We're steadily advancing into awards season, and we're already starting to make predictions as to next year's Oscar frontrunners.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos' hysteria-fuelled new comedy, The Favourite, set in 18th century England, is a front-runner for Academy Awards glory – here are five reasons why.
1. His previous films were huge critical success stories
The Favourite follows 2015's The Lobster, an absurdist, dystopian view of the pressures on people to find a life partner, while staying at a singles hotel. It Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, and was like an even weirder version of Love Island – except if you fail to find love, instead of being voted out, you get turned into an animal.
It was dark and weird and funny and brilliant, and the critics agreed – it has a fresh rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Lobster was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, where it won the Jury Prize. It was also Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs, although it failed to win either, perhaps being a little too strange for mainstream tastes.
That said, Lanthimos' other films, The Killing of Sacred Deer (2017) and Dogtooth (2009), also received almost unanimously positive reviews, with the latter being nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Maybe there's a chance for The Favourite to triumph at the 2019 Academy Awards?
2. The cast
It's about time they made Peep Show's Olivia Colman the queen of something, and now she is literally playing royalty in the form of Queen Ann. Technically in power but prone to ill health, a touch of madness and a wicked temper, she is propped up by friend and servant Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Then the ever-delightful, Oscar-winning Emma Stone turns up, as Sarah's cousin and fellow servant Abigail, who grabs the opportunity to advance higher up the social ladder when Sarah, acting in the Queen's stead, gets more embroiled in Britain's war with France.
Olivia Colman hasn't won an Oscar (yet), but has been showered with other awards for her work in TV and film, from Paddy Considine's gritty Tyrannosaur to the critically acclaimed Broadchurch. Everyone loves her for her warmth and realism, although neither of these are on show here – instead she is almost wild, as Ann's mental state deteriorates and her only solace seems to be in racing ducks and then eating them.
So, there are some high-performing women on the cast list – Weisz won an Oscar for her powerful role in The Constant Gardener and Stone charmed us all to Oscar-winning effect in smash-hit musical La La Land. They're backed up by a strong ensemble, including Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) and Mark Gatiss (Christopher Robin, TV's Sherlock), which is nothing to sneeze at, but it's safe to say this film puts the women characters firmly centre stage.
3. The setting
Whereas The Lobster offered a bleak vision of our future, The Favourite's period setting in old-timey, aristocratic England is one that the Academy loves. The sets look beautiful in their over-the-top lavishness, vaguely reminiscent of Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, complete with fancy gardens, dresses and wigs.
Even though it's based on historical events and not set in a creepy hotel for singles, it seems more removed from reality than The Lobster (apart from the bit about being turned into animals) – a uniquely offbeat atmosphere that might well curry favour with Oscar voters looking for something a bit different.
4. It's about British royalty
Films about our royal family have traditionally fared well at the Oscars. Maybe it's because the US doesn't have its own, or because of our 'special relationship', the romanticism or the nostalgia – but Americans go crazy for the royals, as proven by the furore over the recent wedding of Harry and Meghan.
The Queen (2006) attracted a slew of Oscar nominations and a win for Her Majesty, Helen Mirren. The King's Speech (2010) did even better, receiving 12 nominations at the Academy Awards (more than any other film that year), and winning four of the big ones (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor). The Favourite might not be your average royal biopic, but it's got a lot of the right ingredients, with added edginess and hysteria.
5. It's having its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival
For over a decade, a debut screening at a film festival has become a barometer for how well a film will fare at the Oscars. This year's winner, Guillermo del Toro's magical The Shape of Water (which premiered at Venice), became the 11th consecutive Best Picture winner to have premiered at a film festival, according to Variety. And Lanthimos has form in this area – The Lobster had its premier at the 2015 London Film Festival.
Venice is one of the oldest, most reputed of all the film festivals, and its timing at the beginning of the festival circuit gives films plenty of time to build up a head of steam prior to the Academy Awards. Opening Venice this year is First Man, the story of the Apollo 11 mission starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and directed by Damien Chazelle, whose last Venice opener, La La Land, also did pretty well…
Check out the trailer for The Favourite, which is released on 1st January 2019, and tweet us @Cineworld if you think it'll do well at the Oscars.