Venice line-up refines 2020 Oscar race

The Oscar-race has been given another shot in the arm, with the announcement of the line-up of the Venice International Film Festival.

Joaquin Phoenix will be hoping for an awards push from screening Joker in both Venice and Toronto

Just two days after Toronto revealed its Gala and Special Presentations, Venice has revealed that a handful of the Toronto selection will receive their world premieres, just a few days earlier at one of Europe’s leading festivals.

With a more structured competition – like Berlin’s festival in the winter and May’s festival in Cannes – Venice will be launch-pad for many of the films that the studios will be pushing for Oscar contention, including some of the leading Toronto titles, including Joker, The Laundromat, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honour and Pablo Larraín’s Ema.

Ad Astra’s inclusion in the Venice competition will boost Brad Pitt’s hopes of awards recognition

But a number of the Venice competition entries are not currently listed for Toronto, including Brad Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to save the solar system in James Gray’s Ad Astra, Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, about France’s nineteenth century Dreyfus scandal and an English-language spy thriller, Wasp Factory, from the French auteur Olivier Assayas.

There are only two female directors among the twenty-one competition entries; the comedy drama The Perfect Candidate from Saudi Arabia’s Haifaa Al-Mansour and the Australian comedy Babyteeth, from first-time feature director Shannon Murphy.

Venice is more like Cannes than Toronto, with a smaller number of films from around the world, selected for a formal competition – whereas Toronto tends to be loaded with more mainstream fare.

But as with Cannes, a number of the higher profile films, that will be pushing for awards contention in the months to come, are playing out of competition. Among them are David Michôd’s Shakespearean drama The King, starring Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson. Pattinson’s Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart will be starring as the actress Jean Seberg, who was targeted in an FBI operation, in Benedict Andrews’ Seberg.

With both Venice and Toronto having announced their 2019 line-ups, awards watchers will be waiting to see how audiences receive the films before the Hollywood lobbying machine kicks into action, to try to secure Golden Globe nominations in early December.

And if not in the running for awards, the films premiered at Venice and Toronto will certainly be pushing for big box office takings over the autumn and Christmas holidays.