22 Sep Fall Festival Films to Look Out for Come Oscar Season
With Telluride, Venice, and Toronto all done and dusted, we are officially deep in the midst of fall festival season. Even though it’s been just a few weeks since Venice started on August 30th, many of this year’s players have been screened and the reactions are already piling in. We can expect that at least half of the ten films that make up 2024’s Best Picture slate will have played in at least one of these three festivals.
Searchlight has its contender. Yorgos Lanthimos has once again delivered a critically acclaimed period film featuring a wonderful performance from Emma Stone and I smell a top 6 Best Picture contender in the making. Currently killing it with a Metascore of 94 on 22 reviews, Poor Things will most likely continue Searchlight’s track record of reliably delivering Best Picture nominees on an annual basis. Raunchy, witty, and visually breathtaking, expect nominations for the film in Picture, Stone in Actress, Tony McNamara in screenplay, Cinematography, Makeup and Hair, Costume Design, Production Design, and maybe Editing, Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo and Directing as well. With the Golden Lion now on the film’s mantle, Lanthimos’ film looks to follow the trajectory of The Shape of Water, Roma, Joker, and Nomadland, Golden Lion winners that translated Venice wins into Oscar success.
Cementing itself as Netflix’s biggest contender of the year, Maestro has received very positive reviews (80 on 21 reviews over at Metacritic) so far and should be secured for a spot in the Picture race. And while Bradley Cooper has been praised, Carey Mulligan has been earning raves for her work as Felicia Bernstein. Both will likely be nominated and outside of Picture expect to see in this film in categories like Sound, possibly Editing, possibly Cinematography, and possibly Makeup and Hair. The controversy around the film surrounding the casting of the non-Jewish Cooper as the Jewish Leonard Bernstein will likely grow stronger as the season trudges on. As a result, I don’t see either actors winning Oscars for their work and the film will probably be restricted to five or fewer nominations.
ALL OF US STRANGERS
The biggest shock critical darling so far, ‘Weekend’ and ‘45 Years’ Director Andrew Haigh has come out with a film that currently has a 98 Metascore on 11 reviews. Touted as jaw-dropping, deeply poignant, delicate, and sensual, All of Us Strangers reminds me of last year’s Aftersun in some ways. Mostly in that they are both small-scale meditations on memory that feature Paul Mescal and are incredibly acclaimed and beloved. In terms of Oscar chances, I don’t see it making Best Picture unless Searchlight (they will focus all of their energy on Poor Things) pushes it in a major way but it should earn nods in Adapted Screenplay and possibly Actor and Supporting Actor nods for Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal respectively.
The feel-good actors showcase, the Oscar bait of decades ago. Now, however, these films are no longer sure things when it comes to the Academy’s attention. Still, expect a strong campaign for Paul Giamatti in the starring role, Da’Vine Joy Randolph in Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and possibly Best Picture if it cements itself as a massive crowdpleaser. This is a film that could take the Green Book-route. It’s a feel-good, adult-oriented, middlebrow, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” dramedy that clearly is well-liked by critics (it currently holds a Metascore of 83 on 19 reviews). This is a film that I can see winning a prize at Toronto and if it does, its Oscar nomination chances will skyrocket.
Update: Now that it has won a prize at Toronto, The Holdovers has pretty much all it needs for a Picture nomination. Expect to see the film receiving nods in Screenplay, Actor for Paul Giamatti and Supporting Actress for Da’Vine-Joy Randolph as well.
ANATOMY OF A FALL
This Palme D’Or winner’s hype started in May and hasn’t died down even after three months of new, buzzy films being released. Directed by Justine Triet, who I foresee will receive an Oscar nod if the film keeps up its current level of acclaim, and starring Sandra Huller, the film is a socially conscious mystery thriller and legal drama that will be a top six contender if its traction persists. This is definitely a film that I can see getting a second or third place award at TIFF.
THE ZONE OF INTEREST
The other bright star of Cannes, Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is making the fall festival rounds and continues to rack up its fans and supporters. However, it’s also gaining its fair share of detractors who criticize the film for being too “cold”. While I think this will end this year as a critics’ favorite and an Oscar nominee, how successful the film will be will probably be limited by detractors like these.
