Back-to-back, big-player film festivals Venice, Toronto (TIFF) and Telluride have firmed up Oscar buzz for the brightest stars and their movies next February.
Here are the big winners (and losers):
The Oscars love Nazi dramas, but some critics baulked at Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi’s whimsical WWII story when it debuted at TIFF. He plays Hitler as the imaginary best friend of a brainwashed boy (Roman Griffin Davis) whose mum (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie). Confronting and darkly funny, it scooped the TIFF People’s Choice award, a big Oscars predictor.
Jennifer Lopez’s fabulously glam turn as a strip tease scam artist is being called a best supporting actress lock. A fun blockbuster, director Lorene Scafaria’s true story also packs a feminist punch, paving the way for Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu to win big too.
This comic book baddie origin story created ripples by winning Venice’s top prize, the Golden Lion for The Hangover director Todd Phillips. It looks and sounds magnificent, with Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbed performance electric. Expect more to come this awards season.
Renee Zellweger is luminous in Rupert Goold’s big-hearted biopic as the doomed legendary singer. The Academy Award winner takes on the torch songs herself in a double threat performance that Oscar often loves.
This outrageously fun whodunnit packs an embarrassing riches of stars including Daniel Craig, Toni Collette and resurgent scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson nails the comic timing and shock twists – but comedies can struggle to nab awards.
Hugh Jackman has reached new heights in his late-career switch to political thrillers, first with The Front Runner and now this gobsmacking true-life school corruption scandal from director Cory Finley. Co-star Allison Janney is her usual fabulous self.
Ford v Ferrari
Car movies drive box office success, but don’t necessarily win awards. That said, director James Mangold scored an unlikely Oscar nom for superhero movie Logan starring Jackman, so all bets are off. He enlists the big guns in Matt Damon and Christian Bale for this revhead biopic set at Le Mans.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks glows as American kids’ TV presenter Fred Rogers in this biopic, and Matthew Rhys is also one to watch as the troubled New York magazine writer sent to profile him in this biopic directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan excels as a lawyer defending African-American death row clients in this taut civil rights legal drama from writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12). Jamie Foxx is as impressive as ever as the prisoner with everything to lose.
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver wowed at Telluride, Venice and Toronto as an actress and director couple with kids whose relationship is falling apart. Laura Dern channels her Big Little Lies fierceness as a divorce lawyer in Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach’s best shot yet at a golden statuette.
Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed is spectacular as a four-year sober rock drummer teetering on the edge of addiction again after losing his hearing. Morphing into the role with fake tattoos and bleached hair, it’s the sort of emotionally transformative journey Oscar voter loves.
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy staged a comeback at TIFF as failed comedian-turned-blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore in this barmy biopic. It also marks Empire director Craig Brewer as one to watch.
The Safdie brothers (Good Time) deliver another turbo-charged slice of skeezy New York life in this Telluride/TIFF hit that reboots Adam Sandler’s flagging career enough to place him as a best actor outlier for his turn as an unlucky gambling addict jewellery dealer.
The Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth director Lauren Greenfield continues her focus on greed and corruption with this eye-popping doco featuring late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ grasping shoe-addicted wife Imelda.
The Painted Bird
Right back where we started, the Oscars have history rewarding holocaust dramas, and Czech director Vaclav Marhoul portrays the horror graphically, also through a child’s eye view in this black-and-white epic that could take out the newly rebranded best international feature prize.
Also keep an eye on …
Brad Pitt in Ad Astra, Dev Patel in Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo in Pablo Larraín’s Ema, Trey Edward Shults’ Waves and Australian director Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang.
Biggest losers …
John Crowley’s lifeless take on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is an over-stuffed turkey. Natalie Portman also fell out of the race in less-than-sparkling astronaut drama Lucy in the Sky, while even Penélope Cruz can’t save Cold War bore Wasp Network.