Entertainment & Arts

A star is born? Early contenders for Oscars success

The 2019 Oscar race might not quite be under way, but we now know many films that will be jockeying for position over the next seven months, thanks to a series of announcements from some of the major autumn festivals.

Over the last few days, the Venice and New York film festivals have given snapshots of their highlights. Today it was the turn of Toronto.

Toronto overlaps with Venice and the Telluride Film Festival. Most Oscar contenders will hope to be screened at one of the festivals, while some, like last year's best picture winner The Shape of Water, will play at more than one.

Here are some of the films whose inclusion on the autumn festival circuit clearly signals their Oscar intentions.

A Star Is Born

Image copyright Warner Bros
Image caption Bradley Cooper (pictured with Lady Gaga) acts, writes, produces and directs

What you need to know: Lady Gaga stars opposite Bradley Cooper, who makes his directorial debut in this remake of a remake of a remake. Cooper plays a musician who falls in love with Gaga's struggling singer/songwriter. As her career ascends, their relationship suffers.

The buzz: When Cooper screened the film to US cinema exhibitors last week, it reportedly got a rapturous reception.

Festival appearances: It'll have its world premiere at Venice and will then play Toronto.

Oscar hopes: Cooper could score in multiple categories - best film, director, screenplay and actor. Gaga could score in acting. And she and Mark Ronson could get a best song nod for The Shallow, which is featured in the trailer and has smash written all over it.

First Man

Image copyright Universal
Image caption Ryan Gosling will be hoping his journey to space as Neil Armstrong lands him his first Oscar

What you need to know: It's the story of pilot and astronaut Neil Armstrong in the lead-up to the 1969 moon landing.

The buzz: It's got the coveted opening film slot at Venice. Its director Damien Chazelle had the same slot two years with La La Land. Other films that have opened the festival are Gravity and best picture winner Birdman.

Festival appearances: Venice has its world premiere at the end of August and it will screen in Toronto in September, indicating that it will also play Telluride a few days earlier.

Oscar hopes: Chazelle is the youngest ever best director winner, and could pick up his second Oscar in three years. Gosling and Claire Foy - who plays Armstrong's wife - could both get acting nods.

The Favourite

Image copyright 20 Century Fox
Image caption Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman could be in the running

What you need to know: It's an 18th Century costume drama about two women, played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, competing for favour at the court of Olivia Colman's Queen Anne.

The buzz: Early test screenings have reportedly been pretty positive, with all three main actors coming in for praise. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is known for offbeat projects The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but this is said to be his most mainstream effort.

Festival appearances: It looks likely to have its world premiere at Venice and then possibly head to Telluride. And it will open the New York Film Festival at the end of September.

Oscar hopes: Weisz, Stone and Colman could all get acting nods. Best film is more than possible. And The Favourite has to be an early favourite in production design and make-up and hair, while Sandy Powell could win a fourth statuette for her costume design.

Beautiful Boy

Image copyright Amazon Studios
Image caption Beautiful Boy could land Amazon its second best picture nomination

What you need to know: Timothee Chalamet plays a young man struggling with drug addiction and Steve Carell plays his father.

The buzz:The tear-jerking trailer showcases the talent of its two stars, in the kind of true story that often appeals to Oscar voters.

Festival appearances: The film will have its world premiere in Toronto.

Oscar hopes: If the film works, acting nominations look on the cards for both Chalamet and Carell. It could also give streaming service Amazon another best picture nomination following Manchester By The Sea in 2017.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Image copyright Annapurna Pictures
Image caption Kiki Layne stars as Trish alongside Stephan James, who plays her fiance Fonny

What you need to know: It's director Barry Jenkins' first film since Moonlight (eventually) won best picture in 2017, and is based on a 1970s love story set in Harlem by James Baldwin.

The buzz: So far we haven't even had a trailer, so there's little word on what it might be like.

Festival appearances: It will have its world premiere in Toronto, surprisingly missing Telluride, a festival Jenkins has a long relationship with and where he premiered Moonlight.

Oscar hopes: Jenkins could well feature again in the director and screenplay categories. And best film could be a possibility too.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Image copyright 20th Century Fox
Image caption Melissa McCarthy swaps laughter for subterfuge with her portrayal of writer Lee Israel

What you need to know: Melissa McCarthy, best known for her comedy work, takes a more serious turn in the true story of best-selling writer Lee Israel, who turned to forgery and deception.

The buzz: Comedy performers showing lesser-seen sides to their talents often attract Oscar buzz, so expectation is building.

Festival appearances: It'll have its international premiere at Toronto.

Oscar hopes: McCarthy could feature, as could Richard E Grant, who plays a close friend.

Roma

Image copyright Netflix
Image caption Marina de Tavira stars in Alfonso Cuaron's first film since Gravity

What you need to know: It's Mexican-born director Alfonso Cuaron's first film since the Oscar-winning Gravity, and follows the life of a family in Mexico City in the 1970s.

The buzz: The Cannes Film Festival wanted to screen in it in competition in May, but the movie's distributor Netflix refused because Cannes insisted it would have to have a theatrical release to be eligible.

Festival appearances: It will have it Canadian premiere in Toronto, indicating it will also play at Venice or Telluride, or both. It will also be screened at the New York Film Festival in October.

Oscar buzz: Cuaron is one of cinema's most skilled film-makers, and this passion project of his could give Netflix its first best picture nomination.

Widows

Image copyright 20th Century Fox
Image caption Widows' provocative trailer has set social media abuzz

What you need to know: Based on a Lynda La Plante TV series about a group of women whose criminal husbands die in a robbery, it's Steve McQueen's first feature since Twelve Years a Slave won best picture in 2014.

The buzz: The first trailer has generated a lot of online chatter.

Festival appearances: Toronto will host its world premiere, and it'll open the London Film Festival in October.

Oscar buzz: Between McQueen, stars like Viola Davis, co-writer Gillian 'Gone Girl' Flynn and producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (two of the producers behind The King's Speech), there'll be a lot of attention on whether such a high-calibre line-up will also enjoy Oscar success.

It's not all about the autumn festivals, of course. It's usual to see a few films that were released earlier in the year sneaking into consideration. This year that list could include Black Panther, Black Kkklansmen, A Quiet Place and Hereditary.

The 2019 Oscar ceremony will be held on 24 Feb 2019.

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