Venice and Toronto line-ups hint at Oscar contenders

The oldest and biggest film-festivals in the world have revealed some of the highlights for film fans this autumn, giving the first indication of how the upcoming awards season might unfold.

With Venice and Toronto being festivals where many of the major studios like to launch their Oscar contenders – and particularly Toronto having a good record of giving its Audience Award to future Oscar winners – awards watchers will be poring over the schedules to look for he most likely nominees.

Matt Damon is in Suburbicon (above) and Downsizing at both festivals

The first of the two festivals, Venice, kicks of on 30th August with Alexander Payne’s sci-fi satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig. Audiences in Toronto will get a chance to see the same film a couple of weeks later.

Festival-goers in both Venice and Toronto will also get to see Damon in Suburbicon, an off-beat thriller written by the Coen Brothers and directed by George Clooney.

Toronto will be screening a number of other films directed by actors, including Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father and Andy Serkis’s directorial debut Breathe, which will be opening the London Film Festival in October.

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water will also be screening at both festivals, as will Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,  Victoria & Abdul, in which Stephen Frears returns Dame Judi Dench to the regal role that earned her her first Oscar nomination twenty years ago and Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and yes, that is a lower-case “m” and an exclamation mark.

Venice, being more along the lines of Cannes, features fewer films, all of them premieres, which gives Toronto the opportunity to reprise titles previously seen, such as the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Square, and Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats per Minute, the AIDS drama which won Cannes’ Grand Prix.

With more on offer and a heavier concentration on English-language crowd-pleasers from the studios, the more commercial-leaning Toronto will give audiences an early peek at hotly anticipated films including Richard Ayre’s adaptation of The Children Act, starring Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and Fionn Whitehead, most recently seen in Dunkirk, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, which features Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, The Catcher Was a Spy, Ben Lewin’s first film since The Sessions, Hostiles, from Crazy Heart and Black Mass director Scott Cooper and The Battle of the Sexes, with Emma Stone and Steve Carell recreating the 1973 tennis clash between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, directed by the pair behind Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Other Toronto highlights will include Annette Bening as a fading leading lady in Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon challenging each other to become electricity pioneers in The Current War and Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart remaking the French comedy, Untouchable.

While many will be looking for patterns that help them predict the outcome of Awards Season and others will be more interested in predicting the box office rankings over the coming months, for most film fans, these two lists should whet their appetites  and draw up their “what’s worth seeing” lists for the window.