Magazine article Variety

Awards Season Launch on Lido

Magazine article Variety

Awards Season Launch on Lido

Article excerpt

Even before it kicks off on Aug. 30, the Venice Film Festival has bolstered its growing reputation as a launching pad for awards-season titles.

More so than in past editions, a deluge of English-language pics, including new works by Alexander Payne, George Clooney, Darren Aronofsky and Benicio Del Toro, will be world-premiering on the Lido during the fest's first few days, before segueing to Telluride and Toronto. This year there is a greater number of movies that all three events just had to have, which is causing scheduling headaches and added stress for talent and publicists, plus more costs, of course. But apparently it's worth it.

"We all wanted those particular seven, eight or 10 titles, which made things a little bit more complicated," says Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera. "I'm only happy if a film I've chosen also goes to Telluride or Toronto."

The point being: after launching multiple Oscar winners four years in a row - "Gravity," "Birdman," "Spotlight," "La La Land" - Venice has become tougher to ignore. And it has gained more leverage to ensure that the Lido is the first stop on the trifecta.

The real scheduling conflicts came with Telluride, with which Venice overlaps directly. The tightly curated festival in a Colorado mountain resort has also gained more Oscar heft lately, especially since launching "Moonlight" last year. But Barbera makes no bones about the fact that, as he sees it, there is no comparison when it comes to promotional punch.

"In Telluride you have 10 critics who write for the trades; in Venice you have 3,000 journalists from around the world. That is the difference."

"Venice seems to be a much better launch pad for anything critically driven," agrees a veteran publicist.

But the Venice chief also denies that there is cutthroat competition with Telluride or that there is a war. "There is nothing of the sort," he says. "There is a collaboration, as I believe there should be among festivals."

Barbera also says he is "97% happy" with the Venice lineup and that they only missed out on "two or three" films they wanted. These include Richard Linklater's upcoming New York Film Festival opener "Last Flag Flying," and Christian Bale Western "Hostiles," which is expected to debut at Telluride. …

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