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Venice Film Festival: 9 Oscar contenders showing this year

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Venice is one of the world’s most beautiful cities – but there’s more to this Italian hotspot than gondolas and Gothic architecture.

It’s also home to the world’s oldest film festival, and such is the prestige of this annual showcase that many of the world’s biggest movie distributors earmark it as the perfect opportunity to air their latest releases.

Here are just some of the new titles that’ll be hatching during this year’s event (28th August – 7th September)...

1. Joker

All eyes will be on Joaquin Phoenix as he becomes the latest thesp to portray Gotham City’s gruesome grinner. Todd ‘The Hangover’ Phillips’ long-awaited film delves much deeper into the DC legend than previous outings, exploring Arthur Fleck’s transition from failed stand-up comic to fully-fledged sadist.

Warner Bros has a history of premiering its future Oscar hopefuls in Venice, with A Star Is Born (2018) and Gravity (2013) both making their debuts in the watery city before going on to Academy Award success. Does that mean the movie giant has similar aspirations for Joker?

A nod from this respected festival and it could be laughing – it's competing for the coveted top prize, the Golden Lion, which is clearly a sign of the movie's artistic ambitions.

Joker premieres in Venice on 31st August and is released in Cineworld on 4th October.


2. Ad Astra

In a 2017 interview, director James Gray (The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) told Collider that his intention with Ad Astra was to create "the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie".

Considering it has Brad Pitt being jettisoned into orbit as he tries to rescue his stricken dad (played by Tommy Lee Jones), Gray may have his work cut out trying to tick that realism box.

But if judges are prepared to suspend their disbelief when the film opens in Venice on 29 August, this sci-fi adventure has every chance of following in the footsteps of Gravity, which scooped a Future Film Digital Award at the festival in 2013.

Ad Astra is, like Joker, in competition for the Golden Lion, and screens on 29th August. It hits Cineworld screens on 20th September.


3. The King

Timothee Chalamet adds another string to his impressive bow in this handsome-looking Shakespeare adaptation, one that amalgamates the Bard's Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.

The Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird actor (soon to be seen in Greta Gerwig's Little Women) adopts an unflattering bowl haircut to depict the conflicted yet brave young monarch.

Does Chalamet stand a chance of competing with the earlier likes of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh? The Netflix movie is directed by Animal Kingdom film-maker David Michod, and may well put a grittier, tougher spin on the material.

The impressive supporting cast includes the likes of Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn and Thomasin McKenzie.

4. The Truth

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda is famed as one of Japan's finest living film-makers. His insightful and heartbreaking explorations of contemporary Japanese life are considered landmarks of the social realist genre, with gems such as I Wish and the recent Shoplifters generating international acclaim.

For the first time, Kore-eda steps outside the realm of his native language to make a movie in English. A truly impressive cast including Ethan Hawke, Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve have lined up in this story of an ageing French movie star, and the tempestuous relationship she shares with her daughter.

5. Wasp Network

At the 2012 Venice Film Festival, Olivier Assayas’ film Something in the Air was nominated for the Golden Lion award (it eventually lost out to the South Korean drama Pietà).

The French director will be hoping to go one better this time around with his thought-provoking depiction of the titular Wasp Network, a team of Cuban spies deployed to infiltrate violent anti-Castro groups in the Eighties and Nineties, and subsequently imprisoned by US authorities.

Assayas’ movie – which makes its global debut in Venice on 1st September – stars Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez and Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas.


6. Guest of Honour

Egyptian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s last film, Remember, scooped the Vittorio Veneto Film Festival Award after it was showcased at the 2015 event. And Egoyan will be hoping for more success when Guest of Honour is rolled out in the Italian city on 3rd September.

TV actress Laysla De Oliveira stars as a young music teacher who’s falsely accused of abusing her position of authority over a teenage student, while David Thewlis plays her father, who uses his job as a food inspector to take matters into his own hands…

7. Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson takes a well-earned break from her Avengers duties to appear in a somewhat more sobering – and low-budget – Netflix drama about an actress (Johansson) and her stage director husband (Adam Driver) who are struggling through a bitter divorce.

Directed by The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr Fox writer Noah Baumbach, and co-starring Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Laura Dern, Marriage Story could be the one to watch when it opens in Venice on 29th August.

8. Waiting for the Barbarians

No, not another outing for Conan – Waiting for the Barbarians is Ciro Guerra’s screen adaptation of Nobel prize winner J. M. Coetzee’s 1980 novel of the same name, and tells the story of a colonial town magistrate (Mark Rylance) who begins to question his loyalty towards the empire after witnessing some indigenous people being abused.

If Rylance’s performance is anything like as good as his turn in Bridge of Spies – for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2015 – then Venice audiences are in for a treat when the film plays there on 6th September.

9. The Laundromat

More often than not, Meryl Streep chooses the right scripts, and on the surface Netflix production The Laundromat looks like being another winner.

In this Steven Soderbergh-directed political thriller, Streep plays a woman whose dream holiday is turned on its head when she uncovers some shady dealings involving a Panama City law firm.

With Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Sharon Stone also on board, The Laundromat could clean up when it debuts in Venice on 1st September.

Which of these movies are you tipping for Oscar success? Let us know @Cineworld.