Magazine article Variety

Many Hopefuls, No Awards Leader after Fall Film Fests

Magazine article Variety

Many Hopefuls, No Awards Leader after Fall Film Fests

Article excerpt

The late-summer awards season starting gun has been fired, with film festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto providing an early road map through the prestige months. Prize winners like Venice Golden Lion recipient "The Shape of Water," from Guillermo del Toro, and Toronto People's Choice Award victor "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," from Martin McDonagh, now set sail on a crash course with the Oscars. Meanwhile, contenders like Jessica Chastain ("Molly's Game"), Jake Gyllenhaal ("Stronger"), Frances McDormand ("Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"), Gary Oldman ("Darkest Hour"), Emma Stone ("Battle of the Sexes") and Denzel Washington ("Roman J. Israel, Esq."), to name a few, will pivot to the grueling bauble circuit, where a six-month stretch of campaigning and schmoozing awaits. Last year's early fests made it clear that Damien Chazelle's crowd-pleaser "La La Land" and Barry Jenkins' emotional "Moonlight" would be neck and neck through the season. This year there's no such clarity yet, but a wealth of titles promise a vibrant race that has something for everyone. Here's how our reviewers saw it. - KRISTOPHER TAPLEY


Battle of the Sexes

O Fox Searchlight; Sept. 22

For those who prefer flesh-andblood superheroes to comic-book ones, "Battle of the Sexes" offers a real-life wonder woman saga with the power to educate and inspire, focusing on the drama that went down on court and off when Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King to a boy-vs.girl tennis match. The backstory proves boisterously entertaining - and incredibly well-suited to the current climate, as King was both fighting for her gender and exploring her sexuality at the time. Stepping up their game, "Little Miss Sunshine" duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct this perfectly cast crowd-pleaser, which stars Steve Carell and Emma Stone. - Peter Debruge


ф Entertainment Studios; TBD

Over the years, a great many actors have taken a turn at playing one of the Kennedy brothers (in made-for-TV movies, on "Saturday Night Live," in bigscreen historical dramas), but only a few have been memorable. To the short list we can now add Jason Clarke's portrayal of Edward M. Kennedy. There's no contrivance in watching the Australian actor; you simply accept the reality of his presence as Kennedy. And that goes for the film as well. "Chappaquiddick" is exactly what you want it to be: a tense, scrupulous, absorbingly precise and authentic piece of history - a tabloid scandal attached to a smoke-filled-room travesty. - Owen Gleiberman

Darkest Hour

ф Focus Features; Nov. 22

Set during the crucial early days of Winston Churchill's first term as prime minister, this talky yet stunningly cinematic history lesson balances the great orator's public triumphs with vulnerable private moments of self-doubt, elevating the inner workings of British government into a compelling piece of populist entertainment. The central performance is unlike anything Gary Oldman has previously delivered, in part because this time the character is one we presume to know so well from archival footage and radio recordings. Yet, the master actor rejects mimicry, constructing from the ground up a full-bodied and impressively nuanced version of the historical figure. - PD



Following "Gloria" and "A Fantastic Woman," director Sebastián Lelio offers another striking and warmly nuanced portrait of the kinds of women whose lives are rarely portrayed on-screen, tackling a lesbian love affair in London's Orthodox Jewish community. In his first English-language feature, the Chilean director leads Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in an adaptation of Naomi Alderman's novel, which begins as a case study in religious repression and evolves into something that's much richer. More deliberate than some of his recent work, though anchored by a remarkably honest and unrestrained sex scene, "Disobedience" marks one more triumph in what's shaping up to be a major career. …

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