The raves for Colman Domingo’s performance as activist Bayard Rustin have been broad and overwhelming. Without the film being a top 12 Best Picture contender, I highly doubt Domingo wins Best Actor, but he seems poised for a nomination. The film, however, doesn’t seem like it’ll be unique or affecting enough for a Picture nomination, though we will see how people react to it once more eyes are on it.
This and Next Goal Wins look to be this year’s Oscar season sport movies. Both Annette Bening and Jodie Foster give stellar performances and will likely be in the nomination conversation. However, I doubt the movie will have enough behind it to get all the way to a Best Picture nod. Although, if it does win something in Toronto, that will very much change.
Michael Mann is back in the movies. This time with a film centering on Enzo Ferrari’s life. While Adam Driver’s performance hasn’t been disliked, there doesn’t seem to be too much love for it. Penelope Cruz, playing Ferrari’s wife Laura Ferrari, has received raves. However, this year’s Supporting Actress race already has an acclaimed “long-suffering wife of the titular male philandering genius biopic character” performance in Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer. Even while significantly different, I doubt the Academy will nominate two of this variety of performance in the same category in the same year (especially with Carey Mulligan delivering something within the same prestige biopic trope in Maestro). I think Sound might be all the film musters in the end.
Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist, Boyd Holbrook, and Tom Hardy round out the phenomenal cast that star in Jeff Nichols’ latest. While the film was well-received, its 74 Metascore indicates that it may not have the love that it would need to be a Picture contender. Comer is a possible upset pick for a nod in Supporting Actress but other than that category and Screenplay, don’t expect to see too much of The Bikeriders.
Caelin Spaeny won Venice’s prize for Best Actress and her Oscar chances instantly skyrocketed. However, Best Actress looks to be especially competitive this year with multiple wonderful performances competing for the top prize. And with Priscilla unlikely to be a Best Picture contender, Spaeny’s nomination looks unlikely.
THE BOY AND THE HERON
The newest film from one of the most legendary filmmakers in animation history, Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron received rave reaction from its TIFF opening night premiere and is a front runner for the people’s choice award.
Update: The Boy and the Heron did win third place for the People’s Choice Award and has definitely cemented itself as a film that will be impossible to ignore. This is supposed to be Miyazaki’s final film and it will be interesting to see how much of the positive regard the film has received becomes moreso a product of the regard for Miyazaki or for the film itself.
The consensus on the film is that it’s lesser Fincher and that narrative, that it’s a relatively weaker attempt at Fincher doing what he does best, will likely keep it from more than a few Oscar nods if that. Fincher’s track record with acting nominations is very strong (every film he’s made since 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has had at least one acting nod. However, like Zodiac, The Killer will probably get shutout in all categories.
The reactions coming out of Emerald Fennell’s newest were frankly disappointing. While the film has received generally positive reviews, it did not seem to provoke the kind of strong reactions that something like Fennell’s most recent venture Promising Young Woman had in spades. Nods in the techs will probably be all this film will be limited to. With a cast like Barry Keoghan, Rosamund Pike, Jacob Elordi, and Carey Mulligan, the film clearly has some of the most in-demand stars behind it, but that probably won’t be enough to get any above-the-line nominations.
A satire on race, modern media, and the literature world that skewers white people in a way contemporary white liberals seem to eat up, American Fiction played very well at TIFF and is also a frontrunner for the People’s Choice Award. With American Fiction, Cord Jefferson, TV writer extraordinaire, makes the jump to film and has seemed to have done so with flying colors.
Update: Now that American Fiction has won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, it immediately becomes a top five Best Picture contender. Expect a possible win in Screenplay, nominations in Actor for Jeffrey Wright, and possible nominations in Director, Editing, and other acting categories as well.
A poignant, tear jerking piece on the American caste system from 13th and When They See Us Director Ava DuVernay. It’s a deeply ambitious film that seems to have its fans. Most of the acclaim seems to be reserved for Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor’s performance and DuVernay’s direction, but this is the type of timely film that could find success if campaigned correctly. However, I do not think it’s going to have the luxury of a major push with distributor Neon already having Anatomy of a Fall on its plate.