thought these films would be Best Picture winners at this point in the calendar. So it’s possible we’ve already seen next year’s winner, either among films that seem like logical choices (“Oppenheimer?” “Killers of the Flower Moon?”) or among those that seem like genuine long shots (“Past Lives?” “Anatomy of a fall?” “Area of ​​interest?” “Barbie???”).

But it’s also likely that the next month of film screenings at three festivals in three countries and two continents will introduce us to many of the top contenders for awards season. Last year, after all, five of the ten Best Picture nominees premiered at one of three fall festivals and six of them played at least one.

So here are some of the main contenders who will be unveiled over the next three weeks, most of them heading to Venice, Telluride and/or Toronto without their cast and writers.


It doesn’t have the biggest lineup, and it features plenty of international films that are often too esoteric for American awards races, but this year’s Venice lineup is full of heavy hitters.

It begins with director/star Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” with Cooper and Carey Mulligan playing bandleader/composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife. There’s also Michael Mann’s passion project, “Ferrari,” starring Adam Driver (one of the few actors who would be there to support a film that received a SAG waiver); Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley biopic “Priscilla,” arriving a year after Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”; Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things,” with Emma Stone reuniting with the Greek director on the heels of Oscar-winning “The Favourite”; William Friedkin’s latest film, ‘The Court Martial of Caine Mutiny’, which will be joined in Venice by a revival of Friedkin’s 1973 classic, ‘The Exorcist’; “The Killer” by David Fincher, with Michael Fassbender as hitman; and Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” starring Glen Powell as, you guessed it, a hit man.

And just in case any or all of those films fail, Venice has made sure to grab some headlines by booking films from Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, who will be there with ‘The Palace’ and ‘The Palace’ respectively. “Coup de Chance” in French. . The festival will also feature Pablo Larrain’s vampire film about Chilean dictator August Pinochet, “El Conde”; Ava DuVernay’s undoubtedly searing look at racial injustice, “Origin”; JA Bayona’s undoubtedly harrowing survival drama, “Society of the Snow”; and Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s sequel to his Oscar-winning ‘Drive My Car’, ‘Evil Does Not Exist’.


Starting just a day after Venice and screening a handful of the same titles, Telluride also landed some major world premieres. Chief among them is Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers,’ which features Payne’s ‘Sideways’ star Paul Giamatti, and has been garnering strong word-of-mouth from a screening with buyers. private in Toronto a year ago. The Colorado festival will also present “Nyad,” which stars Annette Bening as long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad and marks the narrative debut of Oscar-winning documentary makers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo”).

Other Telluride debuts that could be in the awards hunt include ‘Saltburn,’ which reunites actress Carey Mulligan and writer-director Emerald Fennell three years after they were both nominated for Oscars (with Fennell winner) for “Promising Young Woman”; “Rustin,” George C. Wolfe’s drama about gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions; “The Bikeriders,” with director Jeff Nichols using a set including Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon and Austin Butler to follow a (fictional) Midwestern motorcycle club for a decade; “Wildcat,” for which director and co-writer Ethan Hawke cast his daughter, Maya Hawke, to play Southern author Flannery O’Connor; and “The Royal Hotel,” an Australian film from director Kitty Green and actress Julia Garner, who last collaborated on “The Assistant” in 2019.

Telluride’s lineup is much smaller than Venice and Toronto, but its programmers also curate a selection of feature films and documentaries with good chances of making it into the awards hunt. Veteran documentarian Erroll Morris has a new film in the latter group with ‘The Pigeon Tunnel’, based on the last interview given by the late David Cornwell, better known as spy novelist John le Carré, while the director of Oscar-nominated nonfiction Matthew Heineman takes a detour from his usual warzone stance to follow musician Jon Batiste to Carnegie Hall in “American Symphony” and director Robert Kenner teams up with Melissa Robledo for “Food, Inc. 2,” a sequel to his 2008 Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.”


TIFF is by far the largest of the first three fall festivals. Its programming of more than 200 feature films, including selections from Venice (“Hit Man”, “Aggro Dr1ft” by Harmony Korine, “Memory” by Michel Franco and Telluride (“The Holdovers”, “Nyad”) as well as festivals prior to 2023, including Sundance (“Flora and Son,” “Shayda”), SXSW (“Frybread Face and Me”), Tribeca (“Mountains”) and Cannes (“Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of ‘interest’, ‘Perfect days’).

However, around half of Toronto bookings are world premieres – and while these don’t include award contenders such as ‘Maestro’ and ‘The Holdovers’, the list does contain filmmakers who have previously appeared in the race. Taika Waititi premiered his Best Picture nominated and Best Adapted Screenplay winner, “Jojo Rabbit,” at TIFF four years ago, and he’s premiering his soccer comedy-drama “Next Goal Wins” at the festival this year. Craig Gillespie used Toronto to host “I, Tonya” in 2017, and he uses it to host “Dumb Money” six years later.

Other TIFF attendees include French director Ladj Ly, Oscar-nominated in 2019 for “Les Miserables,” who is back with the equally incendiary “Les Indesirables”; cinematographer Ellen Kuras, who presents “Lee,” with Kate Winslet as photojournalist Lee Miller; “LA Confidential” screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who presents “Finestkind,” starring Ben Foster and Tommy Lee Jones; and Jessica Yu, who won an Oscar for a short film and has now directed “Quiz Lady,” starring Sandra Oh and Awkwafina. Other directors present at the festival: Cord Jefferson (“American Fiction”, with Jeffrey Wright), Azazel Jacobs (“This Three Daughters”, with Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Olsen and Natasha Lyonne), David Yates (“Pain Hustlers”, with Emily Blunt and Chris Evans) and a typically rich selection of top documentary makers, including Alex Gibney (“In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon”), Karim Amer (“Defiant”), Maciek Hamela (“In the Rearview”) , Frederick Wiseman (“Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros”), Lucy Walker (“Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa”), Raoul Peck (“Silver Dollar Road”), Roger Ross Williams (“Stamped From the Beginning” and Caroline Suh and Cara Mones (“Sorry/Not sorry”).

Toronto is also full of films directed by actors, which may allow a few actors to circumvent the SAG promotion ban if they do so in their capacity as directors. We don’t know yet if Michael Keaton will be there with “Knox Goes Away”, Kristin Scott Thomas with “North Star”, Viggo Mortensen with “The Dead Don’t Hurt”, Tony Goldwyn with “Ezra”, Chris Pine with “Poolman” or Anna Kendrick with “Woman of the Hour”, but they are all part of the TIFF programming.

And they are all part of a festival landscape that will undoubtedly be very different this year. As TIFF ends in mid-September, the New York Film Festival looms from September 20 to October 20. 15, we’ll learn a lot more about the contenders for awards season, and a bit more about whether an awards season can survive without actors.

